Thanks to Foreign Policy, I learned that the wikipedia biography of twentieth century British soldier, Sir Carton de Wiart, has gone slightly viral as having the best opening paragraph ever written on wikkipedia. See if you agree.

“Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart[1] VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO (5 May 1880 – 5 June 1963), was a British Army officer of Belgian and Irish descent. He fought in the Boer War, World War I, and World War II, was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, survived a plane crash, tunneled out of a POW camp, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor wouldn’t amputate them. He later said “frankly I had enjoyed the war.”

Carton de Wiart was truly a larger than life character. His World War One service began with the gloriously named Somaliland Camel Corps, and he lost an eye while fighting in East Africa. Invalided back to England, he told his Medical Board that he wished to fight in France, which they would only agree subject to “the astonishing solution that if I found I could wear a glass eye they would consider me”. De Wiart wondered if this condition was based on the Board’s concern that the Germans not think that “we were reduced to sending out one-eyed officers”. He returned to his Board wearing “a startling, excessively uncomfortable glass eye”, was passed fit for duty, and promptly threw the glass eye out the window of his taxi, adopting the black eye patch which he wore for the rest of his life.

My favourite De Wiart story occured on his second medical return to England, after losing his hand in France. He was approached by a member of his club and asked if he would second the man in a duel against another man who had “been paying undue attention to a lady”. De Wiart readily agreed, as the prospect seemed “a lively change from the sick bed” and because he thought “duelling a most excellent solution in matters of the heart”. De Wiart then called on man who was giving offence to his friend, and assured him that his friend was deadly serious about pursuing the duel. After being unable to persuade De Wiart to have the duel called off, the man wrote an affadavit promising not to see the lady again. In De Wiart’s words, “It was a tame end: it seemed to me that as he did not like the lady enough to fight for her, he needed a thrashing”. This story can be found in Max Hasting’s Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes and in De Wiart’s own autobiography, Happy Odyssey (Cape 1950).

So, Sir Carton de Wiart, you glorious crazy old soldier, this meme’s for you:

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