Long Range Desert Group

From Academic Kids

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) was a British Army unit during World War II. The unit was founded in Egypt following the Italian declaration of war (June 1940) by Major Ralph A. Bagnold with the assistance of Captains Clayton and Shaw, acting under the direction of General Wavell. The group specialised in mechanized reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and desert navigation. The group was disbanded at the end of the war. The LRDG was nicknamed "the Mosquito Army" by Wavell. Special Air Service soldiers would refer to it as "the Libyan Desert Taxi Service".


Formation and Equipment

The unit, initially known as the Long Range Patrol Group, was founded 3 July 1940 and was assigned 150 New Zealand volunteers. Bagnold had reasoned that the New Zealanders, being mostly farmers, would be more adept at using and maintaining machinery. Later additions to the group included British and Rhodesian units.

The unit was arranged into 3 main patrols, of 40 soldiers each. Patrols were initially equipped with Ford F30 4WD and Chevrolet WB trucks, supported by Chevrolet 1311x1 15cwt (0.75t) command cars. The patrol trucks were later replaced with Chevrolet 1533x2 30cwt (1.5t) trucks, and the command cars with Willys Jeeps.

Each patrol was equipped with ten Lewis machine guns, four Boyes Anti-tank Rifles, and a Bofors 37 mm anti-tank gun; later on, trucks were equipped with Browning .50cals, captured Italian Breda 20mm anti-aircraft guns and twin mounted Vickers 7.7 mm machine guns known as the K gun. The troops carried Brens, Thompson submachine guns, and other weapons. The unit also used Army No. 11 wireless sets.

Initial Training

During the initial training, Shaw was responsible for teaching navigation, while Bagnold taught communications.

Combat History

On September 13, 1940, the unit formed its first base at the Siwa Oasis. They arrived there by driving approximately 240km across the Egyptian Sand Sea. On September 15, two patrols of the LRDG were engaged in the unit's first combat operations. In this action Captain Mitford's unit traveled via the Kalansho Sand Sea and attacked Italian petrol dumps and emergency landing fields along the Palificata. Meanwhile, Clayton's group passed through Italian territory to contact the French forces in Chad. It is believed that the LDRG helped persuade the forces there to join the Free French Forces. The patrols rendezvoused at the southern tip of the Gilf Kebir (where a supply dump was located) and then returned to Cairo, via the Kharga Oasis. Each patrol had traveled approximately 6,000km.

Following the September expedition, the War Office approved a doubling of the unit's size, its renaming, and the promotion of Bagnold to Lieutenant Colonel. The enlarged unit gathered volunteers from British, Indian, and Rhodesian units. Bagnold wrote, "During the next few months, raids were made on a number of enemy-held oases...isolated garrisons were shot up...the raiders seemed to appear from a fourth dimension...Graziani was beginning to doubt his intelligence reports [and] the Italian army halted for...months."

Chad and Kufra

In September 1940, Bagnold travelled to Fort Lamy, Chad, where he helped persuade the French colony to join the Allies. The LRDG and Free French forces worked together to raid Italian positions in the area of the Murzuk Oasis and the combined forces, using French artillery, captured Kufra. In April 1941, the LRDG's headquarters was moved to Kufra. Bagnold wrote, "Temperatures exceeding 50 °C were found to be tolerable, even on a restricted water ration, owing to the dryness. The worst discomfort came from...sandstorms, which lasted several days. They made eating very difficult." From Kufra, the LRDG commanders would essentially serve as the military commanders of a region approximately the size of northern Europe, a region which had not seen rain in 70 years.

Bagnold Leaves the LRDG

During the summer of 1941, Bagnold recruited another prewar exploration companion, Guy Prendergast, to serve as his executive officer. On July 1, Bagnold left the unit, to serve in Cairo as a Colonel, and Prendergast became the LRDG's commander. Prendergast would be succeeded by Jake Easonsmith who was followed by David Lloyd Owen.

Other Operations

After the end of the African campaign, the LRDG served in Greek islands and in Normandy.

The LRDG was disbanded on August 1 1945.

External Links

  • - Website of the Long Range Desert Group Preservation Society.
  • - Another LRDG site, has background information on vehicles and equipment and an extensive bibliography.
  • a page devoted to their exploits in the desert with extensive information on weapons, personnel, and equipment. Site also includes detailed annotated bibliography.

Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools