How proud and honoured would you feel to find out that your relative had not only put their life on the line to fight during war, but had done something unique, dramatic or courageous in order to survive? They may have won the country’s most acclaimed military honour - a Victoria Cross, or escaped a Prisoner of War camp? And while it is possible to discover such great acts of courageousness, it would be unusual to find that the person you are researching had achieved all of those brave things, and more. Lietenant-General Sir Aidrian Paul Ghislan Carton de Wiart, must have been one in a million then because he survived three wars, a plane crash, multiple battle wounds and escaped a PoW Camp. It doesn’t stop there though and in the Battle of the Somme he was shot in the skull and ankle, but won the Victoria Cross. This British Army Officer of Belgian and Irish descent served in the Boer War, First World War, and Second World War. And as you can expect from his exposure to conflict he had some battle wounds and was shot in almost every part of his body, including his head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, reported the The Daily Mail
. In the trenches of the Western Front in 1915, apparently his hand was badly hit by shrapnel and he resorted to biting his own fingers off when a doctor refused to amputate them. According to records he was wounded in battle eight times and was mentioned in dispatches on six occasions. What an amazing character and what an interesting life - which has subsequently made the soldier’s page one of the most impressive on Wikipedia and has also recently caused a stir on Twitter. "Frankly I enjoyed the war"
His gallantry in the First World War also earned him the DSO and during an attack he was shot in the face and lost his left eye – forcing him to wear a black patch for the rest of his life. In his autobiography Happy Odyssey, he wrote of the 1914-18 conflict: "Frankly, I enjoyed the war". Plagued by bad luck it would seem, in 1941 his plane crashed a mile off the coast of Libya, an Italian colony, while he was on his way to lead the British Military Mission in Yugoslavia. Despite this, he managed to swim ashore but he was unfortunately captured and sent to a PoW camp in Italy. Even while he was captured and conspicuous with an eye patch he never gave up and made five escape attempts - once eluding capture for eight days even though he did not speak Italian. Eventually released in 1943, Winston Churchill sent him as his special representative to China. He retired in 1947 and died in 1963, aged 83. Now that story might be out of the ordinary, but many of us have a family member that has experienced military conflict – but very often we know little about their personal encounters of war. The tragedy of lives lost and great heroism shown by those that fought for our country should never be forgotten, but sadly as time goes on the legacy of humility somewhat fades. However, nothing brings history to life more than your own family which is why genealogy is so exciting. Why not take a personal quest to trace the war heroes in your family? Find out what battles they fought in, the sorts of experiences they may have encountered and the difference they made to the war effort... Is there an undiscovered war hero in your family?
One of the first and easiest things you can do before you start your hunt is to have a chat with your family – get everyone together, look at old photos, recall family stories – these will help you make the leap into your research. Photographs are very telling because they can help reveal regiments and locations as well as bringing some flesh to the bones of your findings. Online research is another initial port of call – there’s a wealth of knowledge online waiting to be tapped into. Forces War Records hold over 5 million records and just this month alone our UK based transcription team have added another 175,000+ records to our database this month, which could mean fresh insight for you - so never quit your genealogy search and like Sir Aidrian Paul Ghislan Carton de Wiart never give up. Also, why not record your findings and import your a family tree at the click of a button with your GEDCOM genealogy software files. GEDCOM files contain genealogical information about individuals that can be linked together, imported and exported. Use this new family tree feature and take advantage of the company’s extensive record collection. Take a look at Forces War Records
and let us help you with your military genealogy quest.