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Wednesday 25th April | TV ONE

Lost in Libya

Saturday April 25 at 1pm

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.  With night approaching the survivors are forced to escape into the desert.

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.  New Zealander and world expert on the LRDG, 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 LRDG and its Italian counterpart The Autosahariana. For years, they have corresponded, exchanged information and dreamt of travelling to Libya to locate the site where the two forces met. They are finally on their way.

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. The LRDG was an elite force, expert in navigation, desert warfare and survival. 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 from deep behind enemy lines 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.

Producer Amanda Evans says making Lost In Libya gave her a unique insight into the challenges faced by the members of the LRDG 70 years ago. "Filming in such extreme conditions tested everyone involved to the limit. The first day of filming the temperature hit 43 degrees; the crew could only imagine what it must have been like for the men in the LRDG out there for weeks on end under constant threat of detection by the enemy."