Phantom's origins date back to 1939, when Lieutenant-Col George Frederick ‘Hoppy’ Hopkinson pioneered the innovative use of new wireless technology to improve reconnaisance while he was with the British Air Mission in Belgium. Following its withdrawal from Dunkirk, Hopkinson’s unit reformed as No 1 GHQ Reconnaissance Unit and later GHQ Liaison Regiment with the codename "Phantom". They were based at Richmond, London and recruited a diverse group of men with differnt specialised skills to work together to provide their unique brand of reconnaisance. Click here for more details.about the origins of Phantom.
Phantom developed the use of new technology to listen in to radio traffic of a battle which enabled them to to gather information about how the battle was progressing. They then relayed it back, via their Squadron HQ, to those in charge of the battle, giving an unprecedented, up to date and accurate picture of what was going on.
They worked in small. mobile Patrols operating from close to or even behind enemy lines, using equipment they had developed and even designed. It enabled them to transmit encrypted "situation reports" back to their Squadron Head Quarters.
These “scrambled” coded messages, if intercepted by the enemy, were unintelligible but when recieved by SHQ, were transformed to sense; they were decoded and redirected to those best placed to use this information. During the eleven months of fighting on the Western Front, Lieut.-Col. McIntosh's “Phantoms” sent more than 70,000 of these messages from the battle areas to the headquarters of the 12th and 21st Army Groups. Phantom's methods surpassed the speed of normal communications by hours, and kept Army, Army Group and Base H.Q. informed almost minute-by-minute of all that was happening. In no other way could such a complete, "real time" and speedy picture of operations have been presented to those immediately responsible.
They became known as "The eyes and ears of the Commander-in-Chief"
The insight Phantom provided, had the additional benefit of enabling much more accurate targeted airstrikes and attacks thus reducing incidents of friendly fire, making the presence of Phantom Patrols popular amongst other units.
Phantom was divided into Squadrons. Each Squadron consisted of a Squadron HQ (SHQ) and a number of Patrols . Each Patrol consisted of an officer, an NCO and up to 9 other ranks. To read moreabout the organisation of Phantom, click here
Vehicles and Equipment
As the war progressed, Phantom developed their innovative methods of working and employed a wide range of vehicles and equipment. For example Daimler Armoured Scout Cars (Dingos), Norton motorcycles, Jeeps, Morris 15cwt trucks and White M3 A1 Scout cars were used to carry equipment such as 107 Receivers 52, 22 and 19 wireless sets and other small and powerful wireless sets, some invented for the purpose by Phantom's own Peter Astbury. To find out more click vehicles or radio sets.
All ranks wore a badge with a white “P” on a black background on the right upper arm of their battledress uniform. In addition, each soldier wore a RAC black beret and unusually retained his original cap badge, thus showing the diversity of units which formed Phantom.
Patrols with US Army units often wore US uniform in whole or part. Sometimes they wore US formation badges but kept their own rank badges. An exception was the patrol with the US 17th Airborne Division who wore complete US uniforms including US rank badges. Although British uniforms were not much like those of the enemy it paid not to take risks when operating near the front with troops of a different nationality.
Vehicles displayed a 9" black square with a white P.
The only known surviving example of such a vehicle plate is at the museum at Chateux Cruelly in Normandy which is where Phantom HQ was located (and where Bill was based) during June 1944.
Phantom deployed in squadrons in North West Europe, South East Europe, North Africa and Italy. To read more about how and where Phantome were de[ployed, click here