Monday, April 14, 2008

Maj-General Lewis Pugh 1907 - 1981

Brig-General Lewis Pugh Evans VC of Lovesgrove and Maj-Gen Lewis Pugh.
Maj-Gen Lewis Henry Owain Pugh CB, CBE, DSO**, KStJ, JP, DL. was born on 18th May 1907 and educated at Wellington and attended Sandhurst. He married Wanda Kendzior in Simla in 1941 and had two beautiful daughters, Genia (1942) and Imogen (1944). Known to my mother Annette as 'Cousin Lewis', he was her father Archie's nephew and like him, became involved with the Calcutta Light Horse. Lewis was a regular soldier who served with Special Services in India and in that capacity commanded the raid on the German ships thought to be broadcasting Allied shipping movements from Mormugoa harbour in 1943. The exploit was described in the book 'The Boarding Party' by James Leasor and made into a film 'The Sea Wolves' in which Lewis Pugh was played by Gregory Peck.

A fuller account of his active life can be found here:

Lewis Pugh was the grandson of Lewis Pugh Pugh (known as 'Puff Puff') Attorney-General of Bengal, and son of Major Herbert Pugh. Lewis was another professional soldier, commissioned into the Royal Horse Artillery. After serving in Germany between the wars and on the North West Frontier of India, he answered an advertisement for men with knowledge of India to join the Special Branch Intelligence Department of the Bengal Police.

At the outbreak of WW2 he returned to the army, and by 1943 was Director of Country Sections with SOE’s Force 136, one of their most successful units, based in Calcutta and specialised in placing agents and trained saboteurs deep behind enemy lines inside Burma and Malaya.

On 9th March 1943 he led what came to be known as the Last Action of the Calcutta Light Horse. This regiment was raised in 1872 and formed part of the cavalry reserve of the British Indian Army. It was commended from 1912 to 1922 by my grandfather, Col AJ Pugh. Inactive since the Boer War, their last action was against German merchant ships thought to be transmitting Allied positions to U-boats from the Mormugao harbour in Portugal's neutral territory of Goa. The membership was largely made up of businessmen and planters. The operation was kept covert, to prevent claims of contravening Portugal’s neutrality, and was not confessed to until 1978, thirty-five years after it took place.

At the time Lewis Pugh was a Lieutenant Colonel, but he subsequently became a Major General with a CB, CBE and three DSOs. This wartime incident was published in 1978 as “Boarding Party – The Last Action of the Calcutta Light Horse” by James Leasor, and was subsequently portrayed in a 1980 film, “Sea Wolves”, starring Gregory Peck as Pugh, and including a host of other well known names. As the film makers noted, during the first 11 days of March 1943, U-boats sank 12 Allied ships in the Indian Ocean. After the Light Horse raid on Goa, only one ship was lost in the remainder of the month.

The General retired from the Army to the family estate at Cymmerau in 1961, and lived in the house and developed its gardens, together with his wife until 1978, and thereafter at Wonastow House, before dying in 1981. He was High Sherriff of Cardiganshire. A stained glass window in Eglwysfach church commemorates members of the Pugh family of Voelas and Cymerau.

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  1. This was a great man

  2. What a wonderful story and life dedicated to service of this country. We really do not produce men of this calibre any more (sadly)

  3. My Mum was his secretary and transcribed his memoirs. He was a lovely man. Very soft and generous.