Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart: The Unkillable Soldier

Written By Wise Healthy n Wealthy

The best top-paragraph Wikipedia description in history belongs to a man named Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart. AKA, “the Unkillable Soldier.”

It goes like this:

“Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart…was a British Army officer. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy” in various Commonwealth countries.

“He served in the Boer War, First World War, and Second World War. He was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear; was blinded in his left eye; survived two plane crashes; tunnelled out of a prisoner-of-war camp; and tore off his own fingers when a doctor declined to amputate them. Describing his experiences in the First World War, he wrote, ‘Frankly, I had enjoyed the war.’”

In other words, Carton de Wiart was a badass – an old-school, tough-as-nails, stiff-upper-lipped maverick with nerves of steel and ice in his veins. The sort of guy you want on your team.

Carton de Wiart wrote in his memoir:

“Governments may think and say as they like, but force cannot be eliminated, and it is the only real and unanswerable power. We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.”

Photo Credit: Major Gerald Lamont, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart: Early Life

Born on May 5th, 1880, into an aristocratic family, some believe Carton de Wiart was the illegitimate son of Belgian King Leopold II.

His life was never boring.

At a young age, he moved to Cairo with his father and learned to speak Arabic. At the onset of the Second Boer War, he dropped out of England’s prestigious Oxford University to join the army.

He lied about his name and age to do so. 20-year-old Carton de Wiart became 25-year-old “Trooper Carton.” During action in South Africa, he suffered wounds to his groin and stomach and was sent home. Only then did his father find out he’d left university.

Upon his recovery, Carton de Wiart returned to South Africa with the army, then went to India, and then back to South Africa once more. In 1907, he officially “took the oath of allegiance to Edward VII and was formally naturalised as a British Subject.”

Apparently, Carton de Wiart was an affable, sport-loving man with a potty mouth.

He was also well-connected. He married – take a breath – Countess Friederike Maria Karoline Henriette Rosa Sabina Franziska Fugger von Babenhausen, the eldest daughter of the Prince and Princess of Austria. His closest cousins were the Prime Minister of Belgium and the political secretary to the King of Belgium.

Photo Credit: Henry Walter Barnett, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Carton de Wiart’s Army Career and “Unkillable” Reputation

By early 1910, he was a Captain in the British Army.

Four years later, at the onset of WWI, he went to British Somaliland to fight in a “low-level war” being fought against followers of the Dervish leader nicknamed (by the Brits) Mad Mullah – AKA Mohammed bin Abdullah.

While attacking an enemy fort, Carton de Wiart was shot twice in the face. That’s when he lost an eye and a piece of his ear.

It wouldn’t be the first time he got injured in the war. In 1915, he went to France.

While fighting on the Western Front, Carton de Wiart:

  • Lost his left hand (apparently, he pulled off his own fingers when a doctor refused to remove them for him)
  • Got shot in the skull and ankle at the Battle of the Somme
  • Got shot in the hip at the Battle of Passchendaele
  • Got shot in the leg at Cambrai
  • Got shot in the ear at Arras

In 1916, aged 36, he was awarded the highest award for gallantry you can get in the British Army: the Victoria Cross. He ended the war at the rank of temporary brigadier general.

His exploits and accomplishments go on and on and on and on and on.

Carton de Wiart was not a man to be messed with. He remained in the army through WWII. There are too many crazy stories to include here, but here’s one that stands out:

While on his way to Cairo in April 1941, the aircraft he was travelling in experienced dual-engine failure. It crash-landed roughly a mile off the coast of Libya (then controlled by the Italians – i.e., the enemy).

Aged 60, missing a hand and an eye, after being knocked unconscious by the hard landing but awoken by the cold water, he swam to shore, where he was captured.

In captivity, he made five attempts to escape. He and a few others spent seven months digging a tunnel. On one occasion, he was successful and spent over a week disguised as an Italian peasant. Alas, he must have found it hard to blend in. There he was, aged 62, with an eye patch, one missing hand, and unable to speak Italian, trying to evade recapture.

It seems like the perfect example of the man he was. Tenacious. Indomitable.

And unkillable.

Photo Credit: Cecil Beaton, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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