David Niven - Celebrity Soldier

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bbattle
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David Niven - Celebrity Soldier

Post by bbattle » November 15th 2020, 4:22pm

I have read his biography, "The Moon is a Balloon" and it was a great read. He only briefly mentions his military service, however. Unlike some celebrities who served and later bragged a great deal, he remained quiet about his service.


Niven attended a strict private school as a child. Being an incorrigible prankster, he faced frequent corporal punishment and was eventually expelled. He eventually enrolled at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, where he did well and cultivated the air of an “officer and gentleman” that later became his trademark as an actor. Being of 2nd Lt. David Niven (first from the right) in the Highland Light Infantry, wearing the unit’s disdained trewsScottish descent, he had his heart set on joining the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, with the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) as his second choice. When filling in his form, he jokingly wrote “anything but the Highland Light Infantry” as his third, since they wore tartan trews rather than kilts. To his chagrin, he was assigned there.

Niven in the Highland Light Infantry around 1930He was made a lieutenant in 1933 but considered his career to be a dead end in the peacetime army. The last straw for him was mandatory attendance at a lecture on machine guns, which interfered with his plans for dinner with a young lady. When the general holding the lecture asked if there were any questions, Niven asked “Could you tell me the time, sir? I have to catch a train.” The insubordination earned him an immediate arrest, which led to him and the officer guarding him downing a bottle of whisky. This, in turn, allowed him to escape with help from the same guard and Niven boarded a ship headed for America, resigning his commission by telegraph. ..... When World War II broke out, he returned home to serve. He was the only British actor in Hollywood to do so and ignored the Embassy’s advice to stay.Niven in uniform
Once back in Britain, Niven received commando training and became the commander of ‘A’ Squadron in the misleadingly named GHQ Liaison Regiment, better known as Phantom, where he reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel by the war’s end........David Niven’s exploits in Phantom are little-known, as the actor remained tight-lipped about his wartime experience for the rest of his life. He shunned the limelight given to celebrities who served and scorned journalists who covered the war with florid prose. He once said “Anyone who says a bullet sings past, hums past, flies, pings, or whines past, has never heard one – they go crack!” He once explained the reason behind his silence and humility: “I will, however, tell you just one thing about the war, my first story and my last. I was asked by some American friends to search out the grave of their son near Bastogne. I found it where they told me I would, but it was among 27,000 others, and I told myself that here, Niven, were 27,000 reasons why you should keep your mouth shut after the war.”



https://www.wwiidogtags.com/ww2-history ... y-soldier/
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AlbertaTime
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Re: David Niven - Celebrity Soldier

Post by AlbertaTime » November 15th 2020, 7:31pm

The Moon's A Balloon and Bring On The Empty Horses are two of the best written, *funny* yet deeply thoughtful books I've ever read.

Thanks for the post.
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Re: David Niven - Celebrity Soldier

Post by gerdson » November 16th 2020, 8:35am

Thanks for posting. David Niven is one of my favorite British actors. When reading about his military career, it only adds to my respect - not only for him, but for a certain type of "British soldier" in general, also for enlisted ranks and in particular for their corps of NCO.
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