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Greek Campaign, GHQ Liaison Regiment

Page Created
August 31st, 2024
Last Updated
January 25th, 2024
British Flag
Special Forces
GHQ Liaison Regiment
December 27th, 1940 – April 26th, 1941
Greek Campaign, A Squadron GHQ Liaison Regiment
  • Reconnaissance, Intelligence gathering and liaison services
Operational Area


Unit Force
  • A Squadron, GHQ Liaison Regiment
Opposing Forces
  • German Invading Forces

As the immediate threat of the German invasion of Great Britain diminishes by the end of 1940, Hopkinson is aware that Phantom needs to demonstrate its utility. Notably, in early October, German forces occupy Romania. In a bid for military acclaim, Mussolini deploys the Italian army into Greece at the end of that month. However, the Greeks, holding the Italians in low esteem, robustly resist and soon start outperforming their opponents. The numerical superiority of the Italian forces, which vastly outnumber the Greeks, fails to intimidate the Greek resistance. This situation worsens for Mussolini when the British initiate an offensive in Libya in December 1940 and disable the Italian naval base at Taranto through an air assault. These developments, while troubling to Mussolini, only serve to strengthen Hitler’s determination. He resolves to prevent an Anglo-Greek force from seizing Romanian airfields.

In response, Hopkinson concludes that deploying a Phantom squadron to the Middle East would benefit all parties involved. Such a move would provide the regiment with a meaningful role overseas and address criticisms suggesting its redundancy in Britain post the immediate invasion threat. He envisages the squadron effectively reporting on the Greek-Italian front. The War Office consents to this proposal. Consequently, A Squadron, led by Major Miles Reid of the Royal Engineers and stationed at Chilham Castle in Kent, is selected for this mission.

The movement is highly confidential, yet the unit’s packing of both Arctic gear for winter conditions and summer attire complicates efforts by potential spies to deduce their destination. A Squadron departs from Liverpool to Alexandria, from where it moves optimistically towards the General Headquarters Middle East in Cairo.

On their arrival in Cairo, it quickly becomes apparent that their presence is unexpected. The initial surprise among the General Headquarters Middle East staff soon turns to irritation upon learning that A Squadron aims to relay information from General Headquarters Middle East directly to General Headquarters Home Forces. This intention is met with a straightforward and firm refusal. The squadron is also informed that the area is under Royal Air Force surveillance. Since they are not engaged in direct combat operations, it is deemed that there is no specific role or task for Phantom in that region.

Fortunately, they find support in Major-General Sir Arthur Smith, the Chief of Staff in the Middle East, who arranges an interview for Reid with General Wavell. Wavell, known for his imaginative approach and having previously advocated for modern soldiers to be akin to ‘cat-burglars’, sees potential in Phantom. However, he suggests they acclimatise before starting work, and consequently, they are attached to General Sir Richard O’Connor’s Western Desert Force Advance Headquarters in the desert. Although provided with desert-worthy vehicles, their transportation is commandeered and overused, leading to their regretful return to Alexandria.

December 27th, 1940

A Squadron’s fortunes improve. The unit flies from Alexandria, Egypt, to Piraeus, Greece, stopping at Suda Bay, Crete, aboard Royal Air Force Short Sunderlands.

Despite Britain’s reluctance to engage in the Greek campaign, a sizable British military mission exists in Athens for liaison. At this time, there is still an Allied belief in limiting the war’s scope and avoiding involvement in Greece, hoping this would deter German intervention, despite Italy’s defeat. This perspective, in hindsight, seems naïve, especially considering Hitler’s strategic interests and the imminent campaign in Russia.

The Greeks, too, are keen to avoid provoking a German invasion. Phantom, however, finds frustration with the military mission’s bureaucracy and red tape. The regiment’s further annoyance arises from the Greek refusal to allow them to observe military operations in Albania, limiting their activities to training in the Peloponnese.

January 1941 – February 1941

In January 1941, Phantom establishes a wireless link with Home Forces and adopts the call sign PHI-Q to avoid confusion with the Greek alphabet. Their training in wireless communication pays off, with signals from Greece being successfully received by a No. 11 Wireless Set on Leith Hill. Despite initial setbacks and challenges, Phantom continues to adapt and prepare for its role in the evolving war landscape.

Patrols of the squadron undertake an extensive survey and reconnaissance tour of the Peloponnese, visiting Athens, Corinth, Patras, Kalavrita, Olympia, Langadia, Tripolis, Argos, and then returning to Athens. During this time in Athens, Major Reid meets Patrick Leigh Fermor, a member of the British Military Mission.

February 1941 – March 1941

Patrols of the squadron continue their reconnaissance, exploring Central Greece, including Athens, Kozani, Salonika, Kilkis, and the Macedonian lines. After this, the commander Major Miles Reid flies back to Athens to personally report his findings to the visiting Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir John Dill.

March 26th, 1941

Intelligence reveals that the Germans are planning to attack Greece at their convenience, with the invasion expected soon. General Maitland-Wilson is appointed to command British forces in response to this impending assault.

A Squadron moves up to Elasson in preparation for the increasingly likely invasion. Phantom is strategically deployed in the valleys leading into Greece, the anticipated routes of the German advance. They conduct reconnaissance in the Kozani and Edessa regions. It is known that the Germans have approximately twenty-four divisions stationed in Romania, and Bulgaria has been compelled to sign an agreement allowing the passage of German troops through its territory. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia, having initially succumbed to pressure to sign a similar treaty, experiences a dramatic shift when its army stages a coup d’état, repudiating the agreement. In response, Hitler resolves to swiftly subdue both Yugoslavia and Greece. Concurrently, he dispatches German troops to Tripoli to reinforce the Italian forces.

April 6th, 1941

Thirty-three German divisions, including six armoured ones, invade Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavs, lacking tanks or anti-tank guns and primarily armed with courage, find themselves overwhelmed, leading to the campaign’s conclusion within ten days. Hitler’s satisfaction with this swift victory is tempered by his unawareness that it simultaneously marks the start of a lengthy and draining campaign against guerrillas and partisans, eventually engaging up to twenty German divisions.

Simultaneously, other German troops cross into Greece, navigating through the valleys. Phantom had previously scouted these potential invasion routes while discreetly wearing civilian clothes to avoid drawing attention. The Greeks had assisted by providing transport and a liaison officer.

The squadron conducts reconnaissance patrols which include the Florina area, with German forces crossing the Bulgarian and Yugoslav borders.

April 7th, 1941

Patrols reconnoitres the Monastir Gap and Aminteo area, and on April 9, the Perdika area.

April 12th, 1941

The patrols under command of Major Reid return to Elasson.

April 13th, 1941 – April 15th, 1941

Patrols under command of Major reid surveys the Servia area before returning to Elasson. On April 15th, 1941 Phantom patrols leave Elasson and head South.

April 17th, 1941 – April 20th, 1941

Patrols under Major Reid explore and reconnoitre the Thebes area. They return to Athens, traveling via Megara.

April 22nd, 1941 – April 23rd, 1941

As evacuation becomes inevitable, Reid sets up Phantom’s headquarters in Corinth, establishing a wireless link to Athens.

A Squadron assists in the defense of the Canal Bridges, joining forces include the 4th Battalion Hussars, New Zealand Infantry, and the 155th Light Anti-Aicraft Battery.

April 26th, 1941

07:00, there is a German parachute and glider attack near the single road and rail bridge in the region. The bridge is rigged for demolition, but the Allies are attempting to allow as many retreating troops as possible to cross into the Peloponnese before it is destroyed. The Germans, however, aim to keep the bridge intact for their advancing forces.

The situation deteriorates as German airborne units capture the Corinth Canal bridge, effectively isolating the Peloponnese from the rest of Greece. With German parachutists landing in the vicinity, Reid, Sergeant Averill, and seven men make for the nearest high ground. Their armament is meager: only seven rifles and fifty rounds of ammunition. Even the arrival of an Australian with a Bren gun and seventy rounds does little to improve their dire situation.

They soon attract the attention of the parachutists, leading to a fierce exchange of fire that results in the death of a German Captain. An attempt to retrieve additional ammunition tragically leads to the deaths of two more Phantom members.

11:30, Major Reid, along with a small, mixed group of defenders, finds themselves surrounded, greatly outnumbered, and almost out of ammunition. Faced with these dire circumstances, the remnants of A Squadron headquarters are left with no choice but to surrender.

The Germans, considering retribution for the death of their captain, contemplate executing the captured Phantom members. However, Major Reid manages to persuade them against this, pointing out that the two Phantom members carrying the ammunition had already been killed. This argument spares the lives of Reid and the remaining members of his group, avoiding a grimmer conclusion to their capture.

April 26th, 1941

The men from A Squadron Headquarters are taken to Greek barracks in Corinth, which is soon re-designated as holding camp Dulag 185.

June 5th 1941 – June 7th, 1941

Phantom’s Prisoners of War undertake a fifteen kilometres march to the railway station located on the north side of the canal. After being entrained for Athens, they are held under guard in an Ordnance Depot. They are then packed into wooden-seated carriages and transported to Gravia.

One day later, they march over the Brallos Pass to Lamia, ending up in a goods yard opposite a water tower. The following day, they are moved in cattle trucks to Salonika.

June 8th, 1941 – June 16th, 1941

They are transported in cattle trucks via Kraljevo, Belgrade, Zagreb, Salzburg, and Munich. Their journey ultimately leads them to Oflag VB, a prisoner-of-war camp located in Biberach, Wurttemberg.


The British involvement in the Greek campaign is now widely recognized as both a disaster and a strategic error. British forces, urgently needed in the desert, are instead deployed into a battle with overwhelming odds against them. The swift collapse of Yugoslavia, coupled with German successes in eastern Greece, results in the Allied forces being regularly outmaneuvered and outmatched. General ‘Jumbo’ Wilson later acknowledges that almost the only reliable battlefield intelligence he receives is from Phantom, although it invariably brings bad news. The regiment endures significant losses while gathering this crucial information.

The Germans are initially surprised to encounter British forces in Greece but are impressed by the tenacity of certain British rearguard actions. Despite this, there is no realistic prospect of saving Greece. The outcome of this Allied intervention is that 11,000 troops fail to be evacuated and are captured, along with a substantial amount of valuable equipment.

Like other Allied Forces in Greece, Phantom experiences significant setbacks, with only nine members managing to escape. Ironically, reinforcements heading to the unit arrive in the Middle East just in time to assist in the squadron’s reformation. Despite the challenges in Greece, Phantom leaves a positive impression on General Wilson and other senior commanders with their rapid and accurate communication capabilities from the battle zone. Going forward, Phantom understands the importance of cultivating such alliances.

Initially, Phantom had to prove its necessity, with its forecasts often met with scepticism. However, events demonstrate the unit’s capability to deliver on its promises. In the future, Phantom faces a different kind of challenge, less about proving its worth and more about navigating operational friction.

Intermediate formations, such as brigade and division headquarters, express suspicion and hostility towards Phantom’s direct reporting to General Headquarters. Their main concern is that these reports bypass them, potentially providing premature or misleading information that doesn’t align with their strategies. This situation is akin to direct communication between top management and front-line workers in a company, bypassing middle management, leading to frustration.

Phantom recognises this hostility as a byproduct of its success and takes measures to address it.