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The History of 30 Assault Unit: Ian Fleming's Red Indians (Pen and Sword Books, December 2009; 176 p

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by dgmitchell, Dec 12, 2009.

  1. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

    May 9, 2008
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    On March 20, 1942, a Naval Intelligence Officer of the Royal Navy submitted a memorandum to Rear Admiral John Godfrey. In the memo, he suggested that the Royal Navy form a commando squad based on the model embraced by Otto Skorzeny and the German Intelligence commandos who had so effectively participated in the German conquest of Crete nearly a year earlier. Such commandos, the memo stated, would participate in front line attacks on ports and naval installations and then prevent the defenders from destroying valuable documents and other intelligence.

    Thus was born 30 Assault Unit, which became one of the most successful and secretive special forces units of the Second World War and the officer who wrote the memo was Ian Fleming. Fleming of course would later pen the very successful James Bond series of books and many of his inspirations for Bond and the rest of his spy organization came right out of 30 Assault Unit. Freelance writer Craig Cabell explores 30 Assault Unit in his recently published The History of 30 Assault Unit: Ian Fleming's Red Indians (Pen and Sword Books, December 2009; 176 pages) and provides a much needed examination of unit that Fleming affectionately called his Red Indians.

    The men of 30 Assault Unit (30 AU) are quickly passing away and much of the information relating to their actions during the War remain classified. Accordingly, Cabell had a difficult job in thoroughly researching his subject. Time was also not his friend as it could only claim more of his resources with the passing of each person associated with 30AU. Nevertheless, Cabell presented a very good high level exploration of the otherwise little-examined 30 AU, taking the reader through the formation, staffing and training of the unit and on to its combat missions in Africa, Sicily, Italy and elsewhere.

    Although The History of 30 Assault Unit does provide a good introduction to the exploits of 30 AU, the reader is left feeling that much more of the story was left untold. Cabell does not describe any of the specific actions of 30 AU in any great detail and that leaves the reader knowing the "who," "what," "where" and "when," but rarely the "why" or the "how" of each engagement. His consideration of the members of 30 AU is also notably limited. There are no personalities who the reader actually gets to know. Even Fleming is little more than a superficial presence in the book. Moreover, Patrick Dalzel-Job, who is generally considered Fleming's inspiration for Bond, does not emerge as a noteworthy character so the reader never begins to see the nexus between Dalzel-Job and Fleming's inspiration for the noted fictional spy.

    The History of 30 Assault Unit is a good introduction to 30 AU, but it could have been so much more. Cabell acknowledges that the subject has not been well considered by historians over the years. He should have taken the opportunity to write a more definitive account of both 30 AU and the men (or at least some of the men) who comprised it. The History of 30 Assault Unit is a good appetizer, but it did leave me longing for the main course. I hope that Cabell will provide that to us soon, in the form of a much more detailed account of 30 AU.

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