The GHQ Liaison Regiment had been created in 1939, initially by the RAF, to identify the position of forward troops for the benefit of RAF operations. It was soon realised the value of this for the Commanders of the British Expeditionary Force, not least as their first actions in the event of war were to move into Belgium. To assist, an Army Unit was created that included French speakers, such as pre-war Belgian Resident Captain JS Collings, later to join Auxiliary Units. There were specialist signallers and scouts with motorcycles and armoured cars. Their role was was to collect information on the whereabouts of Allied Forces and transmit it direct to Headquarters, bypassing delays at the multiple intermediate levels of command.
The name Phantom was initially a code name, but ended up as part of the designation of the unit. The unit sign was a capital P in ghostly white on a black background.
Having proved itself in the fast moving Battle of France, Phantom squadrons were created for other areas of operations. For the invasion it was recognised that additional units would be required, attached to British, Canadian and US troops. There were also parachute trained squadrons attached to the Airborne forces and also to the SAS.In all areas they would demostrate their skills, with the ability to communicate over long distances one of the keys to their success.
Major JA Darwall-Smith was one of the senior officers of Phantom, and perhaps it was through contacts with his brother, Major RFH Darwall-Smith that a small group of Scout Section section officers were recruited from Auxiliary Units in early 1943. Alternatively it may have been through contacts with Captain Collings, who left Auxiliary Units around the same time, later serving in Northwest Europe. Oddly none of the former Auxiliary Units men would join F Squadron, which provided teams to accompany the SAS behind enemy lines, as might have been expected with their training in this role. Instead most served in Northwest Europe working with the convential forces during the advance thorugh Nprmandy and beyond. The exception was Lieutenant Neville Hay, who was dropped with 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem.
Perhaps Phantom's most famous member was Major David Niven, already a wekk known actor before joining the unit, who found a role with Phantom that he apparently excelled at, having been a rather unhappy pre-war Officer before finding stardom. He rather played down his part, but as a close friend of SAS and former Auxiliary Units Major Ian Fenwick, to the extent of writing the foreward to his final book, he was approached by writer David Lampe while working on The Last Ditch. He confirmed that he had had nothing to do with Auxiliary Units, though had been involved in other (politely unspecified) Intelligence work.
Phantom was disbanded in 1945. A residual Territorial Army Unit continued until 1963, when improved communications rendered its skills less valuable. Though a unique unit, because of its links with the SAS, maintained by the SAS Regimental Association, we have included in the SAS section of this site.
Phantom was There, RJT Hills
Phantom, Philip Warner
The Last Ditch
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