Happy Odyssey – Autobiography
Sir Adrian Carton De Wiart. Foreword by Winston S. Churchill. Published by Pen & Sword 2015
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Adrian Carton de Wiart’s autobiography is one of the most remarkable of military memoirs. He was the son of a Belgian barrister, Leon Constant Ghislain Carton de Wiart (1854-1915). He, himself, was intended for the law, but abandoned his studies at Balliol College, Oxford, in 1899 to serve as a trooper in the South African War.
He abandoned the law for all time on 14 September 1901 when he received a direct commission in the 4th Dragoon Guards. Carton de Wiart’s extraordinary military career embraced service with the Somaliland Camel Corps (1914-15), liaison officer with Polish forces (1939), membership of the British Military Mission to Yugoslavia (1941), a period as a prisoner of war (1941-43), and three years as Churchill’s representative to Chiang Kai-shek (1943-46). (Churchill was a great admirer.)
During the Great War, besides commanding the 8th Glosters, Carton de Wiart was GOC 12 Brigade (1917) and GOC 105 Brigade (April 1918). Both these command were terminated by wounds. He was wounded eight times during the war (including the loss of an eye and a hand), won the VC during the Battle of the Somme, was mentioned in despatches six times, and was the model for Brigadier Ben Ritchie Hook in the Sword of Honour trilogy of Evelyn Waugh.
Carton de Wiart won his Victoria Cross while serving with 8th Glosters and also served with the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars before the Great War.