U Series - Long Range Desert Group [Parts 1-8]

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Broadcaster Doug Laurenson introduces a series of talks by the members of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), or alternatively, the Long Range Patrol (LRP) which is comprised mostly of New Zealanders under the command of British Officers who have, for the past ten years, spent their leave exploring the Libyan Desert for fun. (Recorded by the Mobile Broadcasting Unit in North Africa.)

He goes on to describe the difference between the country fringing the coast of the Mediterranean, and inland where the desert sweeps back to the equator and is lifeless as the moon. In this area, the LRDG crossed the tracks of motor vehicles made by the Duke of Westminster's motorised column during the Great War a quarter of a century prior.

Tony Brown of Wellington, a member of the LRDG, talks to other members of the group about their work.

He talks to Tommy McNeill of Hawkes Bay and Cyril Eyre from Te Awamutu, who describe the differences between driving on the road and driving on desert hard and soft sand. Sand so loose that a truck dug in to its tailboard on one occasion. Perception of the vehicles speed is very difficult because of glare from the sand.

Roy Kitney of the LRDG describes the rations available to members of the group and the methods used for cooking during patrols into the desert. Water was a problem because the tins had a tendency to spring
leaks and was rationed 4 pints per man per day. The patrol on average consisted of 40 men and it took half an hour to prepare a meal for them. Eric Smith of Hamilton describes a period when the LRPG were with the French and this involved a complete change of diet. Coffee making was a major problem also during this same time.

2nd Lieutenant Dick Croucher describes how the LRDG find their way across the desert using compasses, theodolites, and sun compasses and how maps of the Libyan Desert were made.
Ian McGuinness from Whangarei tells about the experiences of a patrol that left Cairo on Boxing Day and six days later the group was in enemy territory. The patrol cruised around the Libyan desert for another nine days without being seen. The group had an encounter with the enemy when the LRDG attacked and destroyed an enemy fort. On this occasion the patrol was in the desert for seven weeks and had three washes in the period.

Len Hawkins, a fitter and gunner in the British Army's Long Range Desert Group, describes some of his experiences whilst out in the desert.
Hawkins used to make stamping machines in Christchurch before the war, now he maintains the Long Range Desert Group vehicles in the field. When a thousand miles out in the desert, most work has to be done on the spot. One incident involved a broken axle, and another an engine with severely worn bearings which had to be dismantled and patched up. After travelling 600 miles, this same vehicle was bombed and destroyed by an Italian aircraft, without the loss of the trucks crew.

Peter Garland from Auckland talks about the high temperatures in the desert and describes an attack on an Italian fort in the desert. The group inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. On his first trip it into the desert it was so hot that all the men could do was to lie, in the only shade, under the trucks from 4.00am through to 4.00pm. Each man had a shift of one hour as look-out and some of the men became delirious from the heat. Birds endeavouring to cross the desert felt the heat as much as the people. Some of the birds died and others revived in the shade of the trucks.

Sandy Sanders of Christchurch, a man of many parts, gives an outline of his work as one of the three man crew of the "big" gun mounted on a LRPG vehicle. In the crew of three on the truck two are gunmen and one a driver. The primary purpose of the gun crew was to guard against attacks from any armed vehicles. They were also used against forts and gun emplacements.

A talk about the group's rations and the cooking of the rations by Frank Jopling who drives the LRDG truck that carries the food on patrols. On the first journey the food had to be picked up from the French in the heart of the Tibesti Mountains and included were 14 goat and 1 bullocks carcasses freshly killed by the local tribesmen.

Tony Brown winds up this series of talks by personnel of the Long Range Desert Group by explaining that one or two fellows couldn't tell their stories as they are at present guests of the Italians.

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Year 1941

Reference number 11719

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Ngā Taonga Korero Collection

Credits RNZ Collection
Laurenson, Doug, Host
BROWN, Tony, Interviewer
Eyre, Cyril Walter, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Kitney, Ernest William Roy, Speaker/Kaikōrero
CROUCHER, Dick, Speaker/Kaikōrero
MCGUINNESS, Ian, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Hawkins, Len, Speaker/Kaikōrero
GARLAND, Peter, Speaker/Kaikōrero
SANDERS, Sandy, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Jopling, Frank, 1913-1987, Speaker/Kaikōrero
New Zealand Mobile Broadcasting Unit, Broadcaster

Duration 00:26:03

Date 17 Feb 1941

Subject Great Britain. Army. Long Range Desert Group
Westminster, Hugh Richard Arthur Grosvenor, Duke of,
Mediterranean Sea
Soldiers -- New Zealand
World War, 1939-1945 -- Africa, North

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