Photographs show the Army’s Long Range Desert Group in action in North Africa during WWII

Photographs show the Army’s Long Range Desert Group in action in North Africa during WWII

Fascinating photographs capture one of the UK's first special forces unit which performed daring raids and gathered vital intelligence, helping to lay

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Fascinating photographs capture one of the UK’s first special forces unit which performed daring raids and gathered vital intelligence, helping to lay the foundations for today’s SAS. 

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), established in June 1940, was a highly successful and well-organised group of specialist soldiers who caused chaos for Britain’s enemies in North Africa during the Second World War.

The unit undertook many covert tasks such as reconnaissance patrols and intelligence missions from behind Italian lines, and used their knowledge of the desert to guide other forces such as the SAS on their own sorties. 

Striking images show one soldier manning a Vickers machine gun while hanging off the side of a heavily modified Ford truck, as another depicts a rugged Chevrolet truck making its way across the Libyan desert.

Other remarkable snaps capture the harsh and unforgiving conditions under which the elite soldiers operated, with intelligent-looking men seeking shade from the desert sun under the wing of an airplane.

The photos are included in Karl-Gunnar Norén and Lars Gyllenhaal’s new book The Long Range Desert Group: History And Legacy – a thorough account of the men who lived deep behind enemy lines with little or no support.  

The unit is pictured on a mission on January 12, 1941. Behind the Vickers machine gun is Vice Corporal Lawrence 'Clarrie' Roderick, a pro boxer. Shortly after the photo was taken he was was captured and sent to a POW camp in Italy. He escaped and joined the partisans, fighting with them to his death in 1944

The unit is pictured on a mission on January 12, 1941. Behind the Vickers machine gun is Vice Corporal Lawrence 'Clarrie' Roderick, a pro boxer. Shortly after the photo was taken he was was captured and sent to a POW camp in Italy. He escaped and joined the partisans, fighting with them to his death in 1944

The unit is pictured on a mission on January 12, 1941. Behind the Vickers machine gun is Vice Corporal Lawrence ‘Clarrie’ Roderick, a pro boxer. Shortly after the photo was taken he was was captured and sent to a POW camp in Italy. He escaped and joined the partisans, fighting with them to his death in 1944

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), members of which are pictured here wearing goggles during a sandstorm, was a highly successful and well-organised group of specialist soldiers who caused chaos for Britain's enemies in North Africa during the Second World War

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), members of which are pictured here wearing goggles during a sandstorm, was a highly successful and well-organised group of specialist soldiers who caused chaos for Britain's enemies in North Africa during the Second World War

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), members of which are pictured here wearing goggles during a sandstorm, was a highly successful and well-organised group of specialist soldiers who caused chaos for Britain’s enemies in North Africa during the Second World War

An early LRDG patrol, a year or so after the unit was first brought together, consisting of two Ford 01 V8 15-cwt in the foreground and several Chevrolet WBs in the background, and more vehicles farther away. This picture was probably taken in the Fezzan region in 1941

An early LRDG patrol, a year or so after the unit was first brought together, consisting of two Ford 01 V8 15-cwt in the foreground and several Chevrolet WBs in the background, and more vehicles farther away. This picture was probably taken in the Fezzan region in 1941

An early LRDG patrol, a year or so after the unit was first brought together, consisting of two Ford 01 V8 15-cwt in the foreground and several Chevrolet WBs in the background, and more vehicles farther away. This picture was probably taken in the Fezzan region in 1941

LRDG patrols are pictured prepping for action. The group was formed in June 1940, when an amateur scientist and pioneering explorer named Ralph Bagnold was authorised to create a British special forces unit which would operate in Italian-occupied Libya during the Second World War

LRDG patrols are pictured prepping for action. The group was formed in June 1940, when an amateur scientist and pioneering explorer named Ralph Bagnold was authorised to create a British special forces unit which would operate in Italian-occupied Libya during the Second World War

LRDG patrols are pictured prepping for action. The group was formed in June 1940, when an amateur scientist and pioneering explorer named Ralph Bagnold was authorised to create a British special forces unit which would operate in Italian-occupied Libya during the Second World War

This snap from September 1942 captures the harsh and unforgiving conditions under which the elite soldiers operated, with intelligent-looking men seeking shade from the desert sun under the wing of an airplane before being evacuated from Kufra to Cairo

This snap from September 1942 captures the harsh and unforgiving conditions under which the elite soldiers operated, with intelligent-looking men seeking shade from the desert sun under the wing of an airplane before being evacuated from Kufra to Cairo

This snap from September 1942 captures the harsh and unforgiving conditions under which the elite soldiers operated, with intelligent-looking men seeking shade from the desert sun under the wing of an airplane before being evacuated from Kufra to Cairo

Members of Y patrol are shown taking a rest from action after a raid in Tripolitania, Libya in September 1942. Saboteurs and commandos were generally frowned upon by conservative military thinkers at the time but Bagnold was able to convince high command that this war would call for new, innovative and brave ideas

Members of Y patrol are shown taking a rest from action after a raid in Tripolitania, Libya in September 1942. Saboteurs and commandos were generally frowned upon by conservative military thinkers at the time but Bagnold was able to convince high command that this war would call for new, innovative and brave ideas

Members of Y patrol are shown taking a rest from action after a raid in Tripolitania, Libya in September 1942. Saboteurs and commandos were generally frowned upon by conservative military thinkers at the time but Bagnold was able to convince high command that this war would call for new, innovative and brave ideas

Four Chevrolet WB are pictured parked outside a conquered fort in Kufra in a photograph taken in March 1941. Many of the men in the unit were experienced drivers and would really take good care of their vehicles. A high IQ and enterprising, problem-solving attitude was also a prerequisite

Four Chevrolet WB are pictured parked outside a conquered fort in Kufra in a photograph taken in March 1941. Many of the men in the unit were experienced drivers and would really take good care of their vehicles. A high IQ and enterprising, problem-solving attitude was also a prerequisite

Four Chevrolet WB are pictured parked outside a conquered fort in Kufra in a photograph taken in March 1941. Many of the men in the unit were experienced drivers and would really take good care of their vehicles. A high IQ and enterprising, problem-solving attitude was also a prerequisite

In June 1940, an amateur scientist and pioneering explorer named Ralph Bagnold was authorised to create a British special forces unit which would operate in Italian-occupied Libya during the Second World War.

Saboteurs and commandos were generally frowned upon by conservative military thinkers at the time but Bagnold was able to convince high command that this war would call for new, innovative and brave ideas. 

Bagnold immediately set about recruiting his men from the ranks of the recently arrived New Zealand division in Egypt

He decided New Zealanders would ‘fit the bill best’ for his new unit as they were often farmers or had other professions that demanded independence and initiative.

Many were experienced drivers and would really take good care of their vehicles. A high IQ and enterprising, problem-solving attitude was also a prerequisite.

Bagnold stipulated that each patrol under his command had to be self-sufficient with fuel, water, food rations, spare parts and ammunition.

The driver of this LRDG vehicle is unknown but the passenger is Paddy MacKay of T1 patrol, who is wearing LRDG slip-on shoulder titles on his battle dress blouse. Note the suncompass in front of him. This was a failsafe method of determining a compass direction as magnetic compasses could be affected by the LRDG vehicles

The driver of this LRDG vehicle is unknown but the passenger is Paddy MacKay of T1 patrol, who is wearing LRDG slip-on shoulder titles on his battle dress blouse. Note the suncompass in front of him. This was a failsafe method of determining a compass direction as magnetic compasses could be affected by the LRDG vehicles

The driver of this LRDG vehicle is unknown but the passenger is Paddy MacKay of T1 patrol, who is wearing LRDG slip-on shoulder titles on his battle dress blouse. Note the suncompass in front of him. This was a failsafe method of determining a compass direction as magnetic compasses could be affected by the LRDG vehicles

A LRDG Chevrolet with sand mats and sand channels clearly visible. The modifications helped get these vehicles across the great seas of sand, especially if they got stuck in the unforgiving terrain. The unit undertook many covert tasks and used their knowledge of the desert to guide other forces such as the SAS on their own sorties.

A LRDG Chevrolet with sand mats and sand channels clearly visible. The modifications helped get these vehicles across the great seas of sand, especially if they got stuck in the unforgiving terrain. The unit undertook many covert tasks and used their knowledge of the desert to guide other forces such as the SAS on their own sorties.

A LRDG Chevrolet with sand mats and sand channels clearly visible. The modifications helped get these vehicles across the great seas of sand, especially if they got stuck in the unforgiving terrain. The unit undertook many covert tasks and used their knowledge of the desert to guide other forces such as the SAS on their own sorties.

LRDG patrolmen and Frenchmen are pictured after the Murzuk raid. Second from the right is believed to be Pat Clayton, was was one of the first LRDG members. Amid the loot tied to the truck is a captured bicycle and a sand mat

LRDG patrolmen and Frenchmen are pictured after the Murzuk raid. Second from the right is believed to be Pat Clayton, was was one of the first LRDG members. Amid the loot tied to the truck is a captured bicycle and a sand mat

LRDG patrolmen and Frenchmen are pictured after the Murzuk raid. Second from the right is believed to be Pat Clayton, was was one of the first LRDG members. Amid the loot tied to the truck is a captured bicycle and a sand mat

LRDG patrolmen discussing or planning a raid with Frenchmen in an undated photograph. The men had to be capable of dealing with temperatures above 50C in the day - even more if wind burn was present - and life-threateningly freezing conditions in the night

LRDG patrolmen discussing or planning a raid with Frenchmen in an undated photograph. The men had to be capable of dealing with temperatures above 50C in the day - even more if wind burn was present - and life-threateningly freezing conditions in the night

LRDG patrolmen discussing or planning a raid with Frenchmen in an undated photograph. The men had to be capable of dealing with temperatures above 50C in the day – even more if wind burn was present – and life-threateningly freezing conditions in the night

A Chevrolet WB, the first principal LRDG patrol truck, forming part of a desert home for patrolmen. While out on patrols or recon missions, shifting sand dunes would often dictate the route and detours would have to be made to reach provision depots set out in advance

A Chevrolet WB, the first principal LRDG patrol truck, forming part of a desert home for patrolmen. While out on patrols or recon missions, shifting sand dunes would often dictate the route and detours would have to be made to reach provision depots set out in advance

A Chevrolet WB, the first principal LRDG patrol truck, forming part of a desert home for patrolmen. While out on patrols or recon missions, shifting sand dunes would often dictate the route and detours would have to be made to reach provision depots set out in advance

They would have their own radio and could navigate and operate completely on their own for at least two weeks. 

During that time they should be able to travel at least 1,500 miles, bearing in mind that in the desert, the terrain often makes it impossible to drive straight.

Shifting sand dunes would often dictate the route and detours would have to be made to reach provision depots set out in advance.

Men had to be capable of dealing with temperatures above 50C in the day – even more if wind burn was present – and life-threateningly freezing conditions in the night.

The stealth group continued to enjoy great success during its first 12 months, usually at little or no cost to themselves but causing tremendous panic among the Italian troops in the region. 

Both the LRDG and SAS were disbanded in 1945 but it was only the SAS that was re-established in 1947. It was a short but glittering life for the LRDG who became ‘masters of the inner desert’ and who are still revered by modern explorers and special forces members to this day.

The Long Range Desert Group: History And Legacy, published by Helion & Company earlier this year, is now available.

A patrolmen is pictured posing with locals, while a LRDG patrol truck sits in the background. Both the LRDG and SAS were disbanded in 1945 but it was only the SAS that was re-established in 1947. It was a short but glittering life for the LRDG who became 'masters of the inner desert' and who are still revered by modern explorers and special forces members to this day

A patrolmen is pictured posing with locals, while a LRDG patrol truck sits in the background. Both the LRDG and SAS were disbanded in 1945 but it was only the SAS that was re-established in 1947. It was a short but glittering life for the LRDG who became 'masters of the inner desert' and who are still revered by modern explorers and special forces members to this day

A patrolmen is pictured posing with locals, while a LRDG patrol truck sits in the background. Both the LRDG and SAS were disbanded in 1945 but it was only the SAS that was re-established in 1947. It was a short but glittering life for the LRDG who became ‘masters of the inner desert’ and who are still revered by modern explorers and special forces members to this day

A tribute to the LRDG at the David Stirling Memorial near Dunblaine in Scotland. The stone features the words 'The Long Range Desert Group - They Showed The Way'

A tribute to the LRDG at the David Stirling Memorial near Dunblaine in Scotland. The stone features the words 'The Long Range Desert Group - They Showed The Way'

Ralph Bagnold, the explorer and researcher who set up the LRDG

Ralph Bagnold, the explorer and researcher who set up the LRDG

Pictured left is a tribute to the LRDG at the David Stirling Memorial near Dunblaine in Scotland. The stone features the words ‘The Long Range Desert Group – They Showed The Way’. Shown right is Ralph Bagnold, the explorer and researcher who set up the LRDG

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