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Phantom in Normandy

Planning and Preparation for D-Day

From 1943, preparations for D-Day were gathering momentum. Phantom continued to take part in training exercises. They won strong support from those who witnessed their service in Europe and Africa but Montgomery now head of 21st Army Group and perhaps recalling his experience of Phantom in Tunisia and Italy remained sceptical and suspicious, preferring the orthodox reconnaissance which was under his own control. Hopkinson had left Phantom in 1941. The commanding officer for the Normandy campaign was Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Henry ‘Sandy’ McIntosh. He was widely regarded as ‘charismatic, a gifted orator, with a lively sense of humour and a decisive personality’.


A turning point came when Phantom provided a J or listening service for an exercise by a General who had just returned from the 8th Army. Specialist wireless operators listened in to frequencies used by the most advanced elements.   Reports of everything they heard (regardless of accuracy) were transferred and plotted on maps thus providing an “extraordinary moving patchwork of exactly what was going on”. That listening service coupled with the traditional intelligence role of  Phantom, made them stand out from traditional reconnaissance units and was to become the key to their success. In a nutshell, they gained information by liaison, intercept (J) or personal reconnaissance.


However, Montgomery remained sceptical. After a tense meeting with the commander of E Squadron, the Squadron was broken up. Phantom agreed to the inclusion of his J or listening service and that none of their  communications would be sent above Montgomery.


As plans for D-day developed, it was the Canadians who insisted that Phantom were included and after some resistance even threatened to go to the Canadian Government to get their way. Montgomery’s assistant Dujarding was shaken by this and agreed to observe Phantom at work on training exercises. He was immediately convinced and Phantom were allocated what would turn out to be a pivotal role in the invasion. A and B Squadrons were deployed on to Normandy to support the D-Day landings and were to be attached to the British and Canadians respectively.


A Squadron who was split into numbered patrols while B Squadron patrols were named after birds - Kite, Tern etc.


Each Patrol consisted of an officer, an NCO and up to 9 other ranks.

Some Phantoms were to be parachuted into France with the SAS before or on D-Day, others would support the assault troops, landing on Sword, Juno and Gold Beaches.


At 7:30   Lt Moore’s patrol was dropped with 1 SAS Regt 25 miles NW of Autun in the Morvain Mts. He established and maintained excellent W/T contact; he helped form a Main Base there; he was re-supplied successfully and passed back valuable bomber targets.

11-30         Capt. Sadoine’s patrol was dropped with 1 SAS Regt 70 SE of POITERS in HAUTE VIENNE; he established and maintained excellent W/T contact and formed a subsidiary Base; he has successfully re-supplied during June; he passed back many Bomber targets, which were bombed including 11 petrol trains.


Second Army Phantom Principles


The following four main principles for the employment of a Phantom Squadron with an Army were laid down at a lecture given to Phantom Officers by a senior SO of Second Army HQ some weeks before D-Day.


• Patrols must be flexible and capable of being regrouped in any manner or sent off at short notice on any task decided by the O of S or GSO 1 Ops at Army HQ, in consultation with the Squadron Commander.

• Patrol Officers must always state the source of their information, and before sending back a message get it approved by the Operations Staff of the formation to which they are allotted.

• Arrangements must be made for intermediate HQs to get the maximum information from Phantom on their fronts; in any case Corps HQ must get full Phantom information for the Corps front.

• The only person who gives patrols (other than the Corps patrols) orders is the Squadron Commander. The only person who gives him orders about deployment passing information etc is the C of S or GSO1 (Operations)


The lecture and the discussion following it brought out the following points about these principles.

Flexibility  There are great advantages in keeping patrols as far as possible with the same formation; the patrol officer gets to know the staff, and can make arrangements for receiving and passing back intelligence summaries, codes etc to Army HQ. These advantages must be foregone if necessary to achieve flexibility

Statement of Source There is no question of distrust of PHANTOM messages by the staff in the insistence that the source must always be stated; but in a mass of contradictory reports from all sources the value of Phantom messages is greatly increased by an accurate knowledge of the source of the information they contain.

Information for Intermediate HQs  Corps patrols are designed to provide Corps HQ with information and are under the control of G Operations at Corps HQ in the matter of what information they provide.

Command and Control  Corps and Division cannot give orders (except Corps HQ to their own Corps patrol) to patrol, though they should help in the deployment plan by sending suggestions to Army HQ through normal G Operations channels.

In operations matters and questions of deployment the change of command, Army Group Operations –Regt HQ – Squadron HQ is not permissible; it should be Army Group Operations –Army Operations –Squadron HQ. This has been agreed by BGS Operations 21 Army Group.

Use of Phantom Wireless by LOs  This is only permissible in very exceptional circumstances, at the discretion of the patrol officer and provided that he is allowed to rework the messages sent to fit into the Phantom code –the LO to agree the final form.


Type of information required:

The main type of information required of Phantom by Army HQ is:

• Sitreps of the progress of the battle, including frequent locations.

• Information about the enemy, particularly identifications and indications of enemy strength.

• A summary of locations during the day, to be sent in the evening

• Intentions to be sent nightly Patrol Officers must attend all O Groups and conferences possible.

• Flashes of Air targets

• Answers to questions sent by Army HQ. Such questions must be simple, absolutely clear and capable of a definite answer.

• Special tasks, sometimes requiring a written or personal report


On June 6th  1944, came the greatest test and ordeal of the organisation, as they played a pivotal role in the liberation of Europe.

Meanwhile Phantom Patrols were attached to units taking part in the assualt. 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) were to land with the 3rd, 50th Northumbrian and 3rd Canadian Divisions.

In the initial phase, patrols transmitted to SHQ located at Dover Castle who relayed information directly to Southwick House, the HQ of SHAEF. This direct line of communication, ensured that information received was up-to-date and it proved decisive.


In all cases, the patrols started listening to contact detachment nets and command nets while still at sea at about H-2 hours, transmitting them back to the UK using 22 sets. The very first news of the Normandy landings were sent back by Phantom; these messages provided the first accurate, up-to-date and timely tactical information for the higher command.

On GOLD BEACH (with 50 Div)

Captain Keith Salter led No. 8 Patrol which was assigned to 50th Northumbrians. He was accompanied by Hovey and Lane, two driver-operators and equipped with a jeep installed with a wireless 22 set and two motorcycles on the jeep trailer.


They came ashore at about 9am (H+90) in an LCT on “Jig Green” beach ¾ mile east of Le Hamel. Their LCT hit an underwater concrete beach obstacle and then a shell landing astern caused it to broach and splinter. Salter swam to shore and with the help of a beach recovery tractor, winched the craft to shore, allowing safe discharge of men and machines. Under frequent shelling and small arms fire, they made their way slowly inland. They reached their objective, 50th Division Tac HQ, 1½ miles inland in the village of Meauvaines,

6 hours later and were able to signal to control at Dover…….


061545 “P12 No 8 Patrol with 50 Div. I am located with 50 Div Tac HQ at Meauvaines, 893852. Safe.”   


With the battle in full spate, the patrol continued to pass messages to the Second Army HQ on behalf of 50th Division, confirming the time of the bombing of Port-en-Bessin, requesting an air attack on a group of mobile enemy troops in the area of St Leger and advising on the progress of the Durham Light Infantry Brigade through Crepon at 1800 hours. This last message was with 50th Div HQ by 1850 and the Commander in chief within just half an hour providing him with astonishingly up to date, strategically significant news of his brigade’s progress. By the end of the day, they had reported further vital information; 151 Brigade’s progress East of Bayeux, the capture of Arromanches by 231 Brigade at 1820 and the crossing of the Seulles in the East by 69th and their progress south through St Gabriel and towards St Leger.  

On SWORD BEACH  (with 3 British Division)

Captain Denys Brook-Hart, a Phantom veteran of North Africa and Italy and his No 5 Patrol landed on SWORD Beach in a jeep, with the 3 British Division and sent his first message at 1040hrs. (He later went on to fight in Operation Market Garden.

On JUNO BEACH (with 3 Canadian Division)

Balfour Paul’s 14 patrol was unable to get to shore on D Day but did so on D+1 and made straight for Cruelly. He spent D-day listening in and transmitting from his LST. A and B Squadron were deployed with the Canadians landing on Juno Beach near Courseilles, from DDay+1 onwards, to work from Montgomery’s HQ at Chateaux de Cruellet, near Cruelly. The map-room of General Crerar (1st Canadian Army) secured a substantial proportion of its information from the Regiment.

More Patrols and the J service arrived in the first few days of the campaign and more and more messages were transmitted.

The chart below documents the volumes for each patrol.


A second echelon of Phantom A Squadron arrived on Juno Beach on 9th June and soon A Squadron were operating from Chateau de Cruellet adjacent to Montgomery's Headquarters.


B Squadron became based at Amblie alongside the Canadians.

With the Americans

In the early stages of the assault on the Normandy beaches, General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, visited the British 2nd Army H.Q., then located near Portsmouth, and was considerably impressed by the complete picture of operations which was available. He asked how it was done. The answer was, “Phantom patrol”. It was explained to him how the organization flashed back by wireless to England the positions of brigades and battalions in the beach-head battles. Gen. Eisenhower immediately asked if he could have a Phantom unit for work with the U.S. formations. The call also went out from the Commanding Officer of the US Signal Corps “get me one of those limey Phantom patrols over here double quick”

L Squadron was training for Norway in Scotland and within 24 hours was brought south and sent across the Channel, complete with officers, other ranks, vehicles and equipment to join formations of the U.S. Army. Throughout the campaign those patrols worked with the American divisions and corps and did a great deal to give a full picture of the battles to higher commands.

The Americans had planned to build up their own U.S. Phantom organization, modelled on the British, but the campaign was won before they had the chance.

With A and B Squadron already in Normandy, by July, the complete Regiment was in France, deployed with the British, Canadian and American Armies.

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