Happy Odyssey

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  • Author:
    Sir Adrian Carton De Wiart
    Happy Odyssey

    Author Sir Adrian Carton De Wiart

    One of the greatest, I guess you would say, eccentrics (although that doesn't sound really right in this case) of all time. I don't mean that in a disparaging way but more in a sense of awe. This is his life as written by him. This is both the best and the worst of this book. On one hand it provides us with his view of himself and his life, on the other it it is infuriatingly lacking in some facts. For instance his wife and two daughters aren't given a single mention in it! He deserves the V.C. for that act of bravery alone!

    It covers his amazing military career from the Boer War through to the Second World War a period between the wars as a “Polish gentleman” and the final part set in China as Winston Churchill's personal representative.

    The book itself is shorter than the 287 pages imply as it's in quite large print and sadly has no photos or other illustrations. While I appreciate it is an autobiography I do think that a 2017 reprint should have had an additional preface or end word mentioning his marriages, children and his death at the age of 83 on 5 June 1963. This omission left me feeling a little disappointed and the book IMO a little incomplete.

    That said I thoroughly enjoyed it and it is a fascinating read

    The medals of Carton de Wiart
    dewiart medals.jpg

    All in all I would give this 3 ½ Mushroom heads

User Comments

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  1. beagleboy
    Having a 'penchant' for all things 'old school' military I've done the act of shelling out beer tickets (Kindle version) for a read. Hoping not to be disappointed as his bio is one of 'Own School Boys'.
      Helm likes this.
  2. overopensights
    He seems to have cared little for decorations, he was asked by a higher rank than himself; I forget who it was, as to why he didn't wear the 'gold wound stripe' his reply was; "Any bloody fool can see I've been wounded" I really hope one of the present top military authors takes up the challenge, and gives us a really good book on this fascinating character.
      beagleboy and Helm like this.
  3. gam47
    Its a personal memoir written by a man who was an Edwardian gentleman, and such did not 'big note' or as those of his era would describe "poodlefaking", and he was such until his death.

    It was the second book that I ever bought as a nine year child, and it fascinated me.

    Equally his medals fascinate me. His Burma Star was for his service as commander of the British Military Mission to China, his Italy Star for his escaping from the Italians (was shot down into the Mediterranean on his way to the Middle East). His Polish awards for his service with the Polish Cavalry during the War against the Bolsheviks, and then commander of the British Military Mission to the Polish Government in 1939.

    Apart from having severe wounds resulting in the removal of an eye, amputation of his arm, another wound resulted in the removal of his testicles. Which is one of the reasons why after the Great War he isolated himself in his shooting lodge in the Pripet Marshes in Poland until 1939.

    When I heard that Pen & Sword were reprinting his book, I wrote them stating that he was worthy of a autobiography written by a competent author. I never got an answer, although I have been told they have received a number of complaints. The original text had some superb photos in it.

    As a infantry battalion commander on the Western Front in the Great War, he had a superb reputation, which was reflected in his very high standard battalion.

    His entry in Debrett's state that he classified as a Grade One Foreign Office Interpreter in nine languages, plus he literate in Latin and Classical Greek.
  4. load_fin
    They don't make 'em like that anymore...

    Ran away from school to fight in the Boer war, wounded and repatriated, rejoined with a commission, wounded many times in WW1 (lost an eye and an arm), enjoyed the war ("quite frankly, I enjoyed it!"), awarded VC (but doesn't mantion it), sorted out the Polish borders, shot down on his way to be envoy to Chiang Kai Shek, escaped from Italian PoW camp (despite being over 6' and missing bits), helped the Italians negotiate the surrender...

    A life well lived. Agree with Helm that it paints a two-dimensional portrait, but a fascinating insight into times past.

    If you like this sort of thing, a biography of Admiral Sir Walter Cowan "Sound of the Guns" is in the same vein.
  5. MoleBath
    What a medal rack , plenty of rattling on parade
      beagleboy and Helm like this.
    1. beardyProf
      For the final two points, which are the 2nd and 3rd from the right. Otherwise from left I've got
      Queens S Africa Medal
      Africa General Service Medal
      14-15 Star
      British War Medal
      Victory Medal + King's commendation for Brave Conduct
      39-45 Star
      Africa Star
      Burma Star
      Italy Star
      War medal 1939-45 + KCBC
      King George V Coronation Medal
      Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal
      Legion D'Honour [France]
      Virtuti Militari [Poland]
      Coix de Guerre [France]
      Coix de Guerre [Belgium]
      Also KBE, CB, CMG.
      beardyProf, Oct 14, 2017
    2. Helm
      2 Polish awards
      Silver cross order of military virtue
      Cross of Valour
      Helm, Oct 14, 2017
      MoleBath and beardyProf like this.
  6. NorthfleetNinja
    I had the original. I didn't enjoy it.
    I don't remember it even mentioning his VC.
    He is still an old school, mad as a hatter legend though
      beagleboy and Helm like this.
    1. Helm
      You are quite right he doesn't mention the V.C. old school modesty I suspect.
      Helm, Oct 14, 2017