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The Long Range Desert Group in the Aegean (Paperback)

Military > SAS & Special Forces WWII

By Brendan O'Carroll
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 328
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations and 8 maps
ISBN: 9781399003681
Published: 3rd November 2021



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Shortly after the invasion of Sicily and to distract German attention from the Italian campaign, Churchill ordered the occupation of the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean.

The Long Range Desert Group, retraining in Lebanon, were now part of Raiding Forces, Middle East, along with the Special Boat Service and No 30 Commando. In support of 3,000 regulars in 234 Brigade, the LRDG landed covertly on Leros establishing observation posts, reporting movement of enemy shipping and aircraft.

In October the LRDG were ordered to assault the island of Levitha losing forty highly skilled men killed or captured. The Germans invaded Leros with overwhelming force on 12 November 1943, five days later the battle was over. While many British troops were captured most of the LRDG and SBS escaped. Their individual stories make for enthralling reading.

A measure of the intensity of the fighting is the fact that the LRDG lost more men in three months in the Aegean than in three years in the desert operating behind enemy lines.

The author, an acknowledged expert on the LRDG uses official sources, both British and German, and individual accounts to piece together the full story of this dramatic, costly but little-known campaign. It is a valuable addition to the history of special forces in the Second World War.

As featured in

Wargames Illustrated – Issue 421, January 2023

"Recommended to anyone with an interest in the LRDG and special operations during the Second World War."

Read the review here

Gallipoli Association

One of the elite military organizations that was created during World War II, the Long Range Desert Group, essentially passed from history books after the North African Desert War concluded with the fall of Tunisia in May 1943. However, as an expert on that particular Special Force points out in his latest book, the unit retrained, reemerged, and took part in another oft neglected series of battles in the Eastern Mediterranean. Brendan O’Carroll has written four other books on the LRDG, mostly focused on the New Zealand contingent of the unit. This time his latest, The Long Range Desert Group in the Aegean (Pen and Sword Military, 2020) covers the entire unit in its participation in the Aegean region of the Med, after the Italian surrender.

Following that surrender Churchill demanded the targeting the Italian-held Dodecanese Islands near the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sea. He felt controlling this group of 165 islands, including fifteen large islands like Rhodes, would add pressure on the Germans in the Balkans and possibly bring Turkey into the war as an Ally. The campaign, done on a shoestring and with little air support, failed.

O’Carroll starts his story of the conversion of the LRDG from raiders to infiltration and reconnaissance specialists with their retraining in Lebanon where they learned skiing, mountaineering and mule handling, for potential assignments in the Balkans aiding pro-allied guerrillas. When Churchill activated Operation Accolade, the group because part of the effort to land on and win over the now “neutral” Italian troops in the Dodecanese to the Allied side before the Germans could react. As O’Carroll notes, “it seem{ed} incongruous for the LRDG to be standing alongside Italians …after fighting them in the desert.”(pg 155)

The book then highlights the adventures the LDRG had on many of the islands there, from tiny Levitha (3.5 square miles) to Naxos (165 square miles.) Ironically, it was on Levitha that the LRDG suffered more losses in one day than they had in three years of warfare in the Desert – 42 of their 49-man force were killed or captured. Most of the book focuses on the much larger battle on Leros which has been written about (Anthony Rogers Churchill’s Folly, as an example.) The four-day battle that was precipitated by both German sea landings and paratroops drops, resulted in the loss of about half the LRDG contingent of 123 men. Overall, the LRDG lost two-thirds of the personnel committed to the failed campaign.

O’Carroll uses direct quotes from the LRDG war diaries as well as the personal remembrances of many veterans to make the battles personal. With period maps, photos of the participants and a good bibliography for follow-on studies, the author provides an excellent picture of a neglected campaign of a storied unit.

John D. Burtt

Brendon O’Carroll has written an excellent book adding a detailed chapter to the extraordinary history of the men of the LRDG. He has clarified how and why the LRDG came to be deployed in their new role, their training and preparations have clearly been established. This is very useful and aids understanding of not so much a change of role but a need to develop new techniques of surveillance to establish sea and air watch. The book is highly recommended and all the detail contained in the work is dependable, given the extensive knowledge and research of the author. For him it is a labour of love and that is obvious.

Robert Bartlett - Oxford and Cambridge Club Military History Group

O’Carroll provides an interesting and informative read about a little known action by a World War II era special operations unit and an important part of SOF history.

Read the full review here

SOF News

Brendan O'Carroll is a recognised expert on the LRDG, having interviewed more than 30 veterans and written various books about the group. In this body of work, he brings together a collection of individual accounts and information from official sources detailing the dramatic, but costly campaign.

Classic Military Vehicle June 2021

Review by John Burtt

With period maps, photos of the participants and a good bibliography for follow-on studies, the author provides an excellent picture of a neglected campaign of a storied unit.

World at War #77

Meticulously investigated by a world authority on the NZ Long Range Desert Group, this is an indispensable addition to any collection of LRDG or Battle of Leros books.

Jonathan Pittaway

Review by Jason Hubbard

If you’re interested in special forces units that operated during WW2 then this is for you, any military historian with an interest in the second world war should give this a read. If you’re a wargamer who like me is building or considering building an LRDG/SAS force for games such as Bolt Action or Rapid Fire, then this is must have research material.

Irregular magazine, issue 14 Volume 2/Winter 2020

After victory in North Africa, the Allies still had to deal with Axis Forces around the Northern shores of the Mediterranean and there was a new life for the LRDG Special Forces. The author looks at the much under-told story of British actions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Focus moved to Sicily, Italy and France but there were still important actions needed in the Aegean. – Very Highly Recommended

Read the full review here


We highly recommend this book as a good read and as an insight into a little known war zone.

Read the full review here

Clash of Steel

Click here to read author article: Operation Accolade – How Britain’s Elite Long Range Desert Group Met Disaster in the Aegean as featured by

Military History Now

There is an outstanding amount of detail in this book.

Read the full review here

Balkan Wargamer

I was so pleased to have this incredible book to review and I must congratulate Mr O'Carrol for preserving this piece of LRDG history for history. A very easy to read story of each troops activities once they left the Desert. Each chapter supplies their Orders, the Patrols' make up, their kit and ration allowances. This story shows the folly of using hard Specialist troops as Infantry, it was a waste of men and their skills.

Once you are a few pages into this book you are made to see just how special and hardy these men were were, there are photographs of these lean hardy chaps in action and later on you see them as older men at reunions and you wonder at the things they did.

Added to the text are memoirs written by the men themselves for their Association news letter, you just couldnt ask for more. A great read about great men, five mushroom heads.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

I have to commend Brendan O'Carroll on his new book. I always start by looking at the bibliography to see what primary sources I am missing and it is clear that this has been superbly researched, using many first hand accounts from actucal combatants.
Superbly written in a style that engages the reader from the very first page to the last, this book fills a gap in LRDG history, that of the ill fated Aegean campaign. It was a campaign that was unnecessay and poorly planned by senior allied commanders, resulting in the LRDG sustaining more losses in 3 months than it had in 3 years campaigning in the deserts of North Africa. There are many excellent photos, many of which are new to me. It's great to read about this period in the LRDG history. A must for any collection.
I am looking foward to Brendan's next book "LRDG in Action 1940-1943" to be published in October!


Well I have just finished Brendan O’Carroll’s latest book release titled “The Long Range Desert Group in the Aegean”. I currently have read all of his books except “Khaki Angels”, which I have just ordered. I hadn’t ordered it before as it didn’t have anything to do about the Long Range Desert Group. But since he is such a detailed researcher in anything he writes it has got to be good.
I have been a fan of the Long Range Desert Group since I was a boy, now 81 years young. There was not much written about the LRDG in the early years. I really got active in researching the LRDG back in 1992 and was instrumental in having constructed a 1942 Chevrolet in the LRDG pattern, at that time the only one in the U.S.A. Buying any title that had any association with the LRDG.
Brendan’s first venture into the LRDG realm was “The Kiwi Scorpions” first published in the year 2000. I’m sure his interest in the LRDG started long before his book was published. Then because the demand got so great it was updated and reprinted in 2008. The title is still in great demand and prices far exceed the cover price in 2008.
His second venture into the LRDG field was “Bearded Brigands” which were based on the diaries of “Trooper Frank Joplin” of the LRDG, published in 2002. Followed by the “Barce Raid” in 2005. Then in 2008 in conjunction with Kuno Gross & Roberto Chiarvetto, he co-Authored “Incident at Jebel Sherif”, where they actually went to Libya and visited the site and examined the remains of the battle. I had planned to join them on that trip but “Muammar Gaddafi” has other thoughts of Americans visiting his country.
Now to the current title: if you are new to the LRDG scene, if nothing else the first chapter gives an excellent overview of the LRDG activities in the desert and then their activities with training at the Cedars of Lebanon, in skiing and mountain climbing.
When looking at Brendan’s bibliography; I have many if not all that he has listed there, but he masterfully encompasses passages from books and association newsletter articles plus other sources previously published to convey what transpired on those fateful days in November 1943.
Another item he includes; that is missing from many other LRDG publications, is the names of the Troopers in the patrols. Many in the past have listed the officer and OR (other ranks), but Brendan includes the name of the other ranks. Many names that I recognize from years of researching the LRDG.
Now if you can find copies of his other books at a reasonable price – do buy them, but if you can only afford to buy this one do as it is a great one to have in any LRDG Library.

Jack Valenti
LRDG Preservation Society

Jack Valenti

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, his speciality is the Long Range Desert Group. He 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. His Pen and Sword titles include The LRDG in the Aegean (2020), The Long Range Desert Group in Action 1940 -1943 and Fighting with the Long Range Desert Group, Merlyn Craw MM's War 1940-1945. He has written numerous other published works and articles. In 2006 his work was recognised by awards from the New Zealand Military Historical Society.

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