The Hunt for Zerzura: The Lost Oasis and the Desert War by Saul Kelly - review by Robert Irwin

Robert Irwin

The Real Almasy was a Predatory Homosexual

The Hunt for Zerzura: The Lost Oasis and the Desert War


John Murray 288pp £ 19.99 order from our bookshop

Described on the dust jacket as 'the true story behind The English Patient', The Hunt for Zerzura chronicles the achievements of a small group of men who explored the Egyptian and Libyan deserts in the 1920s and '30s, the decades when the desert was being opened up by the car and the plane. Saul Kelly goes on to follow up these men's careers and the use made of their surveys of the Sahara during the Second World War. He has diligently researched the operations of the Long Range Desert Group and those of the opposing Italian and German forces. He provide a very detailed account of the necessary planning, logistical back-up, placing of fuel dumps and so on, from the paper trail of modern warfare, as it has survived in the Public Record Office, the Imperial War Museum and elsewhere. The Zerzura Club, before the War, was composed of men who seem to have stepped out of the pages of The Boy's Own Paper or Chums. Daring, resourceful and patriotic adventurers, they were perhaps the sort of people who needed a war to come into their own.

The Club was an informal grouping of people who were nominally dedicated to finding the lost oasis called Zerzura, hypothetically located somewhere in the remote depths of the Libyan desert and shielded by great ranges of sand dunes. In practice, most of these explorers were interested in more mundane issues

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