Military Wiki
30 (Commando) Assault Unit
unit badge
Active 1941–1946
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Marines, Royal Navy 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 was a British Commando unit of the Second World War. It was formed in 1941 to gather intelligence. To this end personnel from the sections operated with forward troops to seize documents and materials and carry out interrogations. The unit would later be correctly called 30 Assault Unit.[3]


In September 1942, the Director of Naval Intelligence authorised the formation of the Special Intelligence Unit, composed of 33 (Royal Marines) Troop, 34 (Army) Troop, 35 (Royal Air Force) Troop and 36 (Royal Navy) Troop. The Special Intelligence Unit was later renamed 30 RN Commando (Special Engineering Unit), and was re-designated 30 Assault Unit in December 1943.[2] One of the key figures involved in the unit's organisation was Ian Fleming (later author of the James Bond novels). They were 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 enemy 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 was initially deployed for the first time during the Dieppe Raid in August 1942 in an unsuccessful secret attempt to capture an Enigma machine and related materials,[4] and then took part in the Operation Torch landings in November 1942. They landed to the west of Algiers at Sidi Ferruch on 8 November.[5] They had been provided with detailed maps and photographs of the area and on the outskirts of the city located 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.[5] The unit went on to serve in the Greek Islands, Norway, Pantelleria, Sicily, Italy, and Corsica between 1942–1943.[2] In November 1943, they returned to the United Kingdom to prepare for the Allied invasion of German occupied Europe. Now called 30 Assault Unit, in June 1944 they took part in the Normandy landings, using the code names Woolforce and Pikeforce, troops landed on Juno beach and Utah beach, tasked to capture a German radar station at Douvres-la-Delivrande which held out until 17 June.[2] They later fought their way into Cherbourg. In July 1944 they were stationed at Rennes and Brest, and followed the Free French forces during the Liberation of Paris.[2] In September 1944, 30 Assault Unit began a series of mainly armed Jeep mounted operations in the Channel coast ports as they were captured by the Allies. By May 1945, Royal Marines from 30 Assault Unit had captured the German Naval Base at Bremen, Germany.[2]

What they did in Germany as the Allies advanced remains a fairly well kept secret. Some of the few documents that are open to the public do reveal that they targeted Nazi scientists.[6][7] At least one such scientist was captured by a "Field Team" of 30 Assault Unit and then reported as "surrendering" with Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger in Bavaria.[8][page needed]

A 30 Assault Unit Royal Marines detachment was sent to the Far East in 1945, but the Japanese surrender precluded operations. Subsequent activities in Singapore, Indo-China and Hong Kong eventually provided much useful intelligence. 30 Assault Unit was finally 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.[9]


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

Battle honours[]

The following battle honours were awarded to the British Commandos during the Second World War.[10]


See also[]

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


  1. Ladd, p.353
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 "History of 30 Assault Unit 1942-1946". Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College London. Retrieved 2 June 2010. 
  3. Chappell, p.48
  4. Ogrodnik, Irene. "Breaking German codes real reason for 1942 Dieppe raid: historian." Global News, 9 August 2012. Retrieved: 13 August 2012.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Haining, p.33
  6. Nutting, David (2003). Attain by Surprise. Colver. ISBN 0-9526257-2-5. 
  7. National Archives (1946(released 1997)). History of 30 Commando. Admiralty SW. ISBN ADM223/214. 
  8. Bower, Tom (1997). The Paperclip Conspiracy. Paladin. ISBN 0-586-08686-2. 
  9. "UK Royal Marines Rename Information Unit". London: Janes. June 2010. p. 8. "We are immensely proud to be able to carry on the history of 30 Commando" 
  10. Moreman, p.94


  • 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[]

  • "The Hazard Mesh". Hurst & Blackett. 1949. out of print. 
  • "From Pole to Pole". Bluntisham Books. 1989. ISBN 1-871999-02-2. 
  • "From Artic Snow to Dust of Normandy". Pen and Sword Military Books. 1991. ISBN 1-84415-238-3. 
  • "Ian Fleming's Commandos: The Story of the Legendary 30 Assault Unit". Oxford University Press. 2011. ISBN 978-0-19-978282-6. 
  • Hampshire, A Cecil. (1978). The Secret Navies. 

External links[]

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