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First LRDG attempt to kill the Desert Fox

A second attempt to kill Rommel, after Operation "Flipper", was made by the British in the final months of 1942 during the Battle of El Alamein. The operation was called "Raid" and was personally planned by Lieutenant General Bernard Lowe Montgomery, commander of the 8th Army.

Rommel was targeted throughout the campaign in North Africa by the Alliance, resulting in several commando attacks to eliminate him. This time, the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) of David Sterling, the most famous saboteur of the North African War, was to complete the task directly on the battlefield in the heart of the Afrika Korps.

British LRDG

The LRDG was recruited exclusively from the most daring British and New Zealand officers of various branches of the military and former professional athletes, and Major Jake Isonsmith was in command of the operation. All team members went through a serious training course, including a theoretical program, where everyone read literature about the desert, secret radio intercepts of conversations between Rommel and Hitler with Kesselring, Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and Rommel's "Infantry Attack", detailed footage of the failed first mission to eliminate Rommel in 1941.

The main task of the LRDG was to penetrate into the rear of the enemy and mark the place with red smoke. Further, the destruction of Rommel was to be dealt with by the fighters of the Royal Air Force, after which the LRGD was to deal with cleaning up what was left, followed by a retreat. While planning the assassination attempt on Rommel, Major Jake Isonsmith said: "We can say that he is a warrior of a bygone era - an old-fashioned knight for whom personal nobility and respect for the enemy are inseparable from the desire to win. In other words, this bastard is hard to hate!"

The LRDG expedition consisted of more than 10 trucks packed to overflowing with fuel, spare parts, military ammunition, food for 30 days for the entire group, medicines and everything necessary. Each truck carried only half a ton of fuel. Also, the expedition was given 4 German SUV's with camouflage paint and markings of the "Afrika Korps". The LRDG consisted of 4 teams: Major Maine's SAS, Captain Nick Wilder's T1, Sergeant Collier's T3, and Jake Isonsmith's P1. All groups left Fayum on October 20, 1942 and descended south to Beni Suef, where they turned west into the desert. Thus, the LRDG, having gone south, bypassed the flank of the Axis troops, then turning west, they had to cross the Great Egyptian Sandy Sea and go out from the south to the Mediterranean Sea coast.

After 4 days of the way, the LRDG was already in the immediate vicinity of the front line, artillery was heard. German bombers and reconnaissance planes began to appear, and a couple of times Storches and Heinkels flew over the LRDG. The members of the expedition waved their hands at them and they took the commandos for their own. By this time, the members of the expedition were very tired, and Axis planes were flying over them. The situation was aggravated by desert sores caused by cracks and scratches in the skin, which were filled with dust, oil, sand, metal filings and grease. The wounds were itchy, painful, swollen and festering.

The final stage of the Battle of El Alamein began. Suddenly an urgent message was heard on the radio: "Stumme is dead. Rommel urgently returns to North Africa. Let's start the mission!" LRDG was divided into 3 groups: main, support, cover.

Covering group T3 due to the appearance of the German division was forced to join the special detachment "288", which was engaged in the detection and destruction of the British LRDG. The group found a thick plume of dust and joined the column. They traveled several kilometers with the Germans and began to build the defense line. The British copied the Germans and pretended that they were digging in, but finding the right moment, the British quickly packed up and drove north, separating from the German special unit "288".

After some time, a liaison truck discovered in the west a steep slope of a plateau, on the edge of which stood a huge camouflage vehicle. Several armored vehicles and courier SUV's surrounded it. The vehicle was dug in, covered with a camouflage net, but its large size made it too visible. Antennas were visible nearby. On the plateau above the cliff, the five reservists of the T3 group of LRDG counted more than 20 SUV's and trucks, as well as the Dorchester car or, as Rommel called it, "Mammoth". They immediately began relaying a message to Jake Isonsmith and Nick Wilder. Isonsmith got in touch: "Hello, Chap, this is Jake. I understood you. Shut up and get in the hole. I repeat: shut up and find yourself a hole. The parcel has already been sent."

The final stage of the operation has begun. A few Hurricanes of the British Air Force appeared and began to destroy everything around. Then 2 more planes appeared and after their raid the group T3 headed towards the "Mammoth", but the groups P1 of Isonsmith, T1 of Wilder and SAS of Maine were still not present. All 3 cars of the T3 group raced at full speed towards the rocks where the "Mammoth" was located. They were moving so fast that no one fired at them, as they were overtaking the alarm signals. Suddenly, the group in the distance saw the main group of the LRDG: SAS, T1 and P1, which had already attacked the main target and marked it with red smoke. But then everything did not go according to the plan. Returning British fighters began destroying moving targets, ignoring the red signal smoke marking Rommel's "Mammoth". And since the Germans were hiding from the planes, their moving targets were members of LRGD. British fighters and German troops mercilessly destroyed the trucks and commandos of the LRGD.

LRDG battle against Afrika Korps


The resourceful Germans, having guessed the purpose of the smoke, rather cleverly used their own smoke grenades and marked the courier vehicles that were standing at a distance with them. The officers inside "Mammoth" left the facility and, like a flock of geese, scattered to the sides, including Rommel, if he was there. The wounded commandos were picked up by the Germans, not realizing that they were British, as they were torn apart by Royal Air Force aircrafts.

As a result, the German camp resembled a scattered anthill, through which there was no problem for the remnants of the LRDG to break out to the south towards the desert. All the cars that escaped from this hell parted. None of the survivors knew what happened to the other members of the mission. When the Germans realized what had happened, those LRDG members who survived were already at a great distance from the German positions.

The commandos had to move mainly at night in their dilapidated cars so that they would not be noticed by the planes. The path was very difficult: damaged cars creaked, they overheated and had to be pushed, the food that was in the surviving vehicles was scarce, the wounded hampered all processes. The journey of all groups took about 4 days. All groups gathered in Bir El Anson and counted less than 20 people. Before they got together, the mission commander Major Jake Isonsmith with a broken collarbone was evacuated along with the rest of the wounded. Major Maine took over command of the general LRDG group.

LRDG in the Libyan desert


By this time, the LRDG members had been in the desert for 19 days. The main goal of Rommel's "Mammoth" remained intact. Rommel was definitely not even hooked. Half of the well-trained commandos who had a dozen sorties to the rear of the Afrika Korps were very stupidly lost. The commando's morale fell completely, the LRDG operation ended in failure, but at the same place a new attempt to eliminate Rommel began. The story of the second attempt will be described in the next article on our website.

On November 12, 1942, during the second attempt to kill Rommel, the LRDG received a message from headquarters that the "Mammoth", which had been attacked by the LRGD a week ago, did not belong to the Field Marshal. It was not a command vehicle, but the former mobile apartment of the fallen General von Stumme. The Germans turned it into a mobile dressing station. When the commandos covered the car with fire, they fired at the sick and wounded soldiers. Later the news came that Rommel had not been in that camp at all. During the raid, he met with his superior, Field Marshal Kesselring, who flew in from Germany to discuss further plans for the North African campaign. Their meeting took place at an Italian villa in Benghazi, 180 km west of the impact site.

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