Ralph Bagnold formed the Special Forces Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) during WWII. This elite group, combined with the British Special Air Service, made significant contributions, not only to World War II, but to the new direction the military would begin to explore – Special Forces.
The LRDG Is Established
After Bagnold received approval to organize a specialized group, he received 150 volunteers from New Zealand – most with a farming background. He felt their background would be an asset, making them more adept should vehicle maintenance and repair become necessary in the challenging environments of North Africa.
He broke the group of 150 into three smaller units. Each unit received various armaments – including machine guns, anti-tank rifles, anti-aircraft guns, Bren guns and Thompson machine guns. They were given wireless headsets for maintaining communication with base. The Long Range Desert Group chose the Chevrolet 30-cwt truck for transportation and the commander for each unit was permitted to modify his vehicle if he felt it beneficial. Each truck was capable of carrying a three week supply of food and water and had a range of 1,100 miles.
Roles of the LRDG
One of the roles assigned to the Long Range Desert Group during the war took them to North Africa. Here, the group was to position themselves behind enemy lines so they could scout and gather intelligence information to relay back to British military headquarters. Their success warranted expansion and Bagnold acquired an additional 150 men from three armies – British, Indian and Rhodesian. This World War II Special Forces group began targeting oases being held by the enemy, slipping in quickly and disappearing equally as fast, confusing the Italian commanders.
The WWII Special Forces – Long Range Desert Group – disbanded in August of 1945, but not before leaving its mark on military history.