Newport-born Virgin Soldiers author Leslie Thomas dies

Leslie Thomas, pictured with wife Diana, was best known for his national service novel The Virgin Soldiers Photo: Johnny Green/PA Wire

Newport-born writer Leslie Thomas, best known for his national service novel The Virgin Soldiers, has died aged 83.

The journalist-turned-novelist died at home near Salisbury in Wiltshire yesterday after a lengthy illness.

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.

– Diana, Leslie Thomas' wife

Mr Thomas grew up in a Barnardo's home and started work as a reporter on a weekly newspaper before a stint on Fleet Street with the London Evening News, where he covered major stories including the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.

But it was his time 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.

Mr Thomas, who was given an OBE for services to literature in 2004, wrote scores more novels, non-fiction and travel books in his career.

He leaves his wife, four children and four grandchildren.