British Empire Books

Under an English Heaven

AuthorDonald Westlake
PublisherHodder and Stoughton
First Published1972
ISBN No.0340158816

If you did not know better, you would assume that this book is a work of fiction. Indeed, the author is famous for his comic novels. However, this book recounts the strange set of affairs that saw the tiny Caribbean island of Anguilla invaded by 600 British soldiers due to them rebelling against independence. It was a fairly harmless invasion and few people got hurt and noone was actually killed. Donald Westlake recounts the farcical series of events that led to this very strange operation.

The author writes "Anguilla did not rebel against colonial rule; Anguilla rebelled against independence. After 317 years of neglect and mismanagement as a colony, Anguilla rebelled three months after being set free. Now of course this runs absolutely counter to the flow of contemporary history, and it was very hard for anybody to believe that a tiny group of six thousand people was fighting against independence and for colonialism."

In truth, Anguilla was attempting to break away from an enforced union with St. Kitts and Nevis. These islands were hardly close to one another and had little in common. It did not help that the ruler of St Kitts, Colonel Bradshaw, said that he would reduce Anguilla to a desert. These were comments that hardly endeared the Angullans towards federation with their larger neighbour. The Anguillans felt that they would be better protected from domination if they remained under the protection of the British Crown.

So why exactly did the British invade? Well the author provides a cogent 260 odd pages to explain how the British were fooled (or fooled themselves) into invading this small caribbean island. The British were trying to avoid making open ended commitments and yet ended up having to make those exact same promises due to their actions. I will not spoil the story and to tell you how but do recommend you read the book to find out the baffling series of events that led to such a farce. The author does not pull his punches. His sympathies clearly lie with the canny islanders who ultimately get their way despite all the handicaps that face them. It would make a great film - even if it would be a comedy rather than a documentary.

Buy this book at: Amazon or at Abebooks

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by Stephen Luscombe