List of special service units (loosely speaking) in North Africa

Discussion in 'Special Forces' started by Chris C, Jun 23, 2022.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Hi all,

    I am reading a book on the LRDG and was struck by this quote from a report written by Guy Pendergrast. I think I've identified most of these units but not all.

    [LRDG has] "found itself more and more in the position of 'universal aunts' to anyone who has business in the desert behind the enemy lines. An increasing stream of commandos (European and Arab), L Detachment, ISLD, G(R), bogus Germans (Buck), lost travellers, 'escape scheme' promoters, stranded aviators, etc., has continued to arrive at Siwa needing ... supplies of all kinds."

    L Detachment - the SAS
    "Buck" - the Special Interrogation Group
    ISLD - I am gathering, based on a simple google search, Inter-Service Liaison Department, i.e. MI6?
    G(R) - ????

    I suppose that Popski's Private Army would fall among the "European and Arab" commandos. Any thoughts or information on ISLD or G(R) and their activities?
  2. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Yes, ISLD was the body used by SIS. See: Inter Service Liaison Department (ISLD) of MI6 and CBME Messages passed between the Inter Service Liaison Department (ISLD) of MI6 and CBME | The National Archives and as it appears to refer to official files, albeit in the Far East: SOE / SIS Cooperation There are numerous open source references and a small number of threads here - using ISLD to search.

    I would add the ILRS, the Indian Long Range Squadron (part of the LRDG) and they have their own thread here: Indian Long Range Squadron

    G(R) is more elusive.
    Link: SCUBAPRO Sunday - Operation Flipper - Soldier Systems Daily and a possible source for the former: peration  Flipper - Commando Raid to Capture Rommel

    An earlier mention:

    Link: Second World War in Northern Ireland

    There is a journal article which suggests it included Jewish volunteers (behind a pay wall).

    Last edited: Jun 23, 2022
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  3. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Well-Known Member

    There's a paper mentioning it here but you have to subscribe to get access; this is the abstract though (my italics):

    The Military Intelligence (Research) department of the British War Office was tasked in 1940 with encouraging and supporting armed resistance in occupied Europe and the Axis-controlled Middle East. The major contention of this paper is that, in doing so, MI(R) performed a key role in British strategy in 1940–42 and in the development of what are now known as covert operations. MI(R) developed an organic, but coherent doctrine for such activity which was influential upon the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and its own sub-branch, G(R), which applied this doctrine in practice in East Africa and the Middle East in 1940–41. It was also here that a number of key figures in the development of covert operations and special forces first cut their teeth, the most notable being Major Generals Colin Gubbins and Orde Wingate.

    Source: Anglim, S (2005) MI(R), G(R) and British covert operations, 1939–42 Intelligence and National Security 20:4

    Edit: however, there's a slightly different version of the MI(R) G(R) relationship on this 2012 thread.
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  4. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    That's at least enough to identify G(R) as a sub-branch of the SOE, which gives me an idea of the sort of things they might have been doing. Thanks!

    I hadn't thought about potential activity in East Africa but that makes sense, until the Italian forces there were defeated.
  5. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Phantom seems missing?

    All the best

  6. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Phantom appears in several threads; this makes it clear it's role was not "behind the enemy lines". See Post 14 in: Charlie Six and Post 120 in: Montgomery
  7. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    All the best

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  8. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Was referring to the OP. While 'not behind enemy lines' is technically correct, this is a bit of a hazy definition in the desert.

    All the best

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  9. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    I can't help that - that was what the man wrote! :)
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  10. MongoUK

    MongoUK Junior Member

    Assume that it was mentioned in a similar vein to PPA being brought up as an addition?

    But yes, as Andreas has said #PhantomWasThere

    They're forever being missed off lists like that.

    I'm fairly sure that they're the first allied special force of WW2, but rarely gets a mention in books, or if it does it's incorrect, yet they were practically everywhere in the West.
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  11. seaforth

    seaforth Junior Member

    Middle East Commando pre Layforce (50, 51 and 52 Commandos), Layforce itself followed by the reformed Middle East Commando, Special Boat Section which came out as the the Folbot Troop with Layforce. Dermot Daly went to Phantom when Layforce was disbanded along with another 8 Commando officer, Daly was captured in 1942, Phantom had operated in France in 1940 and very few made it back. M.E. Section 2 Commando served on ships on the west coast of Africa whilst Force X The Malta Independent Company or the Egyptian Detail operated out of Malta similar to the the SBS although as far as i know they didn't operate in either Egypt or Libya when they disbanded many went on to MEC and later SAS or SBS. 11 Battalion RM, although they took part in Operation Agreement they had had also took part in an operation on one of the Cretan islands and were training for an operation at Sollum which was cancelled..

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