Lt Gen Sir Adrian carton de Wiart VC etc - kin ell

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#1
I am reading Happy Odyssey the memoir of Gen Carton de Wiart - is he the most insane (in a positive way) British military commander or does any one know of a General who is/was actually certifiable (Wingate aside)
 
#2
I doubt it - the guy was definitely Dagenham, but it's a cracking read. Memorably described as probably the only person to have actually enjoyed World War One, serving much of it with one eye and one hand. Also said to be the model for Evelyn Waugh's Brigadier Ritchie-Hook. As I recall he also escaped from a POW camp despite having one eye, one hand and being the wrong side of 60. Improbably half Belgian.
 

engr172

Old-Salt
Book Reviewer
#4
A bit from his wiki page:
"He made five attempts including seven months tunneling. Once de Wiart evaded capture for eight days disguised as an Italian peasant. But he was in northern Italy, did not speak Italian, was 61 years old with an eye patch, one empty sleeve and multiple injuries. He did well to stay out so long. Ironically, de Wiart had been approved for repatriation due to his disablement but notification arrived after his escape, However, as he would have had to promise not to take any further part in the war it is probable that he would have declined anyway."

Just read the full page. My God. What an absolute star. To my shame, I had never heard of him. Will be on Amazon getting a copy of that book. Legend
 
#5
As well as the self-amputation of fingers, the incident in which he lost his eye is supposed to have ended with the eyeball hanging out of the socket, whereupon he completed the job of removing it because it was flapping about and getting in the way when he was trying to aim his Webley...

I suspect that this is apocryphal, but the chap was so bonkers (in the best possible sense) it is entirely believable...
 
#6
Brigadier John Smyth said that Carton de Wiart was one of four VCs "who literally did not know the meaning of fear". Praise indeed, from a VC and MC holder himself.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#7
Archimedes said:
As well as the self-amputation of fingers, the incident in which he lost his eye is supposed to have ended with the eyeball hanging out of the socket, whereupon he completed the job of removing it because it was flapping about and getting in the way when he was trying to aim his Webley...

I suspect that this is apocryphal, but the chap was so bonkers (in the best possible sense) it is entirely believable...
It was extracted surgically and then they found the shrapnel in it around the back. It was the second time he was hit in the eye. He did however pull 2 fingers off after injuring his hand and latter insisted on having the rest of his hand amputated.

After loosing his eye and hand he did not carry a fire arm because... but carried a stick which he used to secret money in. I'm reading the bit about his captivity in Italy - he was clearly mad, but what a man!
 
#8
I had never heard of this absolutely amazing individual before. He was involved in more adventures that Sir Harry Flashman and Carton de Wiart is real!!!

Oddly, my son went to the same school, The Oratory, and I never heard mention of him.

Now I have to 1) email the Wiki link to my son and 2) try to buy a copy of the book
 
#9
Just finished reading Happy Odyssey. Don't expect a literary masterpiece. It is a bit like a diary with interesting bits added. Lots of short, sharp military type sentences. He is also the master of the understatement.

"Called a taxi, threw my glass eye out of the window, put on my black patch, and have never worn an eye glass since."

"Asked the doctor to take my fingers off; he refused so I pulled them off myself..."

Bit where he complains about the Indian reporting him to the local magistrate after he (Carton de Wiart) had shot the bloke. I can hear him "harumphing."

"Peppered him in his tail, no doubt inconvenient but not dangerous..."

Classic !
 
#10
A few years ago my school's library had to get rid of a laod of its history books due to storage problems, knowing the librarian well I managed to pick up a first edition of Happy Odyssey for free! the man was truly brilliant

Personally love the story of how when in egypt he had to compete in a horse race the next day and was a stone over the weight limit. So he put on 7 layers and ran to the great pyramid, up it and back in the middle of the day - all 8 miles.

He losty the weight but was too exausted to win the race.

Truly awesome
 
#12
oldnotbold said:
Memorably described as probably the only person to have actually enjoyed World War One
Jesus, thats says it all

- many thanks for the PM Western, I see that noted War correspondent Anthony Loyd is a direct decendant
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#13
I've just finished the book - and I say again 'kin 'ell what a man!

As Dubb al Ibn says the style is like a diary and would be rather boring except that there are all those crisp asides.

He clearly inspired extraordinary loyalty in his personal servants who followed him around the western front and spent the years between the wars living with him in the middle of nowhere in Poland and then rejoined the Army with him in 1939.

One is left slightly unsatisfied in that I'm sure that there is a whole lot more about him that he has not said.

Perhaps somebody should write a biography of him.
 
#14
BuggerAll said:
I've just finished the book - and I say again 'kin 'ell what a man!

As Dubb al Ibn says the style is like a diary and would be rather boring except that there are all those crisp asides.

He clearly inspired extraordinary loyalty in his personal servants who followed him around the western front and spent the years between the wars living with him in the middle of nowhere in Poland and then rejoined the Army with him in 1939.

One is left slightly unsatisfied in that I'm sure that there is a whole lot more about him that he has not said.

Perhaps somebody should write a biography of him.
John Keegan wrote a short biography in his book Churchill's Generals,

see:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0304367125/?tag=armrumser-20
 
#15
We still had photos of him on the wall, from his time as MA in Warsaw, when I worked in the Embassy there back in the 1980s.

The Poles loved him too! He was an "observer" during their war against the Soviets 1919-21.
 
#16
Wikipedia said:
His taste for action had not dimmed, and he finagled a tour of the Burma Front, and befriending Admiral Sir James Somerville, Commander-in-Chief of the British Eastern Fleet, he had a front seat (actually a deck chair) on the bridge of the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth for the bombardment of Sabang in the Netherlands East Indies in 1945, including air battles between Japanese fighters and British carrier aircraft. It was the first time the Queen Elizabeth had fired its guns in anger since the Dardenelles in 1915.
This just made me laugh. :)
 

sirbhp

LE
Book Reviewer
#17
I just got this book to review , do i take it that it were a grand read ?
 
#19
John Keegan wrote a short biography in his book Churchill's Generals,

see:
http://www.amazon.com/Churchills-Generals-Cassell-Military-Paperbacks/dp/0304367125
This is probably the best piece of writing on the very gallant general, even though it is very short.
A Happy Odyssey is rather disappointing as he is clearly playing events down the whole time.
Peter Flemming wrote three chapters of a biography and realised that it would be too scandalous to publish
whilst his widow was alive as the general was an accomplished corredor creeper. There is a brief essay in one of Flemming's books of collected writings, I will update this when I find it.
I understand that Anthony Loyd looked at writing a biography about 10 or more years ago; but again his widow was still alive living, I believe, in Ireland.
I do hope Loyd will get around to writing about his illustrious forebear sometime soon.
 
#20
Dropped a massive hint to the Frau that I'd like the book. Reading the trail, it's barking mad lunatics like this that made GB the owner of the biggest Empires the world has ever known. Just imagine what it would've been like in his unit!!
 

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