THE name "Phantom" really dates back to the formation of No. 3 British Air Mission, the Air Liaison Mission to the Belgian General Staff, in November 1939. This Mission was commanded by Wing Commander J. M. Fairweather, D.F.C, R.A.F., and was designed to furnish the Commander of the British Air Forces in France (B.A.F.F.), Air Marshal Barratt, with the ground information necessary for the most expedient use of the forces under his command. Particularly during the period between the German invasion of the Low Countries and the linking up of the British and French forces with the Belgians on the Meuse-Canal, Albert or Dyle posi-tions. The code name of this Mission was "Phantom".

In mid-November an Army Staff car arrived at Valenciennes, where No. 3 Air Mission was training. It contained Lieutenant-Colonel G. F. Hopkinson, M.C. (N. Staffs.), his batman, one clerk and a driver. The car had come from Vincennes, where the "Hopkinson Mission", as it came to be called, had split itself off from the Howard Vyse Mission to General Gamelin. Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson had been posted to No. 3 Air Mission as a "military observer" under Wing Commander Fairweather. It would be difficult for anyone who had ever known "Hoppy" to imagine him remaining an observer for long. Both "Fairy" and "Hoppy" were quick to realise that much of the information that Air Marshal Barratt would require in battle would not be avail-able at Belgian Grand Quartier General (G.Q.G.), and could only be obtained through ground reconnaissance.

The War Office accordingly agreed to the formation of a mixed unit command by Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson, which was to work under the orders of Wing Commander Fairweather and supplement the information the latter obtained from Belgian G.Q.G. When the forces of the Hop-kinson Mission began to be mustered at Valenciennes the name of "Phantom" was adopted as the code name for the combined missions, and the Hopkinson Mission, for the first time, sewed on their tunics a white "P" on a black back-ground.

The organisation grew in size and scope and in its final form it consisted of fifteen officers and one hundred and ten other ranks, and comprised:

In the course of development and training in France a secondary role was given to the Hopkinson Mission, that of supplying GHQ, B.E.F., with the same information as was Provided for A.C.A.B. (Allied Central Air Bureau). This commitment, undertaken in an effort to winkle extra wireless equipment out of GHQ, was perhaps the foundation Stone Of modern "Phantom", an information service for the Army by the Army

The training of the Hopkinson Mission was carried out with as much thoroughness as the limited time at its disposal allowed.

Today, by "Phantom" standards, it would seem sketchy; but "Phantom" was young then. Wireless training, as always, occupied first place; by good fortune the Mission was neither under the jurisdiction of the B.E.F. nor located in its area. So the prevalent wireless silence regulations could be ignored. Movement by road and across country and the setting up of a Mission Headquarters or "Advanced Report Centre" was next in importance.

To these were added some instruction in military organisation and message writing and the many other items that form part of any officer's or any soldier's training. This programme was, carried our in co-operation with the R.A.F, the BEF and the French Army in order that the wide scope of the coming task could be covered.

After several false alarms, on 7th May warning was received that a German invasion of the Low Countries was likely in the very near future. On The 10th, an entry in the War Diary of the Hopkinson Mission reads;

" Crack went the whip and off went the horses".

No, 3 Air Mission and the Hopkinson Military Mission left Valenciennes and by 1000 hours they were across the frontier into Belgium. The Air Mission, with a small detachment of the Hopkinson Mission, went to Belgian G.Q.G. at Wille-broeck, twelve miles south of Antwerp.

The Hopkinson Mission set up its Advanced Report Centre at Mielen-sur-Aelst, four miles southeast of St. Trond At 1500 hours. Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson sent liaison officers and patrols to the Belgian Cavalry Corps HQ at St. Trond, to Namur, to the River Meuse between I.iege and Maastricht, and To the Canal Albert.

Reports soon began to come in to the Advanced Report Centre, some by wireless, some by despatch rider. A report dealing with The Belgian withdrawal to the Meuse-Canal Albert position was dispatched over the wireless link to No, 3 Air Mission at 1745 hours.

Information about the failure of the Belgians to destroy the Maastricht bridges was sent over the same link at 1930 hours, A report of the German penetration across the river at Maastricht followed 20 minutes later. Further reports dealt with the German advances towards Liege and into the Ardennes.

Reports during the night and in the early morning of the 11th May brought news of continued enemy successes west of Maastricht and across the Meuse to the south of it.

A report from a "Phantom" liaison officer that Tongres had been occupied at 1130 hours was confirmed by a "Phantom" armoured car patrol. Further reports came in during the day of Belgian withdrawals, one west of Hasselt already described as disorderly.

The four moves undertaken in the space of fifteen hours during the 11th and early morning of the 12th May fully justified the stress on this aspect of training at Valenciennes, and the interruption in the flow of the infor-mation was negligible. The last of these moves found the Hopkinson Mission in the Forest des Soignes, south of Brussels.

" Phantom" had by now established liaison with the French advanced elements, and the same day was to contact the leading British cavalry. With the British and French Armies building up the Dyle position normal liaison and communication channels were now working, and, for "Phantom," a phase in its task was over-a successful phase -in so far as one can now say that anything was successful in that disastrous campaign.

It had tested the ability of the Hopkinson Mission to use its communications and to pass reliable information and the information that was wanted. The next phase demanded more. "Phantom" must now compete against other sources of information and other chan-nels of communication. Though the gap between the Belgian Army and the British and French Armies was now closed up, the Hopkinson Mission continued to send information to the A.C.A.B. on the progress of the battle on British, French and Belgian fronts. Information had up to date failed to reach GHQ, B.E.F., but contact was now established and a steady flow of information passed in to the Commander-in-Chief.

A day by day commentary on messages received and passed on to GHQ, B.E.F., and to A.C.A.B. would be merely a repetition of history which can be read elsewhere. As the gravity of the situation increased, the "Phantom" Squadron became more and more useful in a protective and close recon-naissance role.

On the 18th May, Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson reported to General Mason Macfarlane, offering the services of the Mission to "Macforce," a composite force disposed along the Escaut river westwards from St. Amand. The Squadron carried out a series of patrols under the orders of "Macforce". The Intelligence Section meanwhile con-tinued its work of liaison with British and Allied formations, and the links to No. 3 Mission and GHQ remained as active as before.

On the 23rd May, the Hopkinson Mission received orders to move into GHQ reserve at Premesques, four miles west of Lille. It arrived there at 1700 hours and an hour later the "Phantom" Squadron left under direct orders of the C.-in-C. to clear up an obscure situation west of Hazebrouch. Liaison work continued. Mainly along the front between Tournai and Gravelines with occasional visits to the Belgian front as far north as the Scheldt estuary.

By the 27th May the battle of the beaches was inevitable. Wing Commander Fairweather sent a signal to Lieutenant-Colonel Hopkinson suggesting that the Intelligence Section, whose importance as liaison officers had waned and whose revolvers and motor cycles were likely to be more of a hindrance than a help in the B.E-F.'s last struggle for evacua-tion, should be withdrawn to No. 3 Mission H.Q. at Bruges for evacuation at the earliest opportunity.

On the same day the remainder of the Hopkinson Mission provided an escort for the Commander-in-Chief during the move of GHQ to Cassel and from Cassel to Houtkerque.

Various tasks were allotted to the Mission between then and their evacuation; they assisted the 4th Division in clearing up the situation south of Berques and in the defence of Wormhoudt, where one armoured car troop covered the with-drawal of the 144th Infantry Brigade.

In the evening of the 20th May, the Mission H.Q. moved to La Panne, and during the night and the following day all available personnel of the Mission were employed in guarding the approaches to the beaches at La Panne. On the 30th May they were relieved of this task by the 12th Lancers and pre-pared for embarkation.

In the early hours of the 31stMay the Hopkinson Mission left for England.

The Intelligence Section chose the less attractive but the more fortunate of two vessels, which embarked for England from Ostend.

The whole of No. 3 Air Mission was on the other vessel, the ill-fated Abukir, an overladen merchantman that was torpedoed by an E-boat not far from the Belgian coast.

The value in human life and ability that went down with that ship cannot be measured-conspicuous staff officers, out-standing technicians, and splendid companions. One great leader must he given space here.

Wing Commander Fair-weather was as great a commanding officer as one could wish to have, and was respected alike by the Army and R.A.F. officers and men who served under him. As an officer he expected the best of every man's ability, and, though to the Hopkinson Mission his presence was often spiritual rather than physical, even during much of the training period at Valenciennes, that best was given him unquestioningly. He was as brilliant a staff officer as he was a commander, and he was as knowledgeable in military matters as he was in air strategy.

The few who had the good fortune to serve under him would agree that, had he survived to take part in the long Struggle of Army-Air co-operation that followed the fall of France, problems, which look years to settle, might never have arisen, or, if they had, would have been solved quickly with understanding, equity and tact.

As a man, he was as old or as young as any officer with whom he served, and seemed to possess more than any man the ability to suit his bearings and his conversation to anyone who happened to be talking to him. Perhaps the greatest tribute one could pay to "Fairy" is to say without flattery that he was worthy and able to command "Hoppy".