Collection 30 ASSAULT UNIT - 30 ASSAULT UNIT, HISTORY: 1942-1946

Key Information

Reference code





  • [1974-1997] (Creation)
  • 1942-1946 (Creation)

Level of description



2 boxes or 0.02m3

Scope and content

Papers collected or copied by Sqn Ldr David C Nutting and Lt Cdr Trevor James Glanville between [1974-1997] and used as research material for the book, Attain by surprise: the story of 30 Assault Unit Royal Navy/Royal Marine Commando and of Intelligence by capture (David Colver, Chichester, West Sussex, 1997) relating to the history of 30 Assault Unit, 1942-1946. Contemporary papers relating to 30 Assault Unit's service in North Africa, Greece, Sicily, Italy, North West Europe and South East Asia, 1943-1945, including typescript memorandum entitled 'Strategic and economic objectives (excluding port and town of Naples)', Italy, 1943; typescript memorandum from the Office of Flag Officer, Western Italy, Naples, entitled 'Co-ordination of organisations, SOE (Special Operations Executive), OSS (Office of Strategic Services), etc', 26 Oct 1943; typescript memorandum entitled 'Corsica, preliminary arrangements', Oct 1943; manuscript report, author unknown, of operations in Italy and Corsica, 34 Troop, 30 Commando, 15 Nov 1943; typescript and manuscript notes and messages, mostly relating to the requisitioning of Italian personnel and equipment, Italy, 1943-1944; typescript lists of potential operational targets for 30 Assault Unit in the Netherlands and Germany, 1944-1945. Copies of papers relating to 30 Assault Unit, 1943-1945, including typescript 'Inventory of documents and equipment taken from the German Embassy, Rome', Italy, 8-23 Jun 1944; typescript memorandum entitled 'Condensed summary of the organisation of the German Navy in the Paris area' [1944]; typescript 'Operational report' by Maj W Strachen, Officer Commanding Special Engineering Unit (Military Section), 30 Commando, on Operation CARIBOU, an infilitration behind German lines to gather information on German forces, Vinca, northern Italy, May 1945. Typescript memoirs and correspondence from former members of 30 Assault Unit, and typescript draft chapters for Attain by surprise: the story of 30 Assault Unit Royal Navy/Royal Marine Commando and of Intelligence by capture, 1974-1997.

System of arrangement

The collection is arranged in sections as outlined above.

General Information

Name of creator


Biographical history

In Sep 1942, the Director of Naval Intelligence authorised the formation of the Special Intelligence Unit, composed of 33 (Royal Marines) Troop, 34 (Army) Troop, 35 (RAF) Troop and 36 (Royal Navy) Troop. The Special Intelligence Unit was later renamed 30 RN Commando (Special Engineering Unit), and was redesignated 30 Assault Unit in [Dec] 1943. The unit's operational role was 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. The Unit 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. The unit served in North Africa, the Greek Islands, Norway, Pantelleria, Sicily, Italy, and Corsica, 1942-1943. In Nov 1943, 30 RN Commando returned to the UK to prepare for the Allied invasion of German occupied Europe. In Normandy, France, 30 Assault Unit (codenamed WOOLFORCE and PIKEFORCE) landed on JUNO and UTAH beaches, attempted to capture a German radar station at Douvres-la-Delivrande, and later fought their way into Cherbourg. During Jul 1944 the Unit served in Rennes and Brest, and followed French forces into Paris, France, Aug 1944. In Sep 1944 30 Assault Unit began a series of 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. 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.

Custodial history

Attain by surprise: the story of 30 Assault Unit Royal Navy/Royal Marine Commando and of Intelligence by capture, edited by Sqn Ldr David C Nutting and Lt Cdr Trevor James Glanville, with a Foreword by Maj Gen David Anthony Somerset Pennefather, Commandant General Royal Marines (David Colver, Chichester, West Sussex, 1997).Presented to the Centre by Sqn Ldr David C Nutting in 1997.

Conditions governing access

Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied from open material for research purposes only.

Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Trustees of the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, via the Archives.

Language of material

  • English
  • Italian

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, some Italian.

Finding aids

This collection level description.

Existence and location of originals

The originals of many of the copies of papers relating to 30 Assault Unit are held by The National Archives, Kew, London.

Related materials

The papers of Cdr Patrick Dalzel Job, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (b 1913) contain a typescript memoir detailing his service with 30 Assault Unit in France, Belgium and Germany, 1944-1945 (Ref: Job). The Centre also holds the papers of Lt Cdr Quintin Theodore Petroe Molesworth Riley, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (1905-1980), who was the Commanding Officer of 30 RN Commando, 1943, and of 30 Assault Unit, 1943-1944 (Ref: Riley).

Related descriptions


Compiled Dec 1999

Alternative identifier(s)


Place access points

People and Organisations

Genre access points

Rules and/or conventions used

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000.


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