Almasy was born in 1895 into a Hungarian noble family. After being educated at a British boarding school and acquiring his pilot’s license, he served in the Austro-Hungarian air force during World War 1. After the war, he represented the Steyr automobile company as a racing driver, before convincing a wealthy friend to accompany him on a hunting expedition deep into the Sudanese desert.
This 1926 expedition would change his life, awakening an interest in desert exploration and archaeology. He would spend the inter-war period searching for the mythical oasis of Zerzura, finally succeeding in 1933. He would also catalogue prehistoric rock paintings in the Cave of Swimmers in Glif Kebir.
In 1935, Almasy would be instrumental in mapping the last blank spots of the Libyan desert, work that would bring him into conflict with the British-aligned Egyptian government, who would refuse him permission for further surveying expeditions. With the outbreak of war in 1939, he would return to Hungary as both British and Italian governments suspected him of spying for the other side.
While home in Budapest, Almasy was recruited by the Abwehr – the German foreign intelligence service. His extensive knowledge of the Libyan desert was almost unrivalled, and would stand him in good stead for operations in North Africa. Initially stationed in Tripoli as the second in command of an Abwehr special unit, Almasy advised Rommel’s quartermasters on the desert’s topography.
When his commander was injured during an operation to parachute spies into British-controlled Egypt, Almasy was put in charge of the Abwehr special unit.
His greatest wartime achievement was Operation Salam. Accompanied by an escort of Brandenburger commandos, he navigated his way across the Libyan desert in captured British vehicles, with the aim of spiriting two Abwehr spies into Cairo.
The operation was a resounding success – Almasy was able to insert the Abwehr spies and escape back to Axis-controlled territory. For his efforts, the Hungarian explorer would be rewarded with the Iron Cross.
Almasy in Bolt Action
Count Laszlo Almasy can be included in any Italian or German force fighting in North Africa between 1940 and the summer of 1942. (He was evacuated to German-controlled Athens following a bad bout of dysentery)
|1 officer (Captain) and up to 2 further men
|Almasy may be accompanied by up to 2 men (Veterans armed with rifles) for 13pts each
|– Desert Explorer: Almasy and all units within his Command Radius gain the Desert Dweller special rule (See Campaign: Western Desert page 161)
– Behind Enemy Lines: When outflanking as described on page 119 of the Bolt Action rulebook, Almasy ignores the -1 modifier to the order test for coming onto the table.
The Hungarian count is often photographed in standard desert explorer garb – a khaki shirt and shorts, high socks and sun-helmet. By kitbashing the 8th Army and Afrika Korps plastic sets, you could produce a very striking version of this renowned explorer.