Monday, 31 January 2011

The Game’s Afoot: version 1

It is the next day. Tuesdays I have just started going up to town again, this year for a couple of sessions at the British Library, a stone's throw from Euston terminus, staying overnight with my daughter and her family in Clerkenwell.

I take what is now the logical and natural step when starting an investigation: I google Wintle and then look to see whether there is a Wikipedia entry. There is one: click here to see it.

This explains the monocle. The gun carriage wheel hit an unexploded shell and he woke up in a field hospital minus his left eye, one kneecap and several fingers. His right eye was so damaged that he had to wear a monocle for the rest of his life. This happened at Third Ypres in 1917, when he had been at the front for two years. Back at the front he won as Military Cross precisely a week before the Armistice. He was then nineteen years old.

The heroic colonel had clearly been a formidable warrior. But two things troubled me about this account of his exploits in the First World War. It states that he fought at Festubert, supposedly capturing the village of Vesle single-handed. Why, I wonder, is the adverb supposedly used? Then it does not state that he was severely wounded by a machine gunner: surely, in a 500-word account, this incident would have merited a mention.

I feel that these two incidents should be looked into. It is possible that this flamboyant character may have exaggerated some of the stories that he told about his life. After all, he grew up in France and did not have the benefit of an education in England, a lack that I suspect he always regretted.

Towards the end of the Wikipedia article it states He was the feature of a one-off TV movie in the "Heroes and Villains" series called "The Last Englishman" featuring Jim Broadbent in the title role. "The Last Englishman" is also the title of his autobiography.

I go to Amazon to buy a copy of this autobiography. There are three second-hand copies on offer at £99 (Oxfam Hove), £195 (UK) and £492.93 (USA). I resolutely move my cursor away from the [Buy with 1-Click] button, exit and leave home to catch the bus from Buckingham to Milton Keynes railway station.

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