The Long Range Patrol was established in June 1940 to monitor the huge Libyan desert, and then to do reconnaissance on enemy movements and occasionally mount small raids to disrupt enemy installations. Soon the name was changed to the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), which would find fame for its activities far behind enemy lines, bringing much useful information back to the British military HQ. The nature of their missions varied, but usually entailed a very long drive through the desert to some point far behind the lines, then some form of monitoring or information gathering, often lasting some days itself, and then the long drive home, all the time wary of discovery by enemy patrols, particularly aircraft. So much time was spent in the vehicles travelling, or extricating one from soft sand, or otherwise dealing with mishaps along the way, and when the patrol stopped for the day there was still much to do, cleaning weapons, maintaining equipment, concealing vehicles, establishing their exact location, etc. Only when all was done did they have a chance to rest, and try to sleep in a very uncomfortable environment, ready for an early start the following day.
Unlike the sister set to this one, Long Range Desert Group, we know exactly what these men are doing. After yet another long, hot, difficult day they are finally able to rest in the desert and relax a little, and there are plenty of poses here doing just that. We find a lot of men sitting on the ground drinking or trying to rest. Our middle row shows some of our favourite poses, including the man pouring from a kettle for a comrade as he holds his cup up. The man sitting cross-legged in the third row is probably cleaning the Lewis gun in his lap, but quite why the man to his left is holding his rifle like that is unclear. The next two make a nice pair with one man pointing at what could be a map, perhaps discussing their current location or what the plans are for the following day. Lastly we have an officer doing nothing very much – perhaps talking to his men. The top row shows men still on their feet. The first is contentedly puffing away on his pipe, and the fourth is drinking from his cup, but the other three still have their weapons in hand. The middle man makes a very good sentry, as would be vital if the resting party is not to be surprised by an enemy patrol or wandering locals, but we were not sure what the man holding the Bren and an outstretched water bottle is doing. Equally, the man at the end with another Bren is also hard to interpret – perhaps cleaning the weapon, or just waiting for something. So while a couple of the poses are difficult to understand, for the most part they are really nicely thought out and well done.
The LRDG wore the same clothing as everyone else on the whole, although they had much latitude in choosing extra items like the Arab keffiyeh or locally-made coats. Normal wear was the standard khaki drill uniform, but the total appearance could be very mixed, and that is pretty well captured in these figures. The man pouring from a kettle into his own cup wears the full Arab thobe and keffiyeh, so is probably a passenger rather than part of the LRDG, but that is appropriate here too. The man in the top row that we called a sentry wears a long coat, as you would expect on a cold night, but also sandals rather than the normal army boots. For the rest, shirt, shorts, beret and cap comforter (or caps of various shapes) are the main elements, and all looks good here. No one wears goggles, but as it would likely be dark this is fine. The long locally-made Hebron coat worn by the pointing figure in the bottom row is a nice touch, and again suggests the cool of the evening in the desert.
Several of the men are wearing standard pattern ’37 webbing and pouches, which is a surprise as photos do not suggest this was normal. Since many have laid aside any personal weapon, there seems little point in wearing the pouches, which would simply be uncomfortable and unnecessary unless the alarm was raised. For those on sentry duty of course the pouches are fine, except that the second figure (with the Bren and water bottle) has his attached to his waist belt. These are ‘Pouches, MT Drivers’, which did not exist until 1944, so are inappropriate for the Desert campaign unless he has modified them himself. This man does have one other item of interest, and that is the long webbing carrier for the spare barrel and accessories for his Bren. Quite why he would have this on his person in this situation is hard to see however, as it would normally be stowed on a vehicle. Otherwise no one has any items of kit – no water bottles or anything, which is fine for men at rest, though these and many other items would be close at hand.
We have more or less already covered the weapons in this set. Many have none, but some are cleaning theirs or still holding them as they guard the camp. The rifle and Lewis gun have already been mentioned, and the middle sentry figure in the top row holds an early model Thompson. Two figures hold Bren guns, both of which are rather shorter than they should be, and their inclusion here is a bit surprising because Brens were not well liked in the desert and not widely issued to the LRDG. However their presence is not impossible, so their representation here seems a bit over-done rather than wrong as such. The last weapon to mention is slung on the first figure in the top row, for he has a Sten submachine gun on his back. The Sten was just the right weapon for the times, cheap and easy to mass produce when weapons were desperately needed, but it was crude as a result, and not well-liked by many people. It appeared in time for the last few months of the Desert War, and examples were certainly taken to North Africa, but it is extremely unlikely that anyone in the LRDG would have chosen to carry one when Thompsons were readily available, so this must count as a mistake in this set.
This set is a fine example of just how far Strelets have come in the quality of their products, because the sculpting is first class. Everything is beautifully proportioned, and the detail is excellent and very clear. The weapons too are very nicely done, and the poses all look very natural, thanks partly perhaps to the less demanding nature of men relaxing. Still the look of these figures is great, and although there is some flash it is not particularly intrusive, so the overall effect is very good.
Given the gruelling nature of their work, the rest these men got at the end of the day was even more important than that for ordinary soldiers. While they always had to worry about being detected by the enemy, the rest stops were vital to the LRDG in their amazingly arduous journeys through the unforgiving desert. Now with these excellent figures and a few suitable models of vehicles it is possible to recreate such a scene, and with such great figures that should be quite a diorama.