The Long Range Desert Group...

…History & Legacy, from Helion Books, via Casemate UK

Title:  The Long Range Desert Group

Author: Karl-Gunnar Noren and Lars Gyllenhaal

Publisher:  Helion Books

ISBN:  978-1-911628-88-0

This new hardback from Helion Books on the subject of the LRDG is, in my opinion, a little gem.  It is divided into two parts, the largest of which is the story of the LRDG and its' creator, Ralph Bagnold. He had served in the trenches during WW1, a member of the Royal Engineers. After the war he had the chance to carry out his great interest, and learnt to explore the desert, beyond Cairo and into the Great Sand Sea. This let him learn so much about using navigation, survival, and the use of motor vehicles in what were thought to be inaccessible areas. The book tells us of how early on in WW2 he managed to get himself posted to Egypt, rather than Kenya, where he been heading.

I found the account of how Bagnold convinced General Wavell to provide him with access to whatever he needed, and how he assembled the first patrols with the appropriate trucks (civilian Chevrolets with desert tyres), appropriate supplies and men largely from the New Zealand Division to undertake their first patrols. It goes on to give a fine account of the story of the LRDG, while sprinkled throughout are snippets of additional information, such as how to use a Sun Compass, along with a good selection of archive photos. Not just raids to disrupt Italian and German position way behind the lines, but the value of their Road Watch observations that provided such useful intelligence information. They supported the work of the SAS when that unit was first formed by David Stirling and even Popski's Private Army.

The smaller second part of the book is just as interesting. It tells the story of the group of men who decided to follow in the footsteps of the LRDG and in 2012 made a long cross desert trip using two original wartime Jeeps, plus support elements. The arrangements and the diary of their trip makes for great reading, though sad that these days they needed and armed Egyptian Army escort for much of their journey. They followed a route used by the LRDG, and found supply points where petrol flimsies and even canned foods were still to be found, buried in the sand. They also came across a few original LRDG vehicle wrecks, just where they were left during the war, and one of which had not previously been recorded. Finding these in the vast expanse of desert must have been exhilarating. Written in a style very easy to read, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. 

Distributed by Casemate Books, who kindly provided my review copy.

Robin