Adrian Carton de Wiart

28 Mar

Sometimes a man comes around.  Sometimes that man is this one:

Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart

Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO, OMG (1880-1963) – one of the most splendid and appalling military men of the modern age.  He lost an eye and a hand in the service, receiving the wounds in a manner reminiscent of that of the similarly unstoppable Lord Nelson, and spent 1900 through 1945 in a more or less continuous lather of bellicose delight.

Although he was a gifted linguist and diplomat, he found politics to be alternately tedious and meddlesome. “War and politics seem bad mixers, like port and champagne,” he observed, “but if it wasn’t for politicians we wouldn’t have wars, and I, for one, should have been done out what for me is a very agreeable life.”

That life saw him in action in the Second Boer War, the First World War, the Polish-Soviet War, and several far-flung theatres of the Second World War, including those in Poland, Norway and China. He escaped numerous plane crashes, shipwrecks and prisons; was injured dozens of times (once biting off his own fingers when a surgeon refused to operate), including seven distinct hits received on various stretches the Western Front.  Daring exploits and adventures from wall to wall.

Inevitably, it was a chance fall down a flight of stairs at the age of 66 that took the spring from his step. He retired to the life of a modest fisherman in a small town in County Cork, Ireland, and lived out his days in this capacity until his death.  Interested parties should consult his memoirs, The Happy Odyssey (1950), which are as engrossing and well worth the encounter as was the man himself.

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