Friday, February 5, 2016

David Lloyd Owen describes the unique make-up of his LRDG units

David Lloyd Owen with 'Y' Patrol vehicle "Aramis" (sometime WWII)
"This was to be the basic material from which the patrols were manned throughout the war in the desert.  New Zealanders, Guardsmen, Yeomen, and Rhodesians. 
     The New Zealanders were tough, self-reliant individuals with an earthy sense of humour and an indomitable spirit.  They could bear almost any hardship with a shrug of the shoulders and a determination to take more if it was necessary.  I found them slightly aloof and a little suspicious of me at first for they did not know what kind of man I might turn out to be.  They were wary of British Officers whom they sometimes suspected of being ignorant fops.  But once they realized that you were prepared to muck in with them and did not wish to stand apart they were not only most entertaining company, but they became wonderful friends.
New Zealand members of the LRDG pause for tea in the Western Desert, 27 March 1941.
Photo Courtesy IWM- E2307
New Zealand R Patrol troopers with 'Rotowaro',
 30cwt Chevy- photo courtesy
     There is hardly any need to describe the Guardsmen.  Their characteristics as soldiers are so well known and written in the immortal pages of three hundred years of military history.  Even the worst of them are good, and let it suffice to say that we were fortunate in that we had the best.

David Stirling with two members of the SAS together with personnel of 'G' Patrol of the Long Range Desert Group: the man at the top back is probably Guardsman G T Blaney ('Ginger') LRDG. The rest, from left to right: Guardsman Archie Gibson (LRDG), Reg Seekings (SAS), Guardsman Jack Crossley (LRDG), Johnny Cooper (SAS), David Stirling (SAS), Craftsman R N Scott (LRDG), Rose (LRDG), Guardsman Archie Murray (LRDG). Photograph taken in May 1942 at Bir Hacheim after the raid on Benghazi harbour-- Courtesty IWM-HU69650

Vehicles of 'G' Patrol preparing to leave Siwa. 'G' Patrol was formed in 1940 from volunteers from the Coldstream and Scots Guards. 'G' and 'Y' Patrols routinely operated from Siwa.
--Courtesy IWM HU 16614
     The men of the Yeomanry units were those with whom I lived and fought when I took command of them in 1941, and I have never known such comradeship before of since.  They were mostly countrymen, and thus knew how to move silently and how to outwit their enemy, for they had done it often enough as poachers. They were the salt of the English earth and I never doubted their worth. 
'Y' Patrol resting in front of one of their trucks at Air Ghetmir during the evacuation of Jalo. David Lloyd Owen is standing on the extreme left. Having moved their forward base to Jalo, the Long Range Desert Group was forced to withdraw back to Siwa and Kufra when Rommel mounted a counter-offensive and pushed the 8th Army back to the Gazala Line, 30 miles west of Tobruk.--Courtesy IWM-HU16454

     The Rhodesians served with me throughout the war and I saw a lot of them.  It took me most of that time to know them well and then I knew how very friendly they were.  They are naturally reticent and use few words.  Quiet and unassuming they seldom spark, but behind this rather forbidding facade there lies a loyalty, a kindness and a spirit which is unconquerable.  As soldiers they were unique in that one knew that they would never get into bad trouble for their emotions were not subject to excessive changes of temperature and they were, therefore, preeminently reliable."  
S Patrol (Rhodesians) Captain Ken Lazarus is standing in the center, on the right Corporal George Howard (Lazaus' driver). The trooper on the left is unidentified, but not altogether dissimilar to a known photo of Bill Johnson. (The two on the bonnet are both SAAF 15 Sqn.)

Close up view of (Rhodesian) S-Patrol's Pilot Truck. Note camouflage pattern and the mesh covering over the large holes cut in the engine's bonnet. Also of interest is the way the headlights have been painted.  --Courtesy

~~Major General (Ret) DAVID LLOYD OWEN, 
"The Desert, My Dwelling Place", 1957, pgs 58-59
DAVID LLOYD OWEN (left), sometime during WWII
A man of normally immaculate appearance, he began to blend in with his informal and decidedly scruffy comrades. Lloyd Owen’s relaxed and friendly style of leadership relied on persuasion, personal example and the recognition of shared hardships. He won the loyalty and respect of his men by his daring, sheer stamina and first rate tactical skills."
--Courtesy of LRDG.ORG

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