Littlehampton and the Royal Marines' special bond
30 Commando IX Group Royal Marines granted Freedom of Littlehampton
The association between Littlehampton and the Royal Marines dates back almost 70 years.
In 1944 Littlehampton became the base for the 30 Assault Unit. James Bond author Ian Fleming joined the Royal Navy for the War’s duration and was the senior CO for the Unit, which was sometimes referred to as ‘Fleming’s private navy’ or ‘Fleming’s Red Indians’. Read more...
For a few months before the D-Day landings the 30AU troops lived and trained in Littlehampton. A headquarters was set up in St. Augustine’s Road and a small naval section was located nearby. The Beach Hotel and the dance Pavilion also were taken over. An Intelligence Assault Force, officially the Unit did not exist. Those involved were sworn to secrecy – a pledge that many kept their whole lives – and even today much of the Unit’s work remains a mystery. We do, however, know that they saw action, including vital pre-D-Day reconnaissance forays to the French coast.
In 2010, a Devon-based Royal Marine Unit was renamed after the 30AU to better reflect its role and continue the former Unit’s legacy. It is to this modern day Unit that the Freedom of Littlehampton was granted on the 5th October 2013.
Deciding that giving the Unit the Freedom of the Town would be an honourable salute to the bond shared by townspeople and the Unit, the Ceremony
Event formally marked the occasion.
People lined the streets to witness the historic occasion, glad to pay their own respects to a relationship of almost seventy years.
Honouring the extraordinary work of this special Royal Marine Commando Unit, the Town Council was delighted to commemorate the special connection between Littlehampton and 30AU.
“It was a huge honour to receive the Freedom of the Town and it is not lost on us that this is the highest accolade a civic council can bestow on a military unit,” said the day’s Parade Commander Major Ian McGill of 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group Royal Marines. “In the 40s the Unit was a big part of the community and it was an honour to pay homage to our forebears.” Adding his thanks to the community, especially to The Academy for hosting them so generously, Major McGill told Progress that he was especially heartened to see so many young people in the crowds. “If only a small portion of them are inspired to join the military then that’s brilliant.”
One of the founding members of the Unit, Littlehampton resident veteran Bill Thomas admitted that the event evoked many memories and that he and fellow veteran Harry Kelly (decd. November 2013) had enjoyed wonderful hospitality. Bill said: “It was a great honour for the Town and a great honour for the Unit. It was a magnificent day and we were looked after like film stars.”
Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex Susan Pyper and our Town Mayor Cllr. Joyce Bowyer inspected the troops prior to the official ceremony, after which the soldiers and members of the Royal Marines Band marched through the Town, cheered by townspeople every step of the way. Concluding with a reception at The Littlehampton Academy, the Mayor spoke spoke for many when she said: “I am so proud of Littlehampton.”
Now that there's a formal link between Littlehampton and the 30 Commando, the Unit will have an active role in the Town at events such as Littlehampton Armed Forces Day which is held on the last Saturday in June each year.
FIND OUT MORE
The 30 Commando IX Group have an active webpage where you can follow their latest missions and projects.
Some of the Members of the 30 Commando IX who received the Freedom of Town are participating in the Royal Marines 1664 Challenge which involves skiing, sailing, cycling, canoeing and running 6656km (circa 4136 miles). The challenge was set up to celebrate the Royal Marines 350th anniversary whilst fundraising for the RM Charitable Trust. Check out the website for details www.1664challenge.co.uk