...a new book by Jonathan Pittaway
Title: Long Range Desert Group, Rhodesia. The Men Speak.
Author(s): Jonathan Pittaway
Publisher: Dandy Agencies
A large format, soft cover book with some 460 pages, this is quite clearly a work of the authors passion for a subject. Rhodesia back in WW2 was part of the British Empire and volunteers came forward from what was even then a relatively small population to help the UK in time of war. Today that country is Zimbabwe, and today they have other issues, but in WW2 they forged a proud tradition, one of which was as members of the Long Range Desert group.
The author Jonathan Pittaway has assembled memories from many of those who took part, as they tell some of their stories from the time. It is heavily illustrated throughout, including over 1000 previously unpublished photos along with illustrations of restored vehicles today, badges and insignia, documents and signals, even the cover and boxtop illustrations from the likes of the old Matchbox (now Revell) LRDG set, and covers of 'Commando' war comics, which told us the tales of the work of the LRDG among so many others.
The book is organised into 8 main sections, covering an Introduction which gives some background on early desert exploration and navigation and how the LRDG came to be formed. The next sections cover the Desert, the Aegean, Palestine, and the Adriatic, all areas where the LRDG and it's Rhodesian members saw action. The final sections cover Rhodesia itself, then the Association for Veterans and finally an Epilogue which shows some of those now more elderly veterans re-visiting some of the places thet served in all those years ago. For those who thought the LRDG only worked in the Desert, then the content covering the Aegean, and places such as Leros, will discover new stories of which perhaps they were unaware.
The experiences these veterans share, and which Jonathan has quite skillfully assembled and arranged, tell us not just what happened, but what it felt like at the time. For me one of the most important things to try and understand is how it felt and what is is like to go through these life threatening experiences. More than that, he has worked to provide a rounded view by including some pieces from the German side as well. As with all stories there are 2 sides to everything. Whichever side you are on is always the 'right' one. Here he has been careful to step back and consider both, without leaving the main story.
The text is a set of individual contributions, not a continuous narrative. The photos are an enthusiasts and modellers delight. See the Chevy's and Jeeps we all know so well, but also the little Morris 30cwts, Ford 3 tonners and even an Italian Fiat AL37 all in use. The conditions in which they operated were harsh, yet the comradeship and almost affection for the Desert has tied many of these men in friendship for life. My own father fought as part of the 8th Army from 1940 through to 1943 and I know that he would have loved to see this book. Until the day he died he always kept some sort of strange affection for his time in the desert, however hard it was. A feeling that was not reflected in his time in Italy and North West Europe in 1944 and 45. Maybe there is something of a sort of magic in the Desert, and I think a glimpse of this comes through in this excellent book. If you have an interest in the LRDG, I'd have to suggest you check this one out.
My thanks to 30 Degrees South for sending through the book for us to see.