Adrian Carton de Wiart

Adrian Carton de Wiart

Adrian Carton de Wiart

One of the most famous and decorated British military personnel of the twentieth century, took part in three wars and numerous campaigns and was wounded a dozen times. A man of considerable charm and charisma, great drinker and superb athlete, is one of the last figures of nineteenth-century type adventure.

Origins and career up to the First World War

Born into an aristocratic family in Brussels, Carton de Wiart after the death of the mother (of Irish descent) moved in early childhood in Cairo, where his father practiced as a lawyer and leader of the British companies, and where the young Adrian learned the Arabic language. He was then sent to boarding school in England, and then to ‘University of Oxford.

The cousin Henry Carton de Wiart served as Prime Minister of Belgium in 1920 and 1921.

Brought from childhood physical activity and adventure, interrupted his studies to join the Boer War in South Africa, enlisting as an officer and undergoing the first of a long series of injuries, receiving a lung shot that made him unfit for service. After a brief spell at Oxford, he succeeded in spite of the medical report to depart for South Africa, with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment Forum in 1901. Shortly thereafter, he became an officer in the regular 4th regiment of dragoons of the guard, then being moved to India where he could practice widely one of his favorite activities, hunting.

After returning to South Africa as aide-de-camp to General Sir Henry Hilyard, he returned to England. This period was characterized by numerous travel and marriage, in 1908, with the Countess Frederica von Fugger Babenhausen, with whom he had two daughters.

Adrian Carton de Wiart in WWI

Adrian Carton de Wiart in WWI

The First World War

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Carton de Wiart was sent to Africa, Somaliland, where a riot was in progress. In the course of the fighting, he was seriously wounded in the face, losing an eye.

From February 1915 till the end of the conflict, Carton spent the war on the main front, the French. Having distinguished himself as a commander of battalion and brigade, during the war he was wounded seven times, losing his left hand. At this point his men, with humor in the trenches, they struck the nickname ‘Nelson’, because of the similarity of the disability with that of the famous Admiral Horatio Nelson during the Napoleonic era. Certainly contributed to the black patch worn on the face after the injury he suffered in Africa, which helped the appearance of the now legendary pirate officer.

The Victoria Cross

In 1916 the area of the Somme, with the rank of lieutenant colonel in the regiment aggregate Gloucestershire, where he commanded the 8th Battalion, Carton de Wiart brought an action that earned him the award of the highest decoration for valor British and Commonwealth, the Victoria Cross. Often granted to the memory from 1856-the year of its inception-to-date, the decoration was awarded less than 1400 times.

The motivation of the decoration is as follows:

Between 2 and July 1916, La Boiselle, France, the unfailing courage and inspired action of Lieutenant Colonel Carton de Wiart avoided a possible serious reverse. With the use of extreme energy, he brought to fruition strike action taking command of three other battalions whose commanders had fallen, after holding positions just conquered. In organizing the positions to defend, he exposed himself to enemy fire indomitamente.

Painting by Sir William Orpen, 1919

Painting by Sir William Orpen, 1919

The first post-war

Immediately after the conclusion of the conflict, Carton de Wiart was part, subsequently assuming the command of the British military mission in the newly created Republic of Poland. The confused situation, was characterized by the war with the Soviet Union, Ukraine, Lithuania and Czechoslovakia.

During the mission, he was in contact with Winston Churchill, SECRETARY of State for War, and with many celebrities including the papal nuncio Achille Ratti, the future Pope Pius XI. While not in a combat role, true to his character, Carton de Wiart was taken prisoner by the Lithuanians for a short period, after his plane crashed behind enemy lines, and on one occasion took a revolver a group of cavalrymen Soviets who were assaulting his train; during the clash Carton de Wiart fell from the train but managed to climb back on board soon after.

-At the end of the conflict in 1921 – Carton de Wiart resigned from the army, providing that the service in peacetime was not compatible with his inclinations.

Until 1939, he took up residence within the boundless lands located in eastern Poland, just inherited by an aide Polish, Prince Karol Radziwiłł. In the estate of Prostyń within Polesia for years devoted himself enthusiastically to hunt with a game bag that exceeded the enormous figure of 20,000 birds, not to mention the other species living in that large area. It was a period of isolation from the world, even considering that at one point Carton de Wiart decided not to listen to the radio more, and in those years he returned to England only twice.

de Wiart in Cairo in 1943

de Wiart in Cairo in 1943

The Second World War

In the summer of 1939 Carton de Wyart was recalled to duty and sent back to Poland, playing his role as head of the military mission. At the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939, with the rapid advance of the German army, had to retreat to Romania, after escaping from the threat of arrest of the Romanian authorities, now openly pro-German.

The Norwegian campaign

In April, 1940, Carton de Wiart took command of the British expeditionary force that was supposed to occupy the city of Namsos and Trondheim in Norway. The operation, due to the absolute improvisation logistics and ambiguous strategic objectives of London, ended in a complete reverse, thanks to the determined German resistance. Only the evacuation by ship saved the expedition from complete destruction.

About the campaign, Carton de Wiart wrote: war and politics should not be mixed, a little ‘as the Port and champagne.But if it were not for politicians we would not have war and, as far as I’m concerned, I would have to give up a particularly enjoyable activities.


Returning home, after a period of reorganization of the 61st Division, Carton de Wiart was selected as the head of the mission to the former Yugoslavia, in ‘April 1941.

Direct in Belgrade, the plane was traveling was forced ditching along the coast of Libya, then Italian territory. After reaching the coast by swimming, he was taken prisoner by the Italians, and interned at the castle of Vincigliata. After five attempts to escape, he managed to evade them and spent eight days on the run before being recaptured. In August 1943, he was taken to Rome as the authorities of the Kingdom of Italy, during the negotiations in preparation of the armistice with the Allies, led him to Lisbon to support the closing of the agreement. Released in Lisbon, he returned to England.

Carton de Wiart in the Cairo Conference, behind Soong May-ling on the right

Carton de Wiart in the Cairo Conference, behind Soong May-ling on the right

The mission in China

Towards the end of 1943, Carton was chosen for the final mission of a technical nature and diplomat of his long career. As personal envoy of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was sent to China by the Nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek.

During the Chinese civil war that was between the Nationalists to the Communists of Mao Zedong, strengthened its anticommunist sentiment, already developed in the interwar years in eastern europe. In 1944 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general. It was able to witness the act of capitulation Japanese in Singapore in 1945, which marked the end of World War II.

The last few years

After the war, Carton de Wiart decided to spend their retirement years in the county of Cork in Ireland. After the death of his wife in 1951 he married a woman of twenty-five years younger. Faithful to the habits of a lifetime, he devoted himself enthusiastically to snipe hunt and to fish for salmon.

He died at 83 years old, 5 June 1963, and is buried in the parish cemetery of Killinardish, County Cork.

Decorations and honors

According to the British use, in the course of his career, General Carton de Wiart was able to add the following letters after the name: VC KBE CB CMG DSO. These acronyms correspond to the following degrees of decorations and orders of chivalry: Victoria Cross, Order of the British Empire, Order of the Bath, Order of St Michael and St George Distinguished Service Order.

British people of World War I

British people of World War II

Decorated with the Victoria Cross

Decorated with the Order of the British Empire

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress