top of page

LRDG meeting with Erwin Rommel after attempts to kill him

After an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate the Desert Fox, which lasted from October 20 to December 10, 1942, all the surviving members of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) received rest and healed their wounds. Immediately after Christmas, preparations began at Zell Oasis, and Jake Isonsmith again assumed the role of commander-in-chief of all LRDG groups. Chapman was appointed commander of the T3.

Then, half of the desert groups relocated from Zelle to Hon. In early 1943, the groups split up and began to disperse on various missions. Nick Wilder and his T1 were scouting the Mareth Line. Tinker's T2 team continued to monitor the roads east of Tripoli. Groups SAS and P1 had to be created anew, due to their partial destruction, and there was already a different personnel and commanders. And finally, the group T3 was replenished with 6 new commandos and now totaled 10 people, led by Chapman.

LRDG on the desert mission


The most difficult thing for the LRDG was that all the best German ground units that destroyed the British commandos were marked on the vehicles "288". All "288" Special Forces were on full alert during Rommel's retreat to Tunisia.

On January 15, 1943, the group T3 on 3 trucks and 1 SUV left Hon. On January 20, they joined up with Tinker's T2 in the desert and were tasked with collecting complete topographic information about the passage through the Matmata Hills, which Montgomery could use to withdraw his forces to Rommel's flank and to the rear of the Mareth Line. The journey to the Matmata hills took more than a week, as the groups had to hide in the gorges from the patrols of "288" detachment along the way. After crossing the border with Tunisia, the T2 and T3 groups left for the sectors.

In the passage Matmata unsuccessfully spent a lot of time, as some dead ends replaced others and the group T3 received a new location of the mission: to reconnoiter the Gebes - Kebil road, which would allow Montgomery to strike from the flank of the Maret line. The T2 group was discovered and destroyed by the "288" detachments. Thus, the T3 group was left alone and the headquarters forbade T3 to approach the broken camp of T2 and look for survivors.


The area of ​​operation was constantly surveyed by reconnaissance aircraft of the Axis countries and detachments "288". Group T3 at a certain distance had to line up behind one of the patrols "288" so that the aviation considered that they were part of patrol "288". As a result, another German patrol found a group of British and began a chase in the gorges of the mountains. Aviation was connected, but the planes could not maneuver in the gorges at high speed and eliminate the fugitives. Every turn in the gorges could be the last for the British if they hit a dead end.


As they drove up the hill, the commando saw the entire Tebag passage below, which perfectly matched Montgomery's plans, but there was no further way. It was not possible to report the discovery, since there was no communication equipment, and there was only one way out - to return back through German patrols.

LRDG mission in Libya


The commando turned and rode towards the Germans catching up with them. 2 trucks and 1 SUV rushed head-on into the German armored vehicle. They literally flew along the side of the armored vehicle, which could not deploy the gun and itself could not quickly turn on the spot, so the T3 increased the gap from the armored vehicle. Suddenly the armored car blew up on the T-mine, the commando members saw that the surviving German got out of the armored car, who was immediately blown up on the infantry S-mine. The group continued on its way until they reached a steep cliff. They could not believe it - they had to go back to the place where the German armored vehicle was blown up and then go to another passage.

The group turned around and drove back in full combat readiness. When they approached the armored vehicle, they saw a German without one hand begging them to stop, as well as 3 badly burned Germans on the ground. After some deliberation, T3 commander Chapman decided to stop. A German lieutenant in perfect English asked to help his people. Team T3 did not like all this very much, but the knightly code that prevailed on the battlefields in North Africa, once again found its confirmation.

LRDG turned around and drove back in full combat readiness. When they drove up to the armored car, they saw a German without one hand praying to stop them, as well as 3 heavily burnt Germans on the ground. After hesitation and thought Chapman, the commander of T3, decided to stop. German Lieutenant in good English asked to help his people. A few minutes later, laying the Germans into the car, Chapman asked where the medical station, and the German, already having lost a lot of blood, hardly whispered, pointing the direction. Members of T3 did not like it a lot, but the knight's code, prevailing on the battlefields in North Africa, was once again confirmed.


Having brought the wounded to the tent sanitary post of the Afrika Korps, the commandos transferred the wounded into the hands of doctors. The commandos stood with machine guns in hand, but no one approached them, although there were about 50 people around, and each time there were more and more of them. The British commandos were also surprised by the fact that no one asked them anything. Suddenly an armored car appeared, behind which a staff car was driving. All the German soldiers stood on tiptoe and held their breath. An officer of about 50 emerged from the command vehicle, greeted his subordinates, and headed towards the British. Under his plaid scarf, Chapman spotted the Knight's Cross. Under the sandy goggles, a golden band was visible, which indicated the rank of the general. The bandaged throat indicated jaundice or some other desert disease. Chapman and the crew had no more doubts - it was Rommel himself!


Rommel's adjutant and translator came up. Rommel introduced himself as if he were addressing peers. He indicated his rank and position. As Chapman wrote in his memoirs, it happened so quickly that he "had no time to be frightened." After that, Rommel spoke with the adjutant, looking at the commando members and their vehicles. Rommel invited Chapman to talk close the British truck. Rommel asked with great interest and knowledge about the truck's transmission, engine, car parts, etc. Then he asked in German:
- German or English?
- German, General Herr.


Chapman decided to please Rommel, although he barely spoke German. After that, the field marshal smiled and asked in German:
- You are a long range desert group. Scouting a left hook to the flank of my position. Isn't that right, Lieutenant?
- Sir, let me not answer your question.

Rommel stopped smiling. His gaze, which combined amusement and approval, softened the harsh features of his face. He took a step back and, addressing the whole group, said in English: "I will never forget your kindness to my soldiers." The Desert Fox waved his hand and demanded to bring water and fuel for the British. The Afrika Korps immediately rushed to obey his orders. Within minutes, the jeep and trucks were loaded with dozens of German canisters. Rommel shook hands with every T3 guy and spoke again in English: "I give you an hour of head start, after that, as you understand, a flock of my best scouts will follow your trail."


The team was already starting to get ready for the journey, when suddenly the voice of a member of the commando Panch was heard: "We respect you, sir, but this is not fair." The field marshal turned around, Chapman wanted to shut up Punch, but he seemed not to notice his commander, continuing to address Rommel directly: "It will take us over an hour, sir, to get back to where we came from. Now all your guys are here, and they weren't here before. We shouldn't have helped your guys, sir. If we shot them, we would receive a medal for the destruction of the enemy."

Rommel plans with Afrika Korps


Punch drew himself up to his full height and met Rommel's mocking gaze. Rommel's translator translated his speech in its entirety. After listening, Chapman made sure the translation was correct. All T3 members waited in shock for Rommel's decision and prepared for the worst. Rommel looked at the group thoughtfully and said:
- But after 2 hours it will start to get dark! Do you think this is fair?
- Perhaps not fair, sir, but right!
Chapman almost turned gray and did not wait for the end of the dialogue, said, saluting: "That would be a generous and noble deed, sir!"


Rommel saluted lazily and turned on his heels, after which the commandos quickly sped away from the German camp. On the way, everyone was tormented by questions: "Rommel, when he let us go, assumed that Montgomery's headquarters would receive the data we had collected. In addition, the field marshal did not allow us to be interrogated as prisoners of war, although perhaps he could get some information. Why did he do this?" Personally, Chapman came to a single correct answer - following the code of honor, he could only respond with favor for favor. The most important thing is that while communicating with Rommel, no one remembered that recently he was their target and because of him they stayed in the desert for 50 days, having lost more than half of their personnel.


As a result, intelligence about the Tebag passage played a decisive role in the fight against the Afrika Korps in Tunisia. When the 2nd New Zealand Division made a roundabout maneuver around the Mareth Line between March 12 and 19, 1943, Tinker and 2 of his men from patrol T2 led its forward units behind them.


In conclusion, we cite the words of Chapman, the commander of the T3 group, according to whose memoirs, all three articles about attempt to kill Rommel in this section of the web-site were written: "We have not completed our main task. We didn't kill Rommel. In the end, it so happened that the guys from the LRDG began to respect him no less than the soldiers whom he led so magnificently and to whom he was faithful to his last breath."

bottom of page