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May 1940

Special Forces Operations in May 1940
May 10th, 1940 – May 31st, 1940
German invasion of Belgium and France
No. 3 British Air Mission, Phantom Squadron
In May 1940, as a German invasion of the Low Countries appears imminent, the “Phantom” Squadron, part of No. 3 Air Mission, mobilises for its mission. On May 10th 1940 they leave Valenciennes and enter Belgium, setting up an Advanced Report Centre at Mielen-sur-Aelst, while the Air Mission goes to the Belgian Grand Quartier General (G.Q.G.) at Willebroeck.

Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson deploys liaison officers and patrols to strategic locations, and soon, vital reports on military movements and actions start arriving at the Centre. Over the next days, these reports cover enemy advances and Belgian withdrawals, showcasing the Squadron’s effective training. By May 12th 1940, the Mission moves to the Forest des Soignes, south of Brussels.

“Phantom” establishes connections with the French and contacts the British cavalry. As the British and French Armies strengthen the Dyle position, “Phantom” completes a successful phase, transitioning to a new challenge of competing with other information sources. They continue relaying critical information to the Allied Central Air Bureau (A.C.A.B.) and the British Expeditionary Forces’ GHQ.
As the war situation escalates, “Phantom” plays an increasingly crucial role in reconnaissance and protection. On May 18th 1940, Hopkinson offers the Squadron’s services to “Macforce”, conducting patrols and maintaining liaison with British and Allied formations. By May 23rd 1940, the Squadron moves to the General Headquarters reserve at Premesques, continuing its important liaison duties.

With the Battle of the Beaches imminent, Wing Commander Fairweather advises a withdraw. The Squadron undertakes various tasks, including aiding the 4th Division and covering the retreat of the 144th Infantry Brigade.

From May 28th, 1940, on the Squadron evacuates for England. Tragically, oone of the vessel carrying a part of the unit, the Abukir, is torpedoed, resulting in significant loss of life, ten officers and twenty-two other ranks die, including Wing Commander Fairweather.