Sir David Stirling, 74, a retired British Army colonel and noted World War II commando who helped found the elite Special Air Service, died Nov. 3 in London. The cause of death was not reported.

The SAS was founded during World War II. During the war, it gained an enviable reputation for swift, ruthless and successful actions. It was the beginning of its tradition of near-invincibility and gained the air of menacing secrecy it has maintained until this day.

Sir David, a tall, forceful Guards officer, is generally credited as the founder of the SAS. He is said to have chosen the unit's winged dagger cap badge, its sand-colored beret, and even its famous motto, "Who Dares Wins."

His father was an Army brigadier and his mother was the fourth daughter of the 13th Baron Lovat. He attended Cambridge University before winning a commission in the Scots Guards at the outbreak of World War II. Six months later he transferred to the Brigade of Guards' No. 3 Commando, shipping with them to the Middle East.

In Cairo, as a young major, he convinced his superiors of the need for an elite "army within an army" that could make lightning surgical strikes against the enemy and run long-range reconnaisance missions. He was given six officers and 60 noncommissioned officers. In January 1942, the unit made its first raid behind enemy lines. It was a disaster, with only 22 survivors among the 60 men who took part.

Yet the unit went on to unquestioned success. Sir David became known as the "Phantom Major" among German troops. During one 18-month period, his unit destroyed 250 enemy aircraft on the ground as well as scores of supply dumps. He raided deep behind enemy lines, then melted into the desert before Axis reinforcements could counter-attack.

He was captured in Tunisia in 1943, after being betrayed to the Germans by local Arabs. He awoke from a nap to find himself surrounded by 500 German soldiers. He later escaped and was recaptured. He ended the war as a prisoner in Germany's infamous Colditz Castle. At the war's end, he quit the Army but was believed to retain close links with important military and intelligence officials.

From 1947 to 1959, he lived in Kenya and what was then Rhodesia. In the 1960s and 1970s, he recruited mercenary soldiers for armies and security forces in Africa and the Middle East.

In 1967, he had founded an organization called "Watchguard," which became known as "the civilian branch of the SAS." Watchguard specialized in placing retired SAS men with security, army and training groups around the world. Men supplied by Watchguard often helped fill the vacuum caused by the recall of British Army units from areas such as the Persian Gulf states.

In the mid-1970s, stories appeared about him founding a right-wing private security group in Britain that would enforce order and operate key industries in case of a national strike. He later served as chairman of Television International Enterprises Ltd. in England.

Sir David was knighted in the queen's New Year's honors list this year. His military decorations included the Distinguished Service Order and the Order of the British Empire.


Government Lawyer

Leo Aloysius Roth Sr., 84, a retired Justice Department trial lawyer who was a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Bethesda, died Nov. 6 at Suburban Hospital after surgery for a heart ailment. He had lived in Bethesda since 1942.

Mr. Roth, a native of Newark, was a graduate of Fordham University and its law school. He came here and began his government career in 1938. He worked for the Interior Department and the Works Progress Administration before joining Justice in the mid-1940s. He worked in its criminal and antitrust divisions before retiring in 1971.

In 1953 and 1954, he spent 15 months fighting to regain his job as a Justice Department lawyer, from which he was fired in July 1953. Widely covered by the media, he fought his case from the Civil Service Commission to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court upheld a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Justice had illegally fired him, violating the 1912 Lloyd-LaFollette Act governing the removal of civil servants.

Justice had contended that Mr. Roth's position was not covered by merit protection. The court's ruling said, in effect, that someone occupying a job in the competitive civil service retains job security rights even though his job is transferred to a category exempt from civil service regulations.

Mr. Roth was a co-founder and president emeritus of the Fordham Club of Washington.

Survivors include his wife of 64 years, the former Margaret Gaynor, of Bethesda; four sons, Robert H., of Berne, Switzerland, John P., of Gaithersburg, Leo Jr., of Bethesda, and Donald C., of Washington; a sister, Margaret Infanger of Venice, Fla.; 10 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.



Catherine Cail Burks, 66, retired senior editor of International Environmental Reports published by the Bureau of National Affairs, died of cancer Nov. 1 at the home of her son in El Rancho, N.M.

Mrs. Burks, who lived in Washington, was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She moved to Washington in 1942 and worked during World War II at the embassies of Canada and New Zealand. Later she was a public relations representative of Matson Lines.

In 1944 she married George Edward Burks Jr. They lived in Thailand, Iraq and Lebanon between 1954 and 1959 when he worked for the United States Information Agency. They moved to Colorado in 1959, where he died in 1972.

In 1971 Mrs. Burks formed a public relations consulting firm in Colorado. She returned to Washington in 1974 and began working for the Bureau of National Affairs in 1976. She retired in 1989.

Survivors include two sons, Kelly Burks of London and Christian Burks of El Rancho, N.M.; a brother, James Cameron Cail of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.


Mortgage Broker

Earle Gordon Beale, 96, a retired independent mortgage broker who was a member of the Arlington County School Trustee Electoral Board in the 1940s, died of a heart ailment Nov. 4 at the Iliff Nursing Home in Dunn Loring.

He served on the board in the mid-1940s. It was appointed by the Circuit Court in Arlington and empowered with selecting the county's school board. In 1947, county residents passed a referendum for a school board selected by popular vote.

Mr. Beale, who had moved to Iliff from Falls Church in 1970, was a native of Charlottesville. He later owned and managed a farm in Loudoun County, where he also worked as a station agent for the Old Dominion Railway. In 1919, he transferred to the railway's Washington headquarters and settled in this area. He retired in 1930 for health reasons.

He then began working as an independent mortgage broker in Northern Virginia. He retired a second time in the mid-1960s.

Mr. Beale was a member of Clarendon United Methodist Church and a founding member of the Graham Road United Methodist Church in Falls Church.

His wife, Lotta Turner Beale, died in 1976. Survivors include a daughter, Virginia Murray of Leesburg; three sons, C. Gordon Beale of Great Falls, W. Turner Beale of Coral Springs, Fla., and J. Douglas Beale of Ocala, Fla.; a sister, Elizabeth Bragg of Alexandria; five grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.


NOAA Rear Admiral

Robert W. Knox, 93, a retired rear admiral of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, died of cardiorespiratory arrest Nov. 1 at his home in Alexandria.

Adm. Knox served 34 years in NOAA before retiring in 1957 as assistant director of the Coast and Geodetic Survey. In retirement he had served five years as president of the directing committee of the International Hydrographic Bureau in Monte Carlo. He had been a permanent resident of the Washington area since returning from Monte Carlo in 1962, and he had been assigned here periodically while on active duty with NOAA.

He was born in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.

His career at NOAA included commands of survey ships operating in the Puget Sound, the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound. He had also served as chief of NOAA's nautical chart branch and its aeronautical chart branch and been a delegate and adviser to international conferences and institutes.

He was a member of the Naval Institute, the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, the American Polar Society, the Institute of Navigation and the Cosmos Club.

His wife of 61 years, Esther Knox, died in 1986. Survivors include a daughter, Evalyn K. Cooper of Gainesville, Ga.; two grandchildren and a great-grandchild.