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British officer commanded Motor Cycle Platoon, No 3 British Military and Air Mission (Phantom) in France and Belgium, 1/1940-6/1940; served with No 1 GHQ Reconnaissance Unit and GHQ Liaison Regt (Phantom) in GB, Italy and North West Europe, 6/1940-6/1945

The IWM have interviewed Morgan about his personal recollections - here is a summary of his time before Dunkirk.

Personal Recollections of the No3 Military and Air Mission 19406

John Arthur Theodore Morgan Oral History IWM

Morgan was born in Chelsea and educated at Winchester and New College Oxford, graduating in 1932 and becoming an educational editor for Arnolds Publishers. In February 1938, he joined the Territorial Queen Victoria's Rifles and developed invaluable man-management skills during his training. He joined the second battalion which was formed as a specialist motorcyclist battalion and was called up two days before war was declared.

In January 1940, he was recruited by the newly established No 3 Military and Air Mission based in France, to command their Motorcycle Platoon equipped with motorcycles and motorcycle and side car combinations armed with Bren guns. He was bilingual in French and English. He joined them in Valenciennes for rigorous and detailed training and rehearsals preparing for the invasion of Belgium. As soon as the Germans invaded on the 10th May, they were dispatched to Tihange (?)  to assist the RAF target frontline bombing. Unable to achieve their original objective because the Belgian front had dissipated, they set about gathering any other relevant information, utilising what they discovered  was their superior wireless communications capability and greater mobility.


His own intelligence (gathered by personal observation) proved invaluable, particularly to Viscount Alanbrooke IICorps, who had been left vulnerable by the otherwise unreported French retreat. One member of the HQ group, Flight Lieutenant (Wireless Officer) GEORGE LOUIS PAUL ZECH a Belgian born electronics engineer, working “off his own bat”, managed to provide the only line of communication between the Belgians (Sir Roger Keys) and Churchill.


Working under fire from dive bombers and in the chaos of the retreat, his unit continued to adapt to the ever-worsening situation “turning their hands to whatever they were asked to do” and assuming a fighting role and leaving Wormhoudt an hour before the surrender and SS massacre. They  reached the beaches east of Dunkirk, leaving all possessions behind and waiting in the water for rescue, eventually being picked up and returned to England by the destroyer HMS Worcester on approximately 30th May.

Further details of recording

REEL 1 Background in London, GB, 1911-1938: family; education; employment. Aspects of period as officer with Queen Victoria's Rifles, 1st London Div in London, GB, 1938-1939: attitude to situation in Europe, 1938-1939; background to enlistment in Territorial Army; experiences with Territorial Army, 1938-1939; mobilisation, 9/1939. Recollections of operations commanding Motor Cycle Platoon, No 3 British Military and Air Mission (Phantom) in France and Belgium, 1/1940-6/1940: joining unit at Valenciennes, France, 1/1940; entry into Belgium and move to Tongres area, 10/5/1940; unit equipment and role facilitating close support for RAF; duties gathering intelligence for General Alan Brooke; work of Corporal Zek; transfer from reconnaissance to infantry role at Wormhouldt, France; discovery of gap in French line; opinion of claim that British let French down, 5/1940; orderliness of situation on beaches at La Panne, France, 6/1940 REEL 2 Continues: evacuation by destroyer from Dunkirk; civilian attitude towards troops returning from Dunkirk, 6/1940. Aspects of period as officer with No 1 GHQ Reconnaissance Unit and GHQ Liaison Regt (Phantom) in GB, 6/1940-8/1943: reformation as No 1 GHQ Reconnaissance Unit (Phantom), 6/1940; opinion of sending a squadron to Crete, Greece, 1941; duties as second in command of C Sqdn in London area, 1940-1941; taking command of F Sqdn in Ipswich area, 1941-1942; role of unit in sending intelligence to army level commanders; question of degree of usefulness of unit sent to operate with 1st Army in North Africa, 1942-1943. Recollections of operations as officer with GHQ Liaison Regt in Italy and North West Europe, 9/1943-5/1945: political battle to having regiment accepted into 21st Army Group, 1944; role of unit on D-Day and North West Europe, 1944-1945; reaction to being sent to educate Americans about role of unit'; transfer of information between American, British and Canadian forces in France, 1944. REEL 3 Continues: role of unit in keeping potentially hostile American commanding officers sympathetic to British plight during Operation Market Garden, 9/1944; reverse role during Ardennes Offensive, 12/1944; background to becoming second in command of unit, 1943; how unit's reconnaissance role became redundant; his work with Lieutenant General John Harding at Headquarters, Allied Armies in Italy (AAI), Caserta, Italy, 11/1944; how Lieutenant General John Harding sent elements of GHQ Liaison Regt to Greece, 1944; question of how unit would have operated in Far East; his opinion of non-fraternisation order in Germany, 1945; disbandment of GHQ Liaison Regt in Germany, 1945; question of British concern over American and Soviets meeting in Germany, 1945; question of the ideal squadron officer; story of unit officer operating with Special Air Service in France who decamped because of love affair; question of achievements of former GHQ Liaison Regt officers in civilian life. REEL 4 Continues: squadron which worked with Special Air Service and French Resistance in France, 1944.

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