Odds and Ends
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Sun Compass

The Sun Compass has been around for a very long time - the Vikings may well have used them - but in the context of this website, it is their use in the Second World War by those who navigated in the featureless deserts of North Africa that is of interest.  

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), upon which the Rat Patrol is loosely based, was most proficient in the use of the sun compass.   The device was ideally suited to the LRDG because of certain advantages it has over the magnetic compass.  Unlike the magnetic compass, a sun compass is not influenced by electrical fields generated by engines or by the proximity of a vehicle's metal chassis.  The founder of the LRDG, Major Ralph Bagnold, perfected the device to suit the rigours of the LRDG, and a sun compass was often bolted to the hoods or dashboards of the LRDG vehicles to facilitate readings as they navigated through the desert.  To see a picture of a LRDG sun compass click here.

It appears somehow magical that the Rat Patrol managed so well so often without a sun compass - or without any other compass for that matter.  Only twice was a compass ever seen by Suncompass, and both times it was a magnetic one. (see The Hourglass Raid  for one instance.  To be fair, that time was a good time not to use a sun compass, for sun compasses aren't all that helpful in the middle of a blinding sandstorm)

To read more about the LRDG and how they used the sun compass.

Here's a place where you can learn more about the sun compass and even how to use one.

How to build your own sun compass (Link below is drawn from the internet archives so may be slow to appear. Patience please.)



The Fatal Reunion Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol are sent to collect a French rocket specialist escaping from the Germans.  Before they go on the mission Moffitt is reunited with a former flame he had last seen over two years earlier.  They met in France when he was wounded and unable to make his way to Dunkirk.  The French underground was contacted to take him there.

In May 1940 the British Expeditionary Force, sent to defend Belgium, had been driven onto the beaches of Dunkirk on the coast of France.  There they stood, 338,000 of them with their backs to the sea, the German army before them pounding them on the beaches - with no way to escape.  The Royal Navy could not rescue them all and the call went out for British civilians to take up the astronomical challenge of their rescue.  More than 800 vessels, from fishing boats to barges ventured into clear danger by sailing across the English channel to aid the Royal Navy to rescue those soldiers and take them home to fight another day.

Moffitt in The Fatal Reunion Raid seems to have been a straggler who, because of his leg wound, hadn't made it with his retreating army to the beaches of Dunkirk.  Arrangements had been made with the French underground to get him there to be evacuated, and clearly he made it somehow because he eventually ended up in North Africa with the Rat Patrol.


The Basement

The Fatal Reunion Raid

The episode mission briefing continued from above
The Rat Patrol rescue the rocket fuel scientist and into the bargain a rather disreputable German officer is disposed of.  Moffitt bids farewell to his former flame in the Cafe Afrique.

The Cafe where the Rat Patrol met and also where Moffitt and Gabrielle met to say goodbye is the Cafe Afrique.  Although hard to read here, the words say 'AU SOUS SOL'  which means 'basement' or more literally, 'underground'.



The Great Assassination Raid?

The Kill or be Killed Raid

The episode mission briefing
Moffitt, in disguise, is sent into German Headquarters to translate a valuable old parchment that might contain information to aid the Germans. His real identity is discovered before he can escape with the vital information and Troy is under orders to assassinate Moffitt rather than allow him to be taken for Gestapo interrogation.

According to Lee Katzin, director of the Kill or Be Killed Raid, the working title of that episode during filming was "The Great Assassination Raid".   That sounds like as appropriate a title as the one chosen for the episode. 


Haw Haw

The Last Chance Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol discover a German trap that would wipe out an approaching British convoy.  When their radio is destroyed and they are unable to warn the British authorities of the trap, the Rat Patrol find a creative solution.  They decide to transmit a warning via the nearby German radio station where Windsor, a British-sounding turncoat, regularly gives voice to German propaganda messages.

The character of Windsor may have been fashioned after the real life Nazi propaganda radio announcer, William Joyce, known in the Allied world as Lord Haw Haw for his aristocratic nasal tone.  Born in New York of Irish parents, Joyce grew up in Ireland but chose in 1939 to take up residence in Berlin.  There he gladly sided with Hitler to make radio propaganda messages for the Nazis.  One of his better known legacies was the naming of the Australian soldiers defending the sieged city of Tobruk against Rommel's army.  Thinking he was belittling them, Joyce called them "the rats of Tobruk" , but he misjudged the tenacious Aussies who quickly adopted the name with pride.   Joyce was captured in 1945 and hung by the British for treason in 1946.

The Rat Patrol's Windsor's fate wasn't any more pleasant.

More about the complex William Joyce at http://www.heretical.org/British/joyce.html



What's this?

The Street Urchin Raid

The episode mission briefing
Troy is sent into a neutral town to pick up some valuable aerial photographs, but before he can escape with them he is grabbed by the Gestapo.  The photographs wind up in the hands of a ten year old 'neutral citizen' - a junior businessman with thoughts of selling them to the highest bidder.  The Rat Patrol find and free Troy and then set about trying to locate the boy with the photos before the Gestapo does.  The local sleazy bar is the most likely place to find the boy whose sister belly dances there, so Troy and Moffitt settle down to watch the show and wait for the 'neutral citizen' to show up.

The white script for The Street Urchin Raid indicates that a slight deviation was made from what appeared in the on air version of the episode that Suncompass has seen.  Whether this bit was never filmed or whether it ended up on the cutting room floor, it sounded to have been an interesting moment.  Read it for yourself just as was in the script:



Angle - Troy & Moffitt

In the booth.  Troy fidgets, checks his watch. Moffitt is fascinated by the writhings O.S. [off screen/out of shot]  Looking toward the door, Troy does a quick take.

Moffitt.  Look...

Beautiful, isn't she.

Over there.



Then comes the part where Hitch and Tully grab the boy, Tico, as he enters the bar and everyone turns his full attention to the boy.


Speaking of Ersatz

What's wrong with this picture, other than the fact that Dietrich is wearing an American helmet and those aren't 'our boys' under those hats?

Answer at the bottom of this page.

[Suncompass feels quite confident that the ersatz Moffitt  in this picture is being portrayed by Gary Raymond's stunt double, Nick Dimitri.  The ersatz Troy is not being played by Chris George's usual stunt double, Hal Needham, but by an actor credited as Kurt Lewin] 

(from The Holy War Raid)



The Garibaldi Brigade

The Never Say Die Raid

The episode mission briefing
Troy and Hitch are captured by a German patrol and held with intent to force them into relaying false information to Allied HQ.  Patrol mates Moffitt and Tully must find some way into the German camp to free them.  Before they can do that, they pick up two surrendering Italian soldiers who are weary of the war and their allies, the Germans. The Italians prefer to sit out the rest of the conflict in a POW camp.  The Italians announce proudly that they belong to the 19th platoon of the Garibaldi Brigade but they quite happily assist the Allies to free Troy and Hitch.


Surprisingly, there is a possible connection between the real Garibaldi Brigade and the fictional Rat Patrol, and the thread between the two is outlined in, Private Army, a book written by Lt. Col. Vladimir Peniakoff, better known as Popski. 

Popski was commander of a free-wheeling desert unit attached to the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) in North Africa .  His 'private army' was very like that of the fictional Rat Patrol - often autonomous and devoted to spreading alarm and despondency wherever they could behind enemy lines.  Possibly the creator of The Rat Patrol had Popski's private army in mind when he came up with the series.

When the war in North Africa wound down in May of 1943, Popski was sent to Italy to continue raiding behind enemy lines, and there he found assistance from Italian partisans, known as the Garibaldi Brigade.  The Garibaldi Brigade worked with the Allies to defeat the enemy in their country.

Just like the real Garibaldi Brigade, the two Italian members of the 'Garibaldi Brigade' in the Never Say Die Raid  were happy to help the Allies against the Germans.

Sun compass would wager that Dean Hargrove, the writer of this episode, had read Popski's book and that he did not randomly choose the name 'Garibaldi Brigade' for his fictitious Italian unit that was so eager to help the fictitious Allied team - a team very like Popski's private army.

As a related point of interest, Popski's war adventures were a source of considerable intrigue to Christopher George who played Sergeant Troy (TV Collector Magazine No. 94 Aug 1998).  Gary Raymond (Sergeant Moffitt) also read Popski's book, Private Army, when he was preparing for his role as Moffitt.  The connection between The Rat Patrol's Garibaldi Brigade and real Garibaldi Brigade may not be so tenuous after all.

Private Army by Vladimir Peniakoff , 1950, Jonathan Cape, London. Alden Press


Permission to brew up?

Chase of Fire Raid

The episode mission briefing
Moffitt joins the three man Rat Patrol to help them locate a fuel and ammo dump buried deep within enemy territory.  En route, Moffitt finds the desert night particularly cold so he asks Troy for permission to brew up - make a cup of tea.  Troy politely declines Moffitt's offer of a cup of tea, but perhaps they could have found something else that would have appealed to him more - and I don't mean coffee.


'dumping coffee' - from Exhibit A Raid

Our Rat Patrol 'rats' might well have had an option other than tea or coffee that would have appealed to Troy.  The real Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) made room to cart around a stoneware jar or two of rum for the cold nights [we all know now that alcohol is not at all the thing to combat the cold. Tea is much better and perhaps Moffitt knew that.].  Bagnold, founder of the LRDG, insisted that a rum ration be allowed for his men for those cold desert nights, and they were given just that - a daily rum ration. 

See the LRDG rum jar and read a most interesting bit about it at



Lightning Bolts

The One that Got Away Raid


The Sigrune lightning bolt symbol of the SS appeared on collars and signs in a few Rat Patrol episodes.  But were the SS in North Africa during the war? 


Rommel, by all accounts, did not want the Waffen-SS, the armed branch of the SS, involved in his desert campaign and evidently he got his way.  There is, however, evidence to suggest that other branches of the SS were present in North Africa during the war.

The Decoy Raid

The Double Jeopardy Raid
[forget the plot for this Raid? Read Suncompass's review of it here.]

During the war, internment/concentration and forced labour camps were set up in a number of Libyan and Tunisian locations - including one deep in the Libyan desert - where thousands were put to labouring for the Axis powers.  Hundreds died from conditions and illness. Suncompass does not know that the SS ran and staffed the camps, but may have, given their involvement with similar camps in Europe.

In June of 1942, SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer (Lieutenant Colonel) Walter Rauff took up his SD duties as commander of the Security Police (a branch of the SS) in Tunisia.  The presence of Rauff suggests that the SS was, to some extent, active at least in Tunisia.  As well as the forced labour and internment camps, by late 1942 there were plans to build gas chambers in Tunisia, but when the war in North Africa began soon after to turn against the Axis, they were not built.

for more information (including a fuzzy map showing locations of the concentration camps in North Africa) see:

and these sources:


The Til Death Do Us Part Episode

The episode mission briefing
While the Rat Patrol are on their way to meet a contact, Troy is wounded and seeks refuge in the home of a neutral Irish woman.  Her goal is to teach the local Arabs to read and write, and she is particularly pleased with the progress of one young student.  As it turns out, the student is Troy's contact but the lad has also attracted the negative attention of the Germans who 'mark' him with the Star of David.

It is unclear to Suncompass as to whether the use of the 'yellow badge' was restricted to Tunisia or whether it was also used in Libya. It appears from the link below that marking Jews with a 'yellow badge' was a fact in Tunisia from November 1942 (about the time of the Operation Torch invasion) to May 1943 when the Axis powers surrendered in North Africa.

For more, see:  http://www.u.arizona.edu/~shaked/Holocaust/lectures/lec12b.html



If you have read this far you might be wondering at the choice of colours for these web pages.  There is, believe it or not, a rhyme and reason for their selection.  The grey for this webpage, for example, is one of the colours used by the LRDG for painting their vehicles, as are the colours for most of the other pages of this website - the pink of the Meteorology page, the yellowy colour of the Location page, the pale blue of the Geology page, the greenish colour of the Gear page, the plum colour of the Quartermaster page - all are said to have been used by the LRDG for painting their vehicles to help them blend in with the desert background.


Champagne anyone?

The Decoy Raid

The episode mission briefing
A small local village is in the throes of a typhus emergency and the Red Cross is called in to innoculate the populace against the dreaded disease.  All is going well until a mad German SS Captain arrives and kidnaps the Red Cross workers and the valuable serum.  Dietrich approaches him, but to secure the release of the neutrals and the vaccine, Dietrich is forced to make a bargain - an unsavory one. Dietrich kidnaps Sergeant Moffitt and turns him over to the SS Captain, but the officer does not honour his side of the bargain.  It is then up to the Rat Patrol to rescue not just the serum and the remaining neutral, but Moffitt too - and all before the serum goes bad.

Typhus through the centuries has been a horrific killer - in war and peacetime - killing many who lived in close quarters, be they soldiers at war, prisoners in jails, or the poor in slums. More people have died from typhus than killed by bullets or swords in battle. 

Typhus could bring an army to its knees without a shot being fired, but it was not until the early years of the 1900s that the causative agent was finally discovered.  It turned out to be lice.

Many doses of typhus vaccine were distributed to the soldiers and civilians in North Africa and Europe during the second world war, but often the civilian population was protected in another fashion - through the use of DDT, the then new miracle insecticide.

Normally to delouse someone, their clothes were removed and dusted with DDT, but with the modesty of the Arab population that wasn't practical. A solution was found.  By tightly tying  the fabric of their robes at the ankles and wrists, modesty could be preserved and the DDT in dust form could be puffed inside the robes at the collars.  That effectively killed any lice that might be there and by killing the lice, a typhus epidemic could be prevented.

If an epidemic was already underway, a quicker method was needed to halt the disease, and the fastest way was to innoculate the population with a typhus serum. 


The distribution of typhus serum by the Red Cross seems to be what is happening in The Decoy Raid because the town is said to be experiencing a typhus 'emergency'.  Presumably the members of the Rat Patrol had already been vaccinated against typhus so were not in danger of contracting it.

The time component on the expiration of the serum that Troy mentions in the episode might be related to the fact that modern typhus vaccine must be kept refrigerated.  Even if those crates of serum in the Red Cross truck were packed with ice, it would have all melted after some hours, perhaps allowing the serum to 'go bad'.

Knowing what we know now about DDT, the story about the testing of it as told in the url below might curl your toes.  You can also read more details about how the DDT was administered to the civilians in North Africa during the war. See Part 3 of the long text  [note: this url is only accesible currently through the facilities of archive.org .  It may be slow to load.]


Another interesting site about the history of military medicine with mention of typhus


A New Symbol

The Double Jeopardy Raid

The episode mission briefing:
The Rat Patrol are directed to give top secret information to a group of partisans - very young partisans.  Despite misgivings, Troy does as he has been ordered.  He passes along information about the 'big offensive', but soon his concerns become reality.  The Rat Patrol must break into an SS fort and rescue the head partisan before he can give away secrets about the 'big offensive'.

[For a detailed description of this raid see Suncompass's review of it here.]

The symbol painted on the partisans' vehicle as they flee from their rescue mission (pictured above) is a clear indicator of their allegiances.  In 1940 it was decided that the Free France fighters under de Gaulle needed their own cross to stand against the Nazi swastika. The Cross of Lorraine was adopted by all the Free French forces and used on their aircraft and naval vessels - and evidently on the transport of these particular partisans too. 

[Suncompass is not a movie officionado but has heard that the Cross of Lorraine as indicating support for the Free France cause appears in critical places of the movie 'Casablanca'. Watch for it.  Today the Cross of Lorraine is seen often in the global fight against tuberculosis and lung disease.]

For more about the history and use of the Cross of Lorraine by the Free France forces:

the Cross of Lorraine


Not a Good Thing

The Life for a Life Raid

The episode mission briefing:
The Rat Patrol, waiting for an Arabic ally to deliver a top secret map, find that instead of a map they wind up with a very very pregnant Arabic woman.  Not only that, they are being chased by none other than Dietrich, their usual nemesis. With the woman in labour at the worst possible time, they seek shelter and radio for an ambulance for her.   The ambulance, clearly  marked with Red Cross, no sooner arrives that it is blown to smithereens by the enemy.



In 1864, twelve nations signed an international treaty designed to improve conditions for those injured on the battlefield.  This treaty marked the first Geneva convention and from it was born the red cross symbol laid on a white background to represent the neutrality of medical personnel and facilities.  (This red cross is also known as the Geneva Cross. ) By the terms of that first Geneva Convention all those in facilities bearing the sign of the cross are protected from attack.  The same rules apply to the red crescent on a white background.

Moreover, according to  http://www.ppu.org.uk/learn/texts/doc_geneva_con.html the Geneva Convention says, "Medical equipment must not be intentionally destroyed and medical establishments and vehicles must not be attacked, damaged or prevented from operating even if, for the moment, they do not contain patients."

Whatever the thinking was when the intentional destruction of that ambulance was ordered, it wasn't of upholding the Geneva Convention.

For more about the Red Cross today see:


Answer to question above

Guide to wearing Troy's Digger Hat




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this page last updated October 4, 2004
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