Phantom/GHQ Liaison Regiment
Formation and work of Phantom
Shortly after the demise of Poland a GHQ Liaison Regiment known as ‘Phantom’ was established. It had a difficult start but prospered under the dynamic personality of Lt Col GF Hopkinson.
Phantom consisted of Royal Signals personnel plus a mix from other regiments all of whom trained relentlessly in Signals techniques. They monitored transmissions from allied and enemy forces and importantly, rather than use intermediaries, they passed the information directly back to HQ. As a result the Commander-in-Chief was continuously updated about the battle and battle positions. He could plan accordingly, including telling air-forces where to bomb. This wasn’t without error, indeed there are many instances in WW2 of infantry capturing a position only to be bombed by their own Air Force under the impression it was assisting their own attack.
Phantom and J Service
Need for efficient signals
Phantom proved especially useful during the battle for France in 1940. The subsequent experiences of Phantom in the Middle East, in Italy and in North West Europe demonstrated the need for essential efficient signals at any and every stage of a campaign. Phantom eventually incorporated the J service created by Major Mainwaring in 1941.
J had the advantage of listening to chatter from enemy tank crews in forward areas and sending what it gleaned back to GHQ in clear, whereas Phantom encoded its messages to protect their source. J performed a vital service at the battle of El Alamein in October 1942, earning considerable praise from the higher command.
In January 1943 J received an official establishment of one Royal Signals Officer and 49 soldiers.
The work of J included:
- identifying bombing targets;
- giving the results of bombings;
- supplying information about the movement and numbers of enemy armour;
- indicating the moral of forward troops on both sides;
- providing general information to enable HQ to make deductions about changes in enemy tactics and tactical planning.
Assisting the USA
Helping form SIAM
J became so successful that it was adopted by the US Army. Two officers from the now significantly expanded J Service were sent to organise a similar service for the American forces known as SIAM (Signals Information and Monitoring).
Closing the Falaise gap
In 1944 Phantom and J merged. Phantom and J were in action on the D-Day beaches and throughout the European Campaign. They were especially valuable at the closing of the Falaise gap when converging Allied armies trapped half-a-million men from the German 7th Army and destroyed it.
In the confusion of battle it would have been easy to attack each other but their work ensured this wasn’t the case. Phantom anticipated the Radio Village and also supplied a squadron to the Special Air Service Brigade, working behind German lines, providing patrols for every British and Canadian Division and every American Corps.
Royal Signals soldiers attached to Phantom
Signaller Stan Hayward
Directly after the Normandy landings, Sig Stan Hayward was attached to the 3rd US Army for the advance through France to Paris. Then on 17 September 1944, Hayward flew as part of Op Market Garden with Maj Hills and 2 other ‘Phantoms’ in Glider 14 to Nijmegen. He saw 5 of the previous gliders wallowing in the Channel and later No. 13, which contained the rest of theL Squadron Phantoms, had to abort over enemy territory. On landing, Hayward’s glider crashed into a telegraph pole. Soon afterwards they had another escape when an officer tried to lead them into road mines. ‘Too bad to recall but never to be forgotten,’ Hayward’s 22 days of bitter fighting included the capture of the 1,960ft-long bridge at Nijmegen, the liberation of an internment camp and the capture of a Gestapo HQ.
Source: Roger So Far
Decoys and deception
Phantom’s duties included providing Bogus traffic for deception. One such event took place in 1941 when, n an attempt to persuade Rommel the forthcoming British Offensive would be in the south rather than the north of the battle area, they simulated the traffic of a non-existent Armoured Car Regiment. The Luftwaffe was despatched to look for the ‘regiment’ but failed to locate Phantom’s well-camouflaged vehicles.
An Enigma machine on display at the Royal Signals Museum, Blandford
D-Day and beyond: PLK/31Signal Squadron
Phantom operated in all the major theatres in Europe and North Africa. From D-Day the squadron HQs were based at each corps HQ and every division had a Phantom patrol. The information was passed using radios and high-grade cipher. Each squadron comprised 23 officers and 187 soldiers.
After the war, Phantom was re-established as a regiment in the TA – becoming Army Phantom Signal Regiment (TA). Phantom was renamed ‘No3 Independent Signal Squadron’ following disbandment in 1948. Its role was taken on by Princess Louise’s Kensington Regiment (PLK – which traced its history back to 1798 and which became part of the Corps in 1947). Today PLK are part of 31 Signal Squadron under the command of 71st City of London (Yeomanry) Signal Regiment.
Famous Phantoms included David Niven, film star Tan Williams, three future professors, two Privy Councillors, a Law Lord, an Ambassador, a Metropolitan Police Commissioner plus sporting and literary celebrities.
Photographer not credited – Modern Screen, January 1960
Source: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80075155
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