Costas Georgiou

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Costas Georgiou on trial in Angola in 1976 Costas-georgiou.jpg
Costas Georgiou on trial in Angola in 1976

Costas Georgiou (Greek : Κώστας Γιώργιου, also Anglicized as Kostas Giorgiou; alias "Colonel Callan") (1951 – 10 July 1976) was an ethnic Greek Cypriot, British mercenary executed in Angola following the Luanda Trial for activities during the civil war phase of the Angolan War of Independence.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Mercenary soldier who fights for hire

A mercenary, sometimes known as a soldier of fortune, is an individual who takes part in military conflict for personal profit, is otherwise an outsider to the conflict, and is not a member of any other official military. Mercenaries fight for money or other forms of payment rather than for political interests. In the last century, mercenaries have increasingly come to be seen as less entitled to protections by rules of war than non-mercenaries. Indeed, the Geneva Conventions declare that mercenaries are not recognized as legitimate combatants and do not have to be granted the same legal protections as captured soldiers of a regular army. In practice, whether or not a person is a mercenary may be a matter of degree, as financial and political interests may overlap, as was often the case among Italian condottieri.

Angola country in Africa

Angola, officially the Republic of Angola, is a west-coast country of south-central Africa. It is the seventh-largest country in Africa, bordered by Namibia to the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Zambia to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Angola has an exclave province, the province of Cabinda that borders the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The capital and largest city of Angola is Luanda.


Early life

Georgiou was born on Cyprus in 1951, when the island was still a British Crown colony. His family moved to London in the early 1960s.

Cyprus Island country in Mediterranean

Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus, is an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean and the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean, located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, northwest of Israel, north of Egypt, and southeast of Greece.

Crown colony, dependent territory or royal colony were dependent territories under the administration of United Kingdom overseas territories that were controlled by the British Government. As such they are examples of dependencies that are under colonial rule. Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories" in 1981, and since 2002, Crown colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.

British military career

Georgiou joined the British Army and served, at first with distinction, in 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland. He was credited as being one of the best marksmen in the unit. He later became involved with other paratroopers in an armed robbery on a Post Office on 18 February 1972. Georgiou was eventually sentenced to five years in prison. [1]

1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment airborne light infantry unit of the British Army

The 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, along with various other regiments and corps from across the British Armed Forces, forms the United Kingdom's Special Forces Support Group (SFSG).

Royal Mail Postal service company in the United Kingdom

Royal Mail is a postal service and courier company in the United Kingdom, originally established in 1516. The company's subsidiary, Royal Mail Group Limited, operates the brands Royal Mail (letters) and Parcelforce Worldwide (parcels). General Logistics Systems, an international logistics company, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Mail Group.

Despite later claiming to have been a colonel, Georgiou's highest British Army rank attained was that of corporal, and he never received officer training. Others state Georgiou was a private soldier.[ citation needed ]

Colonel is a senior military officer rank below the brigadier and general officer ranks. However, in some small military forces, such as those of Monaco or the Vatican, colonel is the highest rank. It is also used in some police forces and paramilitary organizations.

Corporal is a military rank in use in some form by many militaries and by some police forces or other uniformed organizations. Within NATO, each member nation's corresponding military rank of corporal is combined under the NATO-standard rank scale code OR-3 or OR-4. However, there are often differences in how each nation employs corporals. Some militaries don't have corporals, but may instead have a Junior Sergeant.

Officer (armed forces) member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority

An officer is a member of an armed forces or uniformed service who holds a position of authority.

Mercenary activity

Background: Roots of the conflict and Georgiou's recruitment

In 1975, Portugal recognised the independence of its former colony of Angola, and acknowledged the Soviet-aligned People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) as the de jure government. The new government sought and received help in the form of Cuban military advisors, combat troops and material to fight against rival factions, which included the US-backed National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) and the South African-backed National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which received some US funding but no actual military aid. At the same time, British and American ex-military were recruited by FNLA through Private Military Companies (PMC; also known as PMIs, for Private Military Industry) in the United Kingdom and United States. Funding was provided by various NATO-member intelligence organisations, including the American CIA and the French SDECE.

Portugal Republic in Southwestern Europe

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe. It is bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.

MPLA political party

The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, for some years called the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party, is a political party that has ruled Angola since the country's independence from Portugal in 1975. The MPLA fought against the Portuguese army in the Angolan War of Independence of 1961–74, and defeated the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), two other anti-colonial movements, in the Angolan Civil War of 1975–2002.

In law and government, de jure describes practices that are legally recognised, regardless of whether the practice exists in reality. In contrast, de facto describes situations that exist in reality, even if not legally recognised. The terms are often used to contrast different scenarios: for a colloquial example, "I know that, de jure, this is supposed to be a parking lot, but now that the flood has left four feet of water here, it's a de facto swimming pool". To further explain, even if the signs around the flooded parking lot say "Parking Lot" it is "in fact" a swimming pool.

By this time, Georgiou was out of the army and working part-time in construction. He had few prospects for more stable and gainful employment, given his dishonorable discharge for his part in robbing a post office. He was dating a Greek Cypriot woman, Rona Angelo. Her cousin was 'Shotgun' Charlie Christodoulou, like Costas an ex-paratrooper of Greek Cypriot extraction, but honourably discharged. An acquaintance, Nick Hall, another dishonorably discharged airborne veteran, took the initiative of putting out an advertisement soliciting mercenary employment for four able-bodied young men. These would be Hall himself, Georgiou, Christodoulou and Costas's old comrade, Mick Wainhouse.

Charles 'Charlie' Christodoulou was a British soldier in the Parachute Regiment who later served as a foreign mercenary during the Angolan War of Independence of the 1970s. Known as 'Shotgun Charlie' as he was seldom without one in his hands in Angola, he was involved in the murder of 167 civilians during that conflict.

The men received a prompt reply from "Dr." Donald Belford, a former British Army medic who had volunteered for a humanitarian aid group in Africa some years before. While there, he had treated several Angolan fighters wounded in the struggle against the Portuguese, earning their friendship and trust. One of his friends was Holden Roberto, leader of the FNLA. After independence, Belford became Roberto's official emissary in the United Kingdom.

Georgiou in Angola

Georgiou was now using the nom de guerre "Colonel Tony Cullen" – the surname of a former army friend and not, as mistakenly alleged by some journalists,[ citation needed ] inspired by the TV espionage series Callan. He went to Angola to work as an unpaid medical orderly, in advance of his three colleagues. It was while he was working in this position that he took part in the decisive action that brought him to the notice of the FNLA leadership. When FNLA soldiers fled the advance of a MPLA force, which threatened to capture the hospital to which he was assigned, Georgious led a handful of Portuguese FNLA soldiers in an offensive defence, stopping the MPLA force in its tracks. The general trend of the war for the FNLA at that time was one of a steady string of defeats, ensuring that the defeat of the MPLA column attracted immediate attention from Holden Roberto who, to Georgiou's surprise, appointed him head of the FNLA army, with the rank of Colonel (still unpaid). His three friends arrived from Britain shortly afterwards.

Thanks to continuing recruitment in England, a somewhat larger mercenary contingent was formed, but a full battalion was never realised. The enlarged force was still rather small relative to MPLA/Cuban forces, and many of the men were civilians with no military experience, and often refusing to submit to military discipline. This, combined with the foreign, Mediterranean origin of most of the core leadership, (Georgiou, Christodoulou and the Portuguese), created a deep gulf between the officers and the British other ranks – to say nothing of the native Angolans recruited as infantry and support troops. Most of these had no military experience and many knew no English, or even Portuguese (then still the language of government and the native elite.)

The first contingent of mercenaries was mostly made up of professional soldiers, selected by a British PMC, Security Advisory Services (SAS), run by John Banks, Chris Dempster, and Dave Tomkins. Georgiou resented SAS's own leadership structure within the group, and perceived John Banks, who remained based in Britain, as a personal threat to his own position when Banks did visit Angola. Georgiou became increasingly paranoid and belligerent toward his own men, murdering African soldiers and creating a climate of fear even among the British mercenaries, none of which aided the morale of the FNLA forces or their ability to wage war successfully against the MPLA.

The second contingent of mercenaries sent from Britain, unlike the first, was made up mostly of working class men with no military experience. These undisciplined men quickly realised the perilous situation into which they had been placed, and the instability of their leadership. A group of them consequently seized vehicles and attempted to flee the country, firing on other FNLA forces in the process, including Chris Dempster. The deserters were quickly rounded up by Georgiou's men, and fourteen were summarily executed by firing squad.

A third contingent of similarly inept mercenaries was recruited in the US by an American PMC.[ citation needed ]

The "battalion" fought several more dramatic engagements, including successful ambushes of minor MPLA detachments. However, given his limited resources and the fact that many of his men – European and native alike – were untrained, increasingly demoralised amateurs, Georgiou's campaign was ultimately a failure. According to mercenary David Tomkins, the group spent most of its time foraging for food, usable weapons, and ammunition. Much of this foraging consisted of "raids" on villages, where the men would casually walk into town brandishing their weapons, searching for anything of use. Anyone who offered physical resistance would be shot.

Lack of proper equipment was one of the key factors in the failure of foreign mercenary units in Angola generally, and in Georgiou's case in particular. The MPLA had Soviet tanks, artillery and crack Cuban troops. The other two factions had mostly light infantry, not always the best trained and disciplined either. Another factor was leadership inexperience: Georgiou had absolutely no training or experience as a commissioned officer, nor did most of his counterparts in other units.

Trial and execution

Georgiou was tried under the jurisdiction of the Angolan MPLA government in the Luanda Trial during June and July 1976. He was charged with illegally entering Angola as a mercenary, along with twelve other defendants. In addition he was charged with involvement in the massacre of fourteen fellow mercenaries at Maquela do Zombo in northern Angola, as well as with the murder and torture of enemy soldiers and civilians in the town of São Salvador. [2] The killings at Maquela occurred after some mercenary recruits had mistakenly opened fire on their colleagues and, fearing retribution by Georgiou and the MPLA, had subsequently fled towards Zaire, taking all the unit’s supplies. [3]

Georgiou was convicted and sentenced to death. [4] He was executed on 10 July 1976. [5]

Georgiou's sister was allowed to visit him during his captivity in Angola. In a BBC interview, she said they spoke mainly about their family and the trial proceedings, conversing in Greek. Georgiou's body was repatriated to England, and he was buried according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church.

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  1. "Interview with Tony Clarke, Stormont Live Special - The Saville Inquiry Report, Stormont Live - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 2016-03-21.
  2. The Times (London, England), Saturday, Jun 12, 1976; page 1
  3. The Times (London, England), Saturday, Feb 14, 1976; pages 1 & 5
  4. The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Jun 29, 1976; pages 1 & 5
  5. The Times (London, England), Monday, Jul 12, 1976; page 1

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