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Book Review

"The Long Range Desert Group – History and Legacy"

 

By Dr. Chris Lloyd-Staples  - Hemel Hempstead, UK

 

 

Basic Item Information

Title

The Long Range Desert Group – History and Legacy

Author

Karl-Gunnar Norén & Lars Gyllenhaal

Publisher

Helion & Company

ISBN/Stock Number

978-1-911628-88-0

Subject

Unit History 

Media

Hard Cover 

Number of Pages

160

Text Language

English 

Retail Price

$32.95 USD 

Reviewer

Dr. Chris Lloyd-Staples 

Review Date

July 28, 2019

Review Summary

Review Type

Full Read 

Basic Positive Features

A superb summary of the formation and deployment of the LRDG, and their main operations.  The book covers that later raids in conjunction with the SAS and the last part of the book covers the exploration of the key sites by enthusiasts and re-enactors.

Basic Negative Features

None. 

Recommendation

A "Must Have"

Photos

      

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Detailed Review

Background

This book sets out to describe the formation of the LRDG by one determined and slightly eccentric Major Ralph Bagnold.  It is perhaps worth dwelling for a moment on this British officer, who had spent much of his time on a ‘hobby’ of exploring the vast desert areas of Egypt and Libya in the 1930’s….. as a civilian.  When called up for military service at the start of WW2, this expert on the desert of North Africa was sent to…..Kenya!  However, a collision between troopships left him in Cairo, and here the story starts.  

Bagnold and a small band of crazy British explorers had been taking cars into the desert since cars first became available, and if you want to know more, I recommend these classic books as a great read:

       

The new book is divided into the following chapters and sub-sections as shown in the following scan of the Table of Contents:

Starting with nothing, Bagnold convinced the General in Cairo that armed reconnaissance in the ‘impassable’ desert would be a great idea to guard against Italian forays, and amazingly Bagnold was given a letter saying ‘Give this man whatever he wants’ and despite local reluctance from officers, this led to the formation of the first patrols, using civilian 30cwt trucks as they were better suited to the conditions.  The rest is history!

The book covers the first patrols in some detail, and looks at many of the issues faced by the British, New Zealand and Rhodesian volunteers.  Each man was carefully chosen and was a specialist in driving, navigation, wireless, or some similar vital skill.  The book considers how they were chosen, and information panels scattered through the text give additional information about training, navigation, uniforms, and the like.

The book does not cover every patrol out into the desert, many of which became routine traffic watches, recording enemy movements, and basically trying not to be seen.  The LRDG found it hard not to inflict mayhem when they were allowed to do so, and increasingly they raided isolated forts, causing the Italians to devote troops and resources to guarding facilities and hunting the raiders.  The raiding role became more important with the formation of the SAS, and after an initial costly fiasco, the LRDG worked with the SAS to get them to their destinations and bring them home.  The book describes the heroic exploits of these two Special Forces, and of course the SAS remains the most respected of all similar teams.

Part 2 of the book, covering the last 20 pages, is a description of an expedition by the enthusiasts in 2012, covering the same ground as the LRDG and looking for traces in the desert.  They found wrecks and plenty of petrol cans, and overall this must have been an amazing experience.  Speaking personally, this part of the book did not interest me as much, but I’m sure that most readers will enjoy this diary of their exploits.  It was clearly a testing trip, even without the isolation and worry about being shot at!

Editing of Information/ Text Flow

Given that this book was written by Swedes, the text is flawless.  Many native English-speakers could not do as well!  I only found one spelling error, and the sentence construction is basically good, with only a few quirky expressions.  Interestingly, the authors take great delight in repeatedly pointing out that one patrol member was half-Swedish, and that the Bofors anti-tank guns carried on some vehicles were built in Sweden!

Photograph/Illustration Quality and Selection

The book contains about 30 black-and-white photos, a similar number of colour photos (restored vehicles, paintings, etc.) and five maps.  The maps cover the same sorts of areas, and personally I would have preferred larger maps of specific areas.

     

Quality of Print Medium

This edition is a VERY sturdy 7” x 10” hard cover book. The paper is glossy and very good quality throughout, and the book is well-produced in every respect.  The photos are crisp and in focus, the captions are informative, and generally this a lovely book.

Conclusion

The SAS Regiment has been written about endlessly, but the LRDG forerunners have not really had the full recognition that they deserve.  This is an excellent summary of the key events in the history of the ‘desert raiders’, and is a very readable book.  Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.

A "Must Have".
 
Thanks to Casemate Publishers for the Review Sample.
 
Copyright: Dr. Chris Lloyd-Staples - July 28, 2018