Case study

WW1 Belgian VC recipient Sir Adrian Ghislain Carton de Wiart

The story of Belgian First World War Victoria Cross Recipient Sir Adrian Ghislain Carton de Wiart.

Sir Adrian Ghislain Carton de Wiart
Credit: © IWM (Detail of Q 68300)

One man from Belgium received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, during the First World War. As part of the Centenary Commemorations the people of the United Kingdom marked their gratitude to this courageous man by presenting a bronze memorial plaque to his home country engraved with his name. This archive tells his story.

Name: Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart

DOB: 5 May 1880

Place of Birth: Brussels, Belgium

Date of Action: 2 to 3 July 1916

Place of Action: La Boiselle, France

Rank: Acting Lieutenant-Colonel

Regiment: 4th Dragoon Guards attached to the Gloucestershire Regiment

Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart was born on 5 May 1880 in Brussels and was of Belgian and Irish descent. He moved to Cairo as a boy with his family before attending school and university in England. Around 1899, he joined the British Army and served in the Boer War, starting an incredible military career that spanned the First and Second World Wars and saw him shot several times, survive two plane crashes and tunnel out of a Prisoner of War camp.

In the First World War, Carton de Wiart served first in Somaliland where he was shot twice in the face, losing his eye and part of his ear. In early 1915, he was moved to the Western Front where he commanded three infantry battalions and a brigade during the war.

Carton de Wiart was awarded the Victoria Cross whilst an acting Lieutenant Colonel with the 4th Dragoon Guards attached to the Gloucestershire Regiment during the fierce fighting at La Boiselle on 2 to 3 July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme. His citation states:

For most conspicuous bravery, coolness and determination during severe operations of a prolonged nature. It was owing in a great measure to his dauntless courage and inspiring example that a serious reverse was averted. He displayed the utmost energy and courage in forcing our attack home. After three other battalion Commanders had become casualties, he controlled their commands, and ensured that the ground won was maintained at all costs. He frequently exposed himself in the organisation of positions and of supplies, passing unflinchingly through fire barrage of the most intense nature. His gallantry was inspiring to all.

Carton de Wiart was also awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre in March 1918. He eventually retired in 1947 and settled in County Cork, Ireland, where he died in 1963.

Published 20 June 2016