The Soldier Who Refused To Die

By Mike Devlin on Thursday, August 22, 2013
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“When the military man approaches, the world locks up its spoons and packs off its womankind.” —Bernard Shaw

In A Nutshell

Adrian Carton de Wiart was a bit of a badass. While serving with the British Army, he was shot more times than 50 Cent, losing his left eye and left hand in the process. He took bullets to the stomach, face, and skull among other places, survived a plane crash, and (as a senior citizen, mind you) tunneled out of a German POW camp with only one hand.

The Whole Bushel

Adrian Carton de Wiart was born into a family of privilege in 1880 amid talk that he might have been the illegitimate son of Leopold II, King of the Belgians. He dropped out of college to serve in the British Army during the Boer War, where he would receive the first in a long legacy of wounds, shot in the stomach and groin. He returned immediately upon healing.

During World War I, he commanded infantry battalions on the Western Front. During the war, the man would literally absorb bullets. He lost his left hand and his left eye, and was shot through the skull, face, ankle, hip, leg, and ear on different occasions. When his fingers became infected and a doctor refused to remove them de Wiart bit them off himself. You wouldn’t blame the guy if he spent the rest of his life flinching at every loud noise. He did not. In fact, he was reported as saying “Frankly, I had enjoyed the war.”

The 60-year-old amputee with his pirate eyepatch again became a commander in World War II and was captured by the Italians after his plane crashed off the coast of Libya. Held in a medieval Tuscan castle, no one would have faulted the handicapped senior citizen for lying low. De Wiart most certainly did not. While entertaining his fellow captives with what was described as “the record for bad language,” he and his compatriots attempted escape five times, tunneling for months. He managed to get loose once for over a week, posing as an Italian peasant. Eventually, he was released by the Italians, who wanted to him to attempt negotiating a peace treaty with the British.

He would continue to have adventures throughout the world. While spending time in Burma, the old war hero tripped and fell down, breaking his back and several vertebrae. While he was recovering in the hospital, the doctors would take the time to remove shrapnel still lodged in his body from old wounds. Adrian Carton de Wiart finally died of natural causes aged 83.

Show Me The Proof

Adrian Carton de Wiart
The Manliest of Men: Adrian Carton de Wiart