Alfred Wintle
Recipient of the Military Cross
Alfred Wintle
Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Daniel Wintle MC, better known as A.D. Wintle, was a British military officer in the 1st The Royal Dragoons who served in the First and Second World Wars. He was the first non-lawyer to achieve a unanimous verdict in his favour in the House of Lords. He is considered to be one of London's greatest eccentrics.
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  • 1966
    Age 68
    Wintle died in May 1966 aged 68 at his home in Wrotham and was cremated at Maidstone Crematorium, although he had wanted a funeral at Canterbury Cathedral with a full church service and the royals on parade playing "My Old Tarpaulin Jacket":
    More Details Hide Details A tall stalwart lancer lay dying, And as on his deathbed he lay, To his friends who around him were sighing, These last dying words he did say: chorus) Wrap me up in my tarpaulin jacket And say a poor buffer lies low; And six stalwart lancers shall carry me With steps solemn, mournful and slow. Had I the wings of a little dove, Far far away would I fly; I'd fly Straight for the arms of my true love And there I would lay me and die. Then get you two little white tombstones Put them one at my head and my toe, my toe, And get you a penknife and scratch there: "Here lies a poor buffer below." And get you six brandies and sodas, And set them all out in a row, a row, And get you six jolly good fellows To drink to this buffer below.
  • 1961
    Age 63
    Another short biography of Wintle can be found in chapter 13 ("Colonel 'Debag' rides again", pp 143–153) of Robert Littell's It takes all kinds published by Reynal & Co, New York, 1961. J.D. Casswell, KC represented Wintle at his World War II court-martial and devotes pages 152–159 to Wintle in his 1961 autobiography, A Lance For Liberty.
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  • 1959
    Age 61
    He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1959 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at London’s Hay's Wharf.
    More Details Hide Details Wintle was featured in a TV movie in the Heroes and Villains series called The Last Englishman, featuring Jim Broadbent in the title role. A brief biography can be found in the Spring 1989 Victorian Bar News. A full-length autobiography, compiled after his death by his friend Alastair Revie from more than a million words left by Wintle, was published in 1968 by Michael Joseph as The Last Englishman.
  • 1958
    Age 60
    On 26 November 1958 the Lords announced that they had found for Wintle, the reasons for judgment being reserved.
    More Details Hide Details In its subsequent written reasons, the House of Lords held that the burden was on the solicitor Nye to establish that the gift of the residue of the deceased cousin's estate to the solicitor in the will that he had drawn was not the result of his fraud, and that he had failed to discharge this exceptionally heavy burden so that the trial jury's validation of the gift to Nye could not be allowed to stand. Wintle thus became the first non-lawyer to achieve a unanimous verdict in his favour in the House of Lords (Wintle v Nye 1959 1 WLR 284; 1959 1 All ER 552). He also appeared in 1960 before the Disciplinary Committee of the Law Society, where he succeeded in having Nye removed from the roll of solicitors. A comprehensive analysis of the legal issues in the Wintle v Nye lawsuit is provided by Kerridge in “Wills made in Suspicious Circumstances: the Problem of the Vulnerable Testator”. The author provides a brief overview of the factual background to the case and a discussion of the procedural difficulties faced by Wintle in prosecuting the civil case. The author suggests the ultimate victory by Wintle was the “right result by the wrong route”, because at the time of the appeal to the House of Lords “everyone was mindful of the newspaper headlines”; he suggests that the Law Lords were forced to resort to sophistry to uphold Wintle’s appeal, and concludes that it “is a case which has haunted this branch of the law for a generation”.
    By 1958, Wintle ran out of money and had to present the case himself.
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  • 1955
    Age 57
    To publicise the case, in 1955 Wintle served time in prison after forcing Nye to remove his trousers and submit to being photographed.
    More Details Hide Details He pursued Nye through the courts over the next three years, losing his case on two occasions.
  • 1945
    Age 47
    After the war, Wintle stood as a Liberal Party candidate for the 1945 General Election at Norwood.
    More Details Hide Details The seat had little in terms of a Liberal voting tradition, and he finished third with about 11 percent of the vote. He was once so furious about the lack of first-class carriages on a train that he commandeered the engine and refused to move until more carriages appeared. Wintle made legal history when he brought a legal action against a dishonest solicitor named Nye, whom he accused of appropriating £44,000 from the estate of Wintle's deceased cousin, by inveigling her into leaving the residue of her estate to Nye in her will.
  • 1939
    Age 41
    When World War II began in September 1939, Wintle tried everything to persuade his superiors to allow him to go to France.
    More Details Hide Details When they refused, he planned to resign his commission and form his own army "to take the war to the Hun". In his book '‘Most Secret War'’, Reginald Victor Jones recalls encountering Wintle on matters of air intelligence. He was impressed by an army officer with enough technical knowledge to distinguish a spectroscope from a spectrograph, and who noted details in intelligence reports which might have indicated their authenticity (or otherwise). After chatting with Wintle on Horse Guards Parade one morning, he recorded that he was surprised to see a news headline a few days later: "Cavalry Officer in the Tower". After the French surrender, Wintle demanded an aircraft (with which he intended to rally the French Air Force to fly their planes to Britain and continue fighting Germany from British air bases); when refused, he threatened an RAF officer (Air Commodore A.R. Boyle) with a gun. It was alleged that he had threatened to shoot himself and Boyle, and for this he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. On the way to his prison, the lieutenant colonel was escorted by a young soldier via train. The soldier is reported to have lost the arrest warrant; disgusted by this, Wintle declared the man incompetent, told him to wait where he was and went to get a new warrant. Since there was no other officer of higher rank at the warrant office, he signed the paper himself.
  • 1919
    Age 21
    His Military Cross was gazetted in the London Gazette of 2 April 1919, and the citation was published on 10 December.
    More Details Hide Details According to his obituary, he received his MC in the mail the same day it was announced in the London Gazette. The citation read: For marked gallantry and initiative on 4th Nov. 1918 near Jolimentz. He went forward with the infantry to obtain information and personally accounted for 35 prisoners. On 9th Nov. he took forward his section well in front of the infantry and throughout the day he showed initiative of a very high order and did excellent work. Wintle later recalled that he could not remember anything about either incident. He is said to have regarded the period between the First and Second World War as "intensely boring".
  • 1917
    Age 19
    His luck ran out during Third Battle of Ypres in 1917 as he helped manhandle an 18-pounder field gun across a "crater-swamp".
    More Details Hide Details The gun-carriage wheel hit an unexploded shell; he woke up in a field hospital without his left eye, one kneecap and several fingers. At age 19, Wintle's right eye was so damaged that he had to wear a monocle for the rest of his life. He was sent back to England to convalesce by the "infernal quacks"; it appeared that his war was over but Wintle had other ideas. He was soon planning his escape from the Southern General Hospital back to the front, attending a nurses-only dance in their billets (disguised as a nurse) before finally making his escape. He recorded that his monocle was a dead give-away and the particularly unpleasant matron was unimpressed with his antics. Wintle entrained for France with a warrant signed by a friend of his father’s; he had a "moderately successful year of action" with the 119th Battery, 22nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (RFA).
  • 1915
    Age 17
    Wintle wished to see military action. In summer 1915, his father agreed to his son’s early entry into the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, from which he was commissioned in less than four months.
    More Details Hide Details Less than a week later, he was at the front. On his first night a shell burst near him, splashing over him the entrails of his sergeant (to whom he had just been introduced). Wintle later admitted to being petrified. As the bombardment continued, he dealt with his fear by standing at attention and saluting. As he later wrote, "Within thirty seconds I was able to become again an Englishman of action and to carry out calmly the duties I had been trained to perform". The incident was typical, both of a series of amazing escapes and his pride at being an Englishman (as opposed to being born "a chimpanzee or a flea, or a Frenchman or a German"). He saw action at Ypres, the Somme, La Bassée and Festubert, supposedly capturing the village of Vesle single-handedly before handing it over to the New Zealanders (who were about to attack it in force).
  • 1901
    Age 3
    The son of a diplomat, Alfred Daniel Wintle was born in Mariopoul, South Russia. In 1901, the family went to live in Dunkirk; he was subsequently educated in France and Germany, becoming fluent in French and German.
    More Details Hide Details At the outbreak of war, 16-year-old Wintle was in Dunkirk and claimed to have "irregularly attached" himself to Commander Samson’s armoured-car unit, witnessing Uhlans being shot on one occasion in Belgium.
  • 1897
    Born in 1897.
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