The Long Range Desert Group’s (LRDG)  primary role was reconnaissance and intelligence gathering; however, path finding and survey work were also integral missions. The latter was vital since most of the North African desert, once you went beyond 50 miles south of the coast, the area where most Western Desert actions took place, was poorly or totally unmapped at the outset of World War II.

The LRDG became masters of that expanse of desert and, for a time, also ran a ferry service in which their cargo was other desert raiders, the Special Air Service (SAS), whom they transported so they could carry out their missions. The SAS in turn specialized in small-unit operations against enemy supply points and airfields. By the close of the African campaigns in mid-1943, the SAS was officially credited with having destroyed 350 enemy aircraft, a figure well beyond the total of even the most successful Allied fighter wings.

The LRDG was first known as the “Long Range Patrol Group” when activated in July 1940. Though a precedent had been set for such a unit during World War I, when the British used Model T Fords to patrol areas of the Libyan Desert inhabited by the Senussi tribe (then hostile to the British), the experience gained in those patrols ultimately came to nothing, for at war’s end the patrol force was simply disbanded.

Author Bio:


The editor of World at War magazine and Senior Editor for Strategy & Tactics Press. He has more than 30 years professional experience in historical research, writing and editing. From 1976 to 1980, and again from 1984 to 1988, he served in US military intelligence. He has written over 100 published articles and reports on military history and over 100 published wargames, most on World War II topics.

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