Non Vi Sed Arte -- Not by Strength, by Guile
Officer Commanding, LRDG
Major Ralph Bagnold,
Founder and First Commander
Assumes command after Bagnold's departures.
(Above images are color enhancements of original B&Ws.
Bagnold, is pictured on a 1932 desert exploration,
hence the civilian attire.
Guy Prendergast as seen in Alexandria, 1943. This photo has
other edits besides added color
Jake Easonsmith and David Lloyd-Owen also would assume command
of the LRDG,
but not until after the unit had effectively ended their career
in the desert.
| Ralph Alger Bagnold, OBE.
Commander LRDG: 4 September 1940 - November 1941
A. Bagnold (1896-1990) , the son of a British Army Royal Engineer.
followed the family tradition and became an officer in the British
Army Royal Engineers during World War I. After three years of active
duty in France, he took leave to study engineering at Cambridge
University, graduating with honors and then returned to service.
During the interim war year years he was stationed din Cairo and
while on leave began exploring the desert in personal vehicles,
with his colleagues and later LRDG associates including, WBK Shaw,
PA Clayton, and Guy Prendergast.
He later wrote papers on the properties and motions of desert sand.
By the outbreak of World War II, Bagnold was on a medical retirement
but he was recalled to active duty as a Signals Officer as war in
Europe erupted in 1939; he was posted to East Africa. A visit to
Cairo while his troopship was undergoing repairs in Port Said following
a collision at sea, resulted in his being reassigned to Egypt.
Concerned about the vast unprotected desert flank west and south
of Cairo, Bagnold proposed to General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander
in Chief of Middle East Land Forces, the establishment of a small
organization equipped with desert-worthy vehicles that could observe
enemy troop movement along the coast road scout rear area troop
and airfield locations in Libya Wavell's response was immediate
and positive, and thus was born the Long Range Desert Group(LRDG)
that very effectively put to use the knowledge and experience that
Bagnold and his colleagues had accumulated during their earlier
travels and that utilized the techniques and knowledge that they
had developed, among them the sun compass and a closed cooling system
for their vehicles.
The LRDG very effectively tied down significant Italian and German
military resources that otherwise would have been available to use
against the British farther north and, through their "road watches,"
provided invaluable information of movements of enemy troops and
material east and west along the coast road in Egypt and Libya.
Bagnold was promoted shortly afterwards and the command of the LRDG
was turned over to Guy Prendergast.
After the war, Bagnold continued his interest in the movement of
sand, expanding his research to included water-borne sand. In 1978,
he was the keynote speaker at a NASA-sponsored conference on eolian
processes on Earth and Mars. He expressed great pleasure that his
fundamental work on movement of particles on Earth by wind could
be applied to other planetary bodies with atmospheres such as Mars.
Late in life, Bagnold remarked:
"My main urge, from boyhood on, was curiosity...At first the curiosity was how my toys were made,
and with a push from my father, how I might mend them for myself...In Egypt, with so many ancient
sites strewn about...but difficult to reach, the call became 'go there and see'. This led to the
huge satisfaction of desert exploration...to [the study of] those processes responsible for the
vast, organized, and moving forms of the desert dune systems." He once remarked that he was not a
very keen soldier and that he would rather be a Fellow of the Royal Society than a Brigadier
General; it was a measure of his remarkable abilities that he became both.
Some of this information is from `Memorial to Ralph Alger
Bagnold' 1896-1990 by M. J. Kenn, 1992. The Geographical Society
See Also AP Oibtuary for Ralph A. Bagnold
| Guy L. Prendergast,
Commander LRDG: November 1941 - October
to Lloyd Owen
If Guy had not been so unambitious and been more readily able
to suffer military fools gladly he would have gone far as a soldier...he
was intolerant of those who could not see things as swiftly as
he did and thus made enemies in high places.
Prendergast and Bagnold were the chief architects of the LRDG.
Prendergast handpicked many of the members of the Group, especially
the officers. It is said that he never sent out a patrol unless
he felt it was capable of accomplishing the mission.
Considered aloof by both the men and many officers, we was cold
and calculating and not much for small talk. Yet, he was respected
by all of his men and the men knew they could count on him.
He was considered the most mobile commander in all of the
Desert Campaign. As the officer in command, Prendergast set the example and made
sure his officers understood, that no one was above hard work and
that the mission would not succeed unless everyone did their part.
That is the officer had the added responsibility of being in charge
but that did not make him above the most common or tedious job of
the patrol. There was no batman for an LRDG officer!
After commanding the LRDG, he went on to be Deputy Commander of
Raiding Forces and later Deputy Commander of the SAS Brigade in
1944- 1945 and officially, Commander of the Free French Demi-Brigade
of SAS Regiments
| John Richard "Jake"
Easonsmith, DSO, MC.|
Commander LRDG: October 1943 - 16 November 1943
Easonsmith worked his way from Patrol Commander to
Group Commander before being killed in action, Leros (Operation Leopard).
Before the war Easonsmith was a seller of fine wines living in
the Bristol area. When the war started he joined the Royal Artillery.
Shortly afterwards he transferred to the Royal Tank Regiment and
was commissioned an officer. Soon afterwards he was stationed in
the Middle East and heard wind of the LRDG. Bagnold hand selected
him in early 1941. He was considered a natural leader, instinctive
in his ability to spot danger, and had uncanny ability to out think
His first command with the LRDG was with R1 Patrol (New Zealand) He later went onto to assume other command positions.
Under Easonsmith's command, RI patrol was the first patrol to provide taxi service for the SAS.
Easonsmith was also the overall commander of the successful Barce Raid, commanding two patrols, the Kiwis of TI and the Guards GI patrol. and also elements of Popski's Private Army.
Easonsmith was also credited with many of the patrol operational procedures while performing duties as Operations Officer.
According to David Lloyd Owen,
"the war brought out his really great characteristics
-- his power over men, his courage, his integrity, his appreciation
of beauty and his sense of duty."
|David L. Lloyd Owen,
DSO, OBE, MC.
Commander LRDG: 16 November 1943 -
End of War/ Disbandment
David Lloyd Owen, a graduate of Sandhurst was commissioned into the Queen’s Royal Regiment in 1938. While stationed in Palestine; his unit was active in quelling an Arab Rebellion in the region. With the outbreak of war, the regiment deployed to Egypt and Lloyd Owen participated in the counter offensive which pushed the Italians back to Benghazi. Shortly afterwards, Lloyd Owen was assigned to OTUC (Officer Training Unit, Cairo).
Lloyd Owen was made the administrative officer and quickly developed a dislike for the posting. He immediately started looking for a transfer out of the school but this proved very difficult because he was quite good at what he did and the commander of the school relied heavily on his administrative skills.
Fortunately Lloyd Owen was known by General Wavell through Wavell's children’s met with a member of the LRDG who introduced him to Bagnold. His first assignment was command Y1 (Yeomanry) Patrol and subsequently and Y2 (Yeomanry) Patrols when the patrols were split in half.
After the Desert campaign ended, Lloyd Owen became the unit’s 2IC, taking command upon Easonsmith's death on Leros.
Lloyd Owen was nearly killed during an air raid on Kufra when he was hit by a shell from a 20mm cannon. He remained in the Army after World War II serving in Malaya and other conflicts, eventually retiring with the rank of Major General.
After the war, Lloyd Owen penned “The Desert, My Dwelling Place” which details his time with the LRDG. Lloyd Owen gives a somewhat modest account of his exploits with and importance to the unit in the pages of this memoir.
Lloyd Owen remained in the Army after the war achieving the the rank of Major General.
Major-General David Lanyon Lloyd Owen CB, DSO, OBE, MC passed away, 05 April 2001.
|William Boyd "Bill"
Kennedy Shaw, OBE.
Bill Kennedy Shaw came to the LRDG
from his post in Palestine Civil Service. As with Bagnold, Shaw
was one of the early Desert Explorers, having crossed vast expanses
of the Sahara in both automobile and on camel back. According to
Lloyd Owen, "the success of patrol sent out on operation was
due in no small measure to the briefings he gave to its leader."
When the LRDG left North Africa, Kennedy Shaw left the unit as
his services were more valuable to the British Military Administration
in Tripolitania as an advisor to Arab Affairs. He returned to
England in 1944
Besides writing the first book on the exploits of the LRDG in the
desert in 1945, he went on to hold other civil service positions
until he retired due to failing eye sight and poor health brought
on by his time in the desert. He passed away in April, 1979.
A side note, Capt. L. H. Browne took over duties as Intelligence
Officer after the departure of Kennedy Shaw.
"Q" Quartermaster (Supplies)
Born on 8 December 1909, Shorty
was a 31 year old New Zealand Lawyer by trade when he joined the
2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF) at the outbreak of the
war. We began as a Warrant officer 2nd class (WO2), eventually being commissioned 2nd Lt. and being promoted to 1st Lt. and later acting Captain.
After spending some
time in Greece with with 2NZEF, Barrett joined the LRDG and was made units quartermaster or Q. Eventually Barrett also assumed the roll as Adjutant
Very little is known about Barrett except that he excelled
at what he did. He always managed to find what the LRDG patrols needed and more importantly he found it before
they needed it.
According to David Stirling the LRDG supply system was so efficient that the unit planned "down to the
drop of water or petrol." This was no small amount of praise when you consider Barrett planned had to plan for patrols lasting weeks and months. Most quartermasters were drawing rations one or two days at a
time and using proscribed charts, Shorty, on the other hand was breaking new ground when it came to supplying patrols..
In recognition of his efficiency and capacity for hard work while transporting rations, petrol, ammunition, and
equipment for the LRDG, A/Captain Barrett received the MBE at age
An example of how just well Shorty did his work was described in Shaw's book. To paraphrase Shaw, a trek from Kufra to Cairo before the war required a major expedition. However, the Heavy
Section under control of Barrett was making this routine
round trip with three 3 ton trucks in four days by the summer of
(Dick) P. "Doc" Lawson, MC.
Medical Officer LRDG
As the Medical Officer of the LRDG,
Doc Lawson not only tended to the wounded and sick he also traveled
with the patrols on operations. This proved essential if the wounded
were not to become the killed in action.
He and his medical orderlies were considered brave, selfless, and
untiring by the men of the LRDG.
For his act of bravery while protecting wounded patrol members
during the raid on Barce, Doc Lawson was awarded the Military Cross
(MC). In the aftermath of raid, Easonsmith's patrol was under constant
air attack and doc Lawson was reported to have thrown his own body
over the wounded in attempts to protect them from strafing.
He would eventually sit out the war in a Prisoner of War camp,
being captured during the ill fated raid on Leros.
The names below were pulled from Kennedy Shaw's book, The Long
Range Desert Group.
Check the sources for more information
on this book. Ranks given below are the ranks at the time they were
patrol commander. Many went on to achieve higher rank. Vehicles/patrol
markings are based on photos from numerous sources and especially
line drawings provided in the the Jenner/List book.
|LRPU, Long Range Patrol Unit
- Capt. P. A. Clayton
- Capt. L. B. Ballantyne
|LRDG (Guards) G1
- Capt. M. D. D. Chrichton Stuart
- Capt. A. M. Hay
- Capt. J. A. L. Timpson
LRDG (Guards) G2
- Capt. J. A. L. Timpson
- Lt. Hon. R. B. Gurding
- Lt. K. H. Sweeting
- Lt. Hon. B. Bruce
LRDG (New Zealand) R1
- Capt. J. R. Easonsmith
- Capt. A. L. Guild (some sources say A. I. Guild)
- Capt. L. H. Browne
- Lt. K. F. McLauchlan
LRDG (New Zealand) R2
- Lt. C. H. Croucher (some sources say C. H. B. Croucher)
- Lt. J. R. Talbot
- Capt. K. H. Lazarus
LRDG (Rhodesian) S1
- Capt. C. A. Holliman
- Capt. J. R. Olivey
- Capt. K. H. Lazarus
LRDG (Rhodesian) S2
- Capt. J. R. Olivey
- Lt. J. Henry
LRDG (New Zealand) T1
- Capt. L. B. Ballantyne
- Lt. J. Crisp
- Capt. N. P. Wilder
LRDG (New Zealand) T2
- Capt. C. S. Morris
- Capt. N. P. Wilder
- Lt. A. R. Cramond
- Capt. R. A. Tinker
LRDG (Yeomanry) Y1
- Capt. P. J. D. McCraith
- Capt. F. C. Simms
- Capt. D. Lloyd Owen
LRDG (Yeomanry) Y2
(According to Lloyd Owen, Spicer assumed command after he
was wounded. Shaw gives the order above)
- Capt. D. Lloyd Owen
- Capt. A. D. N. Hunter
- Capt. E. F. Spicer
ILRS, Indian Long Range
- Indian 1: Lt. J . E. Cantlay
- Indian 2: Capt. T. J. D. Birdwood
- Indian 3: Capt. A. B. Rand
- Indian 4: Lt. G. W. Nangle
ILRS is said to have used standard tactical markings. The two known
marking were a red triangle and a yellow circle. This according
to Jenner/List book, which says these were used for one Indian 1
and 2. Other sources I've seen show the triangle or angle
for "A", square or box for "B", circle
for "C" and diamond for "D". It is pure speculation
on my part if these other shapes were used and/or what color they
would have been. Serious research is required to verify the hunch.
(see also Special / Elite Forces in North Africa)
Besides those listed by Kennedy Shaw, the following men are also
listed as Patrol Commanders. It may be these men led patrols after
the LRDG left the desert.
- Aitken, D. J.
- Cross, M. W.
- Morris, C. S.
- Saxton, C. K.
- Sutherland, J. M.
- White, R. F.