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Caithness Commandos:LRDG:Desert to the Dodecanese

With "Layforce" coming to an end the Commandos were now looking for new employment. Their was little chance of being sent back to their parent Regiments, who for the most part were back in Britain. Some of the Commandos realised that life could be short in the Special Forces and decided to go back to infantry battalions. Most of the Scottish Commandos who went back to infantry battalions, went to the 2nd Cameron Highlanders only to be captured when Tobruk fell in June 1942. Others went to the newly formed "L" Detachment of the SAS. Some stayed with the Middle East Commando and were captured during the Rommel raid in Nov 1941.

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), or as it was originally know as the Long Range Desert Patrol (LRDP), was formed in the summer of 1940. The object of the LRDG was long range ground reconnaissance deep in the Libyan desert. These patrols would have to negotiate the uncharted Libyan Sand Sea and Rebiana Sand Sea. Each patrol would have to be capable of travelling 2000 km over unmapped territory, taking their own food, water, fuel and be able to fight if required. The original men were recruited from the hardy New Zealand Cavalry already stationed in the Middle East. For their transport the Ford 15 cwt and Chevrolet 30 cwt trucks were converted for their needs, with every inch being crammed with necessary equipment and last but not least they were fitted with armament. The weapons consisted of out of date or unwanted Lewis machine guns, Boys anti-tank rifles, 37mm Bofors and various small arms.

To understand the difficulty that these men faced, you will have to look at a map of Egypt and Lybia. Egypt is 386,095 sq miles, with an annual rainfall of 8 inches of water in the north and Nile Valley with virtually zero in the desert. Lybia is 679,180 sq miles, with 95% of this being desert or semi-desert, the average annual rainfall of 8 inches in the coastal regions. While the British Mainland is only 86,180 sq miles. With Lybia split in half between Tripolitania in the west and Cyrenaica in the east, the main patrolling area of the LRDG was Cyrenaica, an area about four times of England, Scotland and Wales, mostly desert. To try to navigate this desert today is a feat in its self with all the 4x4 trucks, but to navigated it with 1930-40 trucks was a miracle. There is enough written about the LRDG so as not to dwell on the problems of navigation, getting bogged down in the sand and thousands of other problems that these men faced during the early years and we will jump a year. By late summer 1941, the LRDG had changed and consisted of two Squadrons, A Sqn consisted of the R (NZ), T (NZ) & S (Southern Rhodesian) Patrols, while B Sqn consisted of G (Guards) & Y(Yeomanry) Patrols. Also by this time most of Cyrenaica was mapped and forward bases set up.

In Sept 1941 the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) were being reformed. Their roll was changing from long-range reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, to include "hit and run" tactics. This was in view of the coming offensive in Nov 1941 against the Italians & the newly arrived German Afrika Corps. Instead of trying to stay hidden, the LRDG were now to include attacking targets of opportunity behind the lines and to take part in offensive operations. They now needed to include fighters or "heavies" for the coming operations and where better to get these men, than from the now disbanding "Layforce". The LRDG started to interview hundreds of possible volunteers and from all the men who were picked, John Mackay (Sherrury), David Gunn (Wick), Willie Fraser (Forres), Matt Deegan, Devine, "Foo" Harper (Aberdeen), "Tich" Lyle & Chris Fraser (Glasgow), all Commandos , all selected to be "heavies" with "Y" (Yeomanry) Patrol in the LRDG. Others went to the other Patrols in the LRDG.

Like on Arran their training started again, but this time in the art of desert warfare. The first reference to the training started at Abbassia Barracks in Cairo, when "Sassie/Lofty" Carr took the ex-Commandos for a lecture on "Survival Navigation", this was 16th Sept 1941, the start of their new form of warfare. "Lofty" must have asked were they all came from, and a friendly banter between the ex-Scottish Commandos and himself started. This is when he discovered that there was a great rivalry between Wick & Thurso, so he split the men into two groups, one Wick & one Thurso, otherwise David’s group against John’s. This is where "Lofty" gained a new name, "Sassie" short for Sassenach. They all sat their seemingly unimpressed with the lecture, but everuthing was taking it in. The proof was when David Gunn came after the lecture and asked for extra training, he didn’t want the "tea in the bowlies" beating the Wickers. So started the training, they went on to learn a bit about everyone else’s job, desert navigation, mechanics, how to drive across the great sand deserts, their main job was to act as drive/navigator and when called on, with everyone manning the weapons.

John and David set of on their first patrol on 11th Oct 1941, they were to head south to Kharga (350 miles) and then west into the heart of the desert Kufra (500 miles). They arrived at Kufra 9 days later, even then they were about 400 miles from their operating area, this was just the LRDG’s forward base. After 850 miles in vintage vehicles, their bodies were aching, with pains in places that is best leaving to the imagination, sand in every place conceivable, but one consolation was the lack of flies, even they could not survive in this wilderness. By this time the bond between the "old sweats" and the new "heavys" was beginning to form. There is nothing worse than in a small close knit unit, if one or more of them men dont get on, but all seem to fit in and they became part of the family and a friendship and brotherhood was formed between them, that is very clear, even today 58 years later.

Y patrols orders were changed and they were ordered to go to Siwa. Back into Egypt, this is 400 miles NE as the crow flies from Kufra near the Egypt/Lybia border. With the coming offensive "Operation Crusader" in November, the LRDG was needed to observe enemy troop movements between El Agheila and Bardia in Lybia. The offensive started on the 17th, all of the Special Forces in North Africa was involved, also while the last of the 11th Commando were attacking Rommel’s HQ, the SAS took part in their first operation, trying to destroy airfields, they were dropped by parachute, but for them everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

During the first week of the "Crusader" while the Army was fighting trying to relieve Tobruk. Y Patrol was operating near Bir Tengerder, west of Tobruk in the enemies rear, during this time they had seen very little troop movement. The only thing worth reporting was the loss of "Sassie’s" and "Foo" Harper’s truck, which was shot up by a RAF Beaufighter on the 16th. Though there was no casualties, it demonstrated to John & David that aircraft was their biggest danger, even their own. The LRDG devised a trick that sometimes worked, they painted on a bit of plywood an RAF roundel and on the other side the Swastika.

While observing for troop movement on the 19th / 20th , men were reported walking in their direction. These were the survivors of the 55 SAS men who were dropped near the airfield at Tmimi and Gazala. The mission was a failure, the men were lost all over the place, due to the desert winds. Out of these men only 21 made it back, most via the LRDG. As most of these men were recruited from the "Layforce" Commando, John & David would probably recognised a few. It would be interesting to know if they recognised David Stirling among the survivors. This might have been a disaster in the eyes of the SAS, but it turned out to be the beginning of the best and most professional Special Forces the world has ever seen. It looked at that time as if the end was near for the SAS. If they could not use parachutes to get behind enemy lines and even if they did how would they get out ? It was during David Strirling’s stay with Y Patrol, it was suggested by David Lloyd Owen, the commander of Y Patrol, that it might be better if they used the LRDG to get them to where they wanted to go and also get them out again. This was later tried and tested and proved to work, eventually the SAS went on and adopted the famous Jeep for themselves and went independent. What was formed was a partnership between both the SAS & LRDG that lasted until the end of the African Campaign, even today the LRDG history and linage comes under the SAS.

On the 24th, Y Patrol was ordered to go on the offensive in the Gazala - Derna - Mechili area. Soon they came across a Motor Transport Park with about 30 vehicles and decided to drive in with guns blazing and lobbing grenades, a tactic that SAS would become famous for. As they left the MT Park they left 15 trucks destroyed, also they left "Sassie/Lofty" Carr behind. He had been separated somehow from the rest, he was hidden by local arabs until the British Army advanced later. He returned to Siwa three weeks after being lost.

The 27th saw the patrol having four out of its five trucks bogged down in a mud basin and only after unloading everything were they able to dig the trucks out, all the while watching out for air attacks from friendly and hostile aircraft. The 29th they captured a new Ford 15 cwt truck and 5 Italian prisoners. After finding out where they came from, they decided to attack their fort at El Ezzeiat, which was occupied by another 20 Italians. After a brisk fire-fight the 17 surviving Italians surrendered. Liberating any supplies worth taking they then destroyed the fort. Realising they could not keep the prisoners and they did not want to "dispose" of them, the patrol took them 80 miles into the desert and with provisions released them. On the 30th they ambushed more vehicles on the Derna - Tobruk road, at the same time keeping up a road watch. Later things got a bit more difficult as the convoys were being escorted by armoured cars, until 14th Dec when they managed to destroyed three tankers, one truck and destroyed telephone lines.

With Rommel retreating back to El Agheila no the 17th Dec. By the 20th Cyrenaica was now in British hands. The LRDG’s mission was over, on 21st they were recalled back to Siwa. They had been operating behind enemy lines for about a month and a half. By this time John and David had acquired new skills also new names. David became known as "Boozie" Gunn, how he got it is a mystery, as alcohol was in short supply behind the lines. John became know as "Daisy" by David Lloyd Owen, this was due to his "fresh complection and youthful appearance" also probably because he was youngest member being only 19 years old and not 21 as his army records stated. John had a second nickname "Dead Loss", this was in no way a reflection on his ability, but rather due to his good family upbringing. Rather than adopt the normal four-lettered words associated with the military, "dead loss" was John’s favourite saying when thing went wrong. Also John was noted for being an unusually quiet person, but both John & David, with the rest of the "heavies", had acquired a reputation for their bravery, with this they became accepted as part of the Y Patrol family. Since setting out from Cairo on 11th Oct they had travelled over 1,500 miles, over some of the most hospitable areas known to man.

If the men of Y Patrol thought they were going back for a well earned rest they were wrong. They had just enough time to fix whatever needed repaired, refuel and rearm. They left Siwa on 24th Dec heading towards their new operating area, this time it was to be deeper than the LRDG had gone before. It was to be the area surrounding Tripoli in Tripolitania, the western fringe of Lybia, 400 miles behind the enemy lines and 800 miles from Siwa. They took with them as much water and fuel as the trucks could hold. Christmas night 1941 was a bitterly cold one spent at Giarabub, just over the Libyan border, with millions of flies. They reached Jalo on the 27th where they refuelled and took more water and rations. With enough provisions to last 25 days or 1,500 miles they set of into unknown territory. On their way they came across a tempting target of 12 heavy trucks, but as they were not their area of operation, they had to watch the potential targets pass peacefully by. On the 31st they stopped for two days, not to celebrate the new year, rather because of mechanical problems and due to the bad weather, but no doubt the rum ration was poured out more liberally than normal. Also they discovered two 40 gallon drums contained diesel rather than petrol and some of the flimsy British petrol tin were leaking. On the 3rd Jan 1942 they set off again towards a fort at Scemech a place about 100 miles south of Tripoli. Soon they ran into deep wadies, which they had some trouble navigating through. As they came into view of Scemech they discovered a stone-belt, which as far a the eye could see was covered in sharp-boulders, then the rain started. The spent the whole day trying to find a way through this maze, when darkness came they took a reading and discovered they had only travelled about four miles as the crow flies. Another problem came to mind, they were stuck in this maze, in full view of the enemy, if they were attacked by aircraft, they would be sitting ducks. They spent a very worried restless night, waiting to see what the dawn brought. The rain stopped and when the daylight came they managed to escape out of the maze and went on to attack the fort. The battle plans were drawn-up and each truck given it’s orders for the attack. Surprise was of the essence, only to discover the fort was abandoned. When they spoke to some Arabs they discovered that a German patrol had been watching their antics in the maze for the last two days. It was decided to get as far away as they could from the fort, before something was sent to investigate. They found a nice quite spot to lie-up in and the following day they would spend getting their kit together. They unloaded each truck and discovered 30 four-gallon tins had sprung leaks. When they added up the loss of petrol, including the two 40-gallon drums, they discovered they only had enough petrol, for each truck, to last 300 miles. Their was no option but to try to turn back to Jalo, the moral was at rock-bottom, they had advance further into Lybia than anyone else to date, only to have to go back. The only consolation was the fact that they had mapped their progress for someone else. Their first priority when they got back, was to be replacing the flimsy British petrol cans, with the German "Jerry cans", which was far more robust. In fact as history proves it was a blessing in disguise that they had to return when they did, as the route they took to get back would be swarming with Germans a few weeks later, also their base would be in German hands.

They arrived back at Jalo on the 12th Jan and looked forward to a well earned rest. They had been on the go for over three months without a break, they were knackered. The rest was to be short. The Germans were building up their forces between El Aghelia to Marada. They knew Rommel was building his forces, but the British believed they could hold the Germans, Rommel was to prove them wrong.

On 21st Jan 1942 Rommel’s Afrika Corps swept forward, advancing towards Gazala and Tobruk. A few days later when the LRDG realised that the 8th Army could not hold Rommel, the decision was taken to abandon Jalo and move back to Siwa. Y Patrol’s rest was again short lived, they were given a mission. Their task was to gather intelligence about troop movements to the south-west of Bengazie. This was to be one of the toughest missions yet. Their allotted area was literally swarming with Germans. It was not long before they were discovered and the cat and mouse game began. In between getting chased by the Germans, they managed to send back a lot of information, especially about the amount of abandoned British tanks and vehicles, which were still in good working order, proof of how fast Rommel had advanced. Once again they were ordered back to Siwa.

When they arrived at Siwa, they found out it was just to take on more fuel and they would be off again, but this time to Cairo, for a their well earned rest and replace their worn-out truck. Proof of how keen John, David and the rest of Y Patrol were to get to Cairo, is the fact that they left before dawn and arrived at Cairo by 10 pm, the same day, a distance of 550 miles. Hot water, real beds, fresh food, night clubs, alcohol and females, were what the men of Y Patrol were anxious for, not necessarily in that order. During their stay in Cairo it was not all play. They had to check out and adapt their new Chevrolets and replace damaged equipment. Their were some new replacements, some men did not come up to the required standards of the LRDG. This was not necessarily that they did not fit in, or that they were not brave enough. The fact is working deep behind enemy lines in the desert, can affect men in different ways, much like someone who suffers claustrophobia could not and should not remain in the submarine service.

In February saw the start of the famous "Road Watches" along the Tripoli - Bengazi road, this was a constant watch and report on the troop movement which used the road. This information was invaluable to 8th Army HQ, so they could assess what they were facing. Again it was deep behind the enemy lines, between 450 to 850 miles behind the lines. They were going back into their original roll, as the motto of the LRDG implies "not by strength, by guile". The men of Y Patrol now set about making camouflage nets. They were going to be operating not miles from the enemies main access route, but yards, camouflage was of the essence.

The Road Watch was on a rota basis of two weeks each patrol, this was as long as their nerves could take. Each day two men would sneak to withing 300 yards of the road and lie-up in a prearranged hide. Until night-fall they would take notes of the vehicles, tanks, their numbers, units, types and direction they were travelling. Once darkness came they would return to their base and report what they had seen. Meanwhile those back at their base would have to keep a close watch for enemy patrols, all the while leaving no tracks and remaining motionless. Boredom was the biggest problem, along with the pressure of being deep behind the lines played on everyone’s nerves, a fortnight was more that enough. This went on from March till July 1942. Also the LRDG & SAS were to be co-ordinated by one body, as while the LRDG was gathering intelligence, the SAS was on the offensive, they did not want one or the other working in the same areas at the same time. This is really when the close relationship between to two began. When the LRDG was not on Road Watch they were used on the offensive along side the SAS. When coming off the "Road Watch" they were allowed to attack targets of opportunity, as long as there was no one else operating in that area.

In early May Y Patrol were ordered to take a party of agents and drop them off at Tarhuna, 40 miles S-E of Tripoli, again they were going to go further west than anyone else. Once the agents had been dropped off, they could go and "beat-up" a Transport Depot nearby. The distance from their base and back was going to be about 2,000 miles. They set out in six truck, but soon after they were plagued with their tyres bursting. Tyres had always been a problem of the LRDG, they always took spares, this time they had 15 spare tyres. By the time they reached Marada, south of El Aghila, about half way to Tripoli, they were again forced to return to Siwa. It seem this batch of tyres were faulty.

The end of May saw Y Patrol back on "Road Watch", this time between Mechili and Msus, east of Bengazi. This was one the most nerve wracking patrols they were ever to do. It was not the Germans, or even the Italian, it was the flies, in their millions. On their way there they dropped of another famous person, Vladimir Peniakoff, otherwise known as Popski, the leader of Popski’s Private Army. After the drop-off they found a good place to hide and set up the "Road Watch". For ten days they were forced to stay under their mosquito net, only coming out at night. To have came out from their under nets during daylight, would have ment being driven mad by the flies. Also they could not eat during the day, they were forced to eat only at night, again due to the flies. By the time they were relived they were at their wits end and their tempers were near to exploding. To add to the frustration of the flies, they had nothing to report for the last ten day, not even a truck, never mind a soldier.

In June Rommel started his advance and by 21st Tobruk had fallen, the 26th saw the battle of Marsa Matruh and by the 28th the 8th Army was falling back to El Alamein. With this Swia was abandoned. During this period Y Patrol were heading to Marble Arch to relive another patrol on the "Road Watch", they arrived on the 25th. During this road watch they witnessed the thousands of prisoners being taken back to Tunisia before being sent into captivity in Europe, a sight that few of the patrol would ever forget. For them the sight of 80,000 British and Colonial PoW’s passing by must had looked like the whole of the 8th Army. It must have been a very worrying and lonely time for the LRDG. What would they do if the Germans captured Cairo and took North Africa. The only option was to head south and try to make it to the Sudan or some other friendly country, a very worrying time indeed. When their time was up they were to return to Kufra, through the Rebiana Sand Sea. With the temperatures now in the 120 Fahrenheit and everyone was put on water rations, of under a gallon a day. Now they came under air attacks and with nowhere to hide in a sand desert, their only option was to fight it out. Then to add to this they had to dig themselves out when they got stuck in the sand. All of this made their thirst worse, soon the men were desperate with dehydration, some even trying to dig for water in the sand. They had no choice but to rest up for a day and give out more water rations, though some of these men would still need medical attention. They made it to Kufra, but only just. In late July the "Road Watch" was cancelled, but another was set up, this time between Tobruk and Bardia.

For this new "Road Watch" Y Patrol were picked to find a good place to hide-up in. After searching for a few days, after which they could not find a suitable spot which could hide their vehicles, watch the road and be relived by another patrol. They were then ordered to search for a RAF crew which had crashed 35 miles S-W off Tobruk. They never found the RAF crew, but they found a young Indian soldier who had escaped from Tobruk. They were ordered to return to Fayoum, just south of Cairo, but to do so they had to negotiate the Qattara Depression, an impassible barrier. Other than getting stuck once, the Depression proved passable, even to the extent that they had a race across it. The next few weeks consisted of supporting the SAS acting as guides and acting as their communications.

Y Patrol left Fayoum 24th Aug, ordered back to Kufra. During early Sept every Special Forces unit were being assembled for an important operation. There was a problem, this was the fact that rumours were already rife in Cairo about this operation. So if the bars of Cairo knew about the operation, the Germans would also know. These concerns were voiced by officers, but they went unheaded, the mission was to go ahead. Y Patrols mission was to guide a Commando unit to the outskirts of Tobruk, where they would enter the town, capture the guns around the town and destroy underground fuel-tanks, then they were to release British PoW’s and escape by sea. While this was going on, other operation were to take place near Bengazi, Barce and Derna all in the N-W corner of Cyrenaica. The date set for these operations was 13th Sept 1942, a day that came close to destroying the LRDG & SAS. With the security already breached, the operation was doomed to failure before John and David set out on their 800 mile round trip.

The Commandos were dropped of outside Tobruk during the night of the 12th. Y Patrol now went to a position to cover the western road, to prevent German or Italian reinforcements reaching Tobruk. The fist sign at the Germans were ready for something, was when they came across a steamroller used as a roadblock. During the early hours in their position the LRDG listened to the Commandos going to work, not knowing how well they were doing. The Commandos captured most of the guns, but the Germans were quick to respond and the seaborn reinforcements could not land, before the day was out the Commandos would be killed or captured stranded on the beach. The same story was happening with all of the other missions, all except the LRDG raid on Barce which proved to be the only real success. By first light Y Patrol realised that the mission had gone wrong and decided to get out while they could, a decision that proved correct. They headed for a prearranged hide where they radioed HQ, only to find out that the Commandos were destroyed, other SAS and LRDG units had also taken a battering. They began to lie-up for a few days to see if any of the Commandos that might escaped could make it to their position. As Y Patrol was one of the few units to escape unscathed they were ordered to a Landing Ground (LG125), this was situated about 75 miles south of Gazala and 80 miles from Y Patrols position. The RAF were sending a Bombay aircraft to pick up the wounded from the other missions and they would be needed to search for stragglers heading toward the site. What had started as an offensive mission now turned into a search and rescue mission.

Y Patrol headed towards LG125, pushing every vehicle to the limit. With total disregard for enemy aircraft that was now alerted, they rushed on creating a dust storm that even a blind man could not miss. Such was the urgency of their mission, also the comradeship felt between these desert warriors, meant they would risk everything to help the other members of the LRDG and SAS, they arrived at LG125 just before dusk. At once they started administering first-aid to those wounded. The next morning the RAF Bombay arrived and the wounded were loaded, but before it could take off, it had to be re-fuelled with 4 gallon tins before they could fly the 400 miles back to Cairo. Over the next few days stragglers turned up, each with their story of how the operation went wrong, some needing first-aid. Eventually the stragglers stopped and they were ordered to Kufra. The survivors, 60 men and 11 vehicles, set of and arrived on the 23rd. It was the last time the SAS, Commandos and LRDG would operate is this combined operation fashion in the desert, it was too large to keep secret and too expensive for what little was gained.

More or less all of the SAS & LRDG were at Kufra licking their wounds and starting to repair damaged vehicles. There had never been so many men, vehicles and aircraft. The aircraft were flying spare part to the units and returning with wounded. The BBC tried to make something out of the failure of the mission and reported that the mission had been mounted out of Kufra. On the 25th the base was attacked by eight He 111 bombers. It was just to good a target for the Germans to pass up on, thanks to the BBC. They came in low with guns blazing and dropping bombs on the aircraft and building. The LRDG and SAS did not take this lying down, every available man jumped onboard the trucks and Jeeps and opened up with everything they had and they did not have mich, mostly machine-guns. Only three of the German bomber made it back to base, proof of the fire-power that was layed down by the SAS & LRDG. The casualties were very light for the SAS & LRDG, only four arabs killed, two LRDG men wounded, one of them being Y Patrols commander, David Lloyed Owen, and all the aircraft damaged.

With only Y Patrol intact, they were sent out on another "Road Watch", the 8th Army needed intelligence for the coming offensive, El Alamein was due to start on 23rd Oct. Again they were sent out on the 30th Oct, now back to the Marble Arch, but this time their time their was to be different. Between the 2nd & 11th Nov, they reported 3,500 vehicles of all types using the road, all going in one direction, West, away from the 8th Army. This confirmed to "Monty" that the Germans were now on the run. During this period, the Germans realised the potential of using Desert Patrols and the LRDG were having more run-in’s with these patrols, the difference was the fact that the Germans were using armoured cars, which out-gunned the LRDG’s truck. Now also they had to watch out for mines, as when the Germans came across known tracks used by the LRDG, they would plant mines. The "Road Watch" was now becoming very hazardous, the Germans were now even patrolling along side the roads.

It was the beginning of a very busy period for the LRDG. In mid Dec the LRDG reported to that the Germans were digging in at El Agheila and preparing to fight. Monty was not going to try to attack from the front, but decided to use the LRDG, on 16th Dec, to guide the New Zealand Division and 4th Armoured Brigade around and behind El Agheila. Once the Germans realised they were being out-flanked the started to pull back, but not before the 8th Army captured over 400 men, five tanks and 18 guns. The same ploy was used on 15th Jan 1943 at Buerat, this time with the NZ and 7th Armoured Divisions. This time they took the 7th Armd Div straight to Tripoli by-passing the German position at Homs and Corradini. By the end of January the Germans were out of Lybia.

The LRDG were now to find new hides and positions for forward bases in Tunisia. This presented new problems as they had never dealt with the Tunisian arabs, who seemed to trust the German gold more than the British. Now they had to hid from not only the Germans, but also the Arabs, and they also had to operate in new territory. The LRDG were ordered to find a route through the Matmata Hills for the NZ Corps. They only had a month in which to find this route. Between the 11th and 19th March the NZ Corps were through the Hills and were now advancing around the Germans. The attack went in on the night of the 20th / 21st, by the 27th the line was broken and the Germans were again on the run. While finding these routs, other units of the LRDG were gathering information further to the west. In early April the LRDG were ordered back to Alexandria, the trucks were just not suited to the mountainous terrain of Tunisia, it was a job better suited to the SAS with their more mobile Jeep’s. As they drove back along the roads, which only a few months ago they were keeping a keen eye on, we wonder what the thoughts of John, David and the rest of the LRDG were, some good, some bad, with that would forever be part of their nightmares. The LRDG now faced a very unsure future, with the war in the desert over. If they were to survive they would have to adapt and adapt they did, they were going to operate in the Aegean. As these men left the deserts of North Africa for the last time, David left with something he did not have when he arrived, he was awarded a Military Medal (M.M.). For what action he won this we are unsure, it was awarded to Y Patrol, who were to take a vote to see who would be awarded the M.M. David said he took the medal because no-one else wanted it. The truth is he took it because he was told by his mates, if it went to a vote, he was going to get it anyway.

It is impossible to calculate how many miles John & David travelled during the Desert Campaign, it must have been thousands. Also what is more amazing is the fact that David Bews worked on the Gate with John Mackay at Vulcan and Steve Cashmore worked with David Gunn at Dounreay. Not once did they ever hear a reference to the Desert, never mind the 11th (Scottish) Commando, LRDG or SAS, even their families knew very little. These two silent warriors had not finished with the war, they still had to make the journey home, this time via the Aegean and Germany.

Thanks again to Jim Patch (LRDG), "Sassie / Lofty" Carr (LRDG), Reg Harmer (11th Scottish Commando), Arthur Arger (LRDG) and last but not least Jim Storrie (SAS), all part of the original Special Forces. Also thanks to "Sadie", John Mackay’s wife, for her patients and kindness.

 

 

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David Bews 1999
Steven Cashmore 1999


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