The Popski Story


Popski at the PPA base at Rosegg in Austria in the summer of 1945<br />with his DSO and MC ribbons (Jan Caneri)
Popski at the PPA base at Rosegg in Austria in the summer of 1945
with his DSO and MC ribbons (Jan Caneri, Popski Collection, foPPA Archives)

The Popski Story section contains pages about Popski, his Private Army and PPA-related books, articles, comics and personal stories. Anyone who wishes to know more about the background to the Popski story should probably follow at least some of the daisy-chain of Middle Eastern desert exploration and warfare history backwards through Ralph Bagnold and his Long Range Desert Group, past Sir Ahmed Hassanein Bey, Rosita Forbes, Count Laszlo Almasy (and the English Patient), Prince Kemal el Din, Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark, to the Egyptian Survey, to the Light Car Patrols and the Imperial Camel Corps, to Lawrence of Arabia and on to Doughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta (a Popski favourite), to name but a few.

This is a truly rich seam of first-class reading which we would illuminate here in more detail but for lack of resources. As a temporary but effective cheat, we point you instead to the website of a Libyan Desert exploration company, Fliegel Jezerniczky Expeditions, not so much for the trips that they run as for their amazing list of books and articles about the Western Desert[18].

Doughty, Lawrence, Peniakoff: connected by their love of the desert and by their publisher, Jonathan Cape.

Jonathan Cape Ltd
Jonathan Cape Ltd

Friend of PPA Sam Watson's great 2006 image here of an escarpment in the Western Desert shows the stunning sweep of the desert landscape that the Light Car Patrols, the Long Range Desert Group, the Special Air Service and Popski's Private Army operated in.

But start your journey into the Popski Story below, with the Historical Summary written in 1945 by Popski for HM King George VI. You may find it useful, while reading, to see also the full-colour maps from Popski's book, showing where he went in North Africa and Italy.

Escarpment in the Western Desert
Escarpment in the Western Desert. (See Image Credits)

This Historical Summary, written at the command of HM King George VI for his personal reading just after PPA was disbanded, is the original Popski Story. It briefly includes Popski's time in the first half of 1942 behind the lines in the Jebel Akhdar with his Libyan Arab Force Commando, his attachment to the LRDG for the raid on Barce airfield, and then describes PPA's formation and operations in North Africa and Southern Europe from late 1942 to mid 1945.

PPA Jeeps and LRDG Chevy in the Western Desert in 1943
PPA Jeeps and LRDG Heavy Section truck in the Western Desert in 1943 (Popski Collection, foPPA Archives)

It is quite possibly the source (rather than his best-selling book) of subsequent discomfort at some of Popski's claims, as it appears to include some "material results" from the North African Campaign that were not solely PPA's. The number of aircraft destroyed, for instance, seems to include those from the LRDG Barce raid, which is curious, given that PPA's own achievements in Italy are, arguably, much more significant.

Perhaps with the perspective of time we are now able to get a better view on this, not least because, paradoxically, we have considerably more information available to us now than Popski had then. Our best guess so far is that Popski was writing purely to entertain the King of his adopted country, not for publication nor the official record, and allowed himself some artistic licence. Certainly his book (in which we have not found any inaccuracies) does not repeat some of the claims, but we are continuing to research and cross-correlate the LRDG, SAS, PPA, LAF, SOE and IS9 War Diaries, Operational Reports and other Special Forces records, to try to clarify the dates, events and achievements related here.

Regardless, it still makes a great introduction to the Popski Story, and sets the context for the many other personal stories, books and articles to be found in this section.

Popski and his gunner, L/Corporal Ron Cokes, in the grounds of Padua University in 1945<br />just after Popski had returned to take command of PPA after losing his left hand (Popski Collection, foPPA Archives)
Popski and his gunner, L/Corporal Ron Cokes, in the grounds of Padua University in May 1945
just after Popski had returned to take command of PPA after losing his left hand (Popski Collection, foPPA Archives)

R. Paterson, November 2013



POPSKI’S PRIVATE ARMY.
----------------------

No 1, Demolition Sqdn P. P. A.
------------------------------

Historical Summary.
-------------------



1941 - Oct 1942,

Preliminary Phase.

          During this period Major Peniakoff (POPSKI) took several trips to enemy occupied Cyrenaica. At first he operated exclusively with SENUSSI Arabs, with the object of building up an organisation for the collection of military information and to organize politically the Senussi Forces. In the later stages his parties included, apart from the Arabs, up to 4 British officers and 3 British O.R’s, (W/T operators) and apart from the usual intelligence duties they undertook the destruction of petrol dumps.[1]

          The parties were transported by patrols of the Long Range Desert Group from Egypt, through the Desert, to the DJEBEL AKHDAR where they were left for periods extending to 5 months at a stretch. They lived mainly on the country and used local transport-camels and horses. Explosives and other necessaries were supplied by L.R.D.G. patrols coming to appointed R.V’s at intervals of 2 or 3 months. A wireless link kept daily contact with H.Q. Middle East, 600 miles away.

          During the period extending from May to August 1942, apart from providing H.Q. 8 Army with strategic intelligence and bombing targets, the party was successful in blowing up over 200,000 gallons of petrol in several dumps hitherto unknown, the location of which had been discovered through the Arab intelligence organization.

          Incidentally the escape of 45 South African P.O.W’s from the cage at DERNA had been successfully arranged, and 16 R.A.F. personnel who had force landed or baled out in the desert had been sent back to Egypt.

First Organisation of P.P.A.

          In September 1942, when the planning of the EL ALAMEIN offensive was in progress, it occured[2] to Col. Hackett, newly appointed O.C. Special Forces, Middle East, that a unit operating on the lines of Popski’s parties but with bigger means and transport of its own, would be able to do useful service in harassing the enemy rear during the withdrawal, which, it was expected, would follow on our attack at El Alamein.

          The object, at the time, of creating a unit independent of the forces already operating in the Desert on similar tasks was that, owing to Popski’s special sources of information and the collaboration he could expect from the Arabs, it was considered desirable to enable him to choose his own targets and deal with them according to his own methods, which he would not be able to do if he had commanded a detachment of a larger unit with different aims and other methods.

............/2


- 2 -

          Consequently the M.E.W.E. 866/1 of No. 1 Demolition Sqdn was submitted to the W.E. [War Establishments] Commission and finally passed on 10 Dec 42. It provided for 5 officers and 18 O.R’s, 4 armed Jeeps and 2 3-Tonners[3].

          In the meanwhile Popski had taken part in the raid on BARCE with the L.R.D.G. on 23rd September 1942, had been slightly wounded and admitted to hospital in Heluan. As soon as he was discharged he started recruiting and drawing equipment for his new unit, and time being very short he set out from Cairo on 26th November with vehicles and equipment complete but with only 1 officer, 12 O.R.s and 4 Arabs[4].

Origin of the units name.

          When Major Peniakoff (nicknamed Popski) returned to Cairo in August 1942 after a stay in the desert of 5 months, during the last of which his wireless had been out of commission he found that, in the press of events following on the German advance to El Alamein, his detachment had been disbanded, the unit on the strength of which he was, had ceased to exist and the paymaster seemed to have forgotten his existence. When, however, he tried to express a justified annoyance (as he thought) at the state of things, he did not quite receive the sympathy he expected but was greeted with ribald remarks about disappearing into the ‘blue’ to run a private war with a private army for his private pleasure and expecting to be paid for his fun. The name Popski’s Private Army stuck and when the question cropped up of finding for his new unit a designation less ponderous than No. 1 Demolition Squadron, which had been suggested at first, H.Q. Middle East decided that it would be referred at as P.P.A; the official designation was altered to No. 1, Demolition Sqdn, P.P.A.[5] and the cap badge and shoulder flash were sanctioned.

          The cap badge, of Popski’s design, is of silver and represents an Astrolabe, the astronomical instrument formerly used in taking altitudes of stars, the reference being to astronomical navigation which has made practical long range travelling in the desert. It is worn on a black beret. The shoulder flash is of white letters (P.P.A.) on a black background.

          A specimen badge is forwarded with the present notes.[6]

xxx

          A simplified form of the badge, as shown on photograph, is used as the unit sign.[7]

xxx

Phase One - The Desert and North Africa.

          The diminutive force reached the oasis of Kufra at the beginning of December 1942, and made its way North intending to reach the enemy in the Jebel Akhdar but the German withdrawal was very rapid and a few days out from Kufra news was received of the fall of BENGHAZI. So it made its way westwards to keep behind the retreating enemy which was first engaged at JEBEL NEFUSA in Southern Tripolitania. A succession of actions were fought in the FEZZAN and eventually GARET ALY in Southern Tunisia was reached. Two jeeps were detached for a reconnaissance of the western end of the MARETH line and they returned to find that the remaining vehicles and all supplies had been destroyed by two ME 109. The Arabs of Tunisia unlike the Senussi of Cyrenaica, were very hostile to us, and had reported to the Germans   the presence of British vehicles at GARET ALY.

............/3


- 3 -

          The two remaining jeeps were sent on to TEBESSA in Algeria with two wounded men and the rest of the party walked 140 miles to the French oasis of TOZEUR. This trip was more a feat of diplomacy than of endurance as it was found possible, through much talking, to fool some very suspicious local Arabs into believing (or pretending to believe) that the ragged little band of practically unarmed men represented a German patrol on some deep and undisclosed scheme for the confusion of the hated French. Whatever they really thought, they saw fit to provide water, food, even their only camel and to keep their mouths shut.

          The arrival of P.P.A. in GAFSA on the 7th Feb 43 marked the first contact of an 8 Army unit with 1 Army.[8] 4,500 miles had been covered since the unit left Cairo.

          Twenty days later the unit re-equipped and reinforced to a total strength of 25 was on the road once more. Conditions in Southern Tunisia were very fluid at the time and favourable to small raiding parties, and for the next two months (up to 19 April ‘43) P.P.A. patrols were regularly getting round the enemy flank to shoot up vehicles, lay mines on the enemy lines of communication, raid landing grounds and blow up dumps. At first they operated West of Gafsa where one evening they had the luck of finding the FERIANA - GAFSA road full of traffic withdrawing from KASSERINE; later, along the northern shores of SHOTT JERID and later still East of the mountain range running North from GAFSA to MAKNASSY. The plain to the West of this range was in our hands, the plain to the East was German and they range was reputed uncrossable. But an unmarked mule track was fount at EL HAMMAN which, after some work had been done on it, could be used to take Jeeps across, and it provided a useful back door to the German lines for nearly a month when it was discovered by the enemy and sealed up. Owing to the nature of the country and the hostile attitude of the Arabs these raids had perforce to be short; the maximum time was three days but in some cases they were completed in 24 hours.

          An amusing incident occured at SENED after a short fight on 19th March ‘43 when nearly 600 Italians were discovered trapped in an exitless Wady as they were trying to escape over the mountains. This was the biggest haul of prisoners made by P.P.A. till they reached CHIOGGIA near Venice in the last days of the Italian campaign. The whole crowd surrendered to a Sergeant and two men. At Sened also was recaptured a truck which had been lost to the Germans near Tripoli two months earlier. It still bore the unit sign and, though very dilapidated it was still serviceable. It was eventually bartered for a brand new 3/4 Ton Dodge truck belonging to an American unit who wanted a war souvenir.

          On 19th April ‘43 contact was made with 1 Armd Div coming up the coast and P.P.A. reverted to 8 Army. In fact it had never left it, for though, from the time it arrived in Tunisia it had been equipped, maintained and supplied by the 1 Army and had operated in its area, it had remained all the time on 8 Army order of battle and had gone on operating under orders received from them 4 months previously. These orders being in the nature of a roving commission they could be interpreted to cover all the doings of the unit in Tunisia and 1 Army, while being as helpful as could be desired, could dispense with the trouble of managing this strange child of its neighbour in the East.

............/4


- 4 -

          A visit to Army H.Q. at GABES put things back in their right perspective and P.P.A. under its original master, finished the North African campaign at Enfidaville on 7th May ‘43.

          The material results achieved by P.P.A. in the course of operations in the Desert and North Africa were as follows : -

               Planes destroyed   :  34
               A.F.V.s    "       :   6
               Vehicles   "       : 112
               Petrol     "       : 450,000 Gallons
               P.O.W. captured    : 600 approx (all Italians)



            Casualties were : -
               Wounded            :   2
               Captured           :   1 (subsequently recovered at Tripoli)
               Vehicles lost      :   7



Phase 2.   Campaign in Southern Italy.

          Through the summer of 1943 P.P.A. prepared for operations in Italy. The unit was reorganized and enlarged, the equipment improved and the men trained. It was thought that operations on the mainland would start with an airborne landing and P.P.A. was attached to 1 Airborne Div in Tunisia for training in gliders.

          However, eventually the unit was landed from the sea at TARANTO with 1 Airborne Div, its jeeps being the first vehicles ashore at 2000 hrs. on 9th September 1943. By 0600 hrs. the next morning they had visited BRINDISI and on the 11th September BARI.

          They then struck inland in a south westerly direction thus getting behind the German forces which opposed our main troops at Taranto. The object was to find out the composition and strength of these Germans of which nothing was known at the time. By a stroke of luck the German quartermaster was captured with his books and on the 14th September the detailed ration strength of all German units in GRAVINNA, ALTAMURA and GIOIA DEL COLLE was signalled back to Div H.Q.

          The patrol then proceeded towards POTENZA and BENEVENTO with the object of getting information about the German forces withdrawing from CALABRIA. Here again luck favoured them and a German tank officer, very much upset and thrown off his balance at being captured at a moment when he thought himself well isolated from the world, talked indiscreetly to cover his confusion and revealed the identity and destination of the Panzer division to which he belonged.

          Striking north the patrol reached BOVINO, bypassed FOGGIA and CAMPOBASSO and ended in the vicinity of TERMOLI, on the Adriatic coast in the latitude of Rome. It returned to BARI having been 20 days out in enemy territory.

............/5


- 5 -

          At the time there was no such thing as a fixed line in Italy. The Germans had forces round SALERNO and TARANTO, at FOGGIA and further north; they also had units on the move, some going North from CALABRIA, some going South from Germany but these forces were not linked together and conditions were very similiar to what they had been in the desert, so that the old methods could be used and enabled an experienced patrol to move about in enemy territory almost at will. Enemy convoys were an easy prey as they had no protection and no bases to fall back to. Five jeeps travelling along a road at night could overtake a convoy and shoot up the vehicles one after another. They then would turn off the main road and travel along country lanes or across country till they found a quiet spot where they could leager the whole of next day. There was no forces to chase them and the fact that the enemy had practically no airforce available made conditions in some respects more favourable than they had been in the desert.

          P.P.A. cashed in on the information gathered during their deep reconnaissance when, moving up, this time with the main forces, one patrol reported the GARGANO peninsula clear whilst another entered ALBERONA and SAN BARTOLOMEO IN GALDO which were on the route of the Canadian advance to CAMPOBASSO.

          Towards the end of October conditions altered completely. As the battle moved northwards the country became highly mountainous. The German forces, reinforced, linked together and formed one continuous line. It soon became evident that there was no more scope for desert tactics, the line became static and P.P.A. pulled out having been 47 days in action.

Phase 3. Reorganization.

          During the next two months the unit was re-organized, to meet the new conditions. Much heavier fighting than hitherto had to be provided for, which implied more men, more armament, more ammunition and new methods of supply whilst in action. On the other hand, the distances to be covered would be much smaller and consequently the petrol load could be substantially reduced.

          The establishment was increased and the strength rose to over one hundred.[9] All members of P.P.A. were volunteers from other units of the Army, interviewed personally by the C.O. and taken on probation. If at any time they were found unsuitable they could be returned to their unit at the discretion of the C.O. Conversely if any man wanted to leave he was allowed to do so at the earliest opportunity.

          N.C.O’s reverted to privates on joining and officers relinquished their temporary rank. Rates of pay were as usual.

          Although the unit was completely self contained, had its own workshops and held a great variety of stores, by cutting down all dispensable appointments such as batmen and clerks, it was possible to keep the proportion of fighting personnel as high as 65% of the total strength.

............/6


- 6 -

          Though at one time or another the unit had on its strength a few New Zealanders, Rhodesians, South Africans, Canadian and one Frenchman, the bulk of its personnel was from the United Kingdom, with a high proportion of Scots and North country men. Most of them had joined up at the beginning of the war and very few were regulars. Their civilian trades were such as clerks, barmen, bus conductors, commercial travellers, farmers, miners and factory workers. The average age in 1944 was found to be 28.

          Discipline was informal, little notice was taken of dress or deportment, but failure to obey an order, neglect in the care of weapons or vehicles, and carelessness while on operations was punished by immediate dismissal from the unit.

          All personnel were trained parachutists and most of them had learned to speak Italian.

          The unit was organized in : -

          Three fighting patrols of 16 men each in 6 jeeps, commanded by an officer with a sergeant, corporal, lance corporal and two W/T operators.

          One H.Q. patrol nicknamed “Blitz” of which the composition varied considerably according to the nature of the operation, and

          Base H.Q. which included the administrative staff, a W/T section and workshops.

          The equipment of a patrol included six .50 and six .30 machine guns mounted on the jeeps, 2 Bren guns with ground mountings, one Bezooka[10], one 3 inch Mortar, 8 Tommy guns, 8 carbines, 16 .45 pistols, hand grenades, explosives, mines and smoke generators fixed at the rear of the jeep and fired electrically from the dashboard.

          In the later stages of the war a “Wasp” flame thrower mounted on a jeep[11] was added to the armament.

          The fire power of a patrol was thus rather formidable which, added to its mobility and the fact that it generally had the advantage of surprise, accounts for successful engagements against units many times their numbers.

Phase 4. Mountain operations in Central Italy.

          During January, February and March 1944, at the time of the ANZIO landing P.P.A. operated with 5 Army on the GARIGLIANO front. A succession of small scale operations were carried out on foot across the enemy line and in the mountains immediately north of it.

          In June ‘44 in conjunction with the general advance on ROME, a footparty was landed behind the lines at the mouth of the river TENNA on the Adriatic coast. 12 jeeps carried in an L.C.T. should have been landed at the same time, but owing to the craft broaching to on a shoal just off the coast it was not possible to do so and the craft with jeeps had to be abandoned and destroyed, the personnel (less the foot party) being rescued by the escorting M.L.

............/7


- 7 -

          Having returned to P.P.A. base the party set out once more in 10 jeeps two days later, travelling overland. Four days work with the help of local partisans were required to build a track over the SIBELLINI mountains, five thousand feet high, and eventually all the vehicles were got across, one section of the track being so steep that it could only be tackled in reverse. The jeep loads were manhandled over this section.

          The foot party, previously landed, which had done a preliminary reconnaissance of the mountain crossing, joined up with the jeep party. The Germans on the far side of the mountains were taken by surprise and the town of CAMERINO was entered and given to the Partisans to hold till the arrival of our main forces. Two P.P.A. patrols pushed on and repeating the mountain crossing tactics, but this time with less difficulty, entered ESANATOGLIA, GUALDO TADINO, FABRIANI and PONTE BOVESECCA. In the course of these operations all rivers had to be forded or crossed on improvised bridges as the Germans, by this time, had got alarmed and had put strong posts on every river crossing.

          P.P.A. eventually came up against the defences of the Gothic Line which stopped any further progress and the unit rejoined our main forces at the end of July 1944.

Phase 5. Period on Gothic Line.

          P.P.A. operated on the central sector which was only lightly held by armd cars.

Phase 6. Amphibious operations in the coastal sector from the River SAVIO to RAVENNA.

          P.P.A. was made responsible for a section of the front about 4 miles long extending East of the main Rimini - Ravenna road to the Adriatic coast. The area was largely flooded, partly wooded and intersected by deep canalized rivers running between high banks. The coast was a strip of low sand dunes with a good sandy beach. The Germans held the area in depth with isolated prepared positions under the river banks, in farmsteads, haystacks and in the coastal dunes; all approaches being covered by mine fields. They had good mortar and artillery support.

          A succession of landings were made on the coast at night with jeeps carried in DUKW’s. Assault boats were used on the rivers and flooded fields. Jeeps were towed by oxen along flooded roads. Enemy relief parties were ambushed and destroyed. FOSSA DI GHIAIO was intimidated into surrender by bringing up, under cover of the early morning mist, 10 jeeps and opening up at close range with twenty .50 machine guns. Five other positions yielding 76 prisoners were captured without firing a shot by the use of “Cloak and Dagger” methods.

          Under this constant pressure, outflanked, harrassed and puzzled, the enemy though greatly superior in numbers, withdrew steadily, losing men all the time.

          One of the most successful “Cloak and Dagger” operations was the capture of the Caserma dei Fiumi Uniti, a strong position established in a mediaeval watch tower on the coast at the mouth of the river covering the approaches to Ravenna. The tower was first kept under observation for two days by a small party lying under bushes. When the habits of the

............/8


- 8 -

defenders had become well known, a party of 15 was landed at night on the coast. They walked up and hid in a barn. 40 yards from the tower, where they waited till 0830 hrs when the Germans called everybody in for breakfast. Our men followed a moment later, entered the tower, and surprised and captured the whole post without a sound. The prisoners were evacuated and our men organized themselves and waited for further developments. About midday a party of Germans appeared coming from a neighbouring post, they walked up to the tower and were gathered in. At dusk somebody must have been getting worried, for a strong patrol, led by an officer, appeared moving very cautiously. They were allowed to reach the door and were likewise overpowered and captured. These mysterious disappearances disheartened the Germans to such an extent that during the night all remaining enemy posts south of the river were withdrawn. Next morning jeeps were loaded in DUKW’s and ferried across the mouth of the river and RAVENNA was entered at midday.

          In these operations P.P.A. had never more than 45 men engaged. The forces opposing it were 2 Battalions, 45 square miles of territory were cleared and the enemy lost 40 killed (approx) and 152 prisoners. P.P.A. losses were 3 killed and 5 wounded.

          A few day later, on 18th Dec, the unit was withdrawn having been continously in action for three months and twenty six days.

Final Phase. Amphibious operations across the rivers PO, ADIGE and BRENTA and up to VENICE.

          In this phase, the last of the war in Italy, P.P.A. operated unsupported, except for partisans, at sea and on the lagoons, rivers and canals of the deltas of the Po, Adige and Brenta. The jeeps were carried in R.C.L’s raiding craft of very shallow draught, originally designed for inland navigation but which proved to be also quite seaworthy.

          Operations started on the 21 April ‘45 in the area N.W. of Lake Comacchio when one patrol went into action and captured 22 P.O.W’s. The next day the same patrol captured 27 P.O.W’s. On the 23 April two patrols built a bridge over the VOLANO canal, and chased the enemy to IOLANDA DI SAVOIA being heavily engaged several times during the day. Another patrol ran into an ambush and lost its C.O. and his gunner, killed by a bazooka.[12]

          On the 24th April two P.P.A. patrols were relieved by a unit of the Italian Cremona Division.

          On the 26th April, 3 P.P.A. patrols and Blitz in 6 R.C.L’s sailed from PORTO CORSINI on the Adriatic and landed by daylight at the mouth of the PO. The jeeps fought their way overland while R.C.L’s with supplies followed up along the waterways. The next day the ADIGE was crossed and 292 prisoners were captured. On the 28th the BRENTA was crossed and the garrison at CHIOGGIA was bluffed into surrendering. On the 29th CHIOGGIA was entered. The garrison consisting of 17 officers and 670 O.R’s with three batteries of 88mm guns, coastal batteries, 120 20mm guns and supplies for three months were somewhat disconcerted when they discovered they had surrendered to 12 men in 5 jeeps. They cheered up a little when the rest of P.P.A. drove in later in the day, but they kept on asking when the troops would arrive.

............/9


- 9 -

          The next day the area between Chioggia and Padova was cleared.

          On the 6th May a P.P.A. patrol entered TARVISIO on the Austrian border.

          On the 7th May the war with Germany was over.

          On the 14th September 1945 P.P.A. was disbanded.







---------------







          Altogether 191 all ranks have been on the rolls of P.P.A.[13]

          Casualties : -

                              Officers     O.R’s     Total

          Killed                 2           8         10     [14]

          Wounded                5          12         17

          Prisoners              -           1          1     [15]



          Awards : -

          D.S.O. 1, M.C. 5, D.C.M. 1, M.M. 8,[16]

          Mentions in despatches 5.[17]





-------------------------




© Crown Copyright
Reproduced by kind permission of The National Archives
20 Nov 2013


Further information
Notes: 
  1. ^ This was the Libyan Arab Force Commando.
  2. ^ The text has been reproduced and paginated as found in the original document, including spelling and punctuation. This means that underlined text is not an indication of a weblink.
  3. ^ It actually provided for 8 armed Jeeps and 4 3-tonners - enough for two patrols. See PPA's first War Establishment
  4. ^ Popski's book only mentions 3 Arabs, but the PPA Card Index lists 5.
  5. ^ The unit’s official designation has never included the words “Long Range“. This error appears to have originated in Brigadier J.W. Hackett’s foreword to the second edition of Popski’s book, and has subsequently been reproduced in other publications. See Myths and Goofs.
  6. ^ This PPA cap badge may still be in the Royal Archives, although the original document was returned in December 1945, having been read almost immediately by HM King George VI. We have used instead a photo from the foPPA Archives' Popski Collection.
  7. ^ The photograph referred to is not in the file in The National Archives but is almost certainly a copy of the one in the foPPA Archives' Popski Collection, showing the front grill of a PPA jeep.
  8. ^ Actually, PPA were pipped at the post by a couple of days by a small group of SAS who had been on a similar mission further North, suffering a similar disaster, including the capture of their c/o, Major David Stirling.
  9. ^ Actual Establishment was 80 all ranks, but various strays were adopted along the way. See PPA's second War Establishment.
  10. ^ This is the only mention of a Bazooka being a regular part of a patrol's weaponry, since Popski agreed to test one of these new weapons for the US 2nd Corps in Tunisia.
  11. ^ There have been persistent but erroneous claims that there was more than one Wasp jeep in PPA. See Myths and Goofs.
  12. ^ Actually the German equivalent: a "Panzerfaust".
  13. ^ This total comes from the 191 cards in the PPA Card Index. However, research in the PPA War Diary, Major Jean Caneri’s Personnel Records and various other PPA books and documents, has established that the total number of all ranks that have been members of PPA is 251 (to date).
  14. ^ There are 15 known PPA deaths up to the end of 1946. Popski’s book lists 12 men in the PPA Roll of Honour – two more Other Ranks killed than shown above. A further three others are not included above, nor in the Roll of Honour because they died after leaving PPA or after PPA was disbanded. See PPA Roll of Honour.
  15. ^ An unpublished PPA veteran’s story in the foPPA Archives, so far uncorroborated, claims that several members of one patrol were taken prisoner behind the lines in Italy, held overnight, then freed the next day when their captors were killed in a counter-attack.
  16. ^ The correct total for Military Medals is 10: it's not clear why Lance-Corporal Michele Cahill's MM was not included. See PPA Honours and Awards.
  17. ^ The correct total for Mentions in Despatches is 14. See PPA Honours and Awards.
  18. ^ The "Western Desert" was, in one definition, the geographical area (from the perspective of the British Army Middle East HQ in Cairo) to the West of the Nile, up to the border with Libya, while the "Eastern Desert" encompassed the area East of the Nile up to the Turkish border, including what is now Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran (Persia as was). Sometimes the Western Desert is taken to further include all of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and the Fezzan (the three main parts of Libya) and parts of Northern Sudan, and is therefore more-or-less synonymous with the Libyan Desert, but also confusingly known as the Eastern Sahara (oh, do keep up at the back). This was part of General Auchinleck's problem in 1941/42: the sheer size of the area he was defending. The whole of India would fit into the (wider) Western Desert alone, which also gives some idea of the scale of the operational problems faced by the LRDG, SAS and PPA.
Bibliography: