No. 30 Commando

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30 (Commando) Assault Unit
30AU emblem.png
unit badge
Active 1942–1946
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Marines, Royal Navy, Army and attached civilian specialists.
Type British Commandos
Role Intelligence gathering
Size 120 all ranks[1]
Part of Combined Operations
Nickname(s) Red Indians
Motto(s) "Attain By Surprise"
Engagements Second World War
Lieutenant Commander Quintin Theodore Petroe Molesworth Riley[2]
30 Assault Unit Shoulder Insignia 30 Assault Unit.jpg

No. 30 Commando, from 1943 known as 30 Assault Unit, was a British Commando unit during the Second World War, originally formed to gather intelligence.


According to some accounts, the unit was reportedly deployed for the first time during the Dieppe Raid in August 1942, in an unsuccessful attempt to capture an Enigma machine and related materiel.[3]

In September 1942, its formation was officially authorised, under the auspices of the Director of Naval Intelligence. Known initially as the Special Intelligence Unit, it comprised 33 (Royal Marines) Troop, 34 (Army) Troop, 35 (Royal Air Force) Troop and 36 (Royal Navy) Troop. One of the key figures involved in its organisation was Commander Ian Fleming (later author of the James Bond novels). It was tasked to move ahead of advancing Allied forces, or to undertake covert infiltrations into enemy territory by land, sea or air, to capture much needed intelligence, in the form of codes, documents, equipment or personnel.[2] They often worked closely with the Intelligence Corps' Field Security sections. Individual troops were present in all operational theatres and usually operated independently, gathering information from captured facilities.[2]

The unit took part in the Operation Torch landings (November 1942), landing to the west of Algiers at Sidi Ferruch on 8 November.[4] They had been provided with detailed maps and photographs of the area and on the outskirts of the city locating the Italian naval headquarters. By the following day all the battle orders for the German and Italian fleets, current code books and other documents had been sent back to London.[4]

Renamed 30 Commando and also known as the Special Engineering Unit,[2] for most of 1943, the unit, or parts of it, operated in the Greek Islands, Norway, Sicily (Pantelleria) and Corsica.[2] 34 Troop operated mainly in the Italian and Balkan campaigns. Its missions have reportedly remained subject to official secrecy regulations. Perhaps the best-known member was Johnny Ramensky, a Lithuanian-Scottish safe-cracker.[5] These units were normally inserted by parachute behind enemy lines.

In November 1943, the unit returned to Britain to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. It was re-designated 30 Assault Unit (30AU) in December,[2] and re-organised into "A" Troop , "B" Troop and "X" Troop (apparently along de facto combined operations/joint service lines). 30AU took part in D-Day and the subsequent Normandy Campaign. One detachment, code-named Pikeforce, landed on Juno Beach. Its major task on D-Day was the capture of a radar station at Douvres-la-Delivrande, north of Caen (although the defending Germans held out until 17 June).[2] Led by Squadron Leader David Nutting (RAF), a detachment code-named Woolforce, landed at Utah Beach, tasked with examining suspected German V-1 missile sites.[6] 30AU reportedly also took part in the capture of Cherbourg. During July and August it was stationed at Rennes, Brest, and took part in the Liberation of Paris.[2] In September 1944, 30AU took part in the capture of Channel coast ports, often using armed jeeps.

Some 30AU missions in Germany during early 1945 reportedly remain subject to official secrecy.[citation needed] The unit is known to have targeted military scientists,[7][8] sometimes far behind enemy lines. According to some sources, the secrecy surrounding 30AU was such that significant German figures, captured behind the lines by field teams from 30AU, were officially reported to have "surrendered" to Allied infantry.[9][page needed]

A 30AU detachment was sent to the Pacific theatre in mid-1945, although the Japanese surrender precluded actual operations. Immediately after the war, however, 30AU was reportedly active in Singapore, Indochina and Hong Kong.

30 Assault Unit was officially disbanded in 1946.[2]

Post war

30 Assault Unit was disbanded in 1946, however in 2010 the Royal Marines formed 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group (30 Cdo IXG RM) which carries on the history of 30 Assault Unit.[10]

In 2013, 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group were granted the freedom of Littlehampton, West Sussex, in honour of the original unit being based in the town during the Second World War.[11][12]


By 1945 30 Assault Unit consisted of HQ Troop; A, B and X Troops; a mobile RN signals unit, and a RN medical unit.

In fiction

  • The film Age of Heroes is very loosely based on the real 30 Assault Unit.

Notable members



  1. ^ Ladd, p.353
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "History of 30 Assault Unit 1942-1946". Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  3. ^ Ogrodnik, Irene. "Breaking German codes real reason for 1942 Dieppe raid: historian." Archived 24 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Global News, 9 August 2012. Retrieved: 13 August 2012.
  4. ^ a b Haining, p.33
  5. ^ "Feature: Gentle Johnny". The National Archives of Scotland. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  6. ^ David C. Nutting (ed.), 2003, Attain by Surprise: Capturing Top Secret Intelligence in WW II (rev. ed.), David Colver.
  7. ^ Nutting, David (2003). Attain by Surprise. Colver. ISBN 0-9526257-2-5.
  8. ^ Appendix 1 (Part 5): History of 30 Commando (later called 30 Assault Unit and 30 Advanced Unit also known as Special Engineering Unit). Admiralty SW. 1946 [released 1997]. ADM 223/214.
  9. ^ Bower, Tom (1997). The Paperclip Conspiracy. Paladin. ISBN 0-586-08686-2.
  10. ^ "UK Royal Marines Rename Information Unit". International Defence Review. London: Janes. June 2010. p. 8. We are immensely proud to be able to carry on the history of 30 Commando
  11. ^ "Littlehampton grants town freedom to James Bond unit". BBC. 5 October 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  12. ^ "Fleming's Red Indians special Royal Marine Commando unit". Littlehampton Gazette. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2014.


  • Chappell, Mike (1996). Army Commandos 1940–45. London: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-579-9.
  • Haining, Peter (2007). The Mystery of Rommel's Gold: The Search for the Legendary Nazi Treasure. Avana Books. ISBN 1-84486-053-1.
  • Ladd, James (1980). The Royal Marines 1919–1980. London: Jane's. ISBN 978-0-7106-0011-0.
  • Moreman, Timothy (2006). British Commandos 1940–46. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-986-X.

Further reading

  • Hugill, J. A. C. (1946). "The Hazard Mesh". London: Hurst & Blackett. OCLC 14636090.
  • Riley, J. P. (1989). "From Pole to Pole". Bluntisham Books. ISBN 1-871999-02-2.
  • Dalzel-Job, Patrick (1991). "Arctic Snow to Dust of Normandy". Barnsley: Pen and Sword Military Books. ISBN 1-84415-238-3.
  • Rankin, Nicholas (2011). "Ian Fleming's Commandos: The Story of the Legendary 30 Assault Unit". London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-978282-6.
  • Hampshire, A. Cecil (1978). The Secret Navies. London: W. Kimber. ISBN 0-71830-195-1.

External links

  • 30 Commando Assault Unit - Ian Fleming's 'Red Indians' - Literary James Bond's Wartime Unit

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