We are currently improving the navigational structure of the website. This might result in lost links. If you come across a lost link, Please let us know.

GHQ Liaison Regiment

Page Created
January 18th, 2024
Last Updated
January 19th, 2024
Great Britain
British Flag
Additional Information
Order of Battle

Badge GHQ Liaison Regiment
November 1939
Theater of Operations
Organisational History

The GHQ Liaison Regiment, commonly referred to as Phantom, is a special reconnaissance unit of the British Army, initially formed in 1939 during the early stages of World War II. The regiment’s headquarters are situated at The Richmond Hill Hotel in Richmond, Surrey, which is now part of London. Its base, encompassing the officers’ mess and billet, is located at Pembroke Lodge, a Georgian house within Richmond Park, London.


The name “Phantom” dates back to the formation of the No. 3 British Air Mission, the Air Liaison Mission to the Belgian General Staff, in November 1939. Commanded by Wing Commander James Macgregor “Fairy” Fairweather, Royal Air Force, this mission is designed to provide the Commander of the British Air Forces in France (B.A.F.F.), Air Marshal Barratt, with essential ground information for the efficient utilisation of his forces. This is particularly crucial between the German invasion of the Low Countries and the convergence of British and French forces with the Belgians at the Meuse-Canal, Albert, or Dyle positions. The codename for this mission is “Phantom”.

In mid-November, Lieutenant-Colonel G. F. Hopkinson, along with his batman, a clerk, and a driver, arrives at Valenciennes, where No. 3 Air Mission is training, in an Army Staff car from Vincennes. Hopkinson’s entourage would become known as theHopkinson Mission. Initially part of the Howard-Vyse Mission to General Gamelin, Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson joins No. 3 Air Mission as a “military observer” under Wing Commander Fairweather. They quickly realise that vital battle information not available at the Belgian Grand Quartier General (G.Q.G.) necessitates ground reconnaissance.

The War Office approves the formation of a mixed unit under Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson’s command, working under Wing Commander Fairweather, to supplement the information from Belgian Grand Quartier General (G.Q.G.) Upon assembling at Valenciennes, the Hopkinson Mission with adopts the name “Phantom” as the codename for the combined missions, with the members notably sewing a white “P” on a black background onto their tunics.

The organisation grows in size and scope, eventually comprising fifteen officers and one hundred and ten other ranks. It includes:

  • Mission Headquarters with George Frederick “Hoppy” Hopkinson, a G.S.O.2, a G.S.O.3, and a subaltern administrative officer.
  • Reconnaissance Squadron, led by Captain J. A. Warre, featuring two Troops of armoured cars equipped with No- 11 wireless sets, and a motorcycle platoon of skilled motorcyclists from the Queen Victoria Rifles, commanded by Second-Lieutenant J. A. T. Morgan.
  • An Intelligence Section, led by Captain J. S. Ceilings, comprising six subalterns and six junior N.C.O.s, all fluent in French and mounted on motorcycles.
  • A Wireless Section with two No- 9 and two No. 11 sets, operated by Royal Corps of Signals personnel.
Initial Training

During its development and training in France, the Phantom Squadron is assigned a secondary role: supplying General Headquarters, British Expeditionary Forces, (GHQ, B.E.F.), with the same information as provided to Allied Central Air Bureau (A.C.A.B.). This commitment, aimed at acquiring extra wireless equipment from General Headquarters, becomes the foundation stone of the modern “Phantom”, an information service for the Army.

The training of the Phantom Squadron is thorough, despite time constraints. By today’s “Phantom” standards, it might appear basic, but it is comprehensive for its time. Wireless training takes precedence. Fortunately, the Mission is neither under the jurisdiction of the British Expeditionary Forces nor located in its area, allowing it to bypass the prevalent wireless silence regulations. Road movement, cross-country navigation, and setting up an Advanced Report Centre are also prioritised.

Additional training includes military organisation, message writing, and other essential military skills. This programme is carried out in cooperation with the Royal Air Force, the British Expeditionary Forces, and the French Army to cover the broad scope of the upcoming task.

Into Action

On May 10th, 1940, as the German invasion of Belgium and France starts, “Phantom”, is deployed to Belgium. They establish an Advanced Report Centre at Mielen-sur-Aelst, while simultaneously, the Air Mission positions itself at the Belgian Grand Quartier General (G.Q.G.) in Willebroeck. Under Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson’s direction, the Squadron effectively gathers and relays crucial military information, including enemy movements and Belgian withdrawals.

By mid-May, “Phantom” successfully establishes liaisons with French and British forces as they strengthen their positions. The Unit proves vital in reconnaissance and protective roles, especially with “Macforce”, and maintains essential communication links.

As the battle situation intensifies, Wing Commander Fairweather recommends the withdrawal of the Intelligence Section due to the evolving Battle of the Beaches. The Squadron supports various military operations, including assisting the 4th Division and covering retreats. After which the unit evacuates on two boats from Oostende, Belgium. However, the M.S. Aboukir, carrying part of the unit, is tragically torpedoed on May 28th, 1940, resulting in significant losses, including the respected Wing Commander Fairweather. On May 31st, 1940, the last men of “Phantom” ship to Great Britain.


Following the Dunkirk evacuation, the vital role of Phantom in providing information becomes fully recognised. Their capability to transmit crucial data under hazardous conditions, especially to prominent figures like Viscount Alan Brooke, is widely acknowledged and valued. Hopkinson, for his contributions, is awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and writes several reports emphasising their effectiveness, highlighting that even aerial photographs did not provide such comprehensive battle details.

Motivated by the commendations regarding the “Phantom” operations in Belgium and France, General Paget, the Chief of Staff Home Forces, endorses the release of a War Department Establishment Order. This order transforms Phantom into the No. 1 GHQ Reconnaissance Regiment, bestowing upon its regimental status and enlarging it to six times its original size.

The newly structured regiment initially includes an HQ and 3 Scout Car Groups (subsequently named Squadrons), each consisting of four patrols. The fundamental unit within this structure is a patrol consisting of one officer and six men. Each patrol is equipped with a Daimler scout car, a 15 cwt (ton) truck, and three motorcycles, designed to be self-sufficient for forty-eight hours. The Daimler “Dingo” Scout cars are an upgrade from Guy Scout Cars. The regiment expands to forty-eight officers and 407 other ranks and adds a pigeon loft and a Light Aid Detachment for vehicle maintenance. It operates directly under the General Headquarters Home Forces.

Hopkinson becomes responsible for rebuilding and expanding the new regiment. He starts from the village of Lechlade in Gloucestershire and holds the privilege of selecting officers, men, and equipment with top priority. His selection criteria emphasise personal qualities like intelligence, tact, and ‘dash’, as well as proficiency in foreign languages. As one officer remarks, “Having an adventurous, determined, and forceful personality is essential for securing accurate information.” The recruitment process draws Non-Commissioned Officers and other ranks from various regiments, each possessing a unique set of skills, to form Hopkinson’s new composite regiment. The leaders of the patrols are chosen for their intelligence and diplomatic abilities, and the radio operators are highly adept. All personnel undergo training in wireless operations.

Originally situated at Kneller Hall in Twickenham, alongside the Commander in Chief of the Home Forces, Hopkinson moves to Saint Paul’s School in London following the Commander in Chief’s relocation of his headquarters. Consequently, Phantom sets up its own headquarters in nearby Saint James Park. This location is equipped with a generator to maintain functionality during blitz conditions and includes a pigeon loft housing five hundred pigeons. Managed by Lance Corporal Starr, a renowned Belgian Pigeoneer, and Champion Jockey Gordon Richards, the pigeons serve as a contingency communication method, mainly utilised by field units to signal inspections to the headquarters.

Leveraging connections with the Duke of Kent, Phantom acquires the closed Royal Park at Richmond for their training activities and shifts their Regimental Headquarters to the adjacent Richmond Park Hotel. The selected location proves perfect for the swiftly growing “Phantom.” Positioned near enough to London for convenient access to the War Office, it also offers reasonable security and discretion. This location provides a strategic advantage, ensuring safety in the event of an invasion. Additionally, it is situated adjacent to Wick House, the headquarters of the Royal Corps of Signals.

The garages of the hotel are converted into workshops for vehicles and radios. Pembroke Lodge, located nearby, serves as the Officers’ Mess and accommodation, while additional billeting is available at the Star and Garter Hotel. The expansive nature of the park accommodates all the personnel and their vehicles, offering an ideal setting for “mock battle” training exercises.

Training at Richmond is exceptionally rigorous. Every member participates in physical training before breakfast and must achieve proficiency in radio communication. Hopkinson ensures that his men are prepared for the demands of active service, which includes adapting to sudden night-time awakenings to start a full working day, working continuously for two days and a night, or operating throughout the night and resting during the day.

Hopkinson subjects his men to strenuous runs and icy swims in the park’s ponds. Additionally, they are trained to transmit and receive Morse messages with complete accuracy for extended periods, achieving speeds of thirty words per minute. Phantom consistently uses Morse Keys for message transmission, which is faster, more secure, and allows for longer-distance communication.

Hopkinson also knows how to balance work with relaxation. He is the heart of the mess’s social life and manages to get the Astor Family (with Michael and Jakie Astor being Phantom Officers) to allow the regiment access to their family home near St James’ Park. Here, they are catered to by Claridge’s and entertained by actors such as John Gielgud, David Niven, and Beatrice Lillie. Hopkinson traditionally concludes the evenings with the phrase “Well Gentlemen, Charpoy Schlafen,” combining the Hindi word for bed “Charpoy” and the German word for sleep “Schlafen”.

Once established in Richmond, and identifiable by their White P on a black background, which grants them access to all areas, Hoppy’s Men develop their unique approach to reconnaissance. This approach focuses on three key areas: personal observation and liaison with forward units, mobile patrols near the front line, and liaison with well-informed individuals away from the frontline. Information gathered is coded and then either transmitted or sent by dispatch rider directly to the Regimental Headquarters. There, staff decode, evaluate, and promptly relay it to the commanders directing the battle.

Battle of Britain

By late 1940, Phantom Squadrons are deployed along the South and East coasts of England, preparing for a potential invasion. They form three main groups – Squadrons A, B, and C – each based at strategic Corps Headquarters. These groups consist of scouting patrols equipped with wireless sets, motorcycles, and trucks, tasked with collecting vital information and reporting to the Commander-in-Chief.

Squadron A operates in Montgomery’s command zone in Kent, Squadron B in Bath and Buckinghamshire, and Squadron C is in reserve at Potters Bar. Additionally, E Squadron is raised later and established in East Anglia. Their primary activities include gathering strategic local information and improving their operational capabilities through training exercises.

While conventional thinking focused on potential German landings between Ramsgate and Portsmouth, Hopkinson considered the likelihood of a German landing between Brighton and Bexhill, or the possibility of a sneak attack in other locations. As a result, he dispatches patrols to survey various potential areas, extending from Wales to the Wash.

The idea of a landing in the vicinity of the Wash, though it might seem improbable, is not beyond the realm of possibility in Hopkinson’s strategic calculations. He also recognises the importance of keeping troops active and engaged in the field. This approach not only prepares them for a range of potential scenarios but also ensures they remain vigilant and ready for action, reflecting Hopkinson’s forward-thinking and comprehensive training ethos.

The Regiment also assumes the responsibility of guarding Richmond Gate against possible German Paratrooper attacks. Despite regular bombing raids, notably one that nearly destroys Pembroke House, the commanding officer, Hopkinson, discourages his men from taking cover during air raids, emphasising bravery in the face of danger.


Hopkinson is aware that Phantom needs to demonstrate its utility, especially as the immediate threat of the German invasion of Great Britain diminishes by the end of 1940. 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 operation is shrouded in secrecy, but the unit’s decision to pack both Arctic and summer clothing creates confusion among potential spies about their intended destination. ‘A’ Squadron sets off from Liverpool to Alexandria, proceeding with optimism towards the General Headquarters (GHQ) Middle East in Cairo.

Upon arriving in Cairo, they quickly realize that GHQ Middle East is not expecting them. The staff’s initial surprise soon turns to annoyance when they learn that ‘A’ Squadron plans to send information directly from GHQ Middle East to GHQ Home Forces. The staff firmly denies this request. Additionally, they inform the squadron that the region is under Royal Air Force surveillance and, as they are not involved in direct combat, there seems to be no specific role for Phantom there.

However, the situation improves when Major-General Sir Arthur Smith, the Chief of Staff in the Middle East, facilitates an interview for Reid with General Wavell. Wavell, noted for his innovative thinking, recognises the value of Phantom, but advises them to first become accustomed to the environment. Consequently, Phantom is attached to General Sir Richard O’Connor’s Western Desert Force Advance Headquarters. Despite being equipped with suitable desert vehicles, their transport is commandeered and excessively used, which ultimately leads to their return to Alexandria, much to their disappointment.


During this period, it becomes clear that while conventional reconnaissance methods effectively serve lower-ranked commanders with necessary information, those at the higher echelons are not receiving the timely and comprehensive information required for modern, fast-paced warfare. This is not a failure of traditional methods; frontline troops, rightly focused on combat, prioritise engagement with the enemy over communication. Their primary loyalty is to their unit. Additionally, the growing volume of communication requires extensive processing—sifting, collating, editing, and directing—before it reaches decision-makers.

Phantom offers a solution to these challenges. They are granted permission to bypass the usual, time-consuming chain of command, allowing their Regimental Headquarters (RHQ) to be in direct contact with senior leaders. Their advantage lies in their non-combat role, providing a unique perspective and overview. Phantom’s intelligence gathering is not confined to operational matters; they also support administrative and technical staff, like the Royal Engineers, with vital information about bridges, bridge sites, and bridging operations. Their role is akin to that of high-class journalists, able to develop a comprehensive understanding of a battle and report on a wide range of issues.


Hopkinson is aware that Phantom needs to prove its worth, especially after the immediate threat of invasion diminishes by the end of 1940. During this period, significant global military movements are occurring: German troops occupy Romania in early October, and Mussolini, seeking military glory, launches the Italian army into Greece at the end of the same month. However, the Greeks, undaunted by the Italian forces, which they hold in low regard, effectively resist the invasion. Despite the numerical superiority of the Italians, the Greeks capture Koritza in Albania and pose a significant challenge to Mussolini.

The situation escalates when the British launch an offensive in Libya in December 1940 and attack the Italian naval base at Taranto. These developments, while troubling for Mussolini, only strengthen Hitler’s resolve. He decides to prevent a victorious Anglo-Greek army from capturing Romanian airfields and prepares to act.

In this context, Hopkinson sees an opportunity for Phantom to expand its role to the Middle East. He reasons that deploying a squadron to the region would not only provide the regiment with an overseas function but also counter criticisms about its necessity in Britain post the immediate invasion threat. He envisions that a squadron could effectively report from the Greek-Italian front. The War Office approves this plan, and A Squadron, led by Major Miles Reid of the Royal Engineers and based in Chilham Castle, Kent, is selected for the assignment.

In Cairo, their presence surprises and irritates General Headquarters Middle East, who refuse their plan to relay information directly to General Headquarters Home Forces.

Supported by Major-General Sir Arthur Smith and General Wavell, Phantom is initially attached to the Western Desert Force but returns to Alexandria due to vehicle issues. Later, they fly to Greece, facing challenges due to Britain’s reluctance to engage and Greek limitations on observing military operations. Despite this, they establish effective communication links and undertake reconnaissance missions in Greece.

As the German invasion looms, Phantom is strategically positioned, but the swift fall of Yugoslavia and German successes in Greece lead to an Allied defeat. A Squadron faces a dire situation at the Corinth Canal bridge, leading to their surrender and subsequent imprisonment.

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.

In 1942, Phantom patrols upgrade their communication equipment, replacing their No. 11 sets with more powerful 19 sets. However, the strain on operators is still significant, indicating a need for even more robust equipment.

Peter Astbury, one of their officers and a talented engineer, steps in to address this challenge. Educated at Cambridge University, where he was a member of the intellectual society The Cambridge Apostles, Astbury joins the Communist Party in 1936. His associations with known suspects lead to surveillance by the security services, and by 1940, there are suspicions of him passing information to the Russians. Nevertheless, he successfully joins the Army and gains a commission, becoming part of the GHQ Liaison Regiment in 1941. Despite ongoing monitoring during his time with Phantom, his commanding officer asserts that Astbury only has access to information about the machines he is inventing.

Astbury develops powerful amplifiers that significantly extend the transmission range of signals. His team conducts exercises by sending messages from the “front” and progressively moving their receiver back in fifteen kilometres increments. Additionally, Astbury innovates in cryptography, inventing advanced coding machines like “fumf” and MORSEX, which can automatically code and decipher messages. MORSEX is manufactured at GPO factories at Dollis Hill and first successfully tested during the major exercise ‘Blackcock’ in October 1943 at Great Driffield.

Initially, communications are established over fifteen kilometres, with MORSEX reducing message transmission times from 14 minutes to just five. The Government Cipher Service tests and approves its security, making the sets avaiable for save use by “Phantom”.

Change of Command

Hopkinson, who had been instrumental in Phantom’s early days, departs from the unit in the autumn 1941.


From 1943, as preparations for D-Day intensify, Phantom actively participates in various training exercises. The unit garners substantial support from those familiar with their operations in Europe and Africa.

Despite this, some authorities remain sceptical of these new methods and Phantom’s role. Concerns include the perception that intelligence gathered in this manner is “unfiltered” and often unconfirmed, possibly conflicting with other sources. There is also wariness over entrusting significant responsibility to young Patrol Officers and doubts about whether Phantom’s intelligence might duplicate what is obtained through conventional reconnaissance.

Especially, Montgomery, now leading the 21st Army Group and recalling his experiences with Phantom in Tunisia and Italy, remains sceptical and cautious. He shows a preference for traditional reconnaissance methods that fall directly under his control.

Following a meeting with the leader of ‘E’ Squadron, he highlights his main concerns about Phantom’s methods, which include the reliance on personal reports from junior officers, reporting intentions, and what he perceives as a foreign, almost exclusive control by the Regimental Headquarters (RHQ) in Richmond. As a result of this meeting, ‘E’ Squadron is disbanded.

In response to these concerns, a new procedure is implemented. Patrol commanders from Phantom are now required to report to the Corps Headquarters in their operational area. They provide their callsign, frequency, and cipher, allowing the Corps Headquarters to monitor and authenticate the information sent by Phantom. This change is intended to ensure better supervision and integration of Phantom’s intelligence within the wider military command structure. Meanwhile, participation in training exercises continues, and gradually, the scepticism and doubts about their presence on the frontline start to dissipate.

Phantom deploys squadrons in Northwest Europe, Southeast Europe, North Africa, and Italy. Each squadron supports an Army, consisting of a Squadron HQ (SHQ) and several patrols — one per corps, plus an additional ten ahead of the corps. A patrol comprises an officer, a Non-Commissioned Officer, and up to nine other ranks. They are typically equipped with Norton motorcycles, Jeeps, Morris 15cwt trucks, and White M3 A1 Scout cars, and carry a 107 Receiver, 52 and 22 sets. These patrols either embed within other formations or undertake special missions from their Army Headquarters.

In January 1944, the Reconnaissance Corps, including the Phantom GHQ Liaison Regiment, integrates into the Royal Armoured Corps. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Henry ‘Sandy’ McIntosh takes over as the commanding officer. McIntosh is a widely respected officer and known for his charisma, excellent oratorical skills, lively sense of humor, and decisive personality.

F Squadron, G.H.Q. Liaison Regiment

In early 1944, the squadron involved in the Dieppe Raid undergoes training for parachute work and commando raids. Post-training, they collaborate with the Special Air Service (S.A.S.) and commando units, providing specialised communications support. In some instances, these men are parachuted behind enemy lines at night, equipped with compact wireless sets. Phantom’s expertise enables the effective long-range use of these short-range radios.

‘F’ Squadron, part of the G.H.Q. Liaison Regiment, also known as S.A.S. Phantom, is attached to the Special Air Service Brigade in February 1944. Their role encompasses several key functions:

  • Providing parachute patrols and small detachments in Europe.
  • Operating the SAS Brigade Signals Office.
  • Developing communications plans for operations and briefing parties before infiltration.
  • Training SAS Brigade Regiments in wireless and cipher.
  • Equipping S.A.S. parties with the necessary communications equipment prior to infiltration.
  • Managing S.A.S. Brigade base sets for daily communication with individual Regiments during exercises and operations.
  • Operating the BBC Announcer for those on missions in France and beyond.
Operation Overlord

For Operation Overlord, one patrol is assigned to each divisional Headquarters of the I and XXX Corps to land with the main divisional Headquarters. Consequently, on D-Day, three Patrols (5, 8 & 14) land with the British 3rd Infantry Division, the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, and the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division. Some patrols execute parachute drops alongside the Special Air Service to facilitate communications with the Special Air Service Brigade Headquarters. Later, following the proven efficiency of Phantom and with the U.S. forces led by the 12th US Army Group, similar arrangements are made for Phantom to provide communications with U.S. corps.

Operation Market Garden

During Operation Market Garden, in September 1944, Phantom Units are attached to the 1st Airborne Division. Eventually, the sole line of communication between the encircled British airborne troops at Arnhem and headquarters is maintained by a Phantom patrol. For their role in maintaining these crucial communications during the operation, two Phantom officers are subsequently awarded the Military Cross. Additionally, Phantom units operate with XXX Corps and alongside General Browning, whose headquarters are situated next to the 82nd Airborne Divisional Headquarters in Groesbeek.

Phantom is disbanded in 1945.