The first thing to state is that this book is not full of escapades of derring do by the SAS. What it is though, is a snapshot of the life of Jock Lewes, largely compiled from his personal correspondence and diaries which the author (Lewes’ nephew) has had access to.
The book is broken down into 3 sections: childhood and youth in Sydney, Australia, manhood in Oxford and Europe, and finally maturity in the Middle East.
Reading the first section I felt that I was reading some sort of Enid Blyton famous five adventure. But it was here in Australia that Lewes’ character was formed and he first started thinking about warfare. It was at this stage that his copious amounts of writing became a habit.
The second section shows that Lewes can put the task in hand before his own personal gratification. He surrenders his seat in the rowing team for the greater good of the team. – And they won!
The final section which goes as far as his untimely death, demonstrates that Lewes was a free thinker and excellent problem solver. He develops the now famous Lewes bomb after being told by experts that what he wants is impossible.
Having looked at the table of contents I was certain that it would be the final section that would appeal to me: the section where Lewes teams up with Stirling and creates the forerunner of today’s SAS. But I was very wrong. It was the second section where Lewes was at Oxford and visited Europe during the late 30s that held my interest the most. In particular, it was Lewes’ observations and premonitions in his writings that fascinated me. He was proven to be incredibly accurate and insightful; some of his prophesies are still holding true today. To me, these are the little gems that always come from biographical type books. I also liked the mildly sarcastic wit that came through, “You can do anything in the army, as long as it’s not new or different!”
Throughout the book Lewes comes through as a very determined man with incredible drive, and I think this is more than demonstrated with the troubled birth of the SAS. I believe his nephew has written a fitting and honourable account of Jock’s relatively short life. My only gripe is that at times the narration seemed to be a little disjointed.
I’m happy to give the book 4 anchors, not least because there were a few pictures I’d not seen before.