The art of war, exemplified

  • July 12, 2013 - 8:03 PM

All a-twitter

Most interesting man in the world, meet your match


This week, Twitter user Matthew Barrett created a sensation by linking to the obscure Wikipedia biography of British army officer Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart. His tweet — “This guy surely has the best opening paragraph of any Wikipedia biography ever” — has been retweeted more than 3,200 times.

How mind-blowing is the introduction on Carton de Wiart’s page? Judge for yourself:

“Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart (5 May 1880 - 5 June 1963), was a British Army officer of Belgian and Irish descent. He fought in the Boer War, World War I, and World War II, was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, survived a plane crash, tunneled out of a POW camp, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor wouldn’t amputate them. He later said ‘frankly I had enjoyed the war.’ ”

So who was this man of extraordinary valor? A Daily Mail profile last year relays much of the same information contained on Carton de Wiart’s Wikipedia page: By the end of his life, the British soldier had been awarded his military’s highest honor for bravery during World War I and served in the Second Boer War and World War II, commanding troops in a daring World War II raid in Norway. He wore a black patch to cover a missing eye, and had been wounded in the skull, groin, ankle and stomach. A missing hand betrayed a grisly back story — he had once chewed off his own wounded fingers. He had tunneled out of an Italian prisoner-of-war camp, winding up there after crashing his plane in the Mediterranean. To top it all off, he had also served as Winston Churchill’s special representative to China’s Chiang Kai-shek.

Judging by his autobiography, Carton de Wiart adopted his swashbuckling ways from an early age, when he left Oxford to fight in the Boer War:

“At that moment I knew, once and for all, that war was in my blood. I was determined to fight and I didn’t mind who or what. I didn’t know why the war had started, and I didn’t care on which side I was to fight. If the British didn’t fancy me I would offer myself to the Boers, and at least I did not endow myself with Napoleonic powers or imagine I would make the slightest difference to whichever side I fought for.

“I know now that the ideal soldier is the man who fights for his country because it is fighting, and for no other reason.”

Elias Groll, Foreign Policy

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