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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 Batlle 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. This has to be one of the greatest autobiographies ever written, simply because of its hilarity based on de Wiart s matter of fact style He served in most major campaigns from the Boer war though to the Second World War and was shot in the stomach twice, shot in the face, shot through the head, had multiple wounds in his legs, lost a hand bit off his own fingers as well as being shot through the hip and ear he was wounded while pig sticking in India and broke his spine in China he survived two plane crashes one in Africa and one in the Middle East he was presumed dead on several occasions and tunnelled out of an Italian prisoner of war camp He doesn t really mention his gallantry awards such as the Victoria Cross and may mention being badly wounded in the same way that we may say that we stubbed a toe.There is no world leader or military leader who he did not meet in the first half of the twentieth century, yet he doesn t name drop for kudos, he is extremely humble For his rank, it was unusual that he was in the thick of fighting at the Somme, Arras, Passchendaele and Cambrai four major WW1 battles you just wouldn t want to be stood next to him as inevitably he would get wounded, he actually kept his own dressing gown and slippers at a military hospital in London because he was such a regular visitor.If you had to invent a comedy character who was completely unbelievable as Evelyn Waugh did , then de Wiart would be your blueprint He is completely un PC and gives great insight into life, the army and the class system of post Victorian Europe He is extremely humble for a man who achieved so much this book is a must read and is a refreshing change from all of the WW1 history books, biographies and novels. This is a fascinating book about a remarkable life Adrian Carton de Wiart was an army officer of Belgian and Irish ancestry, whose story could have been the original boys own adventure He fought in the Boer War, WW1, WW2 was wounded many times, losing an eye and a hand, and winning the VC He served in Africa, India, Europe, Poland and China, and met a who s who of world leaders along the way.This book was written in 1950 and has no pretensions to literary merit it is a straightforward memoir from a military man from a different age Some of the things he describes and the way he describes different nationalities are definitely from another era, but this does not detract from the sheer audacity of the man By the end, I m not sure I liked the man, but I certainly respected his outlook on life, his perseverance, and his achievements His antics seem unbelievable at times, but they do check out, and I m not sure that the man who comes out of the pages would have felt the need for invention Indeed, there are some elements he doesn t even mention for example he was married for forty years and had two children, yet his wife and family are not even mentioned in the book Having read it, I struggle to work out how they fit into the story at all.Overall, this is an easy, fun read, about a man from an age long gone. So very, very enjoyable Covers some fascinating areas of late British Imperial History I especially find his views on Poland interesting given how generally our relationship with them is generally presented.But this covers off stuff like the assassination of Lee Stack, the Cairo Conference, a charming description of the Pinsk Marshes and a whirlwind tour around the heady days of High British Imperialism, as well as many other memorable moments but without that banal veneer so misapplied by modern authors.It s also just wonderfully written.