Is This the Most Interesting Opening Paragraph Wikipedia’s Ever Published?
Most Interesting Man in the World, meet your match. On Sunday, Twitter user Matthew Barrett created something of a sensation by linking to the obscure Wikipedia biography of the British army officer Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart. His tweet — "This guy surely has the best opening paragraph of any Wikipedia biography ever" — has ...
Most Interesting Man in the World, meet your match.
On Sunday, Twitter user Matthew Barrett created something of a sensation by linking to the obscure Wikipedia biography of the 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 over the past several days.
This guy surely has the best opening paragraph of any Wikipedia biography ever http://t.co/XR2ZZumavH
— Matthew Barrett (@MBarrettCH) July 7, 2013
So just how mind-blowing is the introduction on Carton de Wiart’s page? Judge for yourself:
Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO (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." 
On Twitter, some are simply in awe, while others are pointing out that the rest of the bio is pretty stellar too:
Check Norris is like a wimpy school kid compared to this guy http://t.co/6HQNoK7ABi
— Alex Loveless (@alexmloveless) July 11, 2013
Find me a more intense wikipedia intro paragraph than this and I will bite my own fingers off: http://t.co/KszFyu15ot
— (Ryan) M (@LeastActionHero) July 9, 2013
Awesome bio. Once evaded capture disguised as an Italian peasant despite no Italian, one arm, one eye, and 61. http://t.co/2BrbAqZqh8
— David Dawson (@baconvalentine) July 10, 2013
"In 1908 he married Countess Friederike Maria Karoline Henriette Rosa Sabina Franziska Fugger von Babenhausen" http://t.co/g9XIsRbsvt
— bath (@youneedabath) July 10, 2013
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 backstory — he had once chewed off his own wounded fingers. He had tunneled out of an Italian prisoner-of-war camp, and had wound 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. He had indeed remarked that he "enjoyed" World War I, going on to add that "it had given me many bad moments, lots of good ones, plenty of excitement and with everything found for us." (Readers in the U.K., you may want to go check out Carton de Wiart’s 20-bore, double-barreled shotgun, which just went on display in Leeds.)
Judging by his autobiography, Carton de Wiart adopted his swashbuckling ways from an early age, when he left university at 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. Causes, politics and ideologies are better left to the historians.
Readers, if you have a suggestion for a Wikipedia page that rivals this one, leave it in the comments.