Leeds Royal Armouries: Legendary army veteran’s shotgun set to go on show

The Purdey 20-bore double-barrelled shotgun.
The Purdey 20-bore double-barrelled shotgun.
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He famously gnawed some of his own fingers off and may have even removed one of his eyes.

Now a shotgun owned by one of the British Army’s most decorated – and colourful – war heroes will go on display in Leeds after being bought by the Royal Armouries.

The Purdey 20-bore, double-barrelled shotgun was owned by Lieutenant General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislaine Carton de Wiart – holder of a Victoria Cross, and veteran of the Boer War and First and Second World Wars.

Lt Gen Carton de Wiart is a legendary figure in British Army history, having been shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, survived a plane crash and even tunnelled out of a prisoner of war camp in Italy.

The gun will be used to help tell the general’s story at the Clarence Dock museum.

Royal Armouries’s senior curator of firearms and weapons Mark Murray Flutter said: “This amazing man was involved in more adventures than Sir Harry Flashman – but de Wiart was real.”

Lt Gen Carton de Wiart famously bit off his own fingers when a doctor would not amputate them and was rumoured to have removed his owned damaged eyeball, which he covered with a trademark patch.

The shotgun made by Purdey, one of the most iconic gun-makers ever to practise in Britain, was built for the veteran in 1953.

It’s a model and type not previously represented in Royal Armouries’s national collection.

Royal Armouries purchased Lt Gen Carton de Wiart’s 20-bore Purdey shotgun at a Holt’s auction of Sporting Guns in London for £12,000.

Mr Murray Flutter added: “Its acquisition not only fills a gap in the sporting collection, but also allows the museum to tell a most amazing story that covers not only the Boer War but World War I and World War II.

“As a museum, part of our policy is to identify objects that are not only of national interest but associated with individuals with fascinating and interesting stories.”

The Belgian-born, Oxfordieducated Lt Gen Carton de Wiart’s died in 1963. His Victoria Cross – the highest military award in the British Army – is now held by the National Army Museum. He also worked as a personal representative of Sir Winston Churchill.

Visit www.royalarmouries.org for details.