September 17, 2005


Johnny Wiseman (, 9/17/05)

Johnny Wiseman, who has died aged 89, was awarded an MC in 1943 for leading an SAS assault on a coastal battery during the invasion of Sicily. . . .

After landing on Cape Moro di Porco, Wiseman led his men up the cliffs while mortars provided covering fire. He reached the perimeter of the enemy position without being detected and cut through the wire. As soon as the mortar fire was lifted, he and his section attacked.

Wiseman achieved complete surprise and his small force captured, killed or wounded 40 of the enemy without sustaining a single casualty. Wiseman's CO, Paddy Mayne, then got him on the wireless to order him to remove his men from the battery because sappers were coming to destroy the guns. Wiseman mumbled, and Mayne had to tell him to speak up.

"I managed to tell him that I had lost my false teeth," said Wiseman. "It was amusing afterwards, but it didn't seem so at the time." He had been hit in the mouth playing cricket at Cambridge and had worn false teeth ever since. He had been shouting orders when they flew out of his mouth into the long grass. . . .

John Martin Wiseman was born on January 27 1916 at Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, and educated at St Paul's before going up to Pembroke, Cambridge, to read History and Modern Languages. He went into the family optical instrument business in 1937.

The company had been founded by his father, Max, who arrived from Germany in the 1920s and started selling spectacle frames. . . .

Wiseman and Mayne did not always see eye to eye. Wiseman said afterwards that Mayne, one of the most highly decorated soldiers in the war, was a great warrior but a difficult man to serve under. A man of considerable physical strength, on one occasion Mayne wrestled Wiseman to the ground, pinned him there with his knees and called for a cut-throat razor. He then shaved half of Wiseman's beard without using soap or water.

Posted by David Cohen at September 17, 2005 3:05 PM

"He then shaved half of Wiseman's beard without using soap or water."


Posted by: AllenS at September 17, 2005 3:31 PM

Subtext: Men with beards are weaklings who can easily be wrestled to the ground. Upon doing so, it's best to shave them down. Bonus points if it is Johnny Damon.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at September 17, 2005 3:43 PM

If it had been OJ, Mayne would have shaved his back.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 17, 2005 5:43 PM

Unless he was Orthodox.

Posted by: oj at September 17, 2005 5:45 PM

Ah. This is the sort of thing that goes right over the heads of us drunken Irish peasants. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Jim: you sound like you've been reading the Department of Homeland Security's instructions for dealing with a terrorist attack, as interpreted byMoxie .

Posted by: joe shropshire at September 17, 2005 6:59 PM