• Si Biggs

30 AU in Normandy - 'You can't behave like Red Indians any more'

30 Assault Unit was formed in 1943 following the merger of 33 Navy Troop and 34 Army Troop. It was a joint venture which emerged from a turf war between Royal Navy Intelligence and Combined Operations and had a direct link to NID 30 in the Admiralty. Both units worked side by side in the field, with 30 AU being the bodyguards for the RNVR Officers in NID 30 as they raced around Europe just ahead of the advancing Allied armies gathering naval and secret intelligence before the retreating Axis forces could destroy it.



The Unit's founder, Lt. Commander Ian Fleming (author of the James Bond books) told them before they went to France in the summer of 1944:


"You can't behave like Red Indians any more. You have to learn to be a respected and disciplined unit."


The Unit was divided into four 'Troops':

  • A Troop (Captain Peter Huntington-Whiteley)

  • B Troop (Captain Geoff Douglas)

  • X Troop (Captain Geoffrey Pike)

  • HQ Troop

The Unit's C.O. was Lt. Colonel Arthur Woolley, who had been the former commander of No. 47 RM Commando. All the fighting men were Royal Marines and the Unit was based at Littlehampton on the Sussex coast prior to the Normandy Invasion. Incidentally the terms, 'A', 'B' and 'X' Troops comes from the turret designations of a warship. They were firmly grounded in all things naval but many of the missions that the Unit was to take on took them far inland on many occasions.


During the Normandy Invasion, 30 AU's primary mission was to seize naval intelligence from the Kriesmarine HQ at Villa Meurice in Cherbourg during (not after!) the capture of the city.


A secondary mission, but just as important, was the capture of intelligence at the radar station at Douvres la Delivrande, inland from Juno Beach on D-Day. This mission was assigned to 'X' Troop under the name PIKEFORCE from it's commander. Again, the task was to grab secret German radar intelligence and equipment before the Germans had time to destroy it. As it turned out, this secondary mission was the more successful.


A second group known as CURTFORCE commanded by Duncan Curtis landed on D+1 at Arromanches on Gold Beach. This force consisted of two additional officers and nineteen marines. this group was to bring in heavy weapons and specialist vehicles to aid in the capture of the radar station.


The third and largest group was WOOLFORCE who landed on Utah Beach on D+4, the 10th June with the primary mission of securing the naval intelligence in Cherbourg. They also had an interest in the V2 site at Sottevast on the way up the Cotentin accompanying the American 9th Infantry Division.


From: Whitebeam Battlefield Research Forum

Raid on Kriegsmarine HQ at Villa Meurice

Unit/ Formation: 30 Cdo


Location: Cherbourg


Period/ Conflict: World War II


Year: 1944


Date/s: 26th June 1944


During the Normandy Invasion, 30 AU's primary mission was to seize naval intelligence from the Kriesmarine HQ at Villa Meurice in Cherbourg during the capture of the city.


The Unit's C.O. was Lt. Colonel Arthur Woolley, who had been the former commander of No. 47 RM Commando. WOOLFORCE landed on Utah Beach on D+4, the 10th June with the primary mission of securing the naval intelligence in Cherbourg.


They also had an interest in the V2 site at Sottevast on the way up the Cotentin accompanying the American 9th Infantry Division.

Crossbow V1 Sites


Unit/ Formation: 30 Cdo AU


Location: Normandy


Period/ Conflict: World War II


Year: 1944


Date/s: 17th June 1944


WOOLFORCE War Diary.


10 June 1700 - Landed at Ste. Marie du Mont 10 June 2300 - Sustained 20 casualties through enemy bombing. (Two (2) killed)


11 June - Location changed to Ste. Mere Eglise


14 June - Moved to Benzeville en Plain. Patrols were sent out to Azeville & Emondville. Position of "PIKEFORCE" established at Douvres.


15 June - Patrol sent out to St. Marcouf.


17 June - Report on activities of "PIKEFORCE".


17/18 June - Examination was carried out of three "Crossbow" sites at La Haye-du-Puits. 6 E/5 203994, 146988, 176995. 203994: Latitude : 49° 25' 49'' N Longitude : 1° 31' 14'' W 146988: Latitude : 49° 25' 20'' N Longitude : 1° 35' 55'' W 176995: Latitude : 49° 25' 47'' N Longitude : 1° 33' 28'' W

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