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Fighting with the Long Range Desert Group (Hardback)

Merlyn Craw MM's War 1940–1945

WWII North Africa in WWII Military

By Brendan O'Carroll
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 272
Illustrations: 150 Mono pics integrated
ISBN: 9781399084277
Published: 17th May 2022

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Formed in 1940 the Long Range Desert Group was the first Allied Special Forces unit established to operate behind German and Italian lines in North Africa. Its officers and men were volunteers recruited from British and Commonwealth units. Merlyn Craw was serving with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force when he joined the LRDG in 1941. He took part in numerous missions in the desert. The navigational driving and fighting skills of the LRDG were legendary and they were frequently responsible for transporting Stirling’s SAS detachments on raids.

Merlyn’s luck ran out when he was captured on the Barce raid in September 1942, but he escaped twice, the second time making it back to Allied lines. Sent home on leave, he returned to Italy with the New Zealand Army. After a ‘disagreement’ he went AWOL and rejoined the LRDG with no questions asked, serving until the end of the war.

Drawing on interviews with Merlyn and other former LRDG veterans, the author has created a vivid picture of this exceptional and highly decorated fighting man. Readers cannot fail to be impressed by the courage and ruthless determination of Merlyn Craw MM and his comrades.

This book follows along with additions from other fellow soldiers, Merlyn Craw who served with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force and joined the Long Range Desert Group. The author Brendan O’Carroll, draws upon on the diaries and records of Merlyn Craw and his fellow soldiers as they participate in a number of missions behind enemy lines.

We also see in a couple of chapters where Craw is captured on one raid and becomes a prisoner of war in Italy but manages to escape before eventually making it back to friendly lines. The book is split into 13 chapters and gives an excellent insight into working as part of the LRDG in the everyday roles and their combat missions. The book is complemented throughout with a good number of photographs which do add to the insight and lives of these guys going on their special missions. I would say that most readers would enjoy this book and if you are interested in this part of the war you’ll definitely enjoy it.

Read the full review here

The History Fella

Brendan O’Carroll has done an excellent job, using large sections of Merlyn Craw’s diary, to bring to life a true picture of this special unit. The book is rich in detail of ‘every day’ life and the equipping and organizing of the ‘trips’ into the desert behind enemy lines. Supporting the text are many special photographs and maps. The ten appendices add even more fascinating detail.
This gripping story is very highly recommended.

Read the full review here

Clash of Steel

As one would expect from Brendan O’Carroll this is an authoritative work based on many years of research and meetings with veterans. Into the military biography of Craw has been woven the detail of what life was like in this first special forces unit. The harshness of the existence is evident and it took a special type of man to endure service not just in the desert but on up into the Aegean.

Robert Bartlett - Oxford and Cambridge Club Military History Group

This is Brendan O’Carroll’s seventh book about the LRDG.
Let’s deal the basics, 253 pages and 150 monochrome photographs, some of which will be new to even the most devoted LRDG enthusiast. It is broken down into 13 chapters and 10 appendices based on the 9 sections of LRDG Training Notes and another dealing with Maintaining The LRDG In the Field.
It covers the military career of Merlyn Craw, MM, a New Zealander who volunteered to join up after the outbreak of war and it recounts Craw’s wartime experience through his diaries as well as his conversations and letters with the author over several years.
The first four chapters are based, although not exclusively, on Craw’s diary from December 1940 to July 1941 which is intelligently supplemented by extracts from other troopers’ diaries to reinforce the information and detail. It covers significant events in the evolution of the LRDG such as the life at Kufra, road watch, their involvement with the SAS, and the Barce raid. Prior to the Barce raid Craw was asked to do away with a certain trigger happy G patrol officer, who was as likely to cause as many casualties on his own side as on enemy. Thankfully fate intervened and the officer concerned was injured prior to the raid.
Being captured by the Italians during the Barce raid, Craw spent just over a year in captivity, escaping twice. He recalls, “After escaping we ate rat, cat, dog ang other small animals. They were all ok, except cat, Bloody inedible.” Good to Know!
Bar a period at home on leave and being posted to 4th New Zealand Armoured Division, Craw served with the LRDG from February 1941 until they were disbanded in 1945. It was whilst serving with the Armoured Division that an officer went back on his word to give Craw leave at which point, he took matters into his own hand and went AWOL for 6 weeks before re-joining the LRDG. As befitting a man of Craw’s stature, he was never charged for going AWOL.
This book could not have been written much earlier due to Craw’s express wish that some of his recollections should not be printed until all the veterans had gone.
I consider myself fortunate to own of copy of each of Brendan’s previous books. As ever, this book is superbly researched and wonderfully written. The best compliment that I can give this book is, that having started reading, I couldn’t put down, finishing the same day it arrived.
LRDG, Lad’s Rommel Didn’t Get!

BOB AMOS-JONES

About Brendan O'Carroll

Brendan O’Carroll lives in Auckland, New Zealand and recently retired from the New Zealand Customs Service. With a long time interest in military history, the Long Range Desert Group has become his speciality. He has interviewed over 30 veterans while writing The Kiwi Scorpions: The Story of the New Zealanders in the LRDG (2000), Bearded Brigands (2002) and Barce Raid: The LRDG’s Most Daring Exploit in World War Two (2005). This book follows The LRDG in the Aegean (2020) and The Long Range Desert Group in Action 1940 -1943 (2020) under the Pen and Sword Military imprint. He has numerous other published works and articles to his credit. In 2006 his work was recognised by awards from the New Zealand Military Historical Society.

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