Unit History: GHQ Liaison Regiment
The unit is better known by its codename Phantom. All ranks wore a White P on a black background on their upper right arm except 2 GHQ Liaison Regiment formed on 29 January 1945, which wore the Gothic P badge.
The principle role of the unit was to gather battlefield information during military operations for higher level formation commanders which was accurate and up to date. This meant that there was a need to use Wireless so that situation reports could be sent quickly to decision makers best placed to use it.
GHQ Liaison Regiment (known as Phantom) was a special reconnaissance unit first formed in 1939 during the early stages of World War II and based at Pembroke Lodge, a Georgian house in Richmond Park, London.
It had its origins as the No 3 British Air Mission in France, 1939. Together with the Belgian General Staff, its role was to report back information about the allied forward positions from Belgian GHQ to the Advanced Air Striking Force HQ so as to pinpoint the changing locations of "bomb lines". These were the battle areas not occupied by Allied troops, and therefore suitable targets for bombs and shells.
In November 1939, Lieut-Col George Frederick ‘Hoppy’ Hopkinson was sent as a Military Observer to the No 3 British Air Mission and subsequently changed the method of operations to focus upon greater use of wireless communications and mobility to provide real-time assessment from the front line. The collective codename for these Missions was classified by themselves as ‘Phantom’, which later became an official designation.
After the Dunkirk evacuation, the unit was re-formed as No 1 GHQ Reconnaissance Unit. In January 1941, the Reconnaissance Corps was established and Phantom was reclassified as GHQ Liaison Regiment to avoid confusion.
Phantom recruited men with various skill-sets – linguists, drivers and mechanics and undertook rigorous training in wireless communication and cipher.
In January 1944, the Reconnaissance Corps was absorbed into the Royal Armoured Corps and with it the Phantom GHQ Liaison Regiment. Phantom was disbanded in 1945; however it was briefly re-born as the Army Phantom Signals Regiment (Princess Louise’s Kensington Regiment) until 1960, when it was clear that technology provided for alternative solutions.
During Operation Market Garden, in September 1944, the only communication with the surrounded airborne troops at Arnhem was from a Phantom patrol. This communication included the famous, desperate, message from General Urquhart that “... unless physical contact is made with us early 25 Sept...consider it unlikely we can hold out long enough ....” Two Phantom officers were subsequently awarded the Military Cross for maintaining these vital communications during the operation.
Deployed as Squadrons in North West Europe, South East Europe, North Africa and Italy, its role was to provide collection, passage and dissemination of real-time information on the progress of battle back to Corps HQ. Phantom information was obtained by patrols, either embedded with other formations or by specially-directed missions by individual Army HQs.
A Squadron GHQ Liaison Regiment, under the command of Second Army, consisted of a Squadron HQ (SHQ) and a number of Patrols (one per Corps and a further ten further forward of Corps).
Each patrol consisted of an officer, an NCO and up to 9 other ranks. They were typically equipped with Norton motorcycles, Jeeps, Morris 15cwt trucks and White M3 A1 Scout cars and carried a 107 Receiver, 52 and 19 sets.
For Operation Overlord, one patrol was assigned to each Divisional HQ of 1 and 30 Corps to land with Main Divisional HQ. Thus on D-Day, three Patrols (5, 8 & 14) landed with 3rd BR, 50th Northumbrian and 3rd Canadian Divisions.
Some patrols undertook parachute drops with the SAS to provide communications with SAS Brigade HQ.
Later, with Phantom efficiency proven and with US forces under the leadership of 12 US Army Group, similar arrangements were made for Phantom to provide communications with US Corps.
Famous Phantom officers included actors Major David Niven (who initially commanded A Squadron) and Tam Williams; MPs Jakie and Michael Astor, Sir Hugh Fraser, Sir Carol Mather, Peregrine Worsthorne, Maurice Macmillan and Christopher Mayhew. Sir Robert Mark became Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police whilst others excelled in other arenas – academia, athletics, horseracing (Sir Gordon Richards and John Hislop).
Added on 23/04/2010
GHQ Liaison Regiment was a specialist unit which provided battlefield information for the C-in-C. It has its origins in a joint RAF/Army unit known as No.3 Military and Air Mission. Following the evacuation of the British Expetitionary Force and the loss of most of the RAF section and some military members of the joint Mission, the unit was reformed and renamed No.1 GHQ Recce Unit.
In January 1941, the unit was renamed GHQ Liaison Regiment. The unit had an influential role in major operations in the rest of the Second World War. One of the Squadrons was attached to the SAS Brigade.