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ADRIAN CARTON DE WIART

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Guest FRANKBARTHOLOMEW

Can anyone tell me about the military career of Lieutenant-General Adrian Carton de Wiart, who was awarded the VC for his actions on the Somme with the 'Glorious Glosters' in July 1916?

I know he lost his arm in this action, and had lost an eye in British Somaliland c.1914, whilst attached to the Camel Constabulary.

I am interested in all of his career, from the Boer War onwards.

Thanks,

Frank Bartholomew

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Paul Reed

He was a Trooper in the Middlesex Yeomanry during the Boer War, and served with the 4th Dragoon Guards before WW1. He commanded 8th Glosters on the Somme, and then commanded Brigades in both the 4th and 35th (?) Divisions before the end of the war. He was wounded something like ten times in WW1. He continued to serve, commanded British forces in Norway in 1940, was shot down c.1941 and spent two years in an Italian POW camp before he was released (he spent some of that time in Campo 12 with Philip Neame VC and James Hargest DSO MC, the Kiwi who escaped - they must have had some intereting after dinner chats, given all their service!). He stayed in the Army until after WW2.

This is all from memory - but a read of his memoirs Happy Odyssy will give you more details - although he plays down his own role and bravery as one would expect of a man like this.

I knew a veteran who met him in a shell hole near Fampoux on the night of 9th April 1917 - 85 years ago tonight! Frank Butler was in the 11/MGC and his gun was in the extreme most eastern position on the Arras battlefield. He heard a noise behind him; thinking it was 'Jerry' it turned out to be De Wiart on a recce. The Brigadier, releasing Butler was a regular said to him, somewhat jovially, 'Thank God when this war is over then we can back to real soldiering, eh Butler?' The joke, Frank said, was lost on the conscripts around them who thought the 'old man' was mad...

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Guest FRANKBARTHOLOMEW

Thanks Paul,

I know that Carton De Wiart was an eccentric, and very "British" (even though he was Belgian!). I remember, many years ago, seeing a photograph of him in The War Illustrated- and he certainly looked as if he'd seen a few "scraps" in his time!

Frank Bartholomew

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Staffsyeoman

A propos of not-very-much I recall reading that Adrian Carton de Wiart was the inspiration for Evelyn Waugh's fearsome Brigadier Ritchie-Hook in the 'Sword of Honour' trilogy.

Having read them, I can see the similarity...

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Guest FRANKBARTHOLOMEW

Phil,

That, I believe, is the case- Ben Ritchie-Hook is based on Lieut-Gen Carton de Wiart. My brother, an Oxford undergraduate (English Lit) told me this a long time ago.

Whenever we discuss WWI History, and Adrian comes up- he's always referred as "Ben Ritchie".

Frank Bartholomew

Angus, Scotland

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Bernard_Lewis

Commanded the 113th Brigade of the 38th (Welsh) Division from Nov 1918.

I think he served in WW11 as well and was captured after having attacked a Panzer armed only with a revolver. Need to check that though. Possibly with 8th Army?

Bernard Lewis

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charlesmessenger

Actually, Ben Ritchie-Hook was based on a Royal Marine officer Brigadier A St Clair Morford MC, who formed the RM Brigade in December 1939. Evelyn Waugh served in this formation and took part in the abortive Dakar expeditiion with it in September 1940.

Carton de Wiart finished WW2 as Churchill's representative to Chiang Kai-Shek.

Charles M

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Guest FRANKBARTHOLOMEW

Charles,

Adrian Carton de Wiart was sent on a good-will mission to China in 1945, taking supplies of Malt Whiskey to the people. Of course, with him on the aeroplane- it had to crash, and he broke his back- but survived, and not a drop of Whiskey was lost!

He died in 1964, in Ireland, which he adopted as his home country.

Frank Bartholomew

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Myrtle

Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart VC KBE CB CMG DSO was known as saying" Frankly, I enjoyed the War; it had given me many bad moments, lots of good ones, plenty of excitement and with everything found for us." He was wounded eight times altogether.

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