Lieutenant-Colonel John William Arthur Stephenson was a British Army officer during Second World War. He was a hero of North Africa Campaign. As a Captain in the Middlesex Regiment, in 1943 he was awarded the DSO for service in Tunisia. However, he was most known to be a famous English cricketer. During the battle of El Alamein in 1942, as Lieutenant-Colonel of 1/th Middlesex Regiment, he exhorted his men to throw cricket balls at the enemy should they exhaust their ammunition.
His military career was in parallel with his carrer as cricket player. He study at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. As a second lieutenant into the Middlesex Regiment, he was posted to India, he made his first-class cricket debut for the Europeans against the Muslims at Bombay Gymkhana in the 1928/29 Bombay Quadrangular tournament. In 1930/31 he played for Madras against the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram's XI.
In 1931 he was promoted to to lieutenant, and he turned to Europe. He followed playing cricket. He made his English first-class debut for the Army against MCC at Lord's. During the years before the outbreak of war, he mixed further appearances for the Army with continued appearances different English cricket clubs (Buckinghamshire, Free Foresters, Gentlemen, ..., and Essex). His most successful season was 1936. Stephenson was promoted to captain in 1937. During 1937 and 1938 his army duties excluded him to playing a full season of cricket. Until the outbreak of war he followed playing for Essex Club; 1939 was a good season as cricketer.
Stephenson retired from the army on 1 July 1939, but the outbreak of war soon saw him recalled. During the war he continued to serve with the Middlesex Regiment, rising to the war substantive rank of major, and as a temporary lieutenant-colonel he commanded the 1/7th Battalion of the regiment in North Africa.
For his leadership of the battalion (which formed the machine gun battalion of the 51st Highland Division at the Second Battle of El Alamein and during the subsequent advance on Tripoli—and particularly for his actions at Corradini and during the attack on the Mareth Line—the divisional commander, Major-General Douglas Wimberley, recommended him for an immediate award of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). The recommendation for the award describes how he personally ensured that the battalion supported the infantry, sometimes leading individual companies under heavy fire, and his carrying out of reconnaissance under fire. The commander of Eighth Army, General Bernard Montgomery, endorsed the recommendation with the words, "I very strongly recommend this award". The award of the DSO was gazetted on 17 June 1943. Stephenson was also subsequently Mentioned in Despatches on 13 January 1944.
He did not continue in active service after the war, he was promoted to substantive major in the Reserve of Officers in 1949, and granted honorary rank as a lieutenant-colonel at the same time. He remained in the reserve until he reached the age limit for service in 1957. The Second World War also effectively ended his cricket career, although he did play three first-class matches afterwards.
He was born in 1907, in Hon Kong. He died in 1982, in Mare Hill, Pulborough, Sussex, England.