Telling the story of one of Britain’s most decorated war heroes - Friday, 5 July 2013

Purdey shotgun

A 20-bore, double-barrelled shotgun owned by one of the British Army’s most colourful and decorated war heroes has been purchased by Royal Armouries at auction.

The Purdey 20-bore shot gun 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.

The gun will be used to support Royal Armouries’ exhibitions and displays as well as telling the General’s fascinating story.

Royal Armouries’ 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, VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO was born into the Belgian aristocracy on May 5, 1880, and died in 1963, aged 83. His mother was of Irish descent and he was educated in Oxfordshire and joined the British Army after leaving Oxford University after just one term.

During his Army career, he was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear; survived a plane crash; tunnelled out of a POW camp in Italy, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor would not amputate them.

A popular rumour relates that after losing his eye, he removed his damaged eyeball from the socket himself, because it hindered his ability to aim his Webley.

The General wore a glass eye for a short time and then, whilst travelling in a taxi, threw it from the window, and donned a black patch, which he wore for the rest of his life.

He was mentioned in despatches six times and awarded no less than 10 awards, including the Victoria Cross – the highest military award in the British Army, awarded for valour. His VC is now held by the National Army Museum. He also worked as a personal representative of Sir Winston Churchill.

The shotgun is a 20-bore made by Purdey, one of the most iconic gunmakers ever to practice in Britain, and made for de Wiart in 1953. It is also a model and type not represented in Royal Armouries’ national collection.

Mark 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.”

Purdey have confirmed that the gun was completed in March 1952 for the General and was built with 27in barrels, two 3/4in chambers and a 15 ¼ in, half-pistol grip stock. Royal Armouries purchased the shotgun at a Holt’s auction of Sporting Guns in London for £12,000.

It is intended to place it on public display at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

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Notes to editors

Download the PDF press release.