Leslie Thomas dead: Author of 'The Virgin Soliders' dies aged 83 at his Wiltshire home

Thomas leaves a wife, four children, and four grandchildren

Leslie Thomas, the author best known for his novel exploring national service, The Virgin Soldiers, has died at his home near Salisbury, Wiltshire. He was 83.

The journalist-turned novelist passed away after a lengthy illness. He leaves his wife Diana, four children and four grandchildren.

Diana said: “He had a wonderful life and he travelled the world. All he ever wanted to do was write and that is what he did.

"He died at home with his family around him."

Thomas started life in Newport, Wales, and was raised in a Barnado’s children's home from age 12.

For his first job, he worked as a reporter on a weekly newspaper, before moving on to write for the London Evening News. At the publication he covered major stories including the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.

But it was the time he spent as a national serviceman in Malaya that inspired his most famous work, a comic tale of British soldiers based in the Far East that became a huge bestseller and a hit film.

Thomas, who was given an OBE for services to literature in 2004, wrote scores more novels, non-fiction and travel books in his career, including Tropic of Ruislip and Dangerous Davies.

His publisher was among those who paid tribute.

Susan Sandon, divisional managing director at the Penguin Random House Group, said: ”Leslie Thomas was an immensely popular author with a huge gift for storytelling and a wonderful sense of humour.

“His books have given so many people pleasure over the years, with their mix of great characters, strong sense of time and place, and unique ability to combine laughter and tears in the space of a few sentences.”

Additional reporting by  PA

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