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Keeping the Legend Alive
British Special Forces in North Africa, 1940-1943
Newsletter Number 7 January 2004
The Newsletter of the
"Desert Raiders" Group
Compiler and Editor – Paul Lincoln
This is our seventh newsletter, covering our activities, events, successes and failures over summer 2003. Another six months have gone by in a blur since Newsletter 6 – where did the time go? For further information on the group’s activities and plans, please contact Paul Lincoln by Email at email@example.com or Peter Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org. We must have been busy with one thing or another, so let’s have a recap on Summer 2003……..
We must begin by apologising to those of you who got Newsletter No. 6 a bit late – we were a victim of our own success. Our circulation increased so much during 2003 that we didn’t make enough copies. By the time we realised this, Ruth (our local school secretary and part time Desert Raiders helper) was in the middle of exams and couldn’t do an instant re-print. Hopefully, you all got one eventually.
Shows and Events.
We managed quite a few outings to national and local shows this (last) year: most of them were successful, but we didn’t get off to a good start.
Clinton and Paul wanted to make the first outing to be the annual ceremony at the 7th Armoured Division memorial in Thetford Forest. This is where the "Desert Rats" were camped during their training for D-Day. There is now a nicely restored Comet tank, mounted on a plinth beside the road. They were up and about early on a bright June morning – Aramis (F30) started nicely and was loaded with all the necessary stores for the day. It is only 9 miles from home to the Thetford Forest memorial, so, being tax and MoT exempt, Clinton drove it, followed by Paul in the transit flat bed, towing the G1 LRDG Jeep on Peter’s trailer.
Aramis went slower and slower and there was obviously something very wrong. It seemed like an electrical fault, probably the coil breaking down. What to do? The best bet was for Paul to go back to the workshop, leave the Jeep there (in case Aramis needed a tow) and return with the spare coil. Coil changed, off went Aramis – great. Paul went back to collect the Jeep – and caught up with Clinton and Aramis at the side of the road 1 mile short of the memorial! So, either the new coil was also faulty (or not heavy duty enough) or it was the condenser, which would be a major job. Decision time again. As there were only two of them, they couldn’t leave one vehicle and tow the other to the event, so, reluctantly, Paul had to take the Jeep home and return to tow Aramis back to the workshop. Not an auspicious start to the season.
This was a more successful outing. Only Paul, Clinton and Peter could make it, although Paul Mk 2 was helping out with the autogyro display and came to give moral support. They went with the G1 Jeep (on a Transit recovery truck loaned by Wayne) and the SAS Jeep (on Peter’s well used trailer). All the gear was packed into the Jeeps and, fortunately as it turned out, well covered over. It started raining at the Lincolnshire border and by the time they got to Waddington late in the day, it was pouring down. After some difficulty finding the right spot amongst all the aircraft, they pulled up onto the hard standing and spent the night as best they could: Peter and Clinton in vehicle cabs, Paul under a (partly) waterproof sheet beside the Jeep.
Saturday dawned damp and dreary, but it soon brightened up. Luckily, they found a space to set up the display. There seemed to be more vehicles than available space, so it was lucky they arrived early and "bagged" a good spot overlooking the runway! After laying out the Hessian "sand", it was time to erect the Palm Trees. Peter imported three 15 foot glass fibre and plastic trees from the USA – they have a hollow trunk to take a wooden stake, looking very realistic and make a great backdrop to the display.
There was a tremendous amount of interest from the public during the intervals between the air displays and a record number of children passed through both Jeeps to have their photograph taken.
Eventually they had to put up the ropes to keep things under control. Sunday followed in much the same vein and the rain held off until getting back to Norfolk. It was a pretty good week-end, but not up to previous Waddington shows, where the display was in a hangar. Still, the Desert Raiders did show their faces north of the Wash this year!
Peter took his Bedford OXD and SAS Jeep to the Devon MVT annual bash at Buckfastleigh in Devon for a solo performance. The "Afrika Korps" Bedford towing an SAS Jeep on a trailer certainly makes an impression on the motorway. Peter arrived at 10pm on Thursday, camped under the stars as it was great weather all weekend and set up the display next day. Saturday and Sunday were the public days and were very busy. There was a road run of 50 vehicles over Dartmoor – down and up Widecombe Hill in the Bedford was "interesting" and convoys around the local villages added to the fun. All too soon it was time to pack up and drive to Beltring, where a flat battery and a blown trailer tyre created some excitement along the way.
Beltring, War & Peace Show.
The War and Peace show is a regular event for us – it was the ninth year in a row, as far as we can remember. This year, we organised ourselves a bit better than usual and arrived early. Peter arrived on Monday to set up the palm tree oasis (direct from Buckfastleigh, a round trip of 500 miles for the Bedford towing the SAS Jeep – not bad for a 60 year old vehicle).
Paul and Clinton arrived on Tuesday with Aramis and G1 Jeep. Finally, Dave and Dianne arrived on Wednesday with their smart new SAS Jeep. Adrian Mk 2 came down as usual on the Thursday night and stayed for the weekend. This was the first use of the 20-man Swedish bell tent we bought last year – it worked a treat and we had masses of space for the troops. We left the showground on Monday, so there wasn’t the usual frantic rush to pack up on Sunday afternoon and drive home.
You may recall that we had a new "foot soldier" join us last year, in the form of Ted. This year, we had an added bonus, because Ted brought his ex-REME friend, Keith, with him. They were both kitted out smartly in K.D.’s and white SAS berets. Their uniforms fitted in well with Aramis as that is what the "parashots" wore when the LRDG first transported them. Keith was just as good an addition to our ranks as was Ted – he even drove one of the Jeeps around the arena, with the biggest grin you ever saw. With this sort of help, Desert Raiders will long continue to "keep the legend alive".
On the subject of "new blood", we had two more new recruits join us at Beltring: Paul’s son, Scott, and his friend Tom came as well. Although Scott is only 15 years old, he is 6’4" tall and built like that well known type of outbuilding. They certainly looked the part in their desert kit. As we were short staffed on the SAS vehicles, they were issued with their sand berets. They then got something of a lecture on what it meant to wear it, what they were representing and what they had to live up to. Neither of them let us down and they only wore their SAS berets for manning the vehicles and to pose for the public in the display. The fact that they are both NCOs in the Norfolk Army Cadet Force was a major influence on their behaviour. They both had a brilliant time and couldn’t wait for their next show.
As usual, we had some special visitors: how we love to see them and have a good chat. It was a first for Les Sullivan to drive himself from London by car, and we were so pleased that he did. Les was the fitter in the LRDG Heavy Section, so you can imagine what a grilling he received from Paul and Clinton, who have been working on recreating a Heavy Section Ford 3 tonner for two years.
Three of our other regular visitors also appeared: Jimmy Patch, sprightly and gentlemanly as always, and Ron Maitland-Flanagan, with the inevitable bacon sandwich. We gave Ron another tour around the arena in a Jeep, behind the .5 calibre Browning – it seemed like he enjoyed it! Jim Horsfield, as usual, came to see us. We are so pleased that he makes the effort to meet with us every year at Beltring and we are very honoured to sit and chat with him.
Jack and Donna Valenti of the LRDG Preservation Society in California were over here again this year and spent lots of time with us. It’s always great to see them and exchange gossip - also an exchange of a Bagnold sun compass for Vickers K’s was made this year, so everyone was happy.
We had one more chap drop in on us – an American officer, whose name we can’t recall. He was very interested in what we do and talked for ages. When asked if he would like to crew a Jeep in the arena, he was straight into uniform and behind a pair of Vickers Ks. He told us several times what an honour it was to represent the LRDG.
This year was notable for the lack of so called "experts" who claim to know more about the LRDG than we do. There was only one rather poor attempt at an SAS Jeep (a Hotchkiss, complete with windscreen), but the owner did not make any attempt to join us, or show any interest when we looked around his vehicle in our SAS and LRDG kit.
All in all, we enjoyed the show, but politics and greed reared their ugly heads once more and we may be witnessing the beginning of the end for War & Peace.
August saw a break for us: Peter was back at work in Saudi Arabia and everyone else was busy or on holiday. Paul and Scott were on Army Cadets Force annual camp in Cumbria – helicopters, urban fighting training, abseiling off towers, crawling trough sewers and firing large quantities of ammunition. Paul was very proud when his son was promoted to full Corporal – Scott had worked very hard and fully deserved the extra stripe.
Detling, Military Odyssey.
Our next outing was back to Kent again, for the Military Odyssey at Detling, Kent County Showground. We were in a slightly better position than last year. Paul, Clinton, Peter and Adrian Mk 2 were on show in glorious sunshine with the G1 and SAS Jeeps. We laid out our "sand", put up our palm trees and relaxed in shorts and head dress, whilst other re-enactors sweated in their thick uniforms. We had a huge amount of interest in our display and many sensible questions asked. Once again, we were delighted to supply Jimmy Patch and Ron Maitland-Flanagan with tea and to have a good chat about the "real thing". Next year, this show moves to a 3 day Bank Holiday slot, and it should be good.
North Norfolk Railway.
The last show of the year was a local venue, yet again with the two trusty Jeeps. Peter was back in Saudi again, so Paul took the G1 Jeep, with Scott and Tom as crew. Clinton took Peter’s SAS Jeep and also took his family along as the North Norfolk Railway is only 40 miles from home. The weather was again scorching hot, so it was off with the shirts. It was a nice day out and we had a fair bit of interest, so it was a good end to the show season.
There has been a lot of progress made on all our vehicle projects this year and we hope to have most of them completed for next season.
Dave has been busy finishing off his first pattern Chevrolet WA – the type that is in the IWM. He is now at the stage of adding gun mounts and POW can racks, having finished the bodywork and mechanicals. It should be completed in a few months and will be a real showstopper in the 2004 season. Dave’s next idea is to get another Chevrolet from the USA, so we will have the final missing vehicle in the Desert Raiders collection – a 1311. He has found the correct vehicle, so here’s hoping the deal goes through.
Dave has plans to repaint Te Anau II (Chevrolet 1533) in Rhodesian markings: we’re trying to convince him that pink would be nice!
Paul Mk 2.
Paul had some very bad luck this year, as his house caught fire and the roof burnt out. Fortunately, the dog woke him and everyone got out safely. This obviously put the brakes on his Kubelwagon rebuild, but it is moving again now.
Clinton & Paul.
Progress is steady on the 3 ton Heavy Section Ford. It has proved to be the most drastic project Paul and Clinton have ever undertaken since it was a total strip and rebuild, with many parts missing or beyond repair. Body panels have been made from scratch and replacement parts were located in Holland. The engine now runs and it is looking good for the summer season.
Paul and Clinton have also tracked down an ultra-rare Ford 8cwt; it is almost 100% complete and they’ve clubbed together to buy it and ship it over from Holland. They did plan to restore the F8 as Te Rangi III, but Brendan O’Carroll recently sent them a photo of Don Steele driving an F8 with what looks like a 20mm cannon in the back. Now, where can we find one of those? After the F8 is done, Paul and Clinton will have a vehicle for each patrol, plus a representative from the Heavy Section support unit. Paul says his next project will be a European SAS Jeep for Scott (oops, maybe that’s a secret?).
There will only be minor jobs to do over the winter on Aramis (sorting out the electrical system and maybe a repaint) and the G1 LRDG Jeep (the gearbox is temperamental and the gun mount needs to be modified for the twin Vickers Ks).
Peter is not letting being cooped up in Saudi Arabia stop him from getting involved in Desert Raiders restorations. He is making parts for his vehicles out there, but is cheating by getting two projects done by professional restorers. He has a Ford V8 01 pick-up (Te Rangi II) being done in Bristol: all the panels and woodwork are finished. He bought an engine and gearbox for it, but the problem is that the transmission doesn’t fit the propshaft. All the same, it should be finished early in 2004. The other project will certainly be an eyecatcher – David Stirling’s famous "Blitz Buggy" (a modified Canadian Ford "woodie" disguised as a German staff car and used in various SAS raids). Peter imported a 1941 Ford from the USA and found a complete set of body panels in the UK. He now has all the parts, so it should be a straightforward job for the firm in Norfolk. Peter is looking for any information on this unique vehicle, so if you have even the smallest detail, please let us know.
The stuck clutch on the Bedford was freed (again) and the broken exhaust manifold was replaced last winter. However it still blows and maybe the faces need skimming. Another job to be done before next season. Peter’s SAS Jeep now sports 3 genuine deactivated Vickers Ks, as he dug deep into his pockets and bought a superb pair on a twin mount to replace his aluminium reproduction ones.
We haven’t done any film work for some time, but the various documentaries we starred in have been shown regularly over the year. We often get a call "we saw you on the TV last night". Then, out of the blue, Paul got a phone call from a mysterious Irishman who called himself "Gerry" and asked all sorts of questions about things to do with the SAS. Naturally Paul was very guarded, until he found out how Gerry had got in touch with us. It seems that our old friend Mike Morgan had sent him our way and that Gerry’s film company was about to make a one hour programme on Paddy Mayne, with some recreated WWII scenes. The reply to the obvious question "what do you want" was unexpected, but, delivered in a soft and disarming Dublin accent it was "Well, what do you suggest?". All of a sudden Paul felt like an old hand in the film industry and offered to help any way he could. Gerry said he wanted to come over on day one, stay the night, film on day two and go home on day three. Paul arranged hotel accommodation, film locations, 3 vehicles, 12 extras, a mass of SAS and German uniforms, eating arrangements, an SAS veteran (Albert Youngman), weapons, pyrotechnics and a live firing weapons crew. Wow – a one man casting agent, location coordinator, visual effects supervisor, stunt arranger, props director, wardrobe master and gaffer.
Came the appointed evening, Paul met with Gerry and his cameraman at the local hotel to finalise things for the following day. Early next day, off they went to one of our favourite filming haunts at the Muckleburgh Collection in North Norfolk. First thing was a quick conversion job on the G1 Jeep to make it look like as SAS one. As it already had twin Vickers Ks on the front, this mostly involved piling on extra Jerrycans and kit. By then SAS veteran Albert Youngman had arrived, so he sat in the Jeep behind the guns for an extended interview. Albert joined the SAS in the early days of 1942 and served up to the end of the war, mostly with Paddy Mayne. Everyone was keen to get into the required kit – the only problem was that they didn’t know if Gerry wanted the Euopean or desert scenes first and he was still interviewing Albert. So, the logical choice of desert kit was made – wrong, and the desert-clad men had to do a quick change into green battle dress, much to the amusement of the public who were driving past!
The first shoot involving the Desert Raiders was about Paddy’s fourth DSO. Dave’s European Jeep raced up and down the roadway, scattering the "Germans" in all directions. Paddy’s men dodged behind cover whilst Paul tried to prevent the public driving into "shot". Paul previously played the part of Paddy Mayne for a previous documentary as he is over 6 foot tall, but this time his friend Ian played Paddy for the European scenes. Paul had kept his beard to play Paddy for the desert scenes, so there will be two "Paddy Maynes" in this documentary!
Eventually, all was to Gerry’s liking and they moved to the dusty tank playground for the desert work. Mike, our pyrotechnics guru, set up his "fireballs" to simulate exploding aircraft. It took ages to get the right shot of the Jeep, then they filmed the Jeep and Ford together, representing the first successful SAS raid on an airfield.
Muckleburgh has such a wide range of scenery, and still sports an old radar station, complete with high barbed wire fencing. Some Venture Scouts camped inside were much amused to find Wermacht sentries on guard. It was difficult to persuade them to go away, even when the SAS started stabbing them! Mike had the answer and painted a grizzly picture of what a fireball could do to a Venture Scout in a nylon anorak.
By now, the daylight had gone and there was only time to do the big scene once. All was ready and three SAS brigands ran down the "wadi" after raiding the airfield. At the director’s signal, the skyline erupted. They stopped briefly to gaze at the effects of the "Lewes bombs" on the German aircraft. As the flames died down, the Desert Raiders turned again and ran past the camera straight back into the real world.
Now, it was the usual story of rushing around in the cold and dark to collect everything together as fast as possible, load up the vehicles and get back home to bed. Everyone had a great day out and we got some photos, which we’ll include in the next Newsletter. Watch out for the documentary as it promises to be a good one. Naturally, we’ll review it when we see the complete thing.
You may recall that we were in contact with the Bressingham Steam Museum with a view to enhancing their existing displays by adding, firstly, the old "Wartime at Watton" collection and eventually a Desert raiders display. We enquired about your thoughts on this idea and on the possibility of a memorial to the LRDG being included. All the responses we got were very positive and we thought that we should get the ball rolling by showing our intent. So, Peter and Paul loaned the museum a good selection of our Home Guard items, to add to their Dad’s Army and Home Front themes. Paul has discussed moving the Wartime at Watton collection again with them recently and the plan is to get the Army Cadets involved in the museum expansion programme as part of their training.
The Desert Raiders project seems like being the most expensive scheme and we are a bit wary of applying for a grant until a firm plan is drawn up. We will continue discussions with the museum and we’re sure to have more news in June.
Paul’s quest to determine the fate of the 16 men who died whilst serving with the LRDG in the desert continues. He now has a few leads, particularly from Les Sullivan who tells a particularly harrowing tale of how fate saved him from being buried alongside Phil Arnold instead of Harry Gravil. Needless to say, Jimmy was able to help a lot, but the biggest breakthrough came from the LRDG Rhodesia book.
A couple of Newsletter readers have been able to help with more details of these 16 men, but a few gaps still remain. There are two men with only a few sketchy details: Signalman B. Jordan, Royal Corps of Signals (Rhodesia, 13-12-1942?) and Corporal G. Yates, Royal Army Service Corps. Sgmn. Jordan is listed in Bill Kennedy Shaw’s book as RC of Sigs, but in LRDG Rhodesia as Gnr. Jordan. Cpl. Yates seems to have disappeared without a trace – it seems likely that he was in the Heavy Section. Paul would appreciate any further help and when his researches are complete, he will report fully.
There is one new book that has stood out head and shoulders above everything else that appeared this year. "LRDG Rhodesia" is a large format book, full from cover to cover with fantastic pictures, memories of the men and descriptions of events from the Rhodesian LRDG Patrol. "Kiwi Scorpions" by Brendan O’Carroll was a major work, but Jonathan Pittaway and Craig Fourie have done their fellow countrymen equal justice; "LRDG Rhodesia" is a mine of information on the Rhodesian contingent. There are inevitably some mistakes, but these will no doubt be corrected in the promised re-print. We hope to add a few photographs of our vehicles to the new edition. Verdict – expensive, but worth every penny.
Mike Morgan’s excellent "Sting of the Scorpion" is now out in paperback and Mike tells us that he has added in some extra photographs. This is still the best "other ranks" view of LRDG life – even if you have the hardback edition, get the paperback as well, if only for the extra photographs.
Mike has just finished working on a book about Stan Hollis, the CSM in the Green Howards, who won the only VC on D-day. Although the book does not cover the North African campaign, Stan Hollis’ company commander was Major Ronnie Lofthouse. He married Paul’s auntie Mary and so became his uncle. It’s a small world!!
A book just in and waiting to be read is "Churchill’s Folly". This is about the debacle on Leros, where the LRDG were deeply involved. It looks like a good read and we’ll give a review of it in the next Newsletter.
Finally, one to watch for in 2004 is Brendan O’Carroll’s next book – it covers the Barce Raid. He has done his research, finished the text, gathered up his photographs and is ready to go to print. We’ve been in touch with Brendan over the past year, helping with odds and ends and photographs. Brendan has put in a lot of serious study to pull his information together and it promises to be a great addition to the library. Again, we’ll review it when it comes out.
We held a few quiet Desert Raiders social events after the show season. Peter hosted a barbeque in the form of a house warming party. The men seemed to spend most of the time in the barn looking at vehicles whilst the ladies sat outside and chatted, so everyone had a good time. One Christmas meal was held in November near Cambridge, with a second one being held in December to make sure that all the Desert Raiders met up "out of season". Most of the Desert Raiders and their families managed to get to one or other (or both) of the meals and they were great successes, enjoyed by all.
Shows for 2004.
We were planning to go to Normandy in June for the D-Day commemorations with the 3 tonner and the Blitz Buggy. However, we didn’t think it wise to take the vehicles straight out of the workshop on an overseas trip, so Normandy will have to wait. Our plans for 2004 are to go to "Campaign", a World War 2 only show near Bedford (10-11 July); to War & Peace, Beltring (21-25 July) and Military Odyssey, Detling (27-30 August), plus the usual mix of local shows. However, we are planning a special event in June 2004. It’s not been finalised yet, but we hope to have most of our Desert Raiders vehicles at Muckleburgh, Norfolk, for a Desert Raiders weekend. It should be a big, exciting, event and we’ll need as many crew members as we can get. So, keep in touch with Paul or Peter for the latest details.
Finally, we must apologise for the late arrival of Newsletter No 7. The pressure of work prior to Christmas beat us and Ruth retired, leaving a gap in the printing department which Peter has stepped in to fill. We hope that you like the slightly different layout to the Newsletter. If you have anything you want us to include for the June issue, please send it to Paul or Peter. And, if you would like to receive the Newsletter electronically, we can Email it to you as an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file – just give us your Email address.
Look after yourselves. All the very best from:
Paul and the rest of the Desert Raiders
Keeping the Legend Alive
British Special Forces in North Africa, 1940-1943
Summer News from the UK.
The “Desert Raiders” group in the UK has issued our sixth newsletter and we include selected items from this publication. For further information on the group’s activities please contact Paul Lincoln at email@example.com or Peter Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Desert Raiders” ranks are gradually swelling although, as you well know, we choose our troops with the greatest care. As our vehicle fleet increases so must the crew members and we have an enthusiastic band of new recruits who fit into the group well. So, how is the vehicle fleet progressing?
Paul and Clinton have now been on the 3 tonner (Heavy Section Ford F60) for about a year. They had a real go-slow just after Christmas but are over it now and things are changing fast. They lowered the engine into place and it now rolls round quite happily on its own four wheels. Next, the brake pipes go back on and, with luck, a newly made cab floor.
Paul went to Dave’s last Saturday with Bob, our tame welder, to measure and photograph his Heavy Section 3 ton Ford. Dave has a body on his and Paul and Clinton don’t. This means a big project to build an accurate copy from scratch in a short space of time. Bob took all measurements and produced basic drawings by lunchtime. Bob is working out a material list ready for the ‘off’.
As you would expect, there isn’t just one Bob!! Bob, Mk2 is THE V8 Ford engine man in this universe. The engine, which appeared to be reconditioned, has been stripped to the last nut, inspected and rebuilt with new piston rings, gaskets and anything else that was not perfect. Now it should fly!!
Dave has just completed all the sections for his Chevrolet buck end, ready for welding together. He has the cross bar that spanned between the two sides to provide the Boys anti tank rifle mount. Hopefully, this will be on the road this year - if Dave stops buying more Chevrolets, as he has just purchased Te Anau II (Chevy 1533) from Adrian. More of that in the next newsletter.
FORD 01 PILOT CAR
Peter is pressing hard to get his latest project finished this year. His rare Left Hand Drive 15 cwt Ford pickup is progressing well and we all hope very much that the re-created Te Rangi II will make its debut this season, painted to match Dave’s WA as used in the first ever LRDG sorties. Peter is still trying to find the correct gearbox, but the wooden body and fittings are well under way.
Paul Mk 2 is still hard at work re-building his genuine German Army Kubel wagon to Aftika Korps specification and it is now nearing completion. It will make an interesting addition to the fleet, alongside Peter’s Afrika Korps Bedford as used by the SAS.
Due to the rarity of the basic LRDG/SAS vehicles we have to plan a year or two ahead and buy what becomes available. Already we have another 30 cwt Ford standing by for the next project - an ‘S’ patrol vehicle (radio truck if a No11 set is available). Dave has a 3 ton Chevrolet and a photo of this type in use with 1st SAS in Tunisia. Peter has been on the trail of his latest buy for some time and he has just shipped a car over from the USA and acquired a full set of wood in the UK. He is now frantically trying to piece together all available information in order to achieve complete accuracy.
The vehicle in question is a Ford C11ADF Staff car, 1941 vintage. These were generally known as “Woodies” due to the fact that they had a large timber framework to all panels behind the front wings and bonnet. The 1941 C11ADF was the model that David Stirling chose as his own personal transport in the desert. The vehicle was modified by cuffing off the roof and painting the remainder of the car in German blue/gray to make it resemble German staff car. Closer inspection would have revealed the large ‘Winged Dagger’ stencil on the doors!
We have discussed the modification of the vehicle and cone to the conclusion that the lower half of the doors must have been fixed in the closed position to give the vehicle enough lateral strength. We further suspect that some sort of strengthening frame was used along the door tops and across the center of the car behind the front seats. The fact that up to six people (usually David Stirling, Reg Seekings. Johnny Cooper, and others) often traveled in the car at the same time plus weapons and equipment, suggests a certain amount of reinforcement.
Cat any of our readers help us with memories of the car or, better still, photos? We only know of three photos of it at present. Please telephone on 01953 881566 or write to P. Lincoln, Town Green, Watton, Norfolk IP25 6RB.
The final scheme in the pipeline regards the ‘42 long nosed Chevrolet’. These are the archetypal LRDG vehicle and we only have one of them in 30 cwt form and no example of the 15 cwt 1311 X2 pilot car, so we feel that we need to address this soon. Consequently, via the internet, we are looking at examples for sale in the USA which we could ship back home and convert. Both the acquisition and the conversion are major challenges, but we can’t see either of them beating us!!
Obviously this vehicle influx causes knock-on problems. Apart from the need for crews, other issues are transport and storage. Clinton and Paul are considering selling their Volvo transporter and buying a lorry tractor unit to pull a 40’ articulated trailer that a friend has offered to lend us. This would allow us to move a 3 tonner, 30 cwt and Jeep or two 30 cwts and a Jeep in one go. That would solve our problem for now but Dave and Peter are in similar - or worse – situations. Both this and the problem of storage may have a combined solution within the foreseeable future. Read on about our………
SPARE TIME PROJECT!!!
We initially tried to interest the Muckleburgh Collection (near Cromer) in putting on a “Desert Raiders” display but this did not happen. However, the Bressingham Steam Museum in Norfolk has a 1940’s theme and they are enthusiastic about having some of our vehicles on long term loan and for us to mount a large display with the help of lottery funding. Although we are in early stages of discussing this, we feel that this would serve three purposes:
1. Alleviate immediate storage problems.
2. Allow more people to see more of the vehicles for far more of the year and thereby tell the world about the original “Desert Raiders”.
3. Offer a possible site for some kind of Memorial to the LRDG.
We will update you with developments.
What’s coining up this year? Well, here are the shows we targeted:
We went to Waddington Air Show in Lincolnshire in June and Buckfastleigh (Devon) War on the Line show in early July. We have just returned from the War and Peace Show at Paddock Wood Hop Farm, Beltring, Kent; this is the biggest show in the world and we were there for a full week, where we entertained Jack and Donna Valenti – great to see them. We will write up these shows in the next newsletter. Our last show of the year will be Detling (Kent) Military Odyssey, September 13th and 14th, which is a large multi-period living history event and a super venue.
You may have read in the past that some LRDG members thought that the sand channels on our Ford were too wide. Peter and Paul decided to look into this and we discovered something that most of you probably never noticed. There were at least two different patterns of channel. The most common type were narrower and flatter in section than ours, with less holes punched in them. The rarer type were all but exactly what we have on the Ford. We think that our existing channels may still be about 1” too wide, but the hole positions and sizes are spot on. To be on the safe side, Peter produced a plan and a friend is going to produce twelve pairs for us so that all the vehicles have the same type of channel. The first six pairs of sand channels are now here awaiting paint. They look brilliant!
Paul went to see Mrs. Lloyd Owen a few weeks ago and had a very enjoyable chat with her over a cup of tea. She is very well, very lively and still so interested in what we do and how you are all keeping. She asked to be remembered to everyone.
We thought it was time we had some headed paper, so we had a think and came up with the idea of using the LRDG cap badge minus the letters. We thought that this would not then be too specific to exclude anyone outside the LRDG but still show the supremacy and seniority of the LRDG amongst the Desert Raiding groups. Another consideration was the fact that we couldn’t really include the SAS cap badge in our heading. Paul tried out the prototype sheet on Jimmy Patch and Brig. Tim Heywood and he was quite taken aback by their enthusiasm for returning the lettering to the cap badge. They both felt that the LRDG were there first and everyone else came later and relied upon them in one way or another. We didn’t like to presume and use the LRDG cap badge, but you will now start to see it in our letterheads.
Apart from the regular repeats on Sky TV of the Commando and War Heroes series, we haven’t been on TV over the last year. I think it’s fair to say that we have made up for this with our appearances in the various magazines that relate to Military Vehicle preservation. We have had several photos in the last year’s show reports sections and mentions in “Windscreen”, “Imprint”, “Military Machines International” and “Classic Military Vehicles”. The latter excelled with an article by John Blackman (as mentioned in last Newsletter). As promised he came up to meet us and took dozens of photos. Then he interviewed Dave and Paul for ages and went on his way. The finished product appeared in the May issue of Classic Military Vehicle. The text was very good and accurate and the photography excellent. One photo in particular of Paul & Clinton’s G1 Jeep, Y2 Ford 30 cwt and Peter’s SAS Jeep driving in convoy through the parched grass and dust clouds of Beltring 2002 was quite stunning.
We have just been asked to do some filming for another programme on Paddy Mayne – the SAS Jeep and LRDG Ford will be at the sandpit again in August.
One last nice surprise came in a small parcel from New Zealand last week. It was a copy of their National Military Vehicle Magazine and what was on the front cover?? Yes, that Ford again with yours truly propped against the front, complete with headdress and LRDG badge!
All best wishes to everyone from the “Desert Raiders” in the UK.
Desert Raiders #4 (April 2003)
Well, here we are again, April already as I begin Issue Number 4. What has happened in six months?
Mr. Bin Laden has certainly changed the world. From a shift in U.S. Foreign Policy to huge hikes in insurance premiums. At home we seem to have even more people fitfully employed thinking up new forms to fill in and new taxes to pay. Red tape has all but stifled the Army Cadet movement. Spending cuts mean that they now get rations that are more suitable for use as ammunition than food. What happened to the good old Bully Beef? What has all this got to do with Desert Raiders? Well, we have to insure all our vehicles, we have to fill in a form whether we want to drive them on the road or not. The time I spend filling in forms to take my Cadets to activities could be spent in my workshop, working on my lorry and the old Boil in the Bag rations which they didn’t eat used to feed me nicely at the summer shows Added to this, higher prices on fuel and someone has decided that our transporter lorry that covers about 1000 miles per year not only needs an annual test but also calibration for its tachograph. (We don’t actually need one by law but, because it’s there, it must be calibrated). There must be some good news, must there not? Of course there is!!
I asked ‘Doe’ Parsons if he would be kind enough to let us into the secret of becoming the LRDG Doc. This he has kindly done and made it all seem very simple and matter of fact. I thought that Doc Parsons would have had a seriously difficult time getting into LRDG, so I asked him for the story. It went something like this: “There’s a job going in Africa with something called the Long Range Desert Group. Do you fancy it?” “Why not” So they put him on a boat for a nice long journey and there he was. Just like that!!
By this time the desert war was over and Doe moved further north with the Group. When the Skipper was badly injured in Albania, Dec flew ever and parachuted in. (Not his favorite pastime)! He took with him a bottle of whisky, as it was the Skipper’s birthday. A longer account of what followed appears in Julian Thornpson’s “War Behind Enemy Lines”. The first ‘Doc’ was a New Zealander called Frank Edmundson; he was followed by Dick Lawson, then Doe Parsons. He left just before the end. Who was the final ‘Doe’?? Anyone remember?
I sent Titch Cave a photo of our Ford. I've meant to do this for so very long but it’s all down to time. He wrote back to thank me and to confirm what we had suspected for quite some time. Y6 is not the correct number for the Skipper’s old vehicle. It should be Y2! Thank you Messrs. Jenner & List for yet another bloomer in your LRDG book. (See book review for the reprint.)
Another small detail has also come to light; which will require the old paintbrush. This time, thanks to Harry Chard’s son Ian and Brian Springford’s camera. Many of you will know that ‘Springer’ usually drove the ‘Skipper’ about in what we thought was Y6 but was actually Y2. Fortunately he took a good few snaps and, although none show the Y2 marking, there is a splendid shot of the name “Aramis”. The only problem is that the ‘s’ is bigger than the Arami and this allows the ‘tail’ of the ‘s’ to run back under the name and underline it. From the same set of photo’s we could establish that Frank Simms bad Yl and this was called “Dartanyen”.
At this point I need to go back a few years. I was told, long ago, that the LRDG were issued with four cwt Ford pick-ups. (No.11 cab F8 CMP in official terms). The Skipper couldn’t remember them ever being used due to their tiny carrying capacity and he suspected that they were ‘lost behind a dune, somewhere’! When the excellent Kiwi Scorpion” book appeared last year I nearly fell off my chair when I spotted not one, but two photo’s of a F8 pick-up. From the text I learned that it was issued to Bruce Ballantyne as a replacement for his old Ford 01 VS pilot car (a survivor from the days of the first patrols). It appears that he had achieved a clear 18-meter (60’) leap over a razor back dune and broken the oafs back. (The fact that this beat the 16-meter record held by a 30cwt Ford with a British driver seemed to outweigh the physical injuries sustained!). The vehicle was officially named Te Rangi, but unofficially known as “Stinker”. Shortly after this I received the first set of ‘Springer’s’ photos and what should I see but a second F8 pick-up and it clearly showed the Yl marking on the bridge plate as well as the name!! “Titch” told us that Yl was Frank Simms’.
There have been three ongoing projects over the winter. Dave has bravely been working on two of them AND going through a drastic house move, lie tells me that one of them is now finished and he has a second SAS Desert Jeep. That makes two Deserts, one European and one LRDG jeep he owns. He is working on a Popski’s Private Army Italian Jeep next.
The other project he is undertaking on a long-term basis is, in my opinion, a very important one. He bought a long nosed Chevrolet from a man who had imported it from the USA. It is actually a WB. model (i.e. twin back wheels) but he is converting it to 1939 WA spec as per one of the first 33 LRDG patrol trucks. Obviously the vehicle brought back from Egypt in 1983 and now in the I.W.M. will he of great help to him, as will Peter Clayton’s book about his father, “Desert Explorer”. It looks like it will be a New Zealand patrol vehicle of R,T or W patrol although, of course, the first Guard’s patrol had the old W patrol vehicles.
Dave is getting there slowly and once the brakes are finished -which should be very soon - it will be up, running and drivable. The back body will still be quite a task for him, as it has to be made from scratch. He telephoned today to report on his first drive!
The other ongoing project is our Heavy Section Ford F60 3 toner. At first we thought that 2001 was a possible completion date then it was 2002. We are now down to two of us involved in the restoration and, whilst we expect to be mobile this year, our target is now Beltring (July) 2003! That should give us time to smooth out any mechanical hitches in preparation for the 60th Anniversary of D-Day trip in 2004. We did it in the 30 cwt in 1994 so we are due for another drive. Progress has been so slow due to a number of factors. Work has been hectic but the rarity of the vehicle and the very bad condition of it, have more than played their part.
Peter, Bletchley Park last year with his jeep.
Our toner chassis should be on wheels this month and ready for the engine in the summer. To try and help the spares situation we bought a truckload of excellent spares from a scrapped 1944 3 ton Ford way up in Scotland. Transport was nearly as much as the spares!
We are trying to think ahead to the next 30 cwt patrol vehicle and, with this in mind, we recently bought a 1942 30 cwt Ford for the engine and gearbox and, eventually, a very rare 1941 No l2 cab Chevrolet 30 cwt. For some reason that we have never discovered, many LRDG Fords had Chevrolet axles. Whether it was due to supply difficulties or the gearing within we don’t know. Either way we now have some plus a spare (but very rusty) cab. To give an idea of the rarity of our 3 toner. I have not seen another like it in the 24 years that I have been involved in Military Vehicles.
Again, looking ahead, I have been in touch with two Rhodesian lads who are writing a book on the Rhodesian patrol of the LRDG. They kindly (via ‘Jacko’ Jackson) offered me their assistance in getting our next vehicle correct. The book should be out soon and will be reviewed as soon as I can lay my hands on a copy.
I got an e-mail today to tell me it will be about two months until publication and will contain nearly 500 photo’s, only five of which have appeared in print before.
Peter has had his restoration wings clipped by his present job. There are not too many suitable vehicles in the part of the world where he is working and he is looking towards the USA for a basic vehicle to convert for his next “Desert Raiders” project.
As much as Clinton and I like the idea of a Chevrolet 1533 patrol truck, it makes sense to keep with the Ford’s and on this basis we are looking for an 8 cwt (or F8). As mentioned earlier, the LRDG had four of these and I’ve tracked down three. Frank Simms had one as Eel. Bruce Ballantyne had one and Jimmy recalls having one in the Artillery section. Anyone remember where the fourth one went? They had the same front end as the old 30 cwt Ford but a very small body of about 6’ x 6’. There were toolboxes and a spare wheel behind the cab and the wheels were 13” instead of 16”. LRDG might not have been impressed but I love them. English roads are somewhat better than desert!
W. Anderson October 4th 1999. Duke of York’s H.Q.
Time prevented me from giving more than a mention to some of the books that I had read lately in the last Newsletter. Two of these were “Drums of Memory” by Sir Steven Hastings MP and “When the Grass Stops Growing” by Carol Mather. I have put them together because the part relating to the SAS are quite similar. Sir Steven’s book covers his life with only a part of the book relating to his Army days, whilst Carol Mather has written a book about his war, mainly in the desert. Anyone who is familiar with Dr Malcolm Pleydell’s “Born of the Desert” will find that all three books could be read together and if you were a fourth member of their group and listening in on their conversations whilst reading the overlapping parts of the books. Carol Mather had two spells with SAS and worked for Monty in between which all made for interesting reading and was, to the best of my limited knowledge, a fairly accurate account. I found his book to be interesting enough to read but not ground breaking by any means. Sir Steven’s offering, to be honest, only caught my imagination with the 25% that covered the desert war and even that wasn’t totally accurate.
One that did press all the right buttons for me was “Gentleman Jim”. The story of Major Jim Almonds by one of his daughters, Lorna Almonds Windmill. Beyond the obvious names at the top of the early SAS were the men on the ground who made the everyday life and the patrols happen, the N.C.O’s. Names that have become legendary - Seekings, Cooper, Bennett, Rose, Lilley and Almonds.
Using his wartime diaries, Lorna has carefully put back together her father’s war. Jim got his nickname because he didn’t need to swear to convey his thoughts and wishes, but it didn’t stop his from being one of the first into ‘L’ Detachment and one of the last to leave at the end. He not only operated as a member of several patrols, but his constructional skills were soon spotted and he built much of the camp and training facilities at Kabrit. This is a book with much information for the true enthusiast. LRDG chaps would probably pick up on a couple of small discrepancies, but this is far outweighed by an excellent overall content. Lye just ordered an eighth copy for our group~
My penultimate book this time round is “Warriors on Wheels” by Bob Yunnie. This is far from a new book and I was lucky enough to pick up two copies some years ago for £2 each. Bob was a patrol commander from day one with the famous Popski’s Private Army. It is a far more readable and accurate account of the life in PPA than the one given in Popski’s own book, “Private Army”. It tells, with complete honesty, the story of their first and only desert mission. How they took twice as long to reach Kufra as did the LRDG or SAS. How they struggled due to lack of experience just finding their forward base with no threat from the enemy. He tells of the shame and guilt he felt when he lost his patrol to air attack without tiring a shot, of Popski’s anger and his disappointment. Popski had managed to salvage a little from the operation by latching on to another recon patrol and meeting up with the Americans in Tunisia.
The rest of the book deals with Italy and Bob Yunnie gives a very readable account of how they tried to get behind German lines and usually ended up getting mortared all the way back. In common with LRDG & SAS they were sometimes misemployed and there is a rather harrowing account of one of his men giving him his personal belongings before going on a foot patrol. Despite his best efforts to reassure the man that all would be well, the poor fellows premonition came true and he stood on a mine and died. The rest of the patrol narrowly escaped with their lives. Bob Yunnie had a similar experience himself when he went home just before the end of the war. His replacement was ambushed and blown up. Fate is a strange thing. Reading this book, I spotted a recent photo of a PPA desert jeep in a magazine, and knowing that there is a PPA group in Belgium with two jeeps, I thought I’d look at Popski’s biography to see what I could learn. Was he a legend or a liability? P11 recount my findings in D.R. Issue 5.
“Long Range Desert Group”. Jenner & List. Osprey.
This is one of a series of OSPREY “card cover” books and was first produced in the early 80’s with the backing of the LRDG Association ‘on the condition that it was submitted to the Association before publication’. These two fellows had it all going for them, the knowledge and photos of the men who were there, a reputable publisher and a brilliant artist to produce the color plates. What an opportunity to come one’s way! There were many mistakes in the text, several in the photo captions and some in the color plates.
When we heard that there was to be a reprint a couple of years ago, we were delighted. Mistakes would be corrected and additional material added. Adrian was approached to see if his Chevrolet could be used as a ‘model’ for a fully color center spread in cut-away format. Unfortunately, there was little new (except Adrian’s Chevy.) and few mistakes rectified.
I would not recommend this book to anybody. I found to my cost how inaccurate it was when I copied the marking for The Skipper’s old ford, (Y6 Aramis). Pm about to correct the way the name is written and change the 6 to the correct number 2!!
I didn’t realize that Ken Lazarus had changed his name to Lawrence until Jimmy told me that he had recently died and we had a chat about his work with the LRDG. I thought that it would be nice to write a few words about what he achieved. Ralph Bagnold had applied for a Survey Officer shortly after the LRDG became operational because so much of the desert, particularly in Libya, was either badly mapped or just blank spaces. Ken Lazarus arrived in the summer of 1941. He had been a peace time Colonial Office surveyor and before joining
LRDG had worked in East Africa and Abyssinia with the Gunners. His driver was called Howard (the famous cairn was named after him) and the section started life with three Ford 30 cwt’s. Later, in about May 1942, these were replaced with Chevrolets and for one year and nine months they operated across the desert, usually behind enemy lines, surveying the ground. Ken Lazarus took part in a few operations as guide and more so in the ill-fated combined operations of September 1942 when he went with SI and S2 patrols. Both patrols were virtually destroyed when aircraft while waiting for David Stirling to arrive strafed them. Many of his maps were in use for many years after the war and probably still are, if
slightly updated. His talents didn’t end there. In December 1943 he was given command of the Rhodesian Squadron following a few hairy moments in the Aegean. After the war he moved to Spain
I’ve just heard - also via Jimmy - the sad news that Stormy has died. He commanded the U.K. Squadron from December 1943 and was a lifelong friend of the Skipper’s. Before the LRDG he was a regular officer in the Cameroonians and returned to Scotland after the war.
I was also very sorry to discover, on my return from holiday, that Trevor Caunt had died. He was such a nice chap and would always give me a call to chat about the Newsletter and life with the LRDG in general . A sad loss.
So, where’s the Desert Raiders” web site etc?? Six months down the line from Christmas and the arrival of the all singing, all dancing, much expensive, state of the art computer and I still can’t work the bloody thing!! I’ve reverted to pen and paper. I can’t believe how slow they are or how complicated. I even had to phone the help line to turn it off on two occasions!
Fear not, this does not mean the end of our venture into cyberspace, because Jack Valenti had kindly volunteered to let us put our details onto their LRDG Preservation Society web site. Once the Newsletter is posted I will round up some of our best photos and e-mail them to him along with show dates etc. This will allow access to anyone who is on line. I very much hope to get a few pages sorted out on the vehicles and weapons etc. to put on the web site as well.
Still on the subject of the USA, I went to Florida in February, despite my suggestion that California would be much more fun with all those Chevrolets. Next time perhaps! I took our copy of the Bagnold sun compass with me to post to Jack for copying. I spoke to airport security about what I was carrying in case it showed up on x-ray and looked like a bomb. When I explained what it was and why I had one, I got some extremely strange looks. Some people have no taste! Happily Jack received it safely and it is now being copied for his vehicles before a (hopefully) safe return journey to the UK!
Thanks to Pat Anderson (as in Mrs. ‘Swede’ Anderson, of ‘G’ Patrol) we now have some new readers in the shape of Major Jim Almonds and family (see book review). It is indeed a privilege to have yet another genuine Desert Raider with us. Welcome.
A quick apology regarding Issue No 3. it had LRDG on the cover, Stead of “Desert Raiders”. Most of you probably didn’t take much notice, but, just in case, it was due to a mix up at this end and IN NO WAY an attempt to make it look like a continuation of Jimmy Patch’s splendid efforts in the good old days of the LRDGA. Sorry Jim! Thanks to the Internet I’ve been in touch with Brendan O’Carroll, the author of “Kiwi Scorpion” and he tells me that a second book is in the pipeline. More details to follow. He also told me that a friend and fellow enthusiast in New Zealand, Owen Gillingham, isn’t too well. Owen, we are thinking of you on the other side of the world.
I’m just finalizing everything for printing and can only think of two more scraps of information.
1. It appears (thanks to
Brendan) that the fourth F8 Ford was also used by the New Zealand patrols.
2. I’ve never thanked Ruth, in writing, for her help. She is a true friend of Desert Raiders and can cope with computers.
My savior; thank you!
July 17-21 War & Peace, Paddock Wood Hop Fann, Beltring, Kent
August 17-18 Chutes & Daggers, Bletchle Park
Sept. 7-8 Military Odyssey, Kent, Show Ground
Please come and see us - the kettle is always on. I will have my mobile phone if you need picking up and can usually get you FREE passes if you let me know in time.
LONG RANGE DESERT GROUP PRESERVATION SOCIETY; WEB SITE CAN BE FOUND AT, WWW.LRDG.ORG
Look after yourselves and try to come and see us this year.
Paul and the lads.
P.S. You will find a copy of the official Roll of Honor in this issue. I arranged this after being told about a Household Cavalry officer who lost his life serving with LRDG. He wasn’t in the Group - he was just seeing how they worked and was very unlucky. Hope this clarifies everything.
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