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The Phantom Memorial Garden

at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire DE13 7AR.
Phantom Plot 2003 - Flintstones 2003 - Construction 2003 - Plaques 2003

The Phantom Memorial Garden is a personal tribute from the late Sergeant Len Owens MM to those that lost their lives as a result of Operation Loyton.

Operation Loyton was a behind the lines Special Air Service operation conducted by 2 SAS under the command of Lt. Col. Brian Franks. Its mission was to disrupt the German retreat east through the Vosges Mountains to Strasbourg. The SAS troops were tasked to work ahead of the American forces under General Patton who had advanced to Nancy in eastern France.

 SERGEANT LEN OWENS MM AT WAR The SAS troops also contained members of Phantom Signals, who were their wireless radio link back to SAS headquarters in England. One of those Phantoms was Len Owens who really wanted to go to sea and be a sailor. This was not to be, as he started off in the Royal Signals. Notices soon appeared asking for volunteers for hazardous duties which involved amphibious landings. "At last!" said Len I can get to sea and then went off to Auchnacarry in Scotland to train as part of Combined Operations Command. Most of Lens time there was spent on the land and not at sea.

Lens expertise in radio communication was soon noticed, and he was encouraged to volunteer for the Phantom Signals; otherwise known as GHQ Liaison Regiment. This was a secret communications and intelligence unit that was formed under direct orders from Winston Churchill (Prime Minister). Lens first operation was with the landings in Sicily and he remembers toiling up the beach with a massive radio on a trolley. They had asked for transport to lug the machine about, but this was not forthcoming.

This trolley was soon abandoned and a jeep was purloined to help Len and his colleagues to get into the war.

The advance inland was so swift through Sicily that Len had hardly got off the beach when he was recalled back to North Africa.

In any event Len eventually got to sea, but not as a sailor!


The Phantom Plot 2003


 DESIGN OF PHANTOM MEMORIAL GARDEN Len joined the newly formed Allied Special Forces Association which was based in Hereford.

Some while after joining, Len rang Mike Colton (2003), the association secretary and said he had a problem. When asked what that problem was, he said that he needed a piece of Coral Granite from eastern France to be the centrepiece of his memorial to Phantom.

Volunteers were called for and Richard Marshall mobilised his Vagantune Truck and Scarf Jones swatted over maps as he was roped in as navigator and off we three went, nicknamed the "Flintstones" to the Vosges mountains.

 LEN AND THE FLINTSTONES; SCARF, MIKE AND RICHARD PRIOR TO SETTING OFF FROM HEREFORD WAR MEMORIAL  RICHARD AND MIKE IN MOUSSEY CHURCHYARD AND THE BLUE WREATH WAS LAID BY AN SAS PARTY THE PREVIOUS YEAR

The intrepid "Flintstones" set off from Hereford and were soon on the soil of France, arriving at 2 am in Moussey. An interesting drive followed around the back lanes and tight corners in Richards truck to arrive at the Quarry in Senones about 4 am. This recconnaisance complete we retired to Moussey and laid a wreath on the SAS memorial in the small churchyard. (The blue wreath with SAS badge insert was laid by an SAS party the previous year)


Flintstones Picture Gallery 2003


 MIKE WITH CHOSEN CORAL GRANITE  THE CREATION OF A MEMORIAL

The one tonne Coral Granite slab was cut from a twenty tonne piece and once loaded onto Richards truck we headed back.


 ROCK ONTO TRUCK  VEGANTUNE TRUCK AT QUARRY
Loading proved more difficult than at first thought!!!
 MIKE HANDS LEN A BOTTLE OF SAS WINE TO CELEBRATE THE CORAL GRANITE ARRIVING  FLINTSTONES AND LEN WITH CORAL GRANITE AT PHANTOM PLOT

Once back at the National Memorial Arboretum Sir David Childs the founder of the Arboretum was on hand with a JCB to help lift the Coral Granite from the truck. Len was duly presented with a bottle of SAS wine to celebrate the whole event which took 32 hours from start to finish.


Construction of the Memorial 2003


 LEN AND SCARF AT THE MEMORIAL PLOT WITH TREES PLANTED  PHANTOM PLOT LAID OUT BY ROBERT OWENS

Scarf Jones inspects the layout with Len Owens, whilst Robert Owens (Len's son) toiled to create the memorial from his original design concept.

 PHANTOM MEMORIAL COMPLETED  CORAL GRANITE 2003

The Phantom Memorial Garden is complete with three trees for Gerald Davis, George Johnston and Peter Bannerman. The information plaques compliment the P design. The 140 rosemary bushes represent the 140 men and boys of Moussey who did not return from concentration camps. The Coral Granite represents the resolve of the men of Moussey in not betraying the SAS and Phantom patrols hidden in the forest above the village.


 PHANTOM SERGEANT GERALD DONAVAN DAVIS  PHANTOM SIGNALMAN GEORGE GOURLAY JOHNSTON  PHANTOM SIGNALMAN PETER BANNERMAN

The three Phantom men died as a result of the American Army halting its advance on the Vosges mountains whilst its supply chain caught up. This allowed the German Army to deploy two divisions of troops to hunt down and kill or capture the SAS and Phantom soldiers. In the ensuing action's a total of 31 men from the 2nd Special Air Service were killed or captured and summarily executed in addition to the three Phantom's.

Eventually 4 young ladies from the Special Operations Executive met their deaths in a similar fashion and their bodies burnt in concentration camp ovens.

What was horrific is that the Germans rounded up all the men and boys in the village and offered them amensty if they revealed the whereabouts of the British in the hills above Moussey. No one moved and despite interrogation no one revealed the locations. Subsequently 210 men and boys were deported to concentration camps. 140 did not return at the end of the war and many of those that did return died of the extreme and harsh conditions they suffered in the concentration camps.


Memorial Plaques 2003


 COMMEMORATION PLAQUE SET IN THE CORAL GRANITE
 MAIN PHANTOM HISTORY PLAQUE
 COMMEMORATION PLAQUE TO TESS OWENS - LENS WIFE

In 2003 Sgt. Len Owens MM fulfilled his lifelong ambition to commemorate all those who were involved in Operation Loyton. At that time he exhausted his funds for the memorial and in doing so he ventured forward with fresh ideas on how to accentuate the part played by the French Resistance and the men folk of Moussey.

Len now embarked on part two of his commemoration to the French people. This culminated in the dedication of the memorial to the people of Moussey on Sunday the 22nd. June 2008. The dedication was attended by the retiring Mayor of Moussey - Jacques Defrance and Gerard Villemin who runs the Resistance to Deportation website.

Both lost their fathers who were deported from Moussey in 1944 to concentration camps.


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The Allied Special Forces Memorial Grove is adminstered by the Allied Special Forces Association .
The Grove is independently funded by its members, friends and generous public donations. Your help would be appreciated.

 ALLIED SPECIAL FORCES MEMORIAL GROVE  NATIONAL MEMORIAL ARBORETUM

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