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 :
February 2020
Publisher :
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781612008424
Pages : 232
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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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

John Sadler's main specialty is in military history, as an accomplished author, lecturer, battlefield tour guide, heritage professional and historical interpreter. He is a visiting lecturer at the University of Sunderland Centre For Lifelong Learning since 1998. He lives in the North East of England.


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

"I really enjoyed this book. The pace is deceptive, while the detail is strong enough to encourage further reading. This sort of stuff provides the footnotes for the big histories you find in the history sections of the frontline bookshops in your local mall. ‘Enthralling’ is the word I am looking for. Highly recommended."

- War History Online

‘’Whilst there are several books on the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), I don’t recall any being so well researched as this book [...] giving the reader a balanced view of the period. Ghost Patrol is referenced throughout which highlights the level of detail the author has gone to into making it such an in-depth account. The book also gives a dramatis personae of the notable characters and includes several appendices at the end to provide further background information. A thoroughly good read and highly recommended - especially for those who are unfamiliar with this area of WW2.’’

- Despatches

‘’…presenting a very fine history full of personal accounts, anecdotes and reminders of the role taken by LRDG.’’

- Militaria Mart

‘’...presenting a very fine history full of personal accounts, anecdotes and reminders of the role taken by LRDG…"

- Gun Mart

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