• Si Biggs

Formation of 30 Assault Unit

Unit/ Formation: 30 Cdo


Location: Whitehall


Period/ Conflict: World War II


Year: 1943 - 1946


Date/s: 22nd July 1943


No. 30 Commando, from 1943–1946 known as 30 Assault Unit, was a British Commando unit during the Second World War, originally formed to gather intelligence.


Sir Robert Arthur Ross Neville

On 22 and 27 July 1942 two meetings were held at COHQ to discuss the formation of Special Intelligence Units. Those present at both meetings were Colonel Robert Neville of the Royal Marines (Royal Marines Advisor at Combined Operations HQ), Commander Arnold-Forster of MI6, Ian Fleming of NID, Major W. G. Cass of MI5 and MEW (Ministry of Economic Warfare), Major Williams-Thompson of Combined Operations Intelligence and the former German-speaking journalist, Captain Ian Colvin RM. Fleming put the case at the first meeting that there was an urgent requirement for personnel to be intensively trained forspecial naval intelligence duties.


The others agreed that they should be selected and kept together as a unit, and be a permanent body


The minutes of the second meeting on 27 July 1942 concluded:


17. Brigadier Laycock undertook to obtain volunteers for the unit as required, and to inform Lt Col [Picton] Phillips, R.M. (Officer Commanding A Commando Royal Marines later designated 40 CDO) of the requirement stated by Commander Fleming.



18. It was most urgent that the unit should begin training forthwith. Three weeks later, on 19 August 1942, the first Intelligence Assault Unit was blooded in the abortive raid on Dieppe. Failure taught them hard lessons. The need for better intelligence could no longer be denied.

Ian Fleming said the ‘Naval Section’ would be given naval intelligence courses; he wanted two officers, Royal Marines, five NCOs and ten marines to be found as soon as possible from the Royal Marine Commando and trained by the DNI. Four officers and twenty-four ‘Other Ranks’ (of whom six should be NCOs) would be required for the ‘Military Section’


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.


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. 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.


Related 'Dits'


Capture of the Italian Armistice Commission - 30 Commando AU

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


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