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Lost In Libya
Feature-Length Documentary – Directed by Dan Henry
1941: Deep behind enemy lines in the blistering heat of the Sahara, a Kiwi unit of the elite Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) is ambushed by an Italian patrol in the remote valley of Gebel Sherif. In the battle that follows one of their tight-knit unit is killed, four go missing and three of their valuable trucks are left burnt out wrecks.
2008: Three amateur historians venture 4000kms into the Libyan Sahara retracing the footsteps of their wartime heroes in search of Gebel Sherif, the only battlefield where New Zealanders fought during WWII that remains untouched. World expert on the LRDG, Kiwi Brendan O’Carroll, historian Kuno Gross (a Swiss engineer working in Libya) and their Italian friend and fellow history buff Roberto Chiarvetto, share a fascination with the LRDG and its Italian counterpart the Autosahariana.
Lost In Libya follows these modern day history hunters on their journey into the Libyan Desert. It’s no easy ride; every day Brendan and the team battle intense heat, the threat of dehydration and heat-stroke as temperatures soar over 40 degrees. Sandstorms, endless mechanical breakdowns and the challenges posed by the shifting sands threaten their goal of reaching Gebel Sherif.
Lost In Libya is also the story of the men who travelled those same sand dunes 70 years earlier. In 1940, as the war in North Africa intensified, the British knew the only way to make headway was to come at the enemy from the last place it would expect – the uncharted desert to the south. For this, they needed men who could handle heavy trucks over the unpredictable sand, knew their way around an engine and would just get on with the job: they called in the Kiwis. The LRDG’s main objective was to provide detailed maps and information about enemy positions deep in the Libyan Desert – all without being detected. Each patrol was completely self-sufficient, capable of travelling for hundreds of kilometres over barren unmapped country for weeks at a time.
Through interviews with some of the last surviving members of the LRDG, Lost In Libya tells just how effective this relatively small group was. Member of the LRDG’s T Patrol, Peter Garland, now 92, says the Italians called them the Ghost Patrol, “They couldn’t catch us, they couldn’t even see us.”
Veteran Tom Ritchie, 93, recalls how precious water was in the desert heat, “The trucks always came first, it [water] was rationed to less than two litres a day – and you had to share that with the truck, if you ran out you didn’t get any more.”
Lost In Libya also features the only known footage of the LRDG in action being broadcast for the first time.