A brief overview
Information sources listed below.
The brain child of naval commander Ian Fleming & Lord Louis Mountbatten, this wartime unit was a secret well kept for over 50 years after the war by the Official Secrets Act, some remains classified, see Reading. At the time, officially, they didn’t exist. The members of this unit were forbidden to discuss or document their activities, a pledge that many of the men kept even many years after the war was over, or even for their entire lives!
Due to the fact these men operated in very small groups on ‘need-to-know’ basis it is very difficult to get clear picture of everything they were doing.
Fleming’s/NID30AU secretary Miss Margaret Priestley (a history Don from Leeds University) played a vital role in the running and administration of 30AU and became his inspiration for Miss Petty Pettaval - the original character name that became Miss Moneypenny.
As revealed here for the first time!(6) (see Beau Bête)
Miss Preistley transferred over to NID30AU during the winter of 1943-44 from DNR - (Department of Naval Research) where she worked as a civilian, although there were obvious links between DNR and NID30AU as intelligence on enemy targets was collected for Fleming’s ‘Black List’.
Also Known as:
Fleming himself referred to the men of the unit as behaving like 'Red Indians'. (A reference he also used when referring to his character, James Bond, four times in his first novel Casino Royale. Which effectively makes this unit the ‘literary James Bond’s wartime unit’.)
Formerly:- (NID30 Command Office at Admiralty),
Special Engineering Unit. 'RED' Marines.
Latterly:- 30 Assault Unit, 30 Advanced Unit, 30AU and incorrectly as 30th Assault Unit.
The number '30' was used for no better reason than it was NID/Miss Priestley’s Office Door number at the Admiralty. (Fleming’s Office was No. 39) 'Assault Unit' was 'overt' cover for the fact that they were intelligence gathering.
Date Founded: 30 September 1942
Date Disbanded: 26 March 1946
Date Reformed: February 2010 - 30 Cdo IXG
Mission When Founded:
The collection of technical intelligence and personnel from enemy headquarters and installations. Ahead of allied advances and before enemy could destroy it, to ‘Attain by Surprise’.
Formerly Amersham, Buckinghamshire; latterly Littlehampton, West Sussex. Each troop maintained a TAC HQ in theatre.
Number of Personnel (These numbers are only a guide as it was very fluid situation):
No.33 Section, Royal Marine (1943) - 2 Officers & - 20 ORs.
No 33 Section, Royal Marine (1944) - 6 Officers & 144 ORs.
No.34 Section, Army - 4 Officers & 20 ORs.
No.35 Section, Royal Air Force - 2 Officers
No.36 Section, Royal Navy - 5/10 Officers.
Also attached were F.I.U. (Forward Interrogation Unit) Officers and American Agents and Officers who commanded small units of British Royal Marines on certain secret operations. (see Reading).
(This history is compiled from sources listed at base of page, one or two documents and veterans stories do not match the official version of events. These I am trying to clarify and will update as and when more information becomes available (see Beau Bête.)
30 Commando was an inter-service unit that was inspired by the Germans' Abwehrkommando, specialist intelligence gathering teams that advanced with forward troops or sometimes ahead of them. Ian Fleming, then the Personal Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence suggested the creation of an Offensive Naval Intelligence Group. Major W.G. Cass, a staff officer with MI5 suggested the creation of a similar unit. The DNI’s persistence led to the creation of the unit after initial doubts from the Joint Intelligence Committee.
Ian Fleming meticulously planned all their raids, going so far as to memorize aerial photographs so that their missions could be planned in detail.
30 Commando consisted of Royal Marine, Army and Royal Navy elements that were organized into three Sections: No. 33, No. 34 and No.36 respectively. Initially code-named the Special Engineering Unit, the unit reported to the Chief of Combined Operations, though the Admiralty retained ultimate control of No.36 Section. No.35 Section was left vacant for the RAF to utilize but they never raised a troop to participate in 30 Cdo. Although they did supply intelligence officers and specific targets to pursue after D-Day for ‘Operation Crossbow’.
Unit members were given general commando skills and weapons training, and were then trained in recognizing enemy mines, booby traps, handling of explosives, demolitions, counter-demolitions, recognition of enemy uniforms and equipment. Parachute training, small boat handling, recognition of enemy documents, search techniques including lock picking and safecracking, prisoner handling, photography and escape techniques were also taught. A significant number of the initial recruits were formerly policemen. Although at least one ‘expert’ was recruited straight from prison, thought by the police to be the best safe-breaker in England at the time.
30 Cdo’s operational tactic was to move ahead of advancing Allied forces, or to undertake covert missions into enemy territory by land, sea or air, to capture intelligence, in the form of equipment, documents, codes or enemy personnel. 30 Cdo often worked closely with the Intelligence Corps' Field Security sections. More often than not each team consisted of two special operations Jeeps (As used by the SAS and 30AU) manned by one Naval Commander in possession of a ‘Black Book’ which listed targets from Ian Fleming’s famous ‘Black List’. The Naval Commander was the only man in each team who knew where and what the targets actually were. This Naval Commander was usually accompanied by at least one weapons expert or scientist who he relied on to evaluate the information or equipment they encountered. There were also usually at least six Royal Marines and one RM Officer whose main job was to do any fighting required and to keep the Naval Commander and any experts alive and out of trouble. (For details Reading section.)
The individual Sections served in all the Mediterranean and NW European operational theaters, usually operating independently, gathering information from captured facilities. The unit served in North Africa, the Greek Islands, Norway, Pantelleria, Sicily, Italy, and Corsica, 1942-1943 as 30 Commando.
The unit’s first operation participation was part of Operation TORCH, in which No.33 Section captured the Italian Armistice Commission’s building. No.33 Section perfected its tactics of advancing with leading troops in the Tunisian campaign on the advance to Tunis. The unit operated near, if not ahead of the vanguard of advancing troops.
The next action seen was as part of Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily. Parts of No.33 and 34 Sections landed separately. No.33 Section made searches of enemy HQs and infiltrated enemy lines on clandestine reconnaissance missions. Plans were made for operations in Yugoslavia that culminated in the arming of factions sympathetic to the Allied causes. A part of No.34 Section was posted to Lebanon where what it did still remains secret. It was later moved to participate in the Italian campaign where it remained for the rest of the war, taking part in the capture of Genoa in 1945 and many other missions yet to be revealed.
Men from 30 Cdo also took part in raids on Norway in early 1943.
In November 1943, No.33 and 36 Sections were brought back to Britain from the Mediterranean to train for Operation OVERLORD, leaving No.34 Section on Corsica. 30 Cdo was re-designated 30 Assault Unit in December 1943, and No.33 Section was increased to three Troops A, B and X each consisting of two officers and 40 other ranks, and a tactical HQ.
In Normandy, France, 30 Assault Unit (code-named WOOLFORCE and PIKEFORCE. Also units CURTFORCE, NUTFORCE) landed on JUNO and UTAH beaches, and failed to capture a German radar station at Douvres-la-Delivrande but maintained a patrol 200 yards from the perimeter. They captured and searched many V1 sites as part of ‘Operation Crossbow’ which also included A4(V2) sites. Later they fought their way into Cherbourg and found ‘masses of material’ in an underground base at Villa Maurice, Octaville.
Ian Fleming visited the unit in the field at Carentan as they rested and re-equipped and revised operational procedures. July & August 1944 saw the unit take part in a series of races toward Rennes and Brest with the capture of various ports, E-boats and submarine bases, and part of X-troop followed Free French forces into Paris in August 1944.
September 1944 saw 30 Cdo begin a series of operations in the Channel coast ports as the Allies captured them. Most of the unit was then withdrawn back to Britain to re-equip and retrain for the final assault on Germany. Although some stayed to monitor the Allied progress into Germany.
As the Allies broke through 30AU split into many ‘Field Teams’ and these were responsible for capturing many and varied targets throughout Germany.
Team 2 under Curtis captured Prof. Helmut Walter, designer of the Me163 Rocket Plane and Midget Submarines at Kiel. (Kept by the British!).
Team 5 under USN Lambie captured Prof. Herbert Wagner (10) (Handed to US Agents) designer of the guided flying bomb Hs293, already used to sink HMS Egret and to kill over 1000 troops on HMT Rohna. He went on to work for the US Navy. He did not surrender in Bavaria with Dornberger and the von Braun brothers as the Allied military would have us believe. (2) (see Reading section).
The capture of Prof. Martin V2 fuel chemist. (Handed to US Agents). He did not surrender in Bavaria as the Allied military want us to believe. (see Reading for details)
The capture of the designer of the Nazi V2 (who went on to the NASA Saturn V), Prof. von Braun and/or his brother? (Some men were convinced they were some of the scientists they caught!) Did they surrender in Bavaria as the Allied military want us to believe or was that staged afterwards? (see Beau Bête for details and FREE preview PDF, in Reading)
Team 55 under Glanville captured the entire Nazi Naval records collection at ‘Tambach Castle’. (1)
Team 4 under Job(e) captured the Bremen dockyards with type 21 & 25 submarines and destroyers. Then took the surrender of Bremerhaven and captured Naval HQ SS Europa and Z29 Destroyer. (1)(All handed over to US Agents).
Team 2 Postlethwaite captures the Torpedo testing facility at Ekenförde. (1)
Another team captured Admiral Dönitz (as Führer).
And many other things yet to be revealed by the government!
A detachment of Royal Marines was sent to the Far East in 1945, which led to the capture of at least one top ranking Japanese Admiral but the Japanese surrender precluded further operations. Subsequent activities in Singapore, Indo-China and Hong Kong eventually provided much useful intelligence.
The unit was re-designated 30 Advance Unit in the winter of 1944/45. 30 Commando was finally disbanded in 1946, however in 2010 the Royal Marines formed 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group (30 Cdo IXG RM) which carries on the lineage of 30 Assault Unit.
30 Commando Training Template:
Demolitions, Locksmith, Military Science, Parachute, Photography, Diving apparatus, Small Boat control, Psychology, Rifle, Safecracking, Concealment, Climbing/Mountaineering, Drive Auto, Drive Motorcycle, First Aid, Grapple, Handgun, Heavy Weapons, Knife, Machine Gun, Martial Arts, Navigate, Operate Heavy Machinery, Signals, Snipe, Sub-Machine-Gun, Survival Swim.
Uniforms & equipment: Standard British battle-dress.
Standard British equipment.
Fairbairn-Sykes Commando knife, Colt M1911A1 pistol,
SMLE No.1 MkIII or Lee-Enfield No.4 rifle or Thompson M1928A1 or Sten
M1 SMG or BREN MG,
No.36 Mills grenades.
This Brief History is compiled from these references:-
Attain by Surprise edited by David Nutting ISBN 095262572-5 The Paper Clip Conspiracy by Tom Bower ISBN 0-586-08686-2 Arctic Snow to Dust of Normandy by Patrick Dalzel-Job(e) ISBN 1-84415-238-3 From Pole to Pole by J.P.Riley ISBN 1-871999-02-2 The Hazard Mesh by J.A.C. Hugill - Out of print (The original) Attain by Surprise edited by Jim Glanville/David Nutting From Nazis to NASA by Bob Ward ISBN 0-7509-4303-3 The Papers of J.A.C.Hugill Ref:GBR/0014/HUGL-Churchill Archives. History of 30 Assault Unit Ref GB99 KCLMA - Liddell Hart Centre. National Archives Documents, History of 30 Commando - Ref:ADM223/214 and many others, these are all used for the website and information sources. As well as two years spent interviewing and meeting Veterans and families to collect the photographs and record recollections and memories. (See Reading).