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Water containers

The Moment of Truce Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol and a few Germans with Dietrich are forced into an uneasy truce and trapped by a large force of irate Arabs.  As they wait for some escape plan to come to mind, Sergeant Troy sends Hitch to make coffee.  Hitch starts a fire and carefully pours water from a large container set by his side. 

"Go brew up some coffee, Hitch."

What about that water-filled container Hitch used?  It isn't a flimsy, that much is sure, but maybe it should have been.  The fellow on the right is pouring from a British 'flimsy'.

During the early desert war the container Hitch would probably have used what was known as a 'flimsy' (or flimsey).  The British called them flimsies for good reason.  The 'flimsy' was a boxy cubical shape made of thin flexible metal that didn't stand up well to the rigours of rough travel or bulk shipments.  Apparently considerable quantities of fuel were lost through leakage from such cans.  

photo courtesy of Jack Valenti of LRDG Preservaton Society (

A British flimsy in use.

Though thoroughly disliked as liquid containers, 'flimsies' were appreciated when filled with sand and used as 'bricks' for defence, or when cut apart to hold a petrol-fueled fire (a benghazi burner).  As soon as the British saw the superior design of the jerry can (which may, despite its name, have been invented by the Italians) for petrol and water, they copied it, right to the last detail, and immediately started those containers into production.  In the meantime they captured all the German and Italian jerry cans they could find.   The American versions of the jerry can didn't come into production until too late for the North African campaign.

photo from the North African desert collection of Prof. Vance Haynes, courtesy of Jack Valenti of the LRDG Preservation Society (

From left to right:  the 'POL' - Petrol-Oil-Liquid - container; British Flimsy; 'Improved' British Flimsy (stronger metal); German 'Jerry' Can.

The can used by Hitch for the water for coffee is definitely a  jerry can.  Is it one that the Rat Patrol 'liberated' from the Germans?  If so, it might have still been painted sand colour because that was the colour the Afrika Korps painted their jerry cans. [And if you've been watching you will have seen that in this episode the Jerry jerry cans were indeed sand coloured!]

(For more information on the history and ingenious design of the Jerry Can see

[note: the above url is currently accessible only through the facilities - it may be slow to load and pictures may not appear. Text is intact.]


Dog tags

The B-Negative Raid

The episode mission briefing
A German bullet cuts Moffitt down and he is losing blood fast.  Troy checks Moffitt's dog tags to see if any of the patrol members have the same blood type. Unfortunately Moffitt has a rare blood type - B-negative.  Troy is desperate to find a suitable blood donor, so desperate in fact that he is prepared to go into Dietrich's camp to find one.

Although Moffitt is British, it is clear in the episode that, for whatever reason, he isn't wearing British dog tags.  Here is what the British ID discs looked like in World War Two. (the shown religion [C of E for Church of England] and identity number for Moffitt have been made up.)

One tag was green/grey and the other a sort of reddish colour. They were made of some hard synthetic material (The Canadian dogtags Suncompass has seen, and which look very similar, are  made of a bakelite material.  It may be that the red one was meant to be fire proof while the green one was rot proof.). 

to see a picture of real British dog tags and others see:

You will note that British tags do not give the blood type (which is one good thing about Moffitt not wearing British dog tags in this episode)


Was finding a donor with Moffitt's rare blood type really worth such gnashing of teeth?  Find out here.


Love Thine Enemy Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol destroy a medical supply convoy but when they stop to investigate, Troy accidentally shoots and seriously wounds a German nurse. Filled with remorse, he is determined to make it 'right' by taking her into a nearby German field hospital.

The nurse clearly has an identity disc, or Erkennungsmarke, around her neck.  The disc she wears is more or less in keeping with that used by the German army.

First issued in 1939, all military personnel were required to wear the oval identification tag at all times.  It was about 50 mm (2") across and was made of thin aluminum, zinc, steel, or tin and perforated across the horizontal.  Above and below the perforation would be listed the same information - the soldier's number, blood type, and the soldier's initial replacement unit.

to see the real thing and for more information about German military identification check out:

The nurse's disc can be seen to have the three horizontal gaps in the middle and the holes at the top and bottom.

If she had died (and we don't know if she did), the tag would have been broken in two.  One part to go to the HQ for records.



The Hour Glass Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol are sent to an Allied field hospital to check out a suspected German agent.  When they arrive, the doctor tells them that the agent has died, but at the same moment there is a perplexingly ineffectual attack on the hospital.  While the Rat Patrol is busy defending the hospital, Dietrich 'captures' the doctor and whisks him away under false pretext.  A sandstorm blows up quickly, forcing the Rat Patrol to shelter with the medical personnel (lovely nursing staff might have been added encouragement).  While they wait for the storm to end, they pick up a German message on the radio relaying an urgent call from Dietrich.  He has had a serious kubelwagen accident...

Radio message from Dietrich

According to reports from individuals who fought in the second world war, dust and sandstorms caused electrical disturbances that made radio communication impossible.   The Rat Patrol were very lucky indeed to have heard Dietrich's radio distress call in the middle of a sandstorm.



The Hour Glass Raid

The episode mission briefing continued from above
...With the approximate location of Dietrich's accident in hand, the Rat Patrol head out into the sandstorm to find Dietrich and hopefully rescue the kidnapped doctor.  They are guided by Troy's magnetic compass.

According to reports, sandstorms make magnetic compasses erratic.  The Rat Patrol were, given the conditions, surprisingly fortunate to have found Dietrich by using a magnetic compass.   No doubt Troy was very adept.  Even if they'd had a sun compass, a device that would not have been affected by fields generated by the dust, it would have been of little use in a sandstorm (no sun).  But even in times of full sun, Suncompass does not recall ever seeing a sun compass in use even though the real Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) made good use of them.

LRDG history

Suncompass:  Of course the Rat Patrol was always very lucky in pretty much everything they attempted - never was a mission lost.  But that's '60s TV - the white hats were always very lucky.  Something the black-bereted Moffitt might have made note of, given how unlucky he often was in his run-ins with the enemy.

Troy with his magnetic compass

Troy's magnetic compass in use in The Fatal Chase Raid as he plots their position in relation to an Oasis where they hope to find critical water.


Suncompass:  Uhm...if he's taking a compass reading from that magnetic compass he'd be wise to first move it well away from the jeep hood (upon which it rests in the picture) because of the effect of the metal on the compass needle.

An authentic Bagnold sun compass.

By kind permission of Jack Valenti of the LRDG Preservation Society to the left is a photo of a real LRDG suncompass like the one that Bagnold perfected for the LRDG (Long Range Desert Group).  This is just the sort of navigational gadget critical to the LRDG but that was never used on The Rat Patrol.

For more fascinating information (and books and photos) about the LRDG and the LRDG Preservation Society be sure to check out:

And to the right is another view of Bagnold's sun compass, photo taken at the Imperial War Museum in London, England.


Sun Compass



Maps - 101

The Hour Glass Raid

The episode mission briefing continued from above
...While the Rat Patrol slog through the sandstorm, narrowing in on Dietrich's location using Troy's compass, the Germans also pick up Dietrich's location and demise from his radio message.  The efficient German radio operator finds Dietrich's location with pinpoint accuracy on the map in their field headquarters.

Here is exactly where you can find Dietrich.

Looking at the scale of the map onto which Dietrich's location was pointed out by the radio operator, it is darn near impossible to imagine they could find him from that.  (The shaded area of the map is the entire country of Libya!) The operator might as well have said to his comrade, "Go find Dietrich. He is about here, somewhere in this 200 square mile area in northern Libya." That the Germans got as close to finding Dietrich as they did in this episode, is astounding, and evidence of their superior map reading skills.

[This particular map shows up in other episodes.  Watch for it.]


Map Reading - 101

The Pipeline to Disaster Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol is sent to find an officer from the British intelligence who had to bail out forty miles north of Hassi Messaoud Oasis [remember that oasis name because it pops up again in other episodes].  He carries, in his head, the valuable map coordinates for a pipeline that must not fall into German hands. Although seriously wounded, he manages to give the Rat Patrol the map coordinates, but with his injuries his judgement is impaired and it isn't long before mutiny is being discussed.

The map coordinates that caused all the trouble are based on the Military Grid Reference System (very like the civil system - UTM).  If you remember your high school mathematics it is a system that isn't hard to sort out because it is similar to a Cartesian graph with x and y axes.

All maps have a grid pattern laid on them with lines numbered from the bottom left corner.

The first four numbers the Colonel gave to the Rat Patrol were easting numbers (x axis) - 8765.  That he gave four and not two or three numerals means the location could be more precisely located.  The second group of four numbers were the northing coordinates (y axis) - 5471.  Easting is always given before northing and there are always an even number of total digits in the map coordinates.

for more details on how to read map coordinates see:


RDF'ing your way to the enemy

Bring 'em Back Alive Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol have been ordered to capture a German doctor who has been doing research with radium.  While Troy makes off with the doctor and the radium, the other three members of the patrol are captured by Dietrich.  When they refuse to divulge Troy's location, he allows the three to escape and then he follows them, knowing full well they will radio Troy.  When they do, he makes use of a gadget called an RDF (Radio Detection Finder) and his skills at triangulation to find where Troy is transmitting from.

Dietrich making his triangulation

Here is how RDF and triangulation may be used to find a radio transmitter.

An RDF (radio detection finder) such as Dietrich  had in the back of the truck can determine the direction to the source of a radio transmission. It can't determine how far it is away though - just the direction. 

To determine the distance to the transmitter, there must be at least two directional readings taken by the RDF at two different known positions.  The transmitter (in this caseTroy) must stay on the air long enough for the RDF to make those two separate readings.

When Dietrich was told that Troy was transmitting, he ordered the operator to take an RDF directional reading.  Then either he moved the truck to a second location, or another RDF was in a separate known location to take a second reading. With two directions given from two known positions, it was just a matter of Dietrich drawing the lines on his map.  Where the lines crossed was where the transmitter was set up.  Now you can see the three points of the triangle of triangulation.  Dietrich then knew exactly where Troy was. Too bad for Dietrich that he didn't also know that Troy was intentionally drawing him into a trap.

Explosives and their many uses

Chase of Fire (pilot)

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol lose one of their number and a replacement arrives in the person of Moffitt.  With a mission to find and destroy a buried petrol and ammo dump well inside German territory, they need his desert skills to help them.  On the way they are forced to halt in the chill of the desert night and Moffitt asks Troy for permission to 'brew up'.  Troy tells him to go ahead and use the TNT.  He says that cut up small it makes a good fire.  Moffitt goes ahead and does just that.  Or does he?

While Moffitt may have been whittling away at TNT for his fire, one wonders why he didn't just use a little of their gasoline to make a Benghazi burner or perhaps use some plastic explosives instead of the TNT.  Plastic explosives (composite explosives named C1, C2, C3, etc.) in use during the war would have made an excellent fuel for the fire, and we know that the Rat Patrol used them. 

Troy using plastic explosive to set a charge
in Pipeline to Disaster Raid

a good site about explosives

Troy clearly asks Moffitt for C3 in the Darkest Raid so they can blow the safe that holds diamonds confiscated by the Germans.


The Benghazi Burner

Benghazi is a Libyan port city well within the North African theatre of action (see Location map) and gave its name to a special sort of stove.  Moffitt in Chase of Fire Raid might have heated water for a brew up by cutting a 'flimsy' open, putting in some sand, and adding petrol to it.  Once ignited, it made a Benghazi Burner/cooker - a good little stove for cooking or making tea.

The 'Benghazi' described at:

[note: the above url is currently only accessible through the archiving facilities of The page may be slow to load.]

As an aside, the town Benghazi was mentioned by Gribbs in The Fatal Chase Raid as a place of departure for some heavy German hardware. As a port city and often in the hands of the Germans, that sounds quite plausible.


A cocktail, anyone?

Fatal Chase Raid

Troy and Gribs with their Molotovs

The episode mission briefing:
The Rat Patrol help a number of American POWs escape but end up travelling with three disagreeable ones.  When one of their jeeps breaks down and they run low on water, they search for water at a German-held oasis.  In their arsenal are the makings for Molotov Cocktails which they make good use of.

Eddie and Tex with their Molotovs

Molotov was the name of the Russian Secretary of War and Foreign Minister during the second world war.  How did his name come to be applied to the cheap and potent anti-tank weapon?  One story goes that during 1941 when the Germans slashed the Russian defences and captured many of their border ammunitions' depots, the Russians had to come up with something to use against the Panzers - and the Molotov Cocktail was born.  Another story says that the Finnish, in their efforts to repel the Red Army during the winter war (1939), devised and even mass produced the incendiary weapon and coined the term 'Molotov Cocktail'.  It is likely that the petrol bombs were in use prior to the second world war - in the Spanish Civil War.

detailed history, and use, with a drawing:

More history:

Suncompass can't help wondering where the Rat Patrol found all those bottles to make the Molotov Cocktails. They were supposedly rattling around in their single jeep.  Are they beer bottles?  Rum bottles? Linament bottles? Or do they have the spare room to carry around a bunch of empty bottles as part of their standard equipment?




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