Special service remembers the incredible WWII derring-do of NZ's LRDG




 
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April 24th, 2017  
MontyB
 
 

Topic: Special service remembers the incredible WWII derring-do of NZ's LRDG


Special service remembers the incredible WWII derring-do of NZ's Long Range Desert Group

5:00 AM Tuesday Apr 25, 2017
Kiwi Long Range Desert Group soldiers keep a beady eye out for the enemy in North Africa during 1941. Photo / Harold Paton


Yesterday, a special Anzac Day event in Los Angeles was held at dawn. The main attraction wasn't the New Zealand or Australian dignitaries, but rather two rugged, beige-coloured utes. The two fully-restored vehicles of the Long Range Desert Group, complete with New Zealand insignia and details, have been carefully reproduced as reminders of some of the most amazing raids by Kiwi soldiers - and indeed any Allied troops - during World War II, reports Kurt Bayer.
They were Kiwi farm boys. Tough, energetic, durable, easily-maintained; qualities they shared with the machines they used for the top-secret missions deep behind Nazi enemy lines.

The elite special forces group criss-crossed the North Africa desert, launching hit-and-run raids, outflanking opposing forces, laying false traps, making maps, and gathering critical intelligence on German and Italian targets.
The covert exploits of the men of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) would go down as legendary in the annals of special operatives everywhere.
Founded by Major Ralph Bagnold in 1940, and initially known as the Long Range Patrol Unit, the LRDG came along more than a year before David Stirling's famed SAS.
Bagnold wanted volunteers, particularly young Kiwi farmers from the 2nd New Zealand Division whom he knew as being hardy, resourceful, and able to repair machinery with anything they had to hand. More than half of the division put their hands up.

In crack patrols, of 40 men each, they used two-wheel drive Chevrolet trucks, stripped of all non-essentials like doors, windscreens and roofs, and equipped with machine-guns, anti-tank weapons, and communication equipment.
During its first operation in August-September 1940, two units soon proved the LRDG's worth. They moved 6430km undetected across the desert to scout and then attack Italian outposts, surviving the extreme heat of the day and bitter cold of night, before making a successful return to base.
One officer later wrote, "There cannot be many instances of continued survey work behind the enemy lines in war-time", while Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery - who orchestrated the victory at the Battle of El Alamein, said without the LRDG's help, some key operations in North Africa would have been a "leap in the dark".
A total of 250 New Zealanders served in the unit, nicknamed the Libyan Desert Taxi Service, and which never numbered more than 350 men.
It was moved to the eastern Mediterranean after the Axis forces surrendered in Tunisia in May 1943, before being finally disbanded in August 1945.
Yesterday, at the Los Angeles National Cemetery a dawn Anzac service paid tribute to the incredible exploits of the LRDG.
There were around 250 guests in attendance, including Leon Grice, Consul-General of New Zealand and Chelsey Martin, Consul-General of Australia.
Former New Zealand soldier and Australian SAS vehicle mounted operator Kevin Bovill laid a wreath at the event.
Bovill and his comrades went "back to the basic lessons learned by the LRDG" and is proud of New Zealand's role in setting up the forerunner to the modern SAS.
"Maintaining all aspects of our military history and heritage is important for future generations to learn, understand and appreciate the sacrifices of their forefathers and how they formed New Zealand's place in the world," Bovill said.


http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/ar...ectid=11844294


***** I was under the impression that Australian troops were the first to be asked not New Zealand but they did not want their troops lead by British officers.****
April 24th, 2017  
George
 
"A total of 250 New Zealanders served in the unit, and which never numbered more than 350 men." That doesn't add up....
April 25th, 2017  
MontyB
 
 
I suspect they mean that at some point (I assume the unit's formation) 250 of the 350 troops were New Zealanders.

It is somewhat less impressive if they mean throughout the war a total of 250 New Zealanders served with the unit although I guess that depends on the losses sustained.

Personally, I am not sure it matters as the history of the unit as a whole is far more important than one of its components or the ramblings of a reporter attempting to put a nationalistic claim to a multinational forces achievements.
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April 25th, 2017  
George
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MontyB
I suspect they mean that at some point (I assume the unit's formation) 250 of the 350 troops were New Zealanders.

It is somewhat less impressive if they mean throughout the war a total of 250 New Zealanders served with the unit although I guess that depends on the losses sustained.

Personally, I am not sure it matters as the history of the unit as a whole is far more important than one of its components or the ramblings of a reporter attempting to put a nationalistic claim to a multinational forces achievements.
Yeah, the LRDG had quite the reputation, from what I've read in the past.
April 25th, 2017  
BritinAfrica
 
 
My Uncle Charlie was a member of the LRDG.

The unit were first issued 4x2 Chevrolet Trucks, then latter on were issued Jeeps. He stated that on one operation one Jeep burnt out its clutch, They turned the Jeep on ts side and replaced it in the middle of the desert.

He never spoke much of his time in the LRDG, he was a very humble man, but tough as nails. He was an amazing man.
April 25th, 2017  
Remington 1858
 
 
I'm sure the New Zealanders were excellent material for the LRDG. They needed men who were used to living rough, could drive vehicles, do simple repairs and who were not afraid of the dark. Sounds simple but in 1940 it was not easy to find men like that, except in the tank corp and they were off limits for recruiting.
Country men are used to working at night and are not afraid of the dark, many city men are. Since most LRDG ops were "night work" you needed men like that.
April 25th, 2017  
MontyB
 
 
There is a book called Bully Beef and Balderdash by Graham Wilson which is about debunking myths of the Australian WW1 campaigns but I think this is something that equally applies to the New Zealand WW1 and WW2 campaigns and that is the idea that Aussies and Kiwis were "natural soldiers", could shoot, live off the land and were mainly farm boys or bushmen.

It goes on to analyse the population demographics of Australia at the time and concludes that the size of the rural pool they had to recruit from was less than 18% of the recruitable population which I suspect was not all that dissimilar to New Zealand's demographics.

So just as it is these days the vast majority of New Zealand and Australian troops serving overseas were city dwellers.

What I suspect causes this view is not a rural lifestyle but rather a colonial trait as you see the same abilities in most of the nations that formed the British Empire as I think you need those traits to pack up and immigrate half a world away to potentially hostile environments.
 


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