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30 Assault Unit (aka 30 Commando, 30AU, and "Ian Fleming's Red Indians") was a Britishmarker multiservice combat unit in World War II that collected technical intelligence on German forces during amphibious landings. More specifically, the main operational role of the unit was to move ahead of Allied forces, or to undertake covert infiltrations into enemy territory by any means necessary, to capture intelligence in the form of: documents; cipher, radio and radar equipment; weapons; and personnel. The unit often worked closely with the Intelligence Corps' Field Security Operations.


The British had learnt that the Germans had intelligence units similar to 30AU. In 1941 a German unit was able to seize important documents from the abandoned British headquarters in Athensmarker, Greecemarker when that city was captured.

In September 1942 the Director of Naval Intelligence Division (NID), Rear Admiral John Henry Godfrey, authorized Ian Fleming's idea for the creation of the Special Intelligence Unit, composed of 33 Troop (Royal Marines), 34 Troop (British Army), 35 Troop (Royal Air Force) and 36 Troop (Royal Navy). The Special Intelligence Unit was later renamed 30 Commando (Special Engineering Unit), and subsequently redesignated 30 Assault Unit in December 1943.

30AU was operated from NID Office '30' in the Admiralty Citadel and was administered from the winter of 1943/44 onwards by Miss Margaret Priestley, the possible and probable inspiration for Fleming's character Miss Moneypenny. Miss Priestly was a former history university Don of Leeds Universitymarker.

The unit was initially deployed to the Mediterranean Basin, seeing action for the first time during Operation Torchmarker in November 1942. Subsequent operations included Pantelleria and Italy, as well as in Norway from 1942-43. During the Allied invasion of Sicily the unit was able to get a complete set of Italian Air Force ciphers for homing beacons, enabling their use by Allied warplanes flying to targets in northern Italy.

30 Assault Unit returned to Britain in November 1943 in preparation for the Operation Overlord the following year. However the 15th Army Group requested the unit's Army component to return to Italy for operations there. Thus, only the Naval and Royal Marine component participated in the Normandy Landings in June 1944, as WOOLFORCE and PIKEFORCE. Their target was to capture and collect technical intelligence at a German coastal radar station at Douvres-la-Délivrandemarker, but they later fought their way into Cherbourg and other enemy-held strongholds . In July 1944, the unit served in Rennesmarker and Brestmarker, and followed Free French Forces into Parismarker, Francemarker during the liberation of the city in August. By May 1945, Royal Marines from the unit had captured the German naval base in Bremenmarker. 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. At least one of whom was captured by a 'Field Team' of 30AU and then reported as 'surrendering' with Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger in Bavaria.

As the Allies split into Germany 30AU formed into many 'Field Teams' usually consisting of two Special Operations Jeeps (as used by the Special Air Servicemarker and 30AU) each team consisted of one Naval Commander accompanied by at least one weapons expert or scientist whose job it was to evaluate enemy equipment or documents they encountered, also at least six specially trained Royal Marines with one RM Officer, their main job was to do any fighting required and to keep the Naval Commander and any experts alive and out of trouble. These Jeeps were sometimes backed up by a heavier armoured car (Staghound or Humber Armoured Car) whose role was to lay down covering fire should the lighter, quicker, more agile Jeeps need to retreat.

After the end of the war in Europe a Royal Marine detachment from the unit was sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations for intelligence operations against the Japanesemarker, but the Surrender of Japan in August precluded many of its planned operations.

30 Assault Unit was finally disbanded in 1946.

See also


  1. The Story of 30AU


External links

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