New Documentary Sheds Light on the Early Years of the Elite Special Air Service’s Founder

Special Air Service in North Africa during WWII.
Special Air Service in North Africa during WWII.

A BBC documentary makes the claim that Lieutenant Jock Lewes, founder of the elite Special Air Service (better known as the SAS), was deeply enamored by the Third Reich and fell in love with a fervent Nazi socialite prior to the start of the Second World War.

Lewes, who was very young at the time, started a relationship with Senta Adriano, before proposing, but ended the relationship after seeing first-hand the real nature of Hitler’s regime with Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass, when the Nazis went on a rampage damaging or destroying Jewish businesses and synagogues.

It was at this moment that Lewes became disenchanted with the new government, says author and journalist Ben Macintyre in the BBC 2 documentary, SAS: Rogue Warriors.

The politically trusting Lewes quickly realized the true nature of the Nazi regime that he had been so enthusiastic over, said Macintyre.

Coached by his parents to ‘be someone great,’ Lewes created the SAS in 1941 with a fellow officer, Lieutenant David Stirling.

Operating behind enemy lines, the special unit which has the famous motto ‘Who Dares Wins,’ played an important role in the war.

Yet, only three years before its creation, Lewes, a patriotic and rich man, had been bedazzled by the Third Reich.

He had almost become a fascist, Macintyre said.

A previous captain of the Oxford University Boat Club, Lewes had contemplated rowing in 1940 at the Tokyo Olympics.

But, this did not occur. After falling for Adriano, he became engaged to the society beauty and attended a ball with her in 1938, joined at the event by guests of honor Adolf Hitler and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

They parted after Kristallnacht, which took place that year in November.

Following their split, Lewes wrote in a letter he will not live to witness the day when Britain takes down the ‘colors of her beliefs before totalitarian aggression.’

Lewes played a large part in the SAS, introducing exacting and very dangerous parachute training methods to ready the unit’s men for war. He also devised the Lewes bomb, Mirror reported.

The documentary reveals how Lewes fell in love again, this time with an Oxford student, Mirren Barford, to whom he wrote.

He was engaged to marry Mirren when he was killed by a bullet from a fighter plane while returning from a raid on German air bases.  He was only 28.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE