What did you just say?

The Rat Patrol characters at times say the most peculiar and perplexing things. 
What might be buried within their words and what does it all mean?


"Spread a little alarm and despondency."

The Kingdom Come Raid

The episode mission briefing
Private Mark Hitchcock is cut down by a bullet fired by a cowardly compatriot and left for dead while his attacker escapes capture.  The rest of the Rat Patrol track down the escaping G.I., and come nightfall they locate the Germans and the truck in which the captured Hitch is lying unconscious.  Troy and Moffitt scan the sleeping enemy encampment prior to infiltration and Moffitt suggests that they, "Spread a little alarm and despondency." 

That particular expression was apparently just coming into fashion during the second world war as quoted by Popski (Lt. Col. Vladimir Peniakoff, D.S.O., M.C., commander of a special duties squadron working behind enemy lines in conjunction with the Long Range Desert Group.) in his book, Private Army*.

"I was pressed to return urgently to the theatre of my operations and to prepare myself to spread 'alarm and despondency' (an expression that was just coming into fashion) as soon as I would be given the sign....That night a message came on the wireless for me.  It said: "SPREAD ALARM AND DESPONDENCY."

*Private Army by Vladimir Peniakoff , 1950, Jonathan Cape, London. Alden Press [an excellent read and recommended by Suncompass]


"Two years, five months, and eleven days."

The Fatal Reunion Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol arrive in a small town for a midnight mission inside German territory to collect an escaping French rocket scientist.  Before the mission Moffitt happens across an old flame he knew in France about the time of Dunkirk.  When he meets her again he says that it has been "Two years, five months, and eleven days" since he last saw her just before the French underground smuggled him to the coast at Dunkirk.

What does this line tell us, if anything? [and who cares?  Well, would you be reading if you weren't a little curious?]

The Rat Patrol rarely makes direct mention of dates in the episodes so this in a somewhat unique opportunity to pin down an approximate date for the fatal reunion. 

The withdrawal at Dunkirk happened between May 26 and June 5, 1940.  Simply adding two years, five months and eleven days  to that period brings the episode time to somewhere between November 6 and November 16, 1942.   This puts the Fatal Reunion just after the second Battle of Alamein (commenced Oct 23, 1942) and possibly coincides with the Operation Torch invasion (November 8, 1942) that brought the American army into the North African war.


"He was in England when war was declared.  The next day he joined the RAF."

The Field of Death Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol discover, quite by accident and somewhat ominously, a photograph of Troy and his brother David, in the hands of a local Arab. Soon after, they find that David has been posted to North Africa with his RAF unit. When asked, Troy says about his brother, "He was in England when war was declared.  The next day he joined the RAF."

Nick George as David Troy
(Field of Death Raid)

David Troy, like his brother Sam, is American but he opted to join the Royal Air Force (RAF) the day after war was declared in England - September 3, 1939.   He wasn't alone.  In Canada and Britain, approximately 15,000 Americans joined the RAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), where they were assimilated into the various flying units.

A year later, the Eagle Squadrons, manned entirely with American pilots, were formed and flew as units of the RAF.

[Doubtless you knew that Nick George was real life brother to Christopher George who played Sam Troy.]


"Coptic - old form."

The Kill or Be Killed Raid

The episode mission briefing
Sergeant Moffitt impersonates a German specialist in ancient languages who has been ordered from Germany on a special mission to translate a valuable parchment.  Moffitt, in disguise, enters German HQ to translate the parchment purported to pinpoint the location of a critical water source, the discovery of which may allow the Germans to drive the Allied forces out of Africa.  He looks at the parchment, purses his lips and then nods slightly as he says, "Coptic - old form."

Here is the ancient parchment.

But is it really Coptic?

Perhaps not. 


This is what Coptic looks like.  
Coptic is read from left to right.



"Well, you had your chanceand missed it."

The Kill or Be Killed Raid

The episode mission briefing continued from above...
... Moffitt, in disguise, completes the translation of the parchment in private, memorises the vital information, and destroys the parchment, but before he can escape, his true identity is discovered.  Rather than allow Moffitt to be interrogated into giving up the location of the water source,Troy has orders to kill Moffitt. A chance piece of luck allows Moffitt to escape and the water source is then denied the Germans but saved for Allied use. At the very end of the episode, Moffitt asks Troy if he'd really have killed him. When Troy grimly refuses to answer, Moffitt says with a small smile, "Well, you had your chance—and missed it."


"Well, you had your chanceand missed it."

Gary Raymond (Sergeant Moffitt) came up with that particular line and at the Long Range Desert Convention to which he was an honoured guest, he related the story behind it.  He said the line came from a famous theatrical anecdote.  The story goes...

One night a Royal Shakespearian company, about to perform a production of Hamlet, was in turmoil because the lead had called in sick and the understudy was unavailable. Another member of the company claimed he knew all the lines and could play the part.  He assured the director he could do the job, so he was given the nod.  The actor did the whole play - a long play with many lines - and when he came off after the curtain he said to the director, "What did you think? How did I play 'Hamlet'?"  The director replied, "You had your chance—and missed it."


"Notice the surface pattern.  It runs against the prevailing Khamseen."

Chase of Fire (pilot)

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol must locate a petrol and ammunitions dump buried in the desert well behind enemy lines and destroy it before the Germans can reach it.  The difficulty for the Rat Patrol lies in the fact that the desert changes daily - she "is like a lady.  She puts on a new face every day." Despite the surficial changes in the landscape, Moffitt locates the dump location, and as he scatters a handful of sand, he says, "Notice the surface pattern.  It runs against the prevailing Khamseen."

Khamseen - Chamsia, Chamsin, Kamseen, Khamsin - what's in a name? The Khamseen is the Egyptian name for the winds that blow hot and dry from the deep desert for fifty days in the spring of the year.

For more about the Khamseen, see the Meteorology page. 

"It runs against the prevailing Khamseen"

Some surface patterns evident - ripples

The surface pattern Moffitt refers to is no doubt a reference to the particular rippled pattern evident in the sand overlying the buried dump.  For more about surface patterns and sand conditions see the Geology/Topography page.



"This beautiful girl came dancing over the hill doing the...Lindy."

The Moment of Truce Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol are forced into an uneasy truce with the enemy in the form of Dietrich and a special emissary from the German propaganda ministry.  With a massive horde of Arabs running amok, Allies and Germans join forces to defend themselves against almost sure annihilation.  While they consider a plan of escape, Tully enthusiastically wastes ammunition by firing at nothing, and when Troy glares at him, Tully says in his defence, "This beautiful girl came dancing over the hill doing the...Lindy."

The Lindy Hop (also known as the Jitterbug) is a swing/jazz dance that came out of Harlem in the late 1920s and is most associated with the Savoy Ballroom.  It is said that the name came from Charles Lindbergh's flight to Paris in 1927.  Newspaper headlines of the day read, "Lindy Hops the Atlantic."  It isn't much of a stretch to the name of the hot dance craze of the time.

Suncompass must admit to wondering what Tully was doing by shooting at a dancing girl, but that's just the way Suncompass is.


 "For Sergeant Moffitt - a Ghibli - made with equal parts of rum, lime juice
and whiskey."

From: The Gun Runner Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol are captured by a traitorous American who is in the business of selling armaments to the Germans.  The gun runner is tired of the Rat Patrol destroying his merchandise and he takes them captive, hoping to convince them that they should side with him.  In an attempt to charm the two Allied sergeants Ned offers them drinks.  For Troy, he offers cold beer with just a dash of salt. "For Sergeant Moffitt - a Ghibli - made with equal parts of rum, lime juice—and whiskey." 

Steve Franken as Ned Cunningham
with Ghibli in hand

Although unable to find any reference in the real world to a drink called a 'Ghibli', it is doubtful that the namefor the drink was just a random choice.  It is a name that is very well suited to The Rat Patrol and to this episode in particular.

The drink may have been named for the Ghibli, the hot fierce winds that blow ill from the desert and which were blowing about the outside of the comfortable dwelling as the gun runner offered his unwilling guests their drinks.  Ghibli is the Arabic word for ‘south' from which direction its seasonal, violent winds blow.

For more about the desert winds known as Ghibli and how they relate to the Khamseen, see the Meterology page.

For anyone tempted to recreate the Ghibli drink, experimentation has shown that it is best prepared by shaking the ingredients with lots of finely crushed ice.  The finishing touch of applying sugar to the glass rim makes for a perfect drink to sip while sitting by the oasis on a desert-hot day.  No drinking Ghiblis and then driving jeeps though.  Cheers!


"... in a manuscript discovered by Tischendorf in the monastery at Mount Serbil."

The Dare Devil Rescue Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol await for the arrival of Moffitt's father, who has a plan to find an ancient Roman road across the desert that will help the Allies move men and gear.  While they wait in a remote location for the senior Moffitt's plane to arrive, the four members of the patrol query Moffitt junior about the origins of his father's plan.  Moffitt replies, "He first found reference to the road in a manuscript discovered by Tischendorf in the monastery at Mount Serbil." That explanation is met with considerable amazement and apparent amusement.

Tischendorf was a German scholar who, in 1844, when touring the East looking for ancient manuscripts, stopped at the monastery of St. Catherine at Mt. Sinai. There he stumbled across an ancient Greek manuscript now recognised as being one of the most important manuscripts of the Bible.  It was ultimately given to the Tzar of Russia and then, in 1933, was sold to the British Museum. 

Did Moffitt's father come across reference to the ancient Roman road in that manuscript?  Who knows, and why did the name Tischendorf meet with such amazement?

"Tischendorf ?!"
(from Dare Devil Rescue Raid")

Suncompass knows where Mt. Sinai is, but not where Mount Serbil  (Cerbil? Cerble?) is, if there is such a place. If anyone knows, Suncompass would be interested in hearing.



"I am growing tired of German coffee, which is execrable!"

The Trial by Fire Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol, on a mission to blow up a German ammo dump stored in the wine 'cellar' of an Arab vintner, become trapped.  The proximity of the explosives makes it hazardous for anyone to use firearms to scoop them out, but Dietrich thinks he has discovered a solution in using the vintner's ancient ceremonial weapons (bows and arrows).  The vintner is decidedly sick of the whole war tromping regularly across his home and remarks that, "I am growing tired of German coffee, which is execrable."

Perhaps the coffee he was offered wasn't real coffee at all but ersatz coffee? Ersatz is a German word meaning substitution or replacement.  In many areas of Europe, including Germany, real coffee wasn't available during much of the war (it is said, however, that the British dropped packets of coffee into the Nazi-occupied countries so the locals would long for the Allies' arrival). 

Ersatz coffee at that time might have been made of ground chicory or roasted grain (mainly barley), dandelion roots, or acorns depending on what was available.  Suncompass has no idea whether the German soldiers had plentiful supplies of real coffee or whether they had to make do with ersatz.  Neither does Suncompass know if there was a general coffee shortage in North Africa during the war, but it sounds like whatever they were serving the vintner, he didn't care for it. 

The Arab wine maker might have had good reason to detest that his home was being battered around like a shuttlecock between two opposing badminton teams.  The number of armies tracking back and forth through his property might have been many.  See location.


"As a matter of fact I wrote my doctor's thesis on the ecological structure of the nomadic tribes."

Chase of Fire Raid (pilot)

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol lose one of their group to a German bullet and they are assigned an Englishman as replacement for a special mission. Troy, reluctant to take on a man he doesn't know, questions the need for Moffitt's skills.  Moffitt quite bluntly informs Troy that he has desert and Arab expertise that they will need. He says, among other things, "As a matter of fact I wrote my doctor's thesis on the ecological structure of the nomadic tribes."  Troy sidesteps the tricky question of what the heck Moffitt is talking about and goes to a biting comeback. "Smashing!"  And that marks the end of his immediate objections.

ecological structure
(Chase of Fire Raid)

Ecological Structure seems to relate to the fact that different groups of a species - be that bacteria or people - will, over time, tend to adapt themselves to fit a particular ecological niche.  The environment acts on the structure of the group, forcing it to evolve to suit the surroundings, just as the group chooses the environment that suits its needs.

According to the url below, there are three basic ecological structure types in the Middle East - Bedouin (nomadic), rural, and urban (with transition ecological structures between each).  The general trend is usually from Bedouin to urban, although the reverse can happen.

Evidently Moffitt studied the nomads and analysed the tribal structural elements that arose due to their interaction with the desert environment. 

Search the page for 'ecological structure'

Suncompass is wading way out of her depth here and that should be kept in mind.  (corrections and clarifications are welcome from those who have knowledge on this subject)


"Hitch, what blood type are you?" asked Troy.

B-Negative Raid

The episode mission briefing
The Rat Patrol head out to do what they do most days - destroy a German convoy.  But this time it's different.  Moffitt takes a bullet, is seriously wounded and losing blood.  Troy, anxious to find a compatible blood donor for Moffitt, questions his men.  "Hitch, what blood type are you?" 

"O. O-positive," replied Hitch.
"Same," said Tully. "O-positive."

Japanese researchers believe that one can analyze personality and likely occupation by blood type.

blood type O-positive

Personality of Blood Type O person*

You want to be a leader, and when you see something you want, you keep striving until you achieve your goal. You are a trendsetter, loyal, passionate and self-confident. Your weaknesses include vanity, jealousy and a tendency to be too competitive.

Occupations most likely for the type O blood**

baseball player

romance writer

Could Tully and Hitch really have the same blood type?  Suncompass thinks their personalities are distinctly different. But Suncompass can envision Hitch as a baseball player or a politician, and maybe Tully as a gambler or a romance writer (?). :-)

"I'm A-positive," said Troy.

blood type A-positive

Personality of Blood Type A person*

You like harmony, peace and organization. You work well with others and are sensitive, patient and affectionate. Among your weaknesses are stubbornness and an inability to relax.


Occupations most likely for the type A blood**

police officer
bus driver

gossip columnist

Boy does this sound like Troy to Suncompass. (errr...perhaps not entirely)
Can't you see Troy as a police officer? But a gossip columnist?

 He looked at Moffitt's dog tags.  "Moffitt's B-negative."

blood type B-negative

Personality of Blood Type B person*

You're a rugged individualist who's straightforward and likes to do things your own way.  Creative and flexible, you adapt easily to any situation. However, your insistence on being independent can sometimes go too far and become a weakness.

Occupations most likely for the type B blood**

talk show host
military leaders


Suncompass could imagine Moffitt as a photographer or maybe a psychiatrist or detective. 
Does the personality type fit Moffitt or does it sound more like Troy?

Suncompass wonders what Dietrich's blood type might be.

* The blood type personalities have been quoted from:

** The occupations for each blood type are quoted from: www.bloodservices.ca
[At that site go to 'classroom' and then on the right side, click on 'What's your type?' for the occupations information.]

Oops, there's a flaw in the B-negative Raid related to the blood transfusion need.  Did you spot it? See more about that bloody bomb here.


"Type B-negative," said Troy.

"That's rather uncommon, sergeant," said Dietrich.

B-Negative Raid

The episode mission briefing continued from above
...Troy's men don't have the B-negative blood type that Moffitt desperately needs. Troy is forced to enter a nearby German camp and demand help.  He explains Moffitt's blood type to Dietrich, who replies,"That's rather uncommon, sergeant."

How uncommon is Moffitt's B-negative blood really?

Statistics for the blood types:

Blood type O-positive
(Hitch and Tully) 

38% of the population has this blood type with the Rh-positive factor*

Blood type A-positive (Troy)

34% of the population has this blood type with the Rh-positive factor

Blood type B-negative (Moffitt)

2% of the population has this blood type with the Rh-negative factor.  If Moffitt had been Rh-positive, he'd have had a better chance of finding a match because 9% of the population is B-positive.

Lots of interesting blood information plus the statistics given above are from: 
http://www.craigmedical.com/blood_typing_facts.htm  [about half way down the page]

*What is this positive negative Rh factor thingie in blood? 

The Rh (from Rhesus) factor is a component (antigen) present on the red blood cells of those people with Rh-positive blood.  The Rh factor in blood was identified in 1939-40.  Like other characteristics, the Rh factor one has is inherited from the parents, and most of the world (about 85%) has the Rh factor on their blood so most people are said to be Rh-positive (just like Troy, Hitch and Tully). Those who do not have those antigens on their blood cells are said to have Rh-negative blood (like Moffitt).  The lack of this factor does not incapacitate those without it so don't worry if you have Rh-negative blood (unless you are Moffitt and need a blood transfusion. . . or should you be as worried as everyone in the B-Negative Raid was?  See here to find out.). 


"State your case, Captain.  And in English if you please."

Not surprisingly, with a German Captain as one of the stars of the Rat Patrol there was bound to be some dialogue that was not in English.  With the help of a friend, and a kindly interpreter, the German dialogue in some Rat Patrol episodes was deciphered and shared with Suncompass.  To read what Hauptmann Dietrich and some others said in German, take up your field glasses and take a peek here.




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