A Welch Calypso

A Welch Calypso : A Soldier of the Royal Welch Fusiliers in the West Indies, 1951-54

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In March 1952 Tom Stevens sailed from Southampton aboard the troopship Dilwara, one of the last generations of British soldiers to serve in the West Indies. `How did I get here?', he asks. Tom's candid memoir describes his wartime childhood, disrupted by evacuation, the Swansea blitz, patchy schooling, his father's absence at war and his parents' separation. He evokes with an engaging honesty the life of an infantryman in the garrison of Jamaica, the pleasures of tropical service and the temptations faced by a young man in uniform. Vividly recalled, Tom's memoir reveals how a young Welshman grew up in the final years of colonial Jamaica, recalling the complex relationships he enjoyed with its people.

Tom candidly recounts the two amorous adventures that make his account of his time in the West Indies unique: his infatuation with Elvira, the Belize beauty for whom he risked all by deserting to elope with her, and Marcia, the Kingston woman with whom he lived happily, as long as neither mentioned her life as a prostitute. In between, Tom and his Royal Welch comrades relaxed in the bars of Kingston, cleaned up after a tropical hurricane in Jamaica, suppressed a socialist coup in British Guiana and guarded the leaders of the free world when they met in the Bahamas, before leaving the bright sunshine of the West Indies to return to the grey skies of post-war Britain. A Welch Calypso opens the barrack room door after lights out, evoking the life of the other ranks in one of Britain's last tropical garrisons. As well as describing a now long-gone military world, Tom Stevens opens his heart in a frank reminiscence of a Welsh boy's coming of age.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 188 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 10.16mm | 249.48g
  • Solihull, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 26 b/w photos
  • 1909982679
  • 9781909982673
  • 1,853,280

Review quote

"an engaging and candid memoir from the point of view of a soldier but also island life in one of the last outpost of Empire in the early 1950s.""--Bulletin of the Military Historical Society
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About Tom Stevens

Swansea-born Tom Stevens grew up in wartime and as a teenager joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers. His service with the Royal Welch in the West Indies forms the substance of his candid and engaging memoir, A Welch Calypso. Back in Wales he married Kaye and they had three children, Adrian, Jonathan and Lesley-Anne, migrating to Australia in 1965. While running a shop in the small New South Wales township of Gerogery, Tom became an artist, painting landscapes and scenes from his childhood. Tom and Kaye moved to Canberra, where in the mid-1990s Tom became blind. He now lives in a residential home in Canberra. Professor Peter Stanley was born in Britain and migrated to Australia with his family in 1966 aged 10. He met Tom Stevens's son, Adrian, at university in Canberra in 1976. After working as a museum historian for 32 years, in 2013 Peter became Research Professor at the University of New South Wales, Canberra. He has published 26 books, mainly on Australian and British military-social history, and in 2011 his book Bad Characters (on Australian soldiers in the Great War) was jointly awarded the Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History.
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