ENIGMA 2000 Newsletter - Issue 31

November 2005
Articles, newsreports and Items of interest :enigma2000-owner@yahoogroups.com

Morse stations | Voice stations | Oddities | Polytones
Beginners corner | German branch | Numbers predictions
Confirmed end user of number transmissions
Verwaltung Aufklärung | E10 schedule research
HJH's watch | Secret service on the short wave | Killing of Colonel Callan
News Items | Web sites | Contribution deadlines
Index | E2K NL Home

ENIGMA 2000 Article - The killing of Colonel Callan

This issue’s article, ably written by HJH, came as a result of a short telephone conversation between HJH and PLondon whilst they were reminiscing on past campaigns, medals and small wars that had occurred in other places. The chance remark, ‘Remember Colonel Callan’ produced………….

The killing of Colonel Callan


"Colonel" Tony Callan was the "nom de guerre" of Costas Georgoiu, a young man of Greek Cypriot extraction, then living in London, who, having enlisted into the Parachute Regiment, and been dishonourably discharged following a convicton for robbing a Northern Ireland Post Office during a tour of duty in that province, found employment and fame and /or infamy as a mercenary in the civil war which raged in Angola in 1975/76.(Sadly, nothing seems to have changed in that troubled land).

This article is the result of a conversation between E2K and myself of the "Do you remember?" variety.(Unfortunately, at my age, all too often I do NOT!) as usual, all opinions expressed, or conclusions drawn, in this article, are my own, and in no way related to any military or civilian or government organisation with which I have been, in the past, assosciated with, or with which I am now, or may, in the future be, assosciated with. As usual, I welcome any corrections, additions, or alterations, via E2K. My sources are database enquiries, the book "Firepower" by Chris Dempster and Dave Tompkins, together with my own personal recollections of that time, and information from intelligence briefings which I attended during a Military Police attachment, which was also at the time of these events.(ie 1976)

What is a mercenary?

A mercenary is, by definition in wordIQ online dictionary, "a soldier who fights for money, regardless of ideological,national or political consideration" For a far lengthier, if more legally correct, definition, see http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Mercenary This gives the definition as stated in Article 47 of the Geneva Convention. Another, possibly more accurate, description, is that it is, arguably, the second oldest profession. Some of our readership would no doubt substitute that of "spy." (If you don't know what the first oldest profession is, you really should get out more!) All through history, governments and nation states have employed non nationals (i.e. foreign troops) to fight for them for various reasons, be they manpower shortages, the possesion of prized military skills, or simply to get unsavoury tasks performed by others. The auxiliary troops of the Roman Legions are famous, as are the Swiss and German Landsknechts of the Middle Ages. We the British, employed Hessian (German) mercenary troops in the American War of Independence, and the Scottish Rebellions. The Finnish mercenaries who, during the last war (39-45 in case anyone has lost count!) fought as pure contract troops, displaying more professional skill and judgement than their employers when they went home, having declined to renew their contracts. Our own Gurkhas I would hardly class as mercenaries, as I believe that these fine troops have bought their British nationality many times over with their blood and loyalty over their long and faithful years of service with our armed forces.

However one defines mercenary, let us examine the circumstances which, in 1975/76, took Costas Georgiou, turned him into "Colonel" Tony Callan, and put he, and some who followed him, into a dock before a Luanda show trial, which later killed "Colonel" Callan. The rights and wrongs of the mercenary profession are, I feel, far beyond the scope of this article and it's author. I shall, therefore, like Sergeant Joe Friday of the '50s TV series "Dragnet", "Just stick to the facts!"

Angola background sitrep (circa 1975)

Following 500 years under Portugese rule, Angola was granted independence in 1975. This was doubtless good news to the various Angolans who had waged a long and bloody guerilla war against Portugal, and probably even better news to the thousands of Portugese men of military service age who were liable for call up into the military, especially given that the draft laws in force in Portugal at that time rendered a man eligible for no less than three separate call ups during his life, provided that he was of military age, and fit.

Angolan nationalist groups and their leaders

The following is taken from an interview given by John Stockwell, CIA TASK FORCE LEADER ANGOLA, and contains intelligence briefing material which was given to the National Security Council in an intelligence briefing delivered to that body by William Colby, the then head of CIA.

Angola, at this time consisted of three factions and they were:-

Here, it is worth quoting verbatim the words of John Stockwell, who, at this time, had been appointed head of the CIA's Task Force Angola. This appointment was made by the then CIA Director, William Colby.

"When Bill Colby, the then CIA director, went to brief the National Security Council in the White House the first time on this- his briefing was literally "Gentlemen, this is a map of Africa, and here is Angola. Now in Angola, we have three factions. There's the MPLA, they're the bad guys. The FNLA, they're the good guys, and there's UNITA and Jonas Savimbi we don't know too well."

And that was to get the National Security Council involved in this thing".

The above was taken from the excellent CNN web site "CNN Cold War Episode Script-Good Guys and Bad Guys". I thoroughly recommend this site to anyone researching this area or the Cold War. END QUOTE.

A civil war is born

The three groups met at Alver, in Portugal, to decide upon elections, a constitution, and, eventually, to actually hold elections. Sadly, no agreement could be reached, and the pull out of the Portugese military post-independence left a power vacuum in which the three factions soon began a power struggle. It was a power vacuum into which would soon be sucked various multi national armed forces, both regular, irregular, and mercenary.

Angola - nations and organisations involved

In common with many other emergent nations, African and otherwise, during the Cold War, it took neither superpower bloc long to step in, choose a side with which they could ideologically identify, and support that side with whatever means they could.

Unleash the dogs of war

The South Africans and the UNITA/FNLA forces which they were supporting were first stopped, and then thrown back, by the overwhelming firepower and superior numbers of the joint Cuban/MPLA forces. It was at this juncture that, denied by the overwhelming need for secrecy the option of obtaining from Congress the option of commiting US forces, that the CIA played the mercenary card. Without the approval of the NSC, they paid Holden Roberto 300,000 dollars to finance a mercenary recruitment operation, amongst other things. The money was routed through Zaire, to conceal it's origin.

Security advisory services

It is at this point in the story that the S.A.S.(Security Advisory Services) enter the Angolan operation. This was a recruitment company, London-based, and run by John Banks, another former soldier of the Parachute Regiment. It was, specifically, a mercenary recruitment organisation. Word soon spread amongst the various bars and other haunts of newly demobbed or otherwise discharged soldiers, with an inclination to sell their professional services. Costas Georgiou was one such, along with Dave Tompkins, co-author of "Firepower" one of the sources of information mentioned in the list given in the introduction to this article. Georgiou adopted the name "Callan" after the popular character in the TV series of the same name, played by Edward Woodward, and very popular at that time. Callan's character was a secret service agent who belonged to a shadowy, easily deniable, department which was tasked with quietly eradicating "enemies of the state". Georgiou played this character to perfection, as later developments were to show. Here, it is worth quoting two widely differing appraisals of Callan's character.

First, Holden Roberto. "Among the mercenaries there were some very fine soldiers. Callan, for instance-I've seldom seen such a good soldier. He had phenomenal courage"

John Stockwell. "He was psychopath, a raving psychopath and a couple of men right near him were psychopaths".

All men recruited by this company were issued with, once they had signed the requisite contracts, an identity card bearing the holder's photograph, his personal details, and the fact that he was employed on the legitamate business of that company. These cards were, although having no legal standing or bearing, used by such mercenary recruits as possesed no passports, to travel abroad en route to their "employment" in Angola, and this ID card was accepted by the various national border agencies into which they came into contact. Details are given in the book "Firepower" already mentioned, and confirmed in intelligence briefings which I attended as a member of a Military Police detachment detailed to patrol airports in the London area, to apprehend various members of the British Army and Royal Marines, who, having gone AWOL, were thought to have signed on as mercenaries with SAS and John Banks, who, it is known, was receiving a "finder's fee" for each recruit who arrived in Angola to swell the ranks.

Enter Costas Georgiou and his comrades, also members of the Airborne fraternity, which is, as any former Airborne troopie will tell you, a form of Freemasonry. Old paras never die, they go to hell to regroup, and so it was that Costas Georgiou and some like minded ex-paras met up with John Banks, former paratrooper, now running Security Advisory Services, no doubt initials which he had chosen very carefully, aware no doubt, of the impression it would give (to the uninitiated, that is). Banks it was, who recruited these men and others, as mercenaries for Holden Roberto's now beleagured army. They may not have gone to hell to regroup, going instead to Angola. But that, as Costas Georgiou and many of his fellow mercenaries were to discover, was just Hell by another name.

Angola - on the ground

It is not clear at what juncture Costas Georgiou became "Colonel" Tony Callan, probably just before or soon after they reached Angola. It was probably at about the same time that he became a colonel. For those who wish to research this subject further, I recommend "Firepower" by Dave Tompkins and Chris Dempster, both of whom served in this ill starred enterprise.

I will not comment on it's accuracy, suffice to say that both authors were there at the time. After some initial success, superior numbers (some estimates give 40,000 as the Cuban strength) and overwhelming firepower, in particular the Stalin Organs, with which the Cuban artillery units were equipped, began to tell. These lorry mounted multi barreled rocket launchers were weapons, which, as any old Wehrmacht footslogger would recall, not only blew apart men and materiel, but also morale and the will to fight.

Callan, as I shall now call him, made a good start, appearing to be very competent, giving a good account of himself in contacts with Cubans and MPLA. Here again, a quote from John Stockwell. "He turned a couple of incidents around very dramatically and we were very impressed. And then almost instantly it turned out he was humiliating Zairian paracommando leaders. He would strip their clothes off and have them beaten publicly. He was executing people."

Nor were Callan's own men immune to his brutality.

Following a botched counter attack against the Cubans following a contact at a town called Maquela. During this counter attack, some of Callan's men, no doubt inexperienced and probably outgunned, certainly confused by the fog of war, attacked one of their own armoured vehicles. Callan decided on an exemplary disciplinary measure. He lined up fourteen of the hapless, mercenaries, and shot them. This is the incident which, when it made headlines in the British press in UK, earned him the notoriety with which his name is still asossciated So what kind of troops did Callan have to try to stem the tide? By all accounts, not of a high quality. John Stockwell again. "You don't get a good disciplined force when you've grabbed people off the streets to form a military. Two of the mercenaries …… were literally street sweepers in London who were recruited off the street." As already stated, some absentees and deserters from HM Forces were known to be trying to enlist, whether seekling escape or excitement, only they would know.

For these, Colchester MCTC [The ‘glasshouse – and you can polish hard for the radio tonight lad – now ready at the double] would have been Butlin's compared to what awaited them in Angola.  To say that many were raw and inexperienced is probably the kindest statement to describe them.

Finally, outgunned and far outnumbered, the mercenaries and their FNLA comrades in arms were forced to give ground. Some of the mercenaries managed to escape, some, Callan included, were captured. The FNLA men probably melted back into the population, in the manner of guerrilla fighters everywhere.

For Callan and the other captured mercenaries, a show trial was not long delayed. In Luanda, the thirteen men were put on trial. The MPLA had obviously learned from their Soviet and Cuban "advisers". All were found guilty, as was to be expected. Interestingly, Callan's sister, Panayiota Georgiou was allowed into Angola to both monitor the trial and visit her brother, Costas. She is quoted as saying in an interview given at the time, "He is standing up very well to this ordeal".

And so he was. So well, in fact, that his Angolan interegators despaired of breaking him. He stood up in court, and said that whatever his men had done, had been on his orders. At this juncture, fate took a hand, and Callan's sister actually began going out with one of the chief Angolan prosecuting interagators. Despairing of breaking Callan, the interogation team tried one last ploy. Returning to his cell one day day, Callan entered to find, facing him in the cell, the freshly disinterred, by now well decomposed, body of one of his mercenary comrades who had been killed earlier. This, it seems, had the desired effect of turning Callan from a defiant, even arrogant prisoner, into a shattered man. Found guilty, he, Andrew McKenzie, (another former British Army soldier) and John Derek Barker, were sentenced to death. Also sentenced to death, was Daniel Gearhart, an American. He had been but a few days in the country, and was, apparently, found guilty of advertising himself as a mercenary in "Soldier of Fortune" magazine. They were shot to death before a firing squad on July 10th 1976. The other nine men received jail sentences of between 16 to 30 years. Ernesto Teixeira da Silva, one of the five presiding judges in the trial, is quoted as saying, "Africa feels mercenaries are a danger to the people, the children, and to the security of the state. They spread fear, shame, and hatred in Africa." Given that the civil war in Angola has but recently ceased, and the widespread ethnic warfare and butchery still raging in most of the newly emergent African states, the sentences would appear to have served as no deterrent whatsoever. And , in a really unusual twist, Panayiota Georgiou, also called "Blondie", eventually married the man who helped execute her brother. An unexpected outcome, even by modern African standards!

A last word from John Banks, the man who recruited these men. He is quoted thus. "I don't feel sorry for them. They are soldiers, they knew what they were doing. I would do it again." Who said comradeship and sentiment are dead ?


Recently, a British man, David Tompkins, appeared before a Miami court, and, after pleading guilty to a charge of conspiring to buy a A 37 "Dragonfly" aircraft, one of the COIN aircraft used by the US in Vietnam (COIN=counter insurgency) This was to be used to kill Pablo Escobar, the head of the Meddelin cartel, then held in a jail. The plot was to bomb the jail in which he was held. Escobar has since been killed by Colombian police in 1993 during a prison break. David Tompkins is 64 years old. It seems old mecenaries, like old paras, never die. He once said of his Angolan experience, "It sounded a good idea. The man who offered me the job could have said Mars and I'd have said yes".

Nice one, Dave.

[Tnx HJH – a walk down memory lane indeed – it is worth noting that a few London TAVR establishments were visited during this Angolan fracas to recruit mercenaries. Leaving the building one was often confronted by a bloke in a suit, “fancy some proper excitement – the type you’ve trained for but will never use……………….” Working as an advisor – like heck].

Morse stations | Voice stations | Oddities | Polytones
Beginners corner | German branch | Numbers predictions
Confirmed end user of number transmissions
Verwaltung Aufklärung | E10 schedule research
HJH's watch | Secret service on the short wave | Killing of Colonel Callan
News Items | Web sites | Contribution deadlines
Index | E2K NL Home