Alun Lewis (1915-44) was born in Aberdare, South Wales, the son of a schoolmaster. From Cowbridge Grammar School he won a scholarship to the University of Wales at Aberystwyth, gaining a first-class degree in history and in 1935 taking up a research studentship at Manchester University. He returned to Aberystwyth to train as a teacher, working as a secondary school in Pengam and periodically for the WEA and the Left Book Club. In 1939 he met Gweno Ellis, a fellow teacher: they married in 1941, by which time, in spite of his pacifism, Lewis had joined the Royal Engineers. In 1941 he was commissioned and assigned to the South Wales Borderers. He trained at various English military camps before being posted in October 1942 to India. His battalion saw action against the Japanese in Burma, and Lewis died there, near Bawli, on 5 March 1944.
Lewis’s poems were first published while he was a student and in the late 1930s his poetry and short stories attracted critical acclaim when they appeared in journals and magazines. A first book of poems, Raiders’ Dawn, was published in 1942 and a collection of stories, The Last Inspection, in 1943. His reputation as a poet was confirmed by the posthumous publication of Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945). Other books of his writing include Letters from India (1946), In the Green Tree (1948), Alun Lewis: A Miscellany of His Writings (1982), and Inwards Where All the Battle Is (1997). Selections of his poetry appeared in 1966 (edited by Ian Hamilton), 1981 (edited by Jeremy Hooker & Gweno Lewis), and 1994 (edited by Cary Archard). A biography by John Pikoulis was published by Poetry Wales Press in 1984.