Page 1: Biography
Llewellyn, Stephen Peter
Soldier, historian, journalist, novelist
This biography, written by Ian McGibbon, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000.
Stephen Peter Llewellyn was born at Hereford, England, on 18 July 1913, the son of Arthur Henry Llewellyn, a government valuer, and his wife, Martha Helen Scott. He was educated at Durlston Court School (1923–27) and Felsted School (1927–31). He served an apprenticeship as a journalist for four years, then worked for nine months with the London reporting staff of the Daily Express. During the next three years he was a free-lance journalist.
Llewellyn came to New Zealand shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Tall, and rugged-looking, with a liking for the outdoors, he was working as a labourer with the Public Works Department in Auckland at the time of his enlistment in the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Posted to the Divisional Ammunition Company, he left New Zealand with the 1st Echelon in January 1940. Soon after arriving in Egypt he suffered a skull fracture in an accident and spent six weeks in hospital. He subsequently took part as a driver in the campaigns in Greece, Crete, North Africa, and Italy.
In August 1944 Llewellyn, now a sergeant, became unit historian for the Divisional Ammunition Company. After being repatriated to New Zealand in January 1946, he was employed in the archives section at Army Headquarters, Wellington. By the time he was discharged from the army in 1947 he held the rank of warrant officer. He was then employed on contract by the War History Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs. While at army archives he completed the draft of the official history of the Divisional Ammunition Company, making good use of the diary he kept during his service. Journey towards Christmas , which was published in 1949, was highly acclaimed for its literary qualities and especially its evocation of the atmosphere of the time. Also published that year was Troopships , a short account by Llewellyn of the vessels that conveyed 2NZEF to and from the war theatres.
Seeking a change of scene following completion of his drafts, Llewellyn became a cook at a forestry camp in the King Country for a time. He then returned to the United Kingdom, where he was probably involved in free-lance journalism and broadcasting. Back in New Zealand in early 1950 he was engaged on contract to write the official history of the 18th Battalion and Armoured Regiment. It was intended that he should also later prepare the history of the Divisional Petrol Company of the New Zealand Army Service Corps.
Following the government’s announcement that a military unit would be sent to join the United Nations Command in Korea in 1950, Llewellyn volunteered to serve as public relations officer, and was accepted for the force, largely on the recommendation of the editor in chief of the war histories, Major General Sir Howard Kippenberger, who extended the completion date for Llewellyn’s history by one year. Llewellyn left New Zealand by air in early December 1950, and was based initially in Pusan, South Korea, and later Kure, Japan. He was an effective publicist of the force for more than two years. Much to Kippenberger’s disgust he made no progress on his unit history, and after he extended his service in Kayforce his contract with the War History Branch was terminated in October 1953. Having transferred to the army service corps, Llewellyn commanded the Divisional Transport Platoon from May 1953 to February 1954. In 1953 he was made an MBE for his services. He returned to New Zealand by sea in late 1954.
Llewellyn once again returned to free-lance journalism and broadcasting. In 1957, under the pseudonym Michael Ellis, he published a novel, The score at tea-time , which was set mainly in Tokyo and based on his experiences with Kayforce. Another novel, The angel in the coffin , set on a Dutch emigrant ship to New Zealand, was published in 1960, and yet another, Kissing the four corners , was published in 1961. Some of his short stories were published in the New Zealand Listener , for which he also wrote book reviews. In December 1957 he returned to the United Kingdom because of his mother’s declining health, and remained there for several years. His hopes of obtaining a post as a United Nations truce superviser came to nothing, and he returned to New Zealand. Llewellyn never married. He was residing at Waikanae when he suffered a heart attack on 14 November 1960 and died in an ambulance en route to hospital.