Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Carton de Wiart, Sir Adrian (1880–1963)

British army general who was a divisional commander and head of Britain's military missions in Poland and Yugoslavia. Born on 5 May 1880, in Brussels, Belgium, Adrian Carton de Wiart briefly attended Oxford University before joining the British army. With his reckless style of leadership, he was wounded in nearly every campaign in which he was a participant. He saw action in the 1899–1902 Boer War and in India. In November 1914, he lost an eye while fighting in Somaliland, and in May 1915, he lost a hand in the Second Battle of Ypres, an action for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. One year later, he was promoted to brigadier general and became friends with Winston L. S. Churchill.

In February 1919, Carton de Wiart arrived in Poland as head of the British Military Mission and observed the Russo-Polish War. In 1924, he retired from the British army and settled in Poland. Just prior to the beginning of World War II, he was recalled to British army service and made head of the British Military Mission to Poland. After that country's collapse in the German invasion of September 1939, he escaped via Romania. In his memoirs, Carton de Wiart stated that the campaign left him with an appreciation for the speed of mechanized warfare, the effect of airpower, and the peril posed by fifth columnists.

In November 1939, Carton de Wiart was appointed to command 61st Division, and in April 1940, he took over the Central Norwegian Expeditionary Force, tasked with securing Trondheim. Heavy air raids by the Luftwaffe prevented success, and Carton de Wiart and his troops were evacuated by the Royal Navy in early May. Afterward, he commanded the 61st Division while it trained and garrisoned Northern Ireland.

In April 1941, Carton de Wiart became head of the British Military Mission to Yugoslavia. On the way to his post, his aircraft was shot down, and he was captured by the Italians. He spent the next two years as a prisoner of war, plotting his escape. He and Lieutenant General Richard O'Connor broke out in March 1943 and enjoyed eight days of freedom before being recaptured. He was repatriated to Britain in August on the conclusion of the Italian armistice.

In October 1943, Prime Minister Churchill appointed Carton de Wiart as British representative to the Kuomintang's Generalissimo Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) and as liaison between Jiang and Lord Louis Mountbatten. Carton de Wiart retired in 1946 and published his memoirs, Happy Odyssey, four years later. He died in County Cork, Ireland, on 5 June 1963.

Mitchell McNaylor and Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Carton de Wiart, Sir Adrian. Happy Odyssey. Foreword by Winston S. Churchill. London: Jonathan Cape, 1950.; Sheffield, G. D. "Carton de Wiart and Spears." In John Keegan, ed., Churchill's Generals, 323–349. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991.
 

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