U series - A talk by the LRDG Commander [Parts 1-6]

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U series
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RNZ Collection
Bagnold, Ralph A. (Ralph Alger), 1896-, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Laurenson, Doug, Announcer
New Zealand. National Broadcasting Service (estab. 1936, closed 1946), Broadcaster
New Zealand Mobile Broadcasting Unit, Broadcaster

Broadcaster Doug Laurenson introduces a talk by a British Officer of high rank, who commanded the Long Range Desert Patrol Group. Wartime censorship regulations did not permit the announcement of the officer's name or rank at the time of recording or first broadcast, but it is Major Ralph Bagnold. (Recorded in North Africa by the Mobile Broadcasting Unit.)

The LRDG operated for many months through thousands of square miles behind Italian out-posts. Individual troops of our motorised columns harassed, attacked and invaded enemy positions until the enemy transport
system was disorganised and the outposts demoralised.

As Officer Commanding the LRDG, he has worked, surveyed, explored, invaded and fought in the company of a selected band of New Zealanders.
To describe the activities of the group he presents a report, written by himself, on the group from inception to today.
Communiqués have to date been confined to operations along the Mediterranean coast. Secrecy has prevented light being thrown on the activities of the LRDG who kept the Italians in the Middle East on their toes. Phantom motor patrols like a "Will o' the Wisp" pirated Italian transport on the roads, attacked isolated forts, blowing up dumps and burning aircraft on the ground.

He then goes on to describe the desert country in which the LRDG has had to operate in.

The terrain of the country combined with 200 miles of barbed wire and fortifications, the Italians had stretched from the sea southward along the border with Egypt, cut off the the interior of Libya.

The presence at Kufra of enemy troops and aircraft was disturbing to the Allies. There existed a distinct threat by land & air to upper Egypt and the Nile communications with Sudan. It was imperative to find out what
was going on behind the barriers.

General Wavell called together three men who knew the desert country and within six weeks the LRDG was in being. Patrols of picked men from New Zealand and the Royal Armoured Corps were equipped, trained and able to serve in the middle of the desert, out of the reach of help.

While this was happening in 1940 one of the three men who had headed the setting up of the LRDG with 5 New Zealanders, breached the Italian shore at the "Great Sea of Sand" by a route only known to himself.
The persistence of the tell tale tracks of vehicles in the sand of the desert was one of the chief difficulties which LRDG patrols had to face. The tracks from a motor column can be followed from the air and the column can be traced and bombed.

Shortly after the initial crossing of the Great Sand Sea barrier it was again crossed, for the first time by a military patrol. After the patrol passed through the "sea" a hot wind began to blow over the dunes which
muffled the force in a blanket of sand. For three days the heat of the wind made more than one man delirious.

After the wind had abated the patrol separated, each going on a trip of its own into enemy territory, and were given up for lost. After 3 months a bearded and un-washed group with a batch of Italian prisoners turned up
in Cairo.

Other expeditions followed through the Autumn of 1940. On one occasion a patrol ended up at the gates of an Italian fort, their sentry thought our men were Italians and was seized by the patrol. Three shells were
put through the walls of the fort driving the garrison out enabling the enemy armament to be removed and then the raiders disappeared into the desert. The Italians searched for them but they were never found.

On the same day 600 miles further south, another group of the LRDG attacked a post with dozens of Italians wounded or killed.

After these attacks the Italians stopped all normal traffic along the desert routes. By December the LRDG had distracted the enemy from the decisive battle area in the North.
It was decided to raid Italian garrisons at Fezzan far away in east Libya. On Christmas Eve two patrols set out to raid posts 1,200 miles distance. The LRDG patrols met up with a Free French Commander, at the foot of the Tibesti mountains on the boarder of Chad, and together with him and a detachment of Free French troops continued into Fezzan. Marzuq was taken by surprise and the interior of the Italian fort set on fire.

The Free French Colonel was killed at Marzuq while attempting to silence a machine gun. The force then moved onto the town of Traghan and another two towns were taken before they turned back for their base in Egypt.

The Long Rang Desert Group had, up to the end of this journey, covered 500,000 truck miles without the loss of a single vehicle.