A raid is surprise attack on a enemy position of strategic or tactical importance. Raids are usually conducted by a small force but in some case large scale raids take place. Raids are carried out for strategic and tactical purposes. Some of the more common reasons for conducting raids are:
- demoralize, confuse, or exhaust an enemy
- destroy or capture targets of military value
- free POWs
- kill or capture high value personnel
- gather intelligence.
When not specifically listed as its primary objective, the secondary objective of any raid is to gather intelligence.
A raid by it very nature is a surprise attack and is not meant to hold ground but to achieve some other strategic or tactical purpose. As such a raiding force normally can only hold an objective for a short time and is not normally capable of repulsing a sustained or well prepared counter-attack.
The most famous raids in LRDG history are those conducted on September 13-14, 1942. On this night elements of British Commandos, the SAS, LRDG, and other British units were to attack Barce, Tobruk, Benghazi & Jalo. Initially the plan was just a raid on Tobruk, however this grew into a grand raid on four principle targets. The raids were code named:
- Operation Agreement (Daffodil)
- Operation Bygamy (Snowdrop)
- Operation Caravan (Hyacinth)
- Operation Nicety (Tulip)
(Most early books use the name of flowers for the operational names. Later books use the actual code names. The reason the flower names were used is because they were the one's used in Shaw's book. When Shaw wrote his book, the operational names were still classified and he was not allowed to use the correct names. See Brendan O'Carroll's, book, The Barce Raid)
Operation Agreement (Daffodil) was the raid on Tobruk. This raid would be a combined land and sea raid. The LRDG principle purpose in the raid was to act as navigators and lead the raiding force led by Col John Haselden to the objective. The objective of this raidwas to destroy harbor installations, oil storage tanks and coastal defences.
Operation Bygamy (Snowdrop) was an SAS affair, the raid on Benghazi. The objective was to sink ships in the harbor.
Operation Caravan (Hyacinth) was the raid on Barce. This was an all LRDG action with two patrols being led by Jake Easonsmith
Operation Nicety (Tulip) was a raid on Jalo. Two LRDG patrol would lead the Sudan Defense Force who would take an hold Jalo, which would act as a forward base for SAS operations.
Of the four raids launched that night, only the Barce raid was successful.
These were large scale raids and were not really the type of missiont he LRDG (or the SAS, for that matter) were designed to launch. Indeed most officers in both units were against the raids. In fact even the new 8th Army Commander, Field Marshall Montgomery felt the raids were ill planned and ill conceived.
The LRDG was more inclined to launch small raids on high priority target or harassing raids designed to demoralize the enemy. However, for the most part, raids were more the domain of the more flamboyant SAS. This is because if the LRDG raided Italian or German positions near the location of a reconnaissance mission they could easily compromise the more important intelligence gathering operations of a long standing road watch.
A more typical LRDG raid is portrayed in the film, Sea of Sand; albeit with somewhat dramatic consequences. The prototypical raid would be on an airfield, supply dump, or communications site. While it is true that the LRDG did manage a few daring vehicular airfield raids similar to the guns a blazing shoot ‘em up done by the SAS, it was more common for raids to be done quietly and dismounted. Sea of Sand had the fortunate luck of having William Kennedy Shaw, LRDG Intelligence Officer, as a technical advisor. From the film we see the danger of the patrol moving to the objective. The oft repeated scene of an aerial attack was a problem with any type of raid. The key to a successful raid is not letting the enemy know you are coming. Once the patrol arrives it sets up a rally point and then performs what is known as a “leaders recon”. That is they move closer to the objective and decide how best to attack.
Once the patrol leader has recce the objective they will draw a plan or patrol order. Typically the patrol order will split the patrol into three elements. The elements are called the assault team, support team and security team. The assault team is the element that will actually move onto the objective and perform the raid. The support team will provide the necessary support for the assault element. The final element, the security team secures the rally point and provides early warning for the patrol.
Principle duties of the Assault team
- Seize the objective (this may or may not require gunfire)
- Search the objective
- Collect intelligence
- Destroy/capture targets of importance on the objective
- The assault team is usually lead by the patrol leader.
Principle duties of the Support team
- Provide suppressive fire during the assault (if needed)
- Provide covering fire during withdrawl
- Provide objective security during the raid
- Repulse counter-attacks.
- Mine/booby-trap/ erase the route of withdrawl from the objective.
- The support team is usally led by the assistant patrol leade (2IC)
Principle duties of the Security team
- Maintain the objective rally point (ORP)
- Provide early warning along routes leading to the objective (ORP)
- The Security team is usually led by the third in command.
Depending on the nature of the patrol, the support team may not enter the objective. For instance if the assault team is moving into the objective with the purpose of setting explosives or silently capturing a POW then the support team just provide covering fire if the assault team is discovered.
However if the assault team is going to move on to the objective firing weapons, then the support team may lay down suppressive fire or even create a diversionary attack. Once the objective is taken, the support team moves onto the objective to prepare for a counter attack while the assault team searches the objective.
Personal accounts and books written about the LRDG describe low scale raid which typically involved mining major avenues, planting timed explosives on airfields and supply dumps, and other types of sabotage work. Most of these raids were done silently with the LRDG intent on getting on and off the objective without being discovered. Even when successful, the LRDG knew that often there would be hell to pay the next day because the enemy would send up scout planes looking for the culprits. For this reason, the LRDG liked to initiate raids in the earlier hours of the night so they might have a few more hours of darkness to put as many miles between the objective and themselves.
It is more likely an LRDG raid would be a silent act of sabotage (planting mines or explosives) than violent actions such as a guns blazing jeep raid. This was more in line with the operational design of the unit.