Thursday, 3 September 2015

BORN OF THE DESERT.

Ever seen that movie "Sea of Sand" ? Well, if you haven't you should have! I have always been fascinated with the desert and when I returned home after working in the middle east I wanted to learn more about what happened there during WWII.

There is so much to read up on as it was a huge theatre of operations, one unit that caught my eye was the Long Range Desert Group. They were a special forces unit that hit the enemy hard and fast causing serious damage to the Axis war effort in that region.
After reading about this unit and seeing the classic war movie "Sea of Sand" I was inspired by the adventures of these brave men to build a model in tribute to them.

The cap badge of the LRDG.


The LRDG was formed specifically to carry out deep penetration, covert reconnaissance patrols and intelligence missions from behind Italian lines, although they sometimes engaged in combat operations. They were made up of Officers and Troops from New Zealand, South Africa, Britain and Australia.
Because the LRDG were experts in desert navigation they were sometimes assigned to guide other units, including the Special Air Service and secret agents across the desert. During the Desert Campaign between December 1940 and April 1943, the vehicles of the LRDG operated constantly behind the Axis lines, missing a total of only 15 days during the entire period.






 Possibly their most notable offensive action was during Operation Caravan, an attack on the town of Barce and its associated airfield, on the night of 13 September 1942. However, their most vital role was the 'Road Watch', during which they clandestinely monitored traffic on the main road from Tripoli to Benghazi, transmitting the intelligence to British Army Headquarters.
With the surrender of the Axis forces in Tunisia in May 1943, the LRDG changed roles and moved operations to the eastern Mediterranean, carrying out missions in the Greek islands, Italy and the Balkans. After the end of the war in Europe, the leaders of the LRDG made a request to the War Office for the unit to be transferred to the Far East to conduct operations against the Japanese Empire. The request was declined and the LRDG was disbanded in August 1945.




The Model:

The LRDG's most famous mount must have been the Chevrolet 1533X2 30 CWT.

After several false starts, the LRDG finally had an acceptable all around Patrol Truck. For ease of use this  truck is two wheel drive. The 1533x2 used by the LRDG were purpose built military modifications of the 1 ½ ton YR series Chevrolet trucks. These modifications included a special truck bed as well as modifications to cab, front grill and suspension. Further modifications were made to the trucks once they reached the LRDG machine shops. Because the trucks were being made for the British Army they were now right hand drive. The popular "water fall" grill of the civilian truck was replaced by a grill with fewer slats to allow better air flow. By now the old Bofors guns used in the earlier trucks was being replaced by the Italian Model 35 Bredas. 1 in 6 trucks mounted a Breda. 1 in 6 trucks were also a radio truck. Tamiya released a model kit which has a "command car" towing a Breda. This is actually the W/T or Radio Truck which is not the commanders vehicle. Also the LRDG was not in the habit of towing guns on patrol, ever.

With that in mind, I purchased the Tamiya kit of the Radio Truck and set about the project.  The kit is in 1/35 scale and comes with figures. The model was built to box spec then I modified it just slightly to give it some character. This included adding stowage and other equipment that would have been found in use during that period. Painting was done with enamels and inks, this was an enjoyable process as I could go all out with the weathering-these machines never stayed clean for long!

When this model was completed I wanted to display it as it may have been seen in the desert. I researched lots of photo's and found one that inspired my imagination:


So I made a display base to portray my Chevy truck perched on a hill with its crew stood next to it. What I ended up with was this................








I finished this model in September 2006, I think it still looks good and it still has a pride of place on my display shelf. I hope it is seen as a respectful tribute to the men of the LRDG.

If you like the old British war films, give Sea of Sand a look, it's a worthwhile view.