- Filename: long-range-desert-group-in-the-mediterranean.
- ISBN: 9781576381373
- Release Date: 1998-09-01
- Number of pages: 38
- Author: R. L. Kay
- Publisher: Merriam Press
The origins of most of the WestÕs Special Forces can be traced back to the Long Range Desert Group, which operated across the limitless expanses of the Libyan Desert, an area the size of India, during the whole of the Desert War from 1940 to 1943. After the defeat of the Axis in North Africa they adapted to serve in the Mediterranean, the Greek islands, Albania, Yugoslavia and Greece. In the process they became the stuff of legend. The LRDG was the brainchild of Ralph Bagnold, a pre-war desert explorer (featured in fictional terms in The English Patient) who put all of his expertise into the creation of a new and, by the standards of the day, highly unorthodox unit. Conventional tactical thinking shunned the deep heart of the vast desert as it was thought to be a harsh, inhospitable wilderness where British forces could not possibly survive even less operate effectively. Instead, Bagnold and his colleagues created a whole new type of warfare. Using specially adapted vehicles and recruiting only men of the right temperament and high levels of fitness and endurance, the first patrols set out bristling with automatic weapons. The LRDG, in a dark hour, was the force which took the fight to the enemy, roving over the deep desertÑa raiderÕs paradiseÑattacking enemy convoys and outposts, destroying aircraft and supplies, forcing the Axis to expend more and more resources to protect their vulnerable lines. Their work was often dangerous, always taxing, exhausting and uncomfortable. They were a new breed of soldier, and the Axis never managed to field a similar unit. Once the desert war was won they transferred their skills to the Mediterranean sector, retraining as mountain guerrillas, serving in the ill-fated Dodecanese campaign, then in strife-torn Albania, Yugoslavia and Greece, fighting alongside the mercurial partisans. In addition, the LRDG worked alongside the fledgling SAS and established, beyond all doubt, the value of highly trained Special Forces, a legacy which resonates today.
This splendid record takes the reader behind enemy lines not only in North Africa but in Italy, the Aegean and the Balkans.The Author, who commanded the LRDG, paints a vivid picture of the unit's colourful characters: for example, Ralph Bagnold who put to good use the knowledge he gained from his pre-war desert travels.The LRDG was truly international with New Zealanders and Rhodesians playing key roles.This classic book won acclaim from the critics on its first publication by virtue of the author's unique knowledge, experience and narrative skills.
During the two-and-a-half years' fighting in the Western Desert of North Africa, which began with the Italian declaration of war in June 1940 and ended in 1943, the Long Range Desert Group became the acknowledged master of the vast desert. This small, highly mobile force was engaged in daring exploits and reconnaissance far behind the enemy's lines. Emerging suddenly from the depths of the desert, the LRDG would raid important airfields or attack Axis lines of communication along the Mediterranean coast, and then vanish back into the desert, to reappear hundreds of miles away. With its brilliant description of the harsh beauty of the desert, and its exiting chronicle of the LRDG activities, this book is as fascinating today as it was when was first published in 1945, after being vetted by the War Office. 'Moving, exciting and authentic' The Observer 'The British genius for exploration, hard living and insolently bold guerrilla warfare has never been better demonstrated than by the Long Range Desert Group … [Kennedy Shaw's book is] a remarkable record, told simply, unpretentiously and with engaging humour … One cannot remember a better war book.' The Manchester Guardian
Made up of members of the Coldstream and Scots Guards, British Yeomanry cavalry regiments, New Zealanders, South Africans, and Indian Army men, the Long Range Desert Group was perhaps the most effective of all the "special forces" established by the Allies during the Second World War. It was able to go thousands of miles into enemy territory, well-armed and carrying its own supplies of petrol, food and even water to last for weeks at a time - something quite new in military history. Using experience acquired in WWI and inter-war exploration travels, the LRDG thus developed the ability to appear almost anywhere in the desert to carry out almost every type of ground reconnaissance mission possible in desert warfare, exploring and mapping the terrain, transporting agents behind enemy lines or determining the strength and location of enemy forces with an extraordinary degree of accuracy and detail and thus able to verify or hide Ultra intelligence. Equally important were their skills in the art of desert navigation, demonstrated in the outflanking of the enemy during the Allied advance from El Alamein westward to Tunisia, as led by the LRDG. Once it had teamed up with the Special Air Service (SAS), made up of British, Free French, Commonwealth and Jewish Palestinian soldiers, the LRDG perfected the art of irregular mechanized warfare conducted in the rear of the enemy's forces in the desert, attacking enemy installations of all kinds, mining roads, raiding airfields, destroying enemy aircraft on the ground and inflicting losses upon the enemy in inverse proportion to their own remarkably low rate of casualties. Through meticulous research in original archival material, this book thus tells the extraordinary story of how a relatively small number of dedicated men developed the methods and techniques for crossing by motor vehicle the depths of the then unmapped and seemingly impassable great deserts of Egypt and Libya, the Western Desert, during the British Army's North African Campaign of 1940-43. The Long Range Desert Group and the Special Air Service as a matter of course did extraordinary things - the heroic was the commonplace. Their tactics, techniques and remarkable success in desert warfare continue to make them of great interest to the student of military affairs. Likewise, as it seeks to answer how the deep desert can best be used for military purposes, this study is pertinent to today's military operations, perhaps more so than at any time since World War II. "…this study provides fresh insights into the nature of desert warfare, past, present and future… [and] reveals the peculiarities of this warfare often lost to modern armies… a virtual primer, useful to commanders and soldiers alike. At long last this book can find its rightful place in the classroom of military courses and colleges and in the hands of those interested in the intricacies, complexities and problems of military operations in desert regions". From the Foreword to the book by Colonel (Retired) David M. Glantz.
Although harsh and inhospitable, the North African theatre of World War II proved to be a perfect environment for irregular warfare and the deployment of Special Forces. Following Italy's entry into the war in June 1940, the Western Desert became the background for a long conflict dominated by motorized units. The major combatants Great Britain, Free France, Italy and Germany all developed irregular units to exploit the unique conditions of the region with varying degrees of success. This book details the genesis, organization and tactics of these forces, including such famous units as the Long Range Desert Group and the Special Air Service.
The first of eight volumes in the 18-volume official British History of the Second World War covering the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern theatres. After setting the political and military scene, the authors open the action with Italy s declaration of war and France s collapse in June 1940. Britain s painful neutralisation of the French fleet at Oran and Alexandria is followed by the first blows against the Italian empire in East Africa, and Italy s attacks on Egypt and Greece. The Fleet Air Arm s triumphant attack on the Italian Fleet at Taranto, masterminded by Admiral Cunningham, is trumped by General Wavell s even more successful Battle of Sidi Barrani in December, when vast numbers of Italians were captured for negligible British losses. The victory was followed up by Britain s capture of Bardia and Tobruk, and the founding of the Long Range Desert Group - the germ of the SAS. The mopping-up of Genertal Graziani s forces in Cyrenaica, however, ominiously resulted in Germany s decision to rescue their ally with General Rommel s Afrika Korps. However, the volume concludes optimistically with the successful campaign against Italy in Ethiopia, in which General Orde Wingate s irregular Gideon Force plays a prominent part. The military narrative is accompanied by descriptions of diplomatic developments and technological innovations such as the arrival of the Hurricane fighter plane, the Matilda tank and radar. The text is accompanied by ten appendices, 30 maps and diagrams and 43 photographs.
Established in June 1940, as the brainchild of scientist and soldier Major Ralph Bagnold, a contemporary of Lawrence of Arabia, the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) allowed the British Army to gain a crucial advantage in the North African Front of World War II. Traversing great swathes of the desert that had never before been explored by Europeans, the LRDG was able to launch hit-and-run raids against remote enemy targets such as the fort and airfield at Murzuk. From December 1941 until the end of the Desert War in May 1943, the LRDG carried out numerous missions in tandem with the Special Air Service, using their unparalleled knowledge of the desert to navigate the SAS to enemy airfields on which attacks would be launched. As well as in Africa, the LRDG also fought in the Aegean, undertaking numerous dangerous missions in Yugoslavia, Albania, Italy and Greece, displaying their extraordinary versatility by operating in boats, on foot and by parachute. Using never-before-published photographs and archival material, interviews with surviving veterans who have never before gone on record regarding their wartime exploits, and special access to the SAS archives, Gavin Mortimer tells the story of the origins and dramatic operations of Britain's first ever special forces unit.
Discusses World War II with attention to events in the Mediterranean, from Italy's declaration of war in 1940 to its surrender in 1945.
Illustrated with 29 maps/diagrams and 44 photographs “The second of the eight volumes dealing with the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern theatres in the 18-volume official British History of the Second World War, this book is largely concerned with the consequences of Germany's decision to prop up its faltering Italian ally in North Africa in 1941. It opens with General Rommel reversing Britain's conquest of Italian Cyrenaica, and increasing Axis air attacks on the fortress island of Malta. Britain's naval victory against the Italians at Cape Matapan in March is swiftly followed by British reverses in the Balkans. A British-backed anti-Nazi coup d'état in Yugoslavia results in April in Germany's occupation of that country and Britain's retreat from Greece before a relentless German advance. Germany's airborne invasion of Crete sparks a fierce battle for the island, ending in a British evacuation. A pro-Axis coup in Iraq is followed by a successful British intervention, which deposes the pro-Nazi Rashid Ali regime in Baghdad. British and Free French forces also occupy Vichy French-ruled Syria. The book ends with more attacks on Malta, the building-up of Allied forces in the Middle East, and General Wavell's replacement by General Auchinleck as British Commander in North Africa.”-Print Edition
Illustrated with 30 maps and 40 photos. “Britain defeats Italy on land and sea in Africa and the Mediterranean in 1940. “The first of eight volumes in the 18-volume official British History of the Second World War covering the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern theatres. After setting the political and military scene, the authors open the action with Italy's declaration of war and France's collapse in June 1940. Britain's painful neutralisation of the French fleet at Oran and Alexandria is followed by the first blows against the Italian empire in East Africa, and Italy's attacks on Egypt and Greece. The Fleet Air Arm's triumphant attack on the Italian Fleet at Taranto, masterminded by Admiral Cunningham, is trumped by General Wavell's even more successful Battle of Sidi Barrani in December, when vast numbers of Italians were captured for negligible British losses. The victory was followed up by Britain's capture of Bardia and Tobruk, and the founding of the Long Range Desert Group - the germ of the SAS. The mopping-up of General Graziani's forces in Cyrenaica, however, ominously resulted in Germany's decision to rescue their ally with General Rommel's Afrika Korps. However, the volume concludes optimistically with the successful campaign against Italy in Ethiopia, in which General Orde Wingate's irregular Gideon Force plays a prominent part. The military narrative is accompanied by descriptions of diplomatic developments and technological innovations such as the arrival of the Hurricane fighter plane, the Matilda tank and radar. The text is accompanied by ten appendices.”-Print Edition
The third volume in this series returns to November 1942 to explain the background to the first major Anglo-American venture – Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa. It deals with the fratricidal combats which followed the initial landings in Morocco and Algeria for several days. It then considers the efforts made – unsuccessfully in the event – to reach northern Tunisia before the Germans and Italians could get there to forestall the possibility of an attack from the west on the rear of the Afrika Korps forces, then beginning their retreat from El Alamein. The six months of hard fighting which followed as the Allies built up the strength of their joint air forces and gradually wrested control of the skies from the Axis, are covered in detail. Then from 1 April 1943 the continuing story of the Western Desert Air Force is told from the point at which Volume 2 ended, as it advanced from the east to join hands with the units in the west. Now also described are the arrivals over the front of American pilots and crew, the P-38 Lightning, the Spitfire IX and the B-17 Flying Fortress – and of the much-feared Focke-Wulf FW 190. The aerial activities over Tunisia became one of the focal turning points of World War II, yet this is frequently overlooked by historians. As before, the air-sea activities, the reconnaissance flights and the growing day and night bomber offensives form a major part of this volume. The mastery of the whole African coastline of the southern Mediterranean by the Allies prepared the way for the invasions of the European territories on the other side of this critical sea during 1943, which will be dealt with in Volume 4.
British and American commanders first used modern special forces in support of conventional military operations during World War II. Since then, although special ops have featured prominently in popular culture and media coverage of wars, the academic study of irregular warfare has remained as elusive as the practitioners of special operations themselves. This book is the first comprehensive study of the development, application, and value of Anglo-American commando and special forces units during the Second World War. Special forces are intensively trained, specially selected military units performing unconventional and often high-risk missions. In this book, Andrew L. Hargreaves not only describes tactics and operations but also outlines the distinctions between commandos and special forces, traces their evolution during the war, explains how the Anglo-American alliance functioned in the creation and use of these units, looks at their command and control arrangements, evaluates their impact, and assesses their cost-effectiveness. The first real impetus for the creation of British specialist formations came in the desperate summer of 1940 when, having been pushed out of Europe following defeat in France and the Low Countries, Britain began to turn to irregular forces in an effort to wrest back the strategic initiative from the enemy. The development of special forces by the United States was also a direct consequence of defeat. After Pearl Harbor, Hargreaves shows, the Americans found themselves in much the same position as Britain had been in 1940: shocked, outnumbered, and conventionally defeated, they were unable to come to grips with the enemy on a large scale. By the end of the war, a variety of these units had overcome a multitude of evolutionary hurdles and made valuable contributions to practically every theater of operation. In describing how Britain and the United States worked independently and cooperatively to invent and put into practice a fundamentally new way of waging war, this book demonstrates the two nations’ flexibility, adaptability, and ability to innovate during World War II.
Gordon's book reveals an impressive mastery of the archival and secondary sources available on the subject. His writing is crisp and interesting, yet sober and scholarly at the same time. The daring and resourceful men of the British desert forces have found a historian whose ability to tell their story matches their ability to create some of the most daring and imaginative operations of World War II. This is an extraordinary book about extraordinary soldiers. "Military Review"