'Attain By Surprise' 30 Commando Assault Unit 1942-45

Discussion in 'Commandos & Royal Marines' started by Jonathan Ball, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.


    16th September, 1942

    To Commander Ryder V.C

    The following is the proposed programme:-

    (1) Two days with A.D.I.C. (Captain Haines, R.N) and with another officer who will be appointed to the duty, learning the N.I.D. requirements.

    (2) On Monday or Tuesday proceed to Shanklin to choose personnel from R.M Commando.

    (3) Arrange with the Admiralty Departments concerned a programme of training for the recognition of enemy material.

    (4) Arrange with Commander Arnold Foster R.N. for a short course in the methods of the German Secret Intelligence Service.

    (5) Arrange with Captain Simpson, R.N., for a similar course on special demolition work etc and any other S.O.E. matters which may be necessary.

    (6) See Commander Rhodes, R.N on escaping technique.

    (7) Discuss with Commander Allen requirements for Operation TORCH and make formal application on behalf of D.N.I. (Colonel Lamplugh will sign the letter) for accomodation of an I.A.U. on Operation TORCH.

    (8) Obtain from Commander Scott and Captain Haines list of targets likely to be met with during TORCH and agree these with Brigadier Ferriman, ensuring neither F.S.P. [Field Security Police] nor S.O.E. are going for the same targets.

    (9) For any special gear, weapons or safe-breaking implements, see Captain Simpson.

    (10) Suggested lecturers:-

    Captain Haines.
    Commander Arnold Foster.
    Lt. Commander Gonin.
    Mr. Mitchell.
    Lt. Commander Shawcross, R.N.V.R.
    Lt. Tandy, R.N.V.R.
    Lt. Commander Montagu, R.N.V.R.

    Training for TORCH should take about 6 weeks for the last fortnight of which it is probable that I should be able to assist. The Officers and men should be encouraged to read novels and books on Intelligence work of which the following are good ones:-

    “OUT OF THE NIGHT” by Valtin.

    (Signed) F [Fleming]
  2. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.


    D.D.N.I. (H)
    Sections 1,3,16,20

    Commander Ryder, V.C, R.N has been appointed by C.C.O. to supervise the creation and training of a Naval Intelligence Assault Unit consisting of personnel from the Royal Marine Commando, which will be available to capture Intelligence material in the course of raids on the enemy coast line.

    2. If sufficiently valuable targets present themselves special raids will be devised when possible to deal with them.

    3. Commander Ryder will accordingly be temporarily attached to N.I.D. 17 and Pay-Lieut. Parker has been appointed part-time staff officer to assist him.

    4. On the attached paper details will be seen of the German material whose capture would be valuable, but Sections would consider whether there are other targets which might be suitable apart from those designated by A.D.I.C

    5. Section Officers should give Commander Ryder every assistance in training the personnel of his unit and should be prepared to give lectures on specific subjects when required to do so.

    6. It is hoped that ultimately a naval I.A.U. will be attached to C. in C. Mediterranean and C. in C. Eastern Fleet. We may hope to obtain valuable dividends from these new formations as the Germans have done in the case of their Special Commando Units entrusted with the same duties.

    (Signed) F


    Intelligence Division
    Naval Staff

    25th September, 1942.


    Captain B.L Huskisson D.S.C, R.N.,
    Director of Air Materiel

    We have requirement for five Leica cameras, preferably with F.2 lens, for most important work. We also wish to train five officers in the use of the cameras for the special purpose for which they are required.

    One of the cameras is wanted almost immediately, so could you please let me know if it is possible to meet our requirements?

    (Signed) C.A.G. Nichols
  3. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.


    Progress of Special Engineers Unit.

    The Special Engineers Unit has commenced training. It consists of a naval and military section, both of which are under the supervision of Commander Ryder.

    The Naval Section consists of 7 R.N.V.R officers, one R.M officer and 6 other ranks, with probably one R.M officer and 6 other ranks joining this week.

    The Military Section, under Major Cass, consists of approximately 4 officers and 12 other ranks.

    The training of the Naval Section is being carried out in order that the R.N.V.R officers will become technical experts and the R.M’s will remain primarily fighting men, being given certain specialised knowledge to help them in their work.

    The R.N.V.R’s have been sent in pairs to Torpedo and Mining School, A/S School, and experimental establishment, 3rd Submarine Flotilla, Signal School, and various D/F and R.D/F stations. The R.N.V.R.officers are being equipped with the latest type of contex cameras with flashlight attachments for internal photography. The cameras and fittings are being provided by D.A.M at the request of D.N.I., and arrangements are being made for the officers to get familiar with their use.

    All members of the Unit are being trained in the use of small arms, parachute dropping, and escaping. The Marines are being given battle training and instruction in house-breaking and safe-breaking. The first batch of R.Ms were given a 3-day course of lectures by members of N.I.D, but it has been decided that in future the course will be modified and that they will have occasional lectures on N.I.D subjects from time to time.

    It has not been found possible to obtain linguists for the Naval Section and therefore it is considered necessary for as much instruction as possible in German and Italian to be given to all its members. I have accordingly attached a draft of a letter which it is proposed to send to the Director of Education.

    The unit is at present accommodated in Montague House but is hoped that quarters will shortly be provided in North London where the Naval and Military Sections will be in the same establishment.

    Arrangements have been made for one Lieutenant, R.N.V.R., one N.C.O., and four Marines to be included in Operation TORCH. Commander Scott is making out a brief to be taken by the R.N.V.R.

    An operation is also being planned for the near future in which two R.N.V.R. officers with a knowledge of signals equipment will be dropped by parachute on a suitable target.

    (Signed) JBP Parker
  4. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    19th October 1942

    To D.N.I (H)

    The training of the Unit has been continued. Two officers have today been sent to the A/S school in Scotland, and another officer has been attached to the Local Defence Division from where he will be sent to Newhaven to examine the defences of one of our own defended ports. Arrangements are being made with the London County Council for them to them to send a teacher to give members of the Unit elementary instruction in language.

    Further lectures have been given by Lieutenant Tandy and Lieutenant McLachlan.

    One officer and six Marines have been detailed to take part in operation TORCH. Permission has been obtained from C-in-C X.F. to brief the officer fully before he leaves England, and this has now been done by Lt.Cdr. Rayner and A.D.I.C.

    This party has been put under supervision of Captain Pancourt, R.N.

    (Signed) JB Parker
    stolpi likes this.
  5. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    N.I.D. 005624/42
    Obtaining Intelligence during raids.
    Elementary instruction in language.

    With the concurrence of the Chiefs of Staff, a Unit consisting of R.N.V.R officers and a R.M detachment has been formed under C.C.O. for duties in connection with obtaining Intelligence during raids. The raising and military training of this Unit is the responsibility of the C.C.O. , but in order to equip it to meet intelligence requirements it is necessary for the specialised training to be undertaken by D.N.I.

    2. It has been found necessary to have the members of the Unit given elementary instruction in languages.
    Enquiries have been made and the L.C.C. are prepared to make arrangements for loaning teachers.

    3. It is therefore requested that, in order to avoid applying for the full time services of an interpreter, approval may be given to meet the cost of the instruction from Navy Votes.

    4. The cost of instruction will be 9d. per hour per person, and it is considered to commence lectures at the beginning of November. The total number of hours of instruction per week is expected to be about 10 for each trainee, and the instruction will be given, under supervision by the N.I.D, at C.O.H.Q.

    5. At the present moment the Unit consists of 15 officers and men, but it will be increased by the addition of 1 officer and 6 men in the near future,

    (Signed) C.A.G Nichols
    Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence.
    23rd October, 1942.


    D.D.N.I. (H)
    A.D.N.I. (S)
    Lt. Cdr. Rees-Millington
    Sections 1, 2, 9, 14, 17, 17z
    Copy to Commander Ryder.

    Training of Special Engineers Unit

    Arrangements have been made for the following lectures to be given to the second party of Royal Marines:

    Monday 2nd Nov. 1500 German Navy, by Mr. Mitchell
    Tuesday 3rd Nov. 1500 Topographical Intelligence, by Lt.Cdr. Shawcross
    1600 War Situation, by Lieutenant Foster
    Wednesday 4th Nov. 1500 Defences by Lt.Cdr. Rees-Millington
    Thursday 5th Nov. 1500 Germany, German Mentality, etc by Lt.Cdr. McLachlan
    1630 Italian Navy.
    Friday 6th Nov. 1500 Escaping, arranged by C.O.H.Q.

    2. All the lectures will be held in room 01, Montague House.

    3.Lieutenant Huntingdon-Whiteley, R.M. , will be the officer in charge of the Unit and all queries should be addressed to him (C.O.H.Q. Tel 101) or Pay-Lieut. Parker (Admiralty 60)

    (Signed) C.A.G Nichols
    D.D.N.I. (H)
    stolpi likes this.
  6. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.





    There is a basic establishment of 8 officers (RN or RNVR), one Commander, one Lieutenant Commander, 6 Lieutenants.

    From a permanent pool of specialist officers at the Admiralty, who are at the disposal of 30 Assault Unit, Officers may be attached for specific operations as required.

    A R.N. Medical Wing has been approved, consisting one Surgeon/Lieutenant RN or RNVR, and 8 medical ratings.

    A R.N. Signals detachment is under consideration.


    Aixman and stolpi like this.
  7. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    No. 30 COMMANDO

    Special Engineering Unit, Memorandum on Objects and Possibilities

    1. The Special Engineering Unit, which is the cover name given to the Intelligence Assault Unit, is a small body which has been raised by C.C.O. and is being trained on an experimental basis. The object of the unit is of great significance and it is important that the capabilities and possible influence of the unit on offensive operations should be understood and encouraged.


    2. The unit is designed to provide a force of armed and expert ‘authorised looters’ who will operate in small groups which will move with the Assault Troops to fight for and capture enemy material and documents of special importance; in some cases they may be required to work behind the enemy lines in advance of the Assault Troops.

    During an assault and advance the local Gestapo Headquarters in some port or town, might be seized before papers can be destroyed. Enemy Black Lists would then become our White Lists and vice versa; we should know at once who can be trusted and who must be arrested. Thus in occupied territories our Security Police would be provided with information which would enable them to strike deep and quickly at the enemy’s organisation and suppress espionage and political warfare.

    The importance of seizing the enemy’s codes and ciphers needs no emphasis and is one of the reasons why the formation of this unit has been so strongly pressed for by the Admiralty.


    3. The unit will be so organised that material captured can be passed rapidly to the rear and to the special branches and Intelligence Departments who are immediately interested.

    It is not anticipated that the whole unit will operate together for any length of time; neither will it be easy to include large parties in any operation owing to the shortage of accommodation inevitable in the early flights. To start with, therefore, it is anticipated that the normal party will consist of one or two officers and about six men, who will return to the H.Q after each coup.

    If offensive operations lead to considerable advances in enemy or occupied territory it is intended to set up a Headquarters in rear of the firing line from which the troops or sections would be operated. This H.Q would attach itself to the H.Q. of a command, Corps or Division.


    4. Although the unit will be principally engaged in large-scale offensives, it is hoped to employ them on our own Combined Operations raids. Personnel of the unit were particularly in demand, for instance, in CLAWHAMMER and there are opportunities for them with the Small Scale Raiding Force. As a further instance of their possible employment, there are stores of mines at Ymuiden and Dieppe, a knowledge of which is essential to our counter-mining activities as it is anticipated by D.T.M’s department that new and more formidable types may be in store and kept ready for use as a surprise during or prior to our big offensive. A quick entry into one of the mining stores either during a large raid or by stealth by one of our specially trained personnel might return big dividends.

    In a raid of the St. Nazaire type, it would be by no means impossible for one of the Special Engineering Unit Sections, during the confusion, to board a submarine refitting in dock and perhaps guarded, as ours are in similar circumstances, by the dockyard police or by a couple of sentries. Given a quarter of an hour inside and photographs of all the vessel’s instruments - diving gauges, W/T, R.D.F, mine detectors, etc., might be obtained.

    5. The above paragraphs outline some of the types of work which it is hoped will be achieved. They are hazardous and in some cases may seem too ambitious for the small numbers of the present party. Once, however, experience has been gained it will be possible to increase the size of the unit and to extend the scope of their activities. With the object of gaining early experience, a party of one Lieutenant R.N.V.R., one N.C.O. and four Royal Marines is accompanying Operation TORCH.

    6. It was argued by the War Office that the Field Security Police provide an organisation to perform the duties envisaged above. This argument cannot be supported. In any advance in Europe the security work behind our own lines will be on such a scale as fully to occupy the whole of the Field Security Police available until our Allies can get their own organisation running again.

    7. It is emphasised that the main activities of the unit are in large operations. In these operations we shall be acting as brokers to the Department who requires the unit’s assistance. D.N.I., S.I.S. and S.O.E.are particularly interested in the Unit and are helping in every way. Our readiness and ability to meet their demands will decide the future of this aspect of warfare.

    Composition of the Unit.

    8. The unit is an integral part of the Special Service Brigade and is composed of a Headquarters and four troops as follows:-

    Headquarters:- 1 Commander R.N.
    1 Administrative Officer
    1 Royal Marine Storeman

    No.33 Troop:- 2 Captains, Royal Marines.
    (Naval Section) 20 Other Ranks, Royal Marines.

    No.34 Troop:- 1 Major and as 2nd in Command 2 Captains
    (Military Section) 12 Other Ranks

    No.35 Troop:- Not yet formed
    (Air Section)

    No.36 Troop:- At present consists of:-
    (Technical Section) 1 Lieut. Cdr. R.N.V.R
    6 Lieutenants R.N.V.R

    Personnel have been selected with good fighting qualities and, as far as possible, with language qualifications.


    9. The Ratings and Other Ranks are regarded first and foremost as fighting men and assault troops. In addition, they are being trained in the assault and seizure of buildings, safe breaking, searching of buildings, rooms and ships, identification of uniforms, interrogation and counter-interrogation; they will also be given superficial knowledge of intelligence up to the standard of Field Security Police. Information of a more secret nature will be handled by the Officers in the Troop or personnel of the Technical Section.

    10. The Officers of the Technical Troop are specialising in the subjects shown below. They have also completed a demolition course and have commenced parachute training and training in specialised forms of photography, such as the photography of wall maps, documents, instruments and the inside of ships and submarines.

    Lt. Riley, R.N.V.R In charge of Technical Troop.
    Lt. Curtis, R.N.V.R Secret Documents

    Lt. Billington R.N.V.R
    S/Lt. Kennedy R.N.V.R Submarine and Anti-Submarine Warfare.

    Lt. Orton R.N.V.R.
    S/Lt. Naysmith R.N.V.R. Wireless, R.D.F. and Beam Stations.

    S/Lt. MacFie R.N.V.R. Torpedoes, mining and Coastal and Harbour Defences.

    It is hoped to select two Other Ranks from 34 Troop, who will specialise in enemy secret organisations, to work with the Technical Troop.

    All the above are being equipped with specially compact photographic apparatus, and arrangements are being made through D.N.I. for intensive instruction in foreign languages, an essential requirement for this work.

    Present Activities.

    11. At D.N.I’s request, a small unit is to be included in TORCH with one specific target. Lieut. Curtis and six R.M. Other Ranks have proceeded on this duty. The experience of this party will be of great benefit for future training.

    Future Expansion.

    12. i. A photographer is urgently rquired. He should be eqipped with a dark room. The type of photography which is envisaged appears to be only a partly developed technique; it is considered that great progress could be made by a skilled photographer working steadily on this subject. At present the G.P.O. photographic section offers the nearest approach to what is required.

    ii. The Air Ministry originally said that they were unable to provide any permanent personnel but when required they would supply the necessary trained personnel for specific tasks. In actual practice, however, it is not considered that this arrangement will prove satisfactory. It is believed that the Air Ministry are sufficiently interested in enemy R.D.F. to make it worth while approaching them again. Otherwise this work must be undertaken by the R.N.V.R. officers

    iii. Instructor in Languages. The importance of instructing personnel in languages at every opportunity cannot be over-stressed. Much can be learned in four month’s hard study. D.N.I. has been asked to obtain someone who would work permanently with the unit and he has approached the Director of Education in this connection.

    (Signed) R. Neville
    Wednesday, 4th November 1942.
    stolpi likes this.
  8. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Sunday, 8th November 1942.
    SR. 71/42


    To: Admiralty (Plans Division (Q))

    Special Engineering Unit - Establishment

    The establishment of the Naval Section of the Special Engineering Unit (originally designated the ‘Intelligence Assault Unit’), the formation of which has been approved by the Chiefs of Staff, was submitted for approval by Adjutant General, Royal Marines on Admiralty Docket No. R.M. 8676/42.A.2 of 1st October. This establishment included the Royal Marine officers and other ranks only and is understood now to have been authorised by the Admiralty.

    2. War Office approval for the Military Section on a similar establishment has also been obtained.

    3. Approval is now sought for the inclusion of the following Naval officers in order to complete the Special Engineering Unit :-

    1 Commander R.N
    1 Lieutenant-Commander R.N.V.R.
    6 Lieutenants or Sub-Lieutenants R.N.V.R

    4. The Commander, R.N. will command the Unit. The personnel to complete his Headquarters consist of Royal Marine ranks and were included in the establishment of the Naval Section already submitted and referred to in para. 1 above.

    5. The Officers R.N.V.R. are required for the technical section, of which Lieutenant-Commander R.N.V.R. will be the Commander.

    6. Pending approval of this establishment, Commander Ryder V.C. has been appointed by C.C.O. to supervise the formation of the unit. In addition, the technical section has been formed by the R.N.V.R. officers referred to in Admiralty Docket C.W.28121/42. These officers have already commenced training in parachute jumping and specialised forms of photography.

    7. It is requested, please, that early approval of this establishment of Naval Officers may be given, as the formation and training of the Special Engineering Unit is now an urgent operational requirement.

    Chief of Combined Operations.
  9. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Thursday, 26th November 1942
    SR. 71/42


    To: Adjutant General, Royal Marines.

    No.36 Technical Troop, Special Engineering Unit, Increase in Establishment.

    Approval has been requested for an Establishment of 1 Commander, R.N., 1 Lieut-Commander and 6 Lieutenants, R.N.V.R, for the above unit. C.C.O’s CR. 71/42 (not to A.G.R.M) of November 8th 1942 refers.

    2. Subject to approval being obtained, it is requested that authority may be given for an increase in this Establishment to allow for each of the seven R.N.V.R. Officers to have one Royal Marine as a batman/driver. These are necessary for the following reasons:-

    a. Each officer will operating independently ashore on tasks of a Military nature. The provision of a batman/driver to drive the vehicle and to ensure local protection to the officers, and the vehicles and stores, is considered to be essential.

    b. Under the existing organisation batmen/drivers would have to be provided by No.33 Troop. The establishment of this troop is insufficient to enable it to provide these men and at the same time undertake its own duties efficiently.

    c. As the tasks of these batmen/drivers will be primarily of a Military nature ashore, it is preferable that they should be Royal Marines and not Naval ratings.

    3. If approval is obtained for the establishment of No.36 Technical Troop, as amended by this letter, it is also requested that authority may be given for these seven Marines to be selected from the same sources as those of No.33 Section, i.e. 40 and 41 (R.M.) Commandos, the R.M. Division and 104 (Training) Brigade.

    (Signed) R. Neville
    Colonel, R.M.
    for Chief of Combined Operations.
  10. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Friday, 27th November, 1942.
    SR. 1092/42

    No.30 COMMANDO

    Queen Anne’s Mansions,​
    Petty France, S.W.1.​

    Adjutant General.
    Royal Marines.


    Special Engineering Unit (Naval Section)
    No.33 (Naval Troop, 30 Commando).

    The attached revised establishment which has been approved for the Special Engineering Unit (Naval Section) is referred for information.

    This establishment supersedes the one issued under R.M. Secret Circular No. 8676/42.A.2. of 6.11.42

    (Signed) ? [no signature]
    for Adjutant General R.M.

  11. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.


    From: Lieutenant Commander D.M.C. Curtis R.N.V.R.
    Date: 26th May 1943
    To: Lieutenant Commander Q. Riley R.N.V.R. C.O. No. 30 Commando

    Suggested Need for Increase in Personnel of No. 30 Commando.


    I beg leave to submit the following memorandum with regard to the possible expansion in numbers of the personnel of No. 30 Commando.

    In the recent operations in the Tunis-Bizerta area, No. 30 Commando was operating with three Officers and sixteen men. As official warning had been given of the probability of sniping and street fighting as the enemy retired, I did not consider it possible to split this small force, although it became evident that Tunis and Bizerta would fall simultaneously. Consequently the Bizerta area could not be dealt with until forty-eight hours after the town had fallen.

    Alongside No. 30 Commando, operating with the same object and covering an approximately similar number of targets, were three Squadrons of the R.A.F. Regiment, with twenty-four Officers.

    The area which will have to be covered by No. 30 Commando, if they are fully to perform their duty, will probably be very greatly increased in the future. To meet such an increase in the area of operations, as far as the Mediterranean is concerned, it has been decided to send as reinforcements to North Africa all the personnel of the Commando at present under training in England. There will be then be 7 Officers (three Naval, three Army and one Marine) and 38 Other Ranks (eighteen Marine and twenty Army) in the Western Mediterranean, and four Officers (three Naval and one Marine) and fifteen Marine Ratings in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the opinion of S.O.I. to C-in-C Levant it will be possible to recruit other personnel in the Near East and bring the latter section up to a strength of 40 Other Ranks or so.

    With two sections of this strength in the Mediterranean, in my opinion the minimum operational requirements in that area can just be met.

    There will be, however, no reserves available to replace ratings who have proved unsatisfactory, or who are sick or who become casualties, nor is there much prospect of finding suitable personnel out there, particularly in the Western Mediterranean; there will be no parties from No. 30 Commando available to take part in Operations in Northern Europe, should they be planned; and there will be no H.Q. organisation in England to deal with stores, training of new recruits etc. Should one of the R.M. Officers become a casualty, the Marine Ratings in his area will have to be taken over by a Naval or Army Officer, which is not completely satisfactory.

    I submit that the minimum establishment of No. 30 Commando should be as follows:-

    a. One Section of four Officers (two Naval and two Marine or Army) and 40 men in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    b. One Section of four Officers (two Naval and two Marine or Army) and 40 men in the Western Mediterranean.

    c. One Section of four Officers (two Naval and two Marine or Army) and 40 men to be available in England to take part in Operations in Norway or Northern Europe.

    d. A Headquarters reserve force of six Officers (three Naval and three Marine or Army) with 60 Ratings, from which could be drawn a second party to operate with the other Section working from England, and which would set as a training pool from which reserves could be drawn. Two of the Officers would be regarded as administrative and training Officers.

    I submit, further, that this new increased establishment ought to be approved and put into effect as soon as possible in view of the fact that the Commando has now proved itself operationally, and that it will be essential to have some trained reserves for the impending Operations.

    (Signed) Curtis.
    Lieut. Commander, R.N.V.R.
    PsyWar.Org and dbf like this.
  12. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Tuesday 6th July 1943.

    No. 30 Commando


    From: Intelligence Division, Naval Staff, Admiralty, SW.1.
    To: Chief of Combined Operations.

    I would like to refer to the submission of Lieut-Cmdr. Curtis, RNVR, dated 28th may 1943, forwarded under a covering letter from Colonel Neville on 7th June, and to the reports of the Officer Commanding No. 33 Section of this Commando which have reached me from time to time from your Headquarters.

    2. I would like first of all to say that these reports show that Lieut-Cmdr. Curtis has displayed admirable initiative in handling his section and that he clearly has a most comprehensive grasp of the work for which it was designed.

    3. Valuable material has been gained on each occasion when No. 33 Section was in action, and Lieut-Cmdr. Curtis has only been prevented by ill-luck from capturing material of the very first importance to the war effort.

    4. It is my conclusion, based on the opinion of the NID sections concerned, and of ‘C’ and his organisation at Bletchley, that No. 30 Commando has a highly important role to fulfill in all theatres of war and that units of this type should take a permanent place in our basic establishment requirements for war.

    5. I appreciate that you will have found it difficult to introduce the new unit at such a late stage of this war, and that for security reasons it is impossible to explain its purpose to all authorities with whom it is forced to come in contact. There is, however, time for it to be given a proper place in COSSAC, and so far as the Far Eastern war is concerned, I have taken the opportunity to explain its duties to Admiral Somerville. As you will have seen from a recent note of mine, Admiral Somerville will require a unit to be stationed in his Command after the ground has been surveyed by one of your representatives.

    6. The question of the future strength of No. 33 Section is now raised by the Commanding Officer’s submission mentioned above and which has now been considered by those concerned in the Admiralty and at Bletchley.

    7. The conclusion reached, with which I agree, is that in view of the many calls there are going to be on the Naval Section, it should consist of at least 4 officers and 50 men and that there should be a Headquarters reserve of 1 officer and at least 10 men to provide reserves and keep in touch, during quiet periods, with the Intelligence organisations in England.

    8. The smallness of this force will prevent the Unit being operated in more than one theatre at a time, and a lucky burst of machine-gun fire might easily reduce its strength by a quarter during the course of any one operation. At the same time, and in consideration for your man-power difficulties, I feel I cannot put forward any more than my minimum requirements although possession of a floating reserve would certainly not be a luxury.

    9. I have not taken into account the military duties of No. 30 Commando since I am aware that these conflict with the activities of the Field Service Police. So far as the Naval Service is concerned there is no such conflict, and No. 33 Section will therefore, be the only force at the disposal of the Navy for capturing enemy Naval material.

    10. I hope that you will find it possible to meet these modest requirements and continue to give No. 33 Section the facilities and assistance which you have done hitherto and without which it would never have existed.

    11. In this connection I would also be grateful if you could instruct an Officer at COHQ to represent you with my Sections and with the Naval Section at Bletchley in all matters concerning No. 30 Commando, since a number of points crop up from time to time which require discussion between our 2 Departments and with which my staff are unwilling to trouble Col. Neville. You may consider that Lieut. Rich, RNVR, could assume these duties so that it will not be necessary to widen the group of officers concerned in these highly secret matters.

    I am sending a copy of this letter to ‘C’.

    (Signed) C.A. Rushbrooke,

    Director of Naval Intelligence
  13. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Wednesday 4th August 1943.

    No. 30 Commando

    CR 5460/43.

    To: Director of Naval Intelligence, Admiralty.

    With reference to your letter of the 6th July 1943, and subsequent conversations which your staff had with mine, it is most satisfactory to hear that No. 30 Commando has done so well both in North Africa and now again in Sicily.

    I agree that the present establishment of the unit is too small to ensure the best results. The difficulties, however, both of providing reinforcements and of training them in the UK are considerable.

    Possibly the AGRM may be in a position to provide 20 or 30 Other Ranks which I think you require to bring the party up to the proposed strength. There is at present, however, no one in this country to train them.

    I suggest, therefore, that AGRM should be asked to call for volunteers (from the RM Division) and that OC 30 Commando (Lieut.-Cmdr. Riley, RNVR) should be instructed to send home by air a suitable training staff from the existing Naval Section.

    If you agree with this suggestion, perhaps to save time you would initiate action with the AGRM, in order to obtain his concurrence.

    With reference to para. 11 of your letter, there is no objection to your staff communicating with Lieut. Rich, RNVR, on minor matters in connection with No. 30 Commando. I should prefer, however, that any questions of policy and operational use of the unit should continue to be discussed with Col. Neville for the present. Eventually it is intended to detach 30 Commando from the SS Brigade and include it in a new Special Service Unit which will be under the command of a Captain, RN with whom your staff could then communicate.

    (Signed) Louis Mountbatten

    Chief of Combined Operations.
  14. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Tuesday, 17th August 1943

    R.M 180


    To: Chief of Combined Operations.


    I have the honour to submit proposals for increasing the establishment off the Royal Navy and Royal Marine Troops of No30 Commando, the main reasons in support of this being as follows.

    2. In the past operations have been carried out by detachments which have been far too small to cover the ground allotted to them, consequently much valuable time has been lost by the same men having to cover many targets. In all operations carried out by this unit since August 1942 the intelligence about targets has been vague, making it very difficult to determine the priority and even the probability of the existence or exact locality of them. At the initial landing in Sicily, had we had four times the number of men than we actually did have (20 all ranks), the large R.D.F. stations at Cape Passero might have been captured intact or at least protected from further destruction, and looting by Italian Civilians and our own troops. Furthermore, a similar party of men could have reached Syracuse and Augusta much earlier and thus gained even larger hauls of materials than we actually obtained. It is also essential that this unit should have enough men available to leave guards upon important installations and stores immediately after they have been captured.

    3. One of our main difficulties is concentrating our men has been that we have also had to provide rear parties and keep men back to maintain transport, thus weakening very considerably what small potential we have. In this proposed establishment, by the inclusion of an H.Q Section, whatever the commitments may be, the numerical strength of the fighting sections will not be impaired except by sickness, and this is provided for by the inclusion of reinforcements in the establishment. To rely upon obtaining reinforcements locally would mean loss of time and the probability of getting men of the wrong type.

    4. Mobility has always been a problem. Although there is transport enough to carry all the men, there is not enough to carry essential stores and personal equipment and it is of paramount importance that the unit should be fully mobile to the last man and the last store. When any vehicle is taken off the road for repairs the transport situation becomes acute. In these proposals all difficulties, so far as they can be foreseen in the light of past experience, are catered for, and if the scale of transport seems high, it is pointed out that it is not so high a scale as is approved at present; a different distribution and types of vehicles achieves this.

    5. It will be noted that provision is made to include armoured cars. Since initial penetrations are carried out by armoured vehicles, it is suicidal to use soft skinned vehicles in company with them. At the assault on Sfax, a detachment of the unit under Lt. Cdr. Curtis D.S.C. left its vehicles outside the town (which used up men to guard them) and rode in on the backs of tanks as the only possible expedient; it would have been far better to have been inside an armoured vehicle, and other units’ tanks cannot be used as taxis to go to the right destination. In the type of mobile warfare which now seems inevitable, it is essential to do forward reconnaissance, and in a rout, armoured cars will permit the leading elements of the unit to outstrip the infantry and gain the objective with speed, thus creating the surprise so essential for this type of work and with safety from heavy automatic fire.

    6. Communications between sections of the unit in the field have in the past been maintained by D.R’s, but this is very slow and very liable to mechanical breakdown and the distances envisaged to be covered in the future will make it well nigh impossible to maintain any contact at all. The proposed establishment provides for each individual sub unit to be equipped with its own wireless transmitter and receiver and with an operator to man it. With various combinations of vehicles carrying the normal Army sets, contact by relay can be obtained by up to 150 miles, possibly more. Some special long range sets will be carried at H.Q. but the latter it is understood are not suitable at the present time for mounting in vehicles.

    In conclusion, it is submitted that as these proposals are made in light of experience gained in North Africa, the off-lying islands and in Sicily and on the future demands which will inevitably be made of this unit for men and transport; the proposed establishment, so far as can be foreseen at the present time, is the minimum which will meet future requirements.

    I have the honour to be


    Your obediant Servant.


    Lt. Cdr. R.N.V.R.
    C.O No. 30 Commando.
  15. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    11th December 1942 [N.I.D 14 File Copy]

    To: Admiral Sir Andrew B. Cunningham, Bt., G.C.B., D.S.O.

    I am taking advantage of Paymaster Captain Shaw’s passage through London to show him this note which will explain a little further Admiralty Message 1309/26th November with reference to No.33 Section of the Special Engineering Units.

    2. These units which were created on the instructions of the Chiefs of Staff as a result of a recommendation from Admiral Godfrey to the Joint Intelligence Committee are intended to carry out duties similar to those performed by the German Naval Intelligence Assault Units which operated with great success, particularly during the German campaigns in the Balkans and Greece.

    3. The duty of these units is to accompany the second or third wave of assault on a port or naval establishment and obtain possession of documents and cyphers before they can be destroyed by the defenders.

    4. Apart from an abortive experiment on the Dieppe Raid, Operation Torch was the first occasion when we have employed them. Thanks to good luck and the enterprise of Lieutenant Curtis, RNVR, who was in charge of the No.33 Section, some valuable material was obtained and there is more under way from your S.O.(Y), Lieut. Commander Bacon, RNVR, which was obtained by similar coups de main, though whether by Curtis or another party working for M.I.6 we have not yet been informed.

    5. Curtis and his men have since returned to the U.K. They presumably left before action could be taken on the signal I have quoted above.

    6. We are now most anxious that they should return and be installed at an appropriate forward port or base inland in preparation for working to the immediate orders of the S.O.(Y) on such naval intelligence targets as may present themselves either in the Bizerta-Tunis area or perhaps later on at Tripoli.

    7. Since their work is not likely to be fully understood by the military authorities I would be very grateful if your staff could assist them in any way possible, and in this connection some form of laissez passer signed by yourself would be extremely valuable. This would ensure that when they capture material it is not seized upon by the military and perhaps sent all the way back to Washington, where, I fear, it’s value might not be recognised. I would also be grateful if you would allow your S.O.(Y) to exercise general supervision of the party on your behalf and continue to be responsible for the sorting and despatch of material captured to England.

    8. The Special Engineering Units are trained and administered by C.C.O. , but he has agreed to accept my suggestions for the further use of No.33 Section on the lines I have put forward above.

    9. I hope you will forgive me for bothering you with these suggestions, but I felt you might have been wondering what Curtis and his party were really up to and whether they were producing results of value. Since the unit is something entirely new these explanatory notes may be perhaps of assistance.

    (Signed) E.G.N Rushbrooke
    Commodore, R.N.
    Director of Naval Intelligence
    Frederick L. Bradbury likes this.
  16. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.


    N.I.D. 002032/43

    I.A Units

    From: D.N.I
    Date: 24/3/43

    To: Director of Plans


    Capture of Italian Cypher Books

    Considerable intelligence might be made available in the future if certain Italian Cypher books could be captured. These books are known to be held at Stampalia whose defences are outlined on the attached paper.

    2. A Special Engineering Unit consisting of three R.N.V.R. Officers and 15 Royal Marine Commandos trained for this type of operation is available at Bone where they are awaiting a chance of capturing certain German and Italian documents at Tunis and Bizerta.

    3. This Unit would not be large enough to deal with the target at Stampalia, and additional forces would need to be forthcoming.

    4. It is submitted that a fairly serious attack might be carried out at Stampalia to coincide with HUSKY if the necessary forces and craft could be made available in the Middle East.

    The objects would be:

    Special Intelligence targets mentioned above.

    A diversion from HUSKY which might cause at any rate temporary concern to the enemy and would in any case serve to reinforce the HUSKY cover plan.

    (Signed) E.G.N Rushbrooke


    To: D.N.I

    The difficulty in carrying out this scheme lies in the fact that the assaulting force, even if composed of destroyers, would be under heavy air attack from Crete, Rhodes and leros for a number of daylight hours. Slower craft would be under air attack for such time that they would stand no chance of success.

    But in any case the demands of HUSKY would make it impossible to allocate a sufficient number of destroyers or other craft to carry an adequate assaulting force.

    With reference to the postscript to N.I.D’s enclosure, it would appear that some confusion has arisen between Prevesa an the West coast of Greece and a town of similar name in Stampalia, as no Prevasa can be found on that island.

    (Signed) Charles Forbes
    Director of Plans
    30th March, 1943.
  17. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.


    I. Shore Defences.

    1. The principal naval base is at MALTESANA, this is defended by:

    a. BATARIA NOVANTA UNA - 10 guns of 6 inch calibre.
    b. SAN APOSTOLI BATTERY - 4 guns of 3.9 inch
    c. CIMA DEL TURCO BATTERY - 6 guns of 3.9 inch.
    d. PUNTA DIAPORI BATTERY - 2 guns of 5.9 inch.
    e. (possibly) ISOLA DI SAN DOMENCIA BATTERY - 2 guns of unknown calibre.

    2. PORTO SCALA, which is in Western half of the island, seperated by the thin isthmus at STRETTO from MALTASENA, is defended by:

    a. LIVADIA BATTERY unknown battery of 6 inch guns.
    b. Two CATELLO BATTERIES, on the Northern and Southern points of the harbour - in all 4 guns of 3.9 inch.

    3. PORTO SCALA (which has the main W/T station) is defended by barbed wire, and probably has a magazine.

    4. The most suitable landing places are:

    a. AGRELLIDI BAY, thought to be unfortified, near MALTASENA
    b. MARMARI BAY, on the Western side of the STRETTO isthmus. This is unfortified, but landing is possible only in fine weather.

    II. Signal Stations.


    III. Naval Establishments.

    MARINA STAMPALIA has been mentioned, and according to the Aux. Uff. (1940) there is a Comando Servizi, R. Marina.

    IV. Defence Vessels.

    1. There is no evidence of any A/S vessels
    2. AC2 report of August 1942 stated that 5 M.A.S.were based on STAMPALIA. There is no further evidence of this.

    V. Approaches

    1. There is a mine field 2 1/2 miles from the shore, from OXO PETRO to KAVO KHILAS: there are widely separated contact mines set at a depth of 10ft.

    2. A/S booms are in position at the three entrances to MALTASENA harbour.

    3. On 17/12 it was proposed to put an anti-torpedo barrage into operation at MALTASENA as soon as possible.

    VI. Italian Air Force

    There is no knowledge of any Italian aircraft on the island, although an unconfirmed report speaks of airfields at MALTASENA and LIVADIA.

    VII. German Air Force

    Nothing is known of any German aeroplanes at STAMPALIA, although it has been suggested that they are in control of one airfield.

    VIII. Italian Army

    The latest Order of Battle suggest that the island is defended by 5 companies, from the division based on RHODES. In Sept 1942 it was thought that there were 400 infantry, 400 marines and sailors, 100 services and 100 carabineri etc. Recently the Italians have shown a tendency to concentrate on RHODES their troops from outlying islands.

    IX. German Army

    There may be elements of the 440th Infantry regiment here, though there is no definite confirmation of this, nor any idea of the numbers and type.


    Just as this memorandum was in the process of being rushed through the press, a further identification was supplied by the War Office. The 310th Territorial Battalion (probably containing 4000 men) has been established at PREVESA.

    H.E.H. N.S.I.

Share This Page