Osprey- Vehicles of the Long Range Desert Group 1940-45
Author: Gavin Mortimer
Illustrated by: Henry Morshead and Irene Cano Rodriguez
Softcover- 48 pages with nearly 50 black and white and color photographs and illustrations
What's Inside the Covers
The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) was one of the more interesting special forces units of the Second World War, operating far behind enemy lines in North Africa (and later Greece, Italy, and the Balkans). Serving in reconnaissance and raiding missions, the group was organized by explorer Ralph Bagnold. The LRDG's success lay in their ability to heavily modify and maintain any vehicles thrown their way- and they showed exceptional skill in navigating and traversing long stretches of barren desert terrain to wreak havoc on enemy convoys and airfields. From their signature Chevrolet WBs to Fords, Jeeps, improvised artillery trucks and even aircraft- they showed amazing prowess in their missions. There have been some great recent book releases about the LRDG over the last few months and this one goes into depth describing how the vehicles were modified and used, as well as the driving techniques and special kit that was necessary to eke out survival in unforgiving arid environments. There are, however, a few issues with the book as we will soon discover.
The book opens with a brief discussion of the origins of the LRDG- with Bagnold's suggestion of starting the group finally approved on June of 1940 after Germany's invasion of the Low Countries and Italy's declaration of war on Great Britain. However, one could easily say the foundations that the group were based on were built long before with Bagnold's service in WWI and post-WWI posting to Egypt- serving ten years in the desert honing his skills and philosophies of desert warfare. His experiences would prove to be invaluable to the successes of the LRDG.
The book then moves on to the real meat-- the North African Campaign. There is no real coverage of beyond this campaign here-- nothing beyond to the Mediterranean campaigns- but with the small size of the book, focusing on the one main campaign is worthwhile. The section highlights each vehicle- the 30-cwt Chevrolet WB, the 15-cwt Ford 01 V8 command/pilot car, the Ford F8 pick-up and Chevrolet 1311, the 30-cwt Ford F30 CMP, the 30-cwt Chevrolet 1533X2, and the Willys MB Jeep. Each section covers specifics of each vehicle and excellent artwork showing two-views of each major vehicle. Unfortunately, there is some edit errors here-- the Willy's Jeep drawings have captions for the Chevrolet WB, and the extensive cutaway artwork of the Chevy WB is wrongly labeled and captioned as the WIlly's Jeep. This doesn't detract away from the excellent artwork- but these are glaring errors.
Interesting diorama idea here with this Chevy WB
Ford F30 truck well dug-in
Despite the missteps, the artwork is really quite excellent- and gives some excellent stowage ideas as seen in the drawing of the Chevrolet 1533X2 (Breda) truck below...
There then is a small section on the Heavy Section and the Mack NR4, as well as Ancillary and Support vehicles. The Heavy Section, or Supply and Transport Section was involved in moving supplies to needed areas. There was also an artillery section that carried artillery pieces. The Mach NR4 was also able to transport the M3 Stuart light tank, the Cruiser Mk II A10, or the Valentine tank. The support vehicles covered include medical trucks, radio trucks, and Bofors and Breda trucks.
The last section- "Tricks of the Trade" focuses on three instruments that were vital to the LRDG operations-- the water condensers that reconstituted water from the radiator to extend the range of the trucks before refilling, the sun compass which was an important navigational tool (except at noon when the sun was at its apex- which made it lunch break!), and the sand channel plates that allowed the crews to get their trucks unstuck from the desert sands. While you can see the condensers and sand channels in some of the photos, some close up photos of these would have been useful to include. At the very least, an example of what the sun compass looks like would have been of interest. It is only shown as a small feature in the cutaway drawing.
The book, despite its size, is a wellspring of ideas for those looking to recreate an LRDG diorama piece. The few photos I have included are just a sample of the excellent, relatively unknown photos that give great inspiration. The drawings are excellent and show the trucks tricked out with the tools of the trade and stowage illustrations. Just don't rely too much of all of the captions-- at least in the two examples I have mentioned that are switched around. Past that, there is a lot of great information and interesting accounts in less than 50 pages here. Another worthy addition to the bookshelf-- I would only hope that someday there may be injection-molded kits of all of the vehicles listed in the book.
Recommended for anyone interested in LRDG operations.
Thanks goes out to Osprey Publishing for this review sample.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves
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