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

Early life

Georgiou was born on Cyprus in 1951, when the island was still a British protectorate. His family moved to London in the early 1960s.
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 was also alleged to have fired 26 shots on Bloody Sunday when civilians were killed in Derry. However, he was later court-martialed, along with his fellow-soldier Mick Wainhouse, after they robbed a post office. Georgiou was convicted and dishonorably discharged.

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.
Mercenary activity
Background: Roots of the conflict and Georgiou's recruitment

In 1975, Portugal recognized the independence of its former colony of Angola, and acknowledged the Soviet-aligned MPLA faction 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 U.S.-backed FNLA and the South African-backed 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 contacts in the United Kingdom and United States. Funding was provided by various NATO-member intelligence organizations, including the American CIA and the French Secret Service.

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. 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 honorably 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.

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

"Colonel Tony Callan," as Georgiou was now styling himself - the surname having come from the popular hardbitten espionage and action series Callan, starring Edward Woodward as a hired gun for the Crown - led a small FNLA military group composed of mostly Portuguese and Greek Cypriot mercenaries with the odd Irishman, Lyndon Sheehan, thrown in. One of the Portuguese, who styled himself "Madeira" after the famous fortified wine, was also a former champion boxer. This group were all excellent, experienced soldiers, but far too few in numbers to accomplish a decisive victory. Still, the record they amassed in their short guerilla campaign was impressive. In one ambush on an MPLA column, the squad-sized unit, led by Sheehan, killed 60 of the approximately 600 MPLA and Cuban fighters, and destroyed four T-34's and four "Stalin organ" mobile rocket platforms, Sheehan lost four men in this firefight. Impressed with their efforts, Holden Roberto dispatched Nick Hall back to England to recruit a full battalion.

Thanks to ongoing recruitment in England, a somewhat larger mercenary contingent was formed, but a full battalion was never realized. The enlarged force was still rather small relative to MPLA/Cuban forces, and many of the men were civilians with no military experience. Many refused 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 British men — 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 "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 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 violent resistance would be shot, although Tomkins said in an interview that this was rare.

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 nor experience as a commissioned officer, nor did most of his counterparts in other units.
Trial and execution

The principal crime for which Georgiou was convicted during the Luanda Trial, and subsequently executed, was the slaying of fourteen of his men who had attempted to desert in some of the trucks that were carrying the unit's supplies. They did this after mistakenly firing on one of the other vehicles in their convoy, for which they feared punishment. He was also accused of killing two Angolan civilians, as well as torturing civilians to extract intelligence on enemy troop movements. In addition, fighting as a rebel soldier was itself considered a crime by the prosecuting MPLA authorities. Coronel Callan as he used to call himself, killed all of his fourteen or ten men just because they ran away from the position which was under their surveillance. The place used to be called Sanza Pombo. At that time Callan was stationed at S. Salvador, where I meet him in January of 1976.

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. They conversed in Greek. Georgiou's body was repatriated to England, and he was buried according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church.


Brittain, Victoria (1997). Death of Dignity: Angola's Civil War. London: Pluto Press.
French, Carey (1988). "Of Myths and Mercenaries." The Globe and Mail. October 8.
Stevens, Mark (1976). "Death for 'Dogs of War'." Newsweek. July 12.
Walker, J. F. (2004). A Certain Curve of Horn. New York: Grove Press.

Further reading

Dempster, Chris. Fire Power (first hand account of foreign mercenaries fighting on the side of the FNLA) [1]
Kennedy, Bruce. Soldiers of misfortune: Mercenaries play major roles in 20th-century conflicts, from CNN's 1989 Cold War series. Accessed 22 January 2008
Milliard, Todd S. Overcoming post-colonial myopia: A call to recognize and regulate private military companies(PDF), in Military Law Review Vol 173, June 2003. At the time of publication Major Milliard was a Judge Advocate in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, U.S. Army. pp 39,40
Staff. 1976: Death sentence for mercenaries, BBC, part of their "On this Day" series (28 June 1976). Accessed 22 January 2008
Staff 1976: Mercenaries trial begins in Angola, BBC, part of their "On this Day" series (11 June 1976). Accessed 22 January 2008
Staff, Good Guys, Bad Guys:Tomkins Interview National Security Archive, 22 February 1999. Hosted on the website of George Washington University.
Unknown Author. 2000 Article - The killing of Colonel Callan,The ENIGMA 2000 Newsletter, Canard Volant Non Identifié, November 2005.

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