Ghost Patrol

A History of the Long Range Desert Group, 1940 - 1945

John Sadler

A accessible and entertaining new history of the Long Range Desert Group, forerunner of the SAS, famous for their exploits in the Desert War, and full of memorable characters and archetypal British heroes.
Date Published :
December 2015
Publisher :
Format Available    QuantityPrice
ISBN : 9781612003368
Pages : 232
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
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ISBN : 9781612008424
Pages : 232
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order


The origins of most of the west’s Special Forces can be traced back to the Long Range Desert Group which operated across the limitless expanses of the Libyan Desert, an area the size of India, during the whole of the Desert War from 1940 – 1943. After the defeat of the Axis in North Africa they adapted to serve in the Mediterranean, the Greek islands, Albania, Yugoslavia and Greece. They became the stuff of legend. The brainchild of Ralph Bagnold, a prewar desert explorer, featured, in fictional terms in The English Patient, who put all of his expertise into the creation of a new and, by the standards of the day, highly unorthodox unit. Conventional tactical thinking shunned the deep heart of the vast desert as it was thought to be a different planet, a harsh, inhospitable wilderness where British forces could not possibly survive even less operate effectively. Bagnold, Pat Clayton and Bill Kennedy Shaw created a whole new type of warfare.

Using specially adapted vehicles and the techniques they’d learned in the‘30s, recruiting only men of the right temperament and high levels of fitness and endurance, the first patrols set out bristling with automatic weapons. The 30-cwt Chevy truck and the famous Jeep have become iconic, the LRDG, in a dark hour, was the force which took the fight to the enemy, roving over the deep desert – a small raider’s paradise, attacking enemy convoys and outposts, destroying aircraft and supplies, forcing the Axis to expend more and more resources protecting their vulnerable lines.

Their work was often dangerous, always taxing, exhausting and uncomfortable. They were a new breed of soldier. The Axis never managed to equip any similar unit, they never escaped their fear of the scorching wilderness. Once the desert war was won they transferred their skills to the Mediterranean sector, re-training as mountain guerrillas, serving in the ill-fated Dodecanese campaign, then in strife torn Albania, Yugoslavia and Greece, fighting alongside the mercurial partisans at a time the Balkans were sliding towards communist domination or civil war.

In addition LRDG worked alongside the fledgling SAS and they established, beyond all doubt, the value of highly trained Special Forces, a legacy which resonates today.

About The Author

Born in 1953, John Sadler has law degrees from Northumbria University and the University of Westminster. A part-time lecturer in military history at Sunderland University Centre for Lifelong Learning, he is currently studying toward a PhD in history and is soon to begin an Imperial War Museum Fellowship in Holocaust Studies. He is the author of over 20 books, including Scottish Battles, published by Birlinn in April 2010. He is married with two children and lives in Newcastle.


Dramatis Personae
Being Introductory

1 Legends of the ‘Blue’
2 Piracy on the High Desert, 1940
3 The Year of Dangerous Living, 1941
4 ‘The Libyan Taxi Company Limited’, 1941–1942
5 Sting of the Scorpion, 1942
6 Out of Africa, 1942–1943
7 The Wine-Dark Sea, 1943
8 Garlic-Reeking Bandits, 1944–1945
9 On the shores of the Adriatic, 1944–1945
10 Ghost Patrols, 1945–2015


Appendix 1: Weapons, Vehicles, Training & Equipment
Appendix 2: LRDG Commanders and Patrol Designations
Appendix 3: Patrol Commanders
Appendix 4: Daily LRDG Ration Scale
Appendix 5: LRDG Roll of Honour
Appendix 6: A View from the Other Side – Axis Units
Appendix 7: Ultra in the Desert War



"An amazing tale of how the world's very first special force was created specifically for North Africa during WWII"

- Books Monthly

‘…this is a well written and highly entertaining history, and it is a good introduction to the Long Range Desert Group’

- History of War

"The story of one of Great Britain's most famous special forces units. It undertook extended reconnaissance missions and raids under the most extreme conditions"

- WWII History

" us a more serious look at an early special operations force of modern times. He opens with a chapter that sets the stage, sketching in the origins of the British presence in Egypt, the challenges the desert presents to military activity, and a glimpse at earlier campaigns in the region. He then reviews the origins of British special operations forces in the Middle East. Thereafter we get three chapters on the LRDG in the desert war in 1940-1942, then three more on its role in Italy and the Balkans in 1943-1945, where it was less effective. Sadler seasons his account with appropriate historical asides and profiles of many people, most of them on the eccentric side, as well as with digressions on logistics, equipment, and more. He concludes with an overview of special operations since the end of World War II. His many appendices deal with such matters as equipment, rations, and even Italian and German special operations forces in the desert war. This is a good, and probably the best, read for anyone interested in these special operations."

- StrategyPage

“Genuinely gripping, a tale of eccentrics and their high adventures during very dangerous times.”

- Classic Military Vehicle

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