Long Range Desert Group

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The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) was a reconnaissance and raiding unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The commander of the German Afrika Corps, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, admitted that the LRDG "caused us more damage than any other British unit of equal strength".[5]

Originally called the Long Range Patrol (LRP), the unit was founded in Egypt in June 1940 by Major Ralph A. Bagnold, acting under the direction of General Archibald Wavell. Bagnold was assisted by Captain Patrick Clayton and Captain William Shaw. At first the majority of the men were from New Zealand, but they were soon joined by Rhodesian and British volunteers, whereupon new sub-units were formed and the name was changed to the better-known Long Range Desert Group (LRDG). The LRDG never numbered more than 350 men, all of whom were volunteers.

The LRDG was formed specifically to carry out deep penetration, covert reconnaissance patrols and intelligence missions from behind Italian lines, although they sometimes engaged in combat operations. Because the LRDG were experts in desert navigation they were sometimes assigned to guide other units, including the Special Air Service and secret agents across the desert. During the Desert Campaign between December 1940 and April 1943, the vehicles of the LRDG operated constantly behind the Axis lines, missing a total of only 15 days during the entire period.[4] Possibly their most notable offensive action was during Operation Caravan, an attack on the town of Barce and its associated airfield, on the night of 13 September 1942. However, their most vital role was the 'Road Watch', during which they clandestinely monitored traffic on the main road from Tripoli to Benghazi, transmitting the intelligence to the British Army Headquarters.

With the surrender of the Axis forces in Tunisia in May 1943, the LRDG changed roles and moved operations to the eastern Mediterranean, carrying out missions in the Greek islands, Italy and the Balkans. After the end of the war in Europe, the leaders of the LRDG made a request to the War Office for the unit to be transferred to the Far East to conduct operations against the Japanese Empire. The request was declined and the LRDG was disbanded in August 1945.

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