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Pre - LRDG Chronology

NOTE: Much of the information on this site has been excerpted from Expeditions to the Libyan Desert. ( which discusses information on the early days of exploring the Sahara. If you're interested in a fuller treatment of these expidetions, I would strongly suggest going to this site. I have only discussed some of the exploration done by Bagnold and other original LRDG members. The other site give a more in depth look at all of the Desert exploration going on in the Sahara. See their list of sources at

The Search for the Zarzura Oasis.

In June, 1927 John Ball's article: Problems of the Libyan Desert is published in Geographical Journal, inspiring explorers for the next decade with the quest for the mythical Zarzura oasis. Zarzura is a mythical oasis located deep within the Sahara. Springs were suppose to flow year-round and as with all mythical places, it was suppose to possess the untold wealth of some ancient civilization. The tales of Zarzura dated as far back as the tales from a "1001 Arabian Nights" Around 1927, three valleys were discovered to the West of Kufra, each with a lush, green, oasis. Within the wadis were ancient cave paintings. Zarzura had been found! With these discoveries, people from around the world got the urge to go exploring. Among these explorers was Major Ralph Bagnold, a REME officer stationed in the Middle East.

1927 Autumn

Within a few months of Ball's article being published Bagnold forms a company of like minds and makes the first of his remarkable motorcar trips across the desert. This one is from Cairo to Siwa. Two men who are with Bagnold almost from the onset are W.B.K. Shaw and Guy Prendergast.

1927 November - December

A companion of Bagnold's, W.B.K. Shaw make a 1000 mile camel journey exploring the southern part of the Libyan Desert with another explorer, Douglas Newbold. The men cross NW Sudan from el Obeid to Wadi Halfa, definitively mapping the region, and discovering several archaeological and rock art sites.

1929 November

Bagnold and friends explore the Great Sand Sea to the west and south west of Ain Dalla, penetrating 60 miles (100 kilometers) into the Sand Sea due west, reaching Ammonite Hill.

1930 October - November

Bagnold and his motor party traverse the Sand Sea from Ain Dalla, breaking out at the north west corner of the Gilf Kebir, then continue to Jebel Uweinat, proving that it is possible to cross the Sand Sea with a motor car. They return via Selima Oasis.

1932 October - November

Bagnold's group (Bagnold, Boustead, Paterson & Shaw) drive to Uweinat and are the first party to reach its summit on October 11, 1932. They explore Jebel Kissu & Yerghueda hill and discover more rock paintings. They continue to Sarra Well, Erdi & Ennedi before reaching El Fasher. On their return journey they explore parts of the south Libyan Desert along the darb el Arbain till Selima and Wadi Halfa.

1934 January - February

Tensions mount in December, 1933 as Italy claims the Sarra Triangle. In response, the RAF receives orders to occupy Merga Oasis and the well at Karkur Murr at Uweinat. The Sudan Defense Force (A British Colonial Force) also moves to these areas and go about organizing a permanent outpost.

Guy Prendergast, commander of the No.2 Motor Machine Gun Battery is ordered to Merga from El Fasher on 18January.

On 9February the No.1 Motor Machine Gun Battery commanded by F.G.B. Arkwright reaches Karkur Murr from Wadi Halfa via Selima.

It takes his unit two week struggle to find a passable way among the dunes and cliffs. Both posts are maintained till July.

A party of the No.1. Motor Machine Gun Battery reached the peak of Uweinat, as attested by their note found in November 2001

1935 year

Bagnold retires from the British Army with a medical pension.

1935 January - April

W.B.K. Shaw and party make an extraordinary journey, which leads to the book The Paradise of Fools by Michael Mason. During this exploration his party traverses virtually every major part of the Libyan Desert. They start from Kharga, reach the Gilf Kebir via Abu Ballas, make the first crossing of the dune belt in the 'Gap' to enter Wadi Hamra. Here, they discover two major wadis transversing the southern Gilf. They also locate a cave with rock paintings on the col between them. From Gilf they continue via Selima and Erdi to El Fasher. Heading North, they cover the southern Libyan Desert, continue to Uweinat, pass the western side of the Gilf, then traverse the Great Sand Sea to reach Siwa.

1938 February - March

Although retired from the military, Bagnold remains the desert explorer. With the aid of the Egypt Exploration Society, Bagnold organizes his most ambitious scientific expedition to the Gilf Kebir & Uweinat.

While on this venture, fellow explorers, Hans Winkler, records rock art at Karkur Talh, and Oliver Myers excavates two main neolithic sites in the Gilf Kebir, in Wadi Bakht and Ard al Akhdar. Bagnold & Shaw also discover a new rock art site in Karkur Murr, and one also in wadi Abd el Melik in the Gilf Kebir. The results of the expedition are published in Winkler's The Rock Drawings of Upper Egypt, vol. II: BAGNOLD, R.A., O.H. Myers, R.F. Peel, H.A. Winkler, An Expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat

1939 year

Bagnold is recalled to active duty as a signal officer, as England prepares for war. He is to be stationed in East Africa. While on a visit to Cairo, due to his ship being damaged in Port Said, he is reassigned to Egypt.

1941 year

Bagnold's The Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes is first published.

Updated on Wed, 04/19/2023 - 13:00.