John Steel Lewes

Lieutenant John Steel Lewes, known as Jock (December 21, 1913 – December 31, 1941) was born in Britain but grew up in Australia and served as a British officer of the Welsh Guards in World War II. He is the eponym of the Lewes bomb and was a founder member and principal training officer of the Special Air Service.

Lewes was first commissioned as a second lieutenant, University Candidate, General List in 1935 whilst a student at Christ Church College, Oxford. He was President of the Oxford University Boat Club 1936–37, but gave up his place in the 1937 Blue boat which ended up winning the 1937 University Boat Race, ending a 15 year Cambridge winning streak. After graduation he transferred to a Territorial Army unit, 1st Battalion, the Tower Hamlets Rifles, Rifle Brigade before joining the Welsh Guards.

In 1941 Lieutenant David Stirling gathered a small unit of volunteers, among whom was Lewes. This unit was named L Detachment of the Special Air Service Brigade. The main objective of this group was to conduct raids against the lines of communication of Axis forces in the Western Desert.

David Stirling said of Lewes: “Jock could far more genuinely claim to be founder of the SAS than I.”

Jock Lewes was killed in action in December 1941. He was returning from a raid on German airfields when the Long Range Desert Group truck he was travelling in was attacked by a lone Messerschmitt 110 fighter. Lewes was fatally wounded in the thigh by a 20mm round from the fighter and bled to death in about four minutes. He was buried on the site where the attack happened but the whereabouts of his grave are now unknown. He is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial.

Lewes was engaged to marry Mirren Barford, an Oxford undergraduate, at the time of his death.

Lewes created the Lewes bomb which was a light combined incendiary and explosive charge. The Lewes bomb was used throughout WWII.