The most extraordinary, exciting, moving, wonderful, enjoyable and unusual biographies I have ever read. Tom Carew served in the British army in WWll , like most others he never talked of his wartime activities, only to mention in passing that he parachuted behind enemy lines to help the resistance. When Tom was in his eighties and showing signs of dementia, his daughter Keggie decided to write the story of this charming and irrepressible man, before his memories were lost forever.
Born into impoverished Irish gentility Tom Carew had a madcap childhood in both Ireland and England. Enlisting in the army at the start of WWll Tom was bored and frustrated with his role as an anti-aircraft gunner in Gibralter and jumped at the chance to volunteer for dangerous missions behind enemy lines. These dangerous missions known as “Jedburghs” consisted of three man teams parachuted into enemy territory to arm and train the resistance and carry out acts of sabotage by cutting road, rail and telephone lines, destroying arms and fuel dumps. Tom Carew and his team were so successful that no sooner had the Germans been pushed out of France than he was sent to repeat his success, this time against the retreating Japanese in Burma.
The Jedburgh teams under Tom Carew fought alongside an army of Burmese resisters lead by Aung San (Father of the current Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi), who were fighting for Burmese independence. This rag tag army captured or killed over 17,000 Japanese as they tried to flee across the Chindwin River. Their own losses were minimal. However Tom himself not only had to fight the Japanese but also the insufferably arrogant British Colonial Administrators who were determined to thwart independence and resume their brutal rule in Burma.
After a spell in military intelligence in Finland and Trieste he returned to peacetime soldiering but quickly became bored and resigned to seek his fortune as a civilian. To his horror he found himself unemployable, ex-military types were two a penny and jobs were scarce. Tom decided to live off his wits and his considerable charm. but most of his ventures failed leaving him in debt and on the brink of bankruptcy.
Interweaving with Tom’s business failures were three marriages. First a wartime bride, the wife from hell. Second the lovely mother of his three children, whose mental health declined to the point where she was committed to a mental hospital. And number three, the evil step mother.
Writing this biography was a voyage of discovery and endless surprises for Tom’s daughter Keggie. One of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much is that Keggie is not a professional writer, she wrote about her Dad from her heart.
And I loved it.