The inaccuracies that got The Rat Patrol removed from the BBC

By: H&I Staff     Posted: April 17, 2020, 10:07AM   

Widely remembered for being the first WWII show to air in color, The Rat Patrol premiered in 1966 featuring a ragtag group of soldiers fighting in Northern Africa. Roaming the desert with a kick-ass ride, their mission was simple: "To attack, harass and wreak havoc on Field Marshal Rommel's vaunted Afrika Korps." Being one of the first TV action shows, it was an instant hit. While it did resonate well with kids and action fans of the time, historians and veterans were less than thrilled about the classic WWII show and its depiction of the events it was based on.

As with any show with a significant historical context, it wasn’t entirely accurate with its subject material. While the show starred three Americans and one Brit, the real "Desert Rats" squad that the show was based on was entirely British. Along with this misguided representation of the forces in North Africa, fans were also quick to point out smaller details such as main character Sgt. Sam Troy sporting a hat typically worn by Australian soldiers at the time rather than Americans.

While some were able to look past the show's inaccuracies, others were quick to take action.

"I’ve never heard of the group of American troops said to have helped in [Northern Africa],” said former Field Marshal Earl Alexander, British commander of the Middle East at the time of the conflict. After only airing the first six episodes of season one, the BBC pulled The Rat Patrol off the air. When asked about the removal of the show, a BBC spokesman replied, "It was only supposed to be fiction you know."

Despite being removed from the BBC, the show continued to see tremendous success in the states and went on to air for two seasons, published six books and even a comic book.

While falling on a few inaccuracies, the show is still remembered as one of the first great action shows that would go on to inspire the action genre for decades to come.

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