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Identity statement

Reference code(s)
GB0099 KCLMA Riley
RILEY, Lt Cdr Quintin Theodore Petroc Molesworth (1905-1980)
Created 1940-1946, 1973, 1989
Level of description
collection level
Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)
1 box or 0.01 cubic metres, and 1 vol


Administrative / Biographical history

Born 1905; educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge University; Polar explorer, 1931-1937; British Arctic Air Route Expedition, 1931-1932; Arctic expedition, led by Gino Watkins, Greenland, 1933; British Graham Land Expedition, led by John Rymill, Antarctica, 1934-1937; joined Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, 1938; served in World War Two, 1939-1945; temporary Lt, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, 1939; served on intelligence missions in Finland and Norway, 1939-1940; Instructor, Independent Companies (forerunners of the Commandos), UK, 1940-1941; Instructor, Winter Warfare School, Iceland, 1941-1942; service with Combined Operations Command, 1943; participated in Operation AVALANCHE, the Allied landings at Salerno, Italy, Sep 1943; Commanding Officer, 30 RN Commando, 1943, and 30 Assault Unit, 1943-1944; temporary acting Lt Cdr, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, [1944]; served in Intelligence Division, Headquarters, Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia (SACSEA), Ceylon, 1944; Staff Officer, G2 (Intelligence) Division, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), France, Germany and the Channel Islands, 1944-1945; service in Germany, 1945-1947; retired 1947; served on Essex County Council and Braintree Rural District Council; killed in road accident, 1980. Publications: With Richard Taylor, Discovery of the poles (Penguin, London, 1957).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

With Richard Taylor, Discovery of the poles (Penguin, London, 1957).

Presented to the Centre by the family in 1982, 1987 and 2003.

Content & structure

Scope and content

Papers relating to Riley's service in World War Two, 1939-1945, with a recent biography, 1989, mostly concerning the training of Commando forces, 1940-1943, including letter from acting Col Colin McVean Gubbins, War Office, dated 8 Jul 1940, thanking Riley for his work in Norway, 1940; correspondence, memoranda, directives and reports relating to the training of Independent Companies in seamanship for raiding purposes, UK, Aug-Oct 1940; correspondence, 1940-1945, including letter, dated Feb 1941, from Capt Kermit Roosevelt, son of former US President Theodore Roosevelt, serving with The Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regt), relating to his service in the Western Desert, 1940. Papers relating to the Winter Warfare School, Iceland, 1941-1942, including typescript training notes and exercise memoranda, 1941-1942; typescript text of lecture by Riley entitled 'Arctic warfare', given at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, London, 13 Oct 1942. Papers relating to Commando training and Combined Operations Command, 1942-1943, including typescript memorandum entitled 'Outline of rations and equipment required for GUNHOUSE' (Operation GUNHOUSE, a small scale Commando raid on Banak airfield, northern Norway, Feb 1943); typescript 'Administrative instructions for special ration trials', relating to the testing of Arctic warfare ration packs, May 1943; typescript memorandum entitled 'The possibilities of wireless communication in small scale raiding' [1943]. Papers relating to 30 RN Commando and 30 Assault Unit, 1943-1945, including typescript memorandum by Riley entitled '30 Assault Unit. Visit to forward areas, Intelligence organisations and GHQ (General Headquarters)', Assam, India, 29 Aug 1944; typescript memorandum entitled 'History of 30 A U (Assault Unit)' [1945]; letter to Riley from Len Whittaker asking for information on 30 RN Commando and 30 Assault Unit for a proposed book on British Special Forces of World War Two, Jul 1973. Edition of The bulldozer. The magazine of Combined Operations, Oct 1942; printed pamphlet by Public Relations Section, International Military Tribunal, entitled 'International Military Tribunal, Nurnberg, Germany, 1945-1946', with brief biographies of defendants and offences committed [1946]. J P Riley: From Pole to Pole: the life of Quintin Riley, 1905-1980 (Anthony Rowe Ltd, Chippenham, 1989, 2nd edition 1998), typescript of book, photographs and sketch maps used as illustrations in book, and obituaries of individuals mentioned in the volume.

System of arrangement

The papers are arranged in sections as outlined above.

Conditions of access & use

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 for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Trustees of the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, attention of the Director of Archive Services.

Language/scripts of material


Finding aids

This Summary Guide, and in hard copy in the Centre's reading room.

Allied materials

Existence and location of originals
King's College London College Archives
Related units of description

The History of 30 Assault Unit, 1942-1946 (Ref: History of 30 Assault Unit) contain papers relating to the research carried out by Sqn Ldr David C Nutting for Attain by surprise: the story of 30 Assault Unit Royal Navy/Royal Marine Commando and of intelligence by capture, edited by Nutting and Jim Glanville (David Colver, Chichester, West Sussex, 1997).

Publication note

J P Riley: From Pole to Pole: the life of Quintin Riley, 1905-1980 (Anthony Rowe Ltd, Chippenham, 1989, 2nd edition 1998)



Compiled Dec 1999

Description control

Rules or conventions

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

This catalogue is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License. This catalogue may be updated from time to time in order to reflect additional material and/or new understandings of the material.

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  • Amphibious warfare
  • Armed forces
  • Communication process
  • Desert warfare
  • Group communication
  • Higher science education
  • Humanitarian law
  • International conflicts
  • International relations
  • Military communications
  • Military education
  • Military engineering
  • Military exercises
  • Military operations
  • Military organizations
  • Operation Gunhouse (1943)
  • Organizations
  • Special forces
  • State security
  • War
  • War crimes
  • Warfare
  • Wars (events)
  • World War Two (1939-1945)
  • World wars (events)

Personal names

  • Gubbins, Colin McVean, 1896-1976, Major General
  • Riley, Jonathan P, b 1955, author
  • Roosevelt, Kermit, d 1943, US Captain
  • Whittaker, Len, fl 1973, author

Corporate names

  • RN, Royal Navy


  • Assam, India, South Asia
  • Iceland, Northern Europe
  • London, England
  • Norway, Northern Europe
  • Nuremberg, Germany
  • Western Desert, North Africa

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