Horatio Nelson, aka 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronte and the guy in the funny hat on top of that column in London, was an English naval officer who rose all the way to the rank of admiral. Some of you may remember him as the guy who kicked Napoleon's ass in 1805, stopping his victory streak once and for all and therefore being pretty much the reason that everyone in Europe doesn't speak French.
He was a huge fan of dandelions, apparently.
Eight years before that, newly promoted to rear admiral, Nelson was sent to the Canary Islands to take a small port town from the Spanish. He had already lost the use of an eye at that point, but hadn't let it bother him much -- he'd actually learned to use it to his advantage, disobeying orders to retreat by holding his telescope to his blind eye and innocently claiming he never saw no damned retreat signal.
After subordinates failed in their initial invasion attempt, Nelson called his commanders together and informed them he would personally lead the next invading force up the beach. As his ships were slowly rowed to shore, Nelson -- wearing his full uniform with all the bling because fuck you, inconspicuousness -- was unsurprisingly targeted and hit by Spanish snipers. A musket ball shattered a bone in his arm. He needed immediate medical attention. However, he didn't want to demoralize his men or alarm his new wife (who was watching the battle nearby) by signaling that he was injured.
"Guys, can you see if she's watching? Does she look impressed yet?"
So he ordered his boat to nonchalantly row back to his flagship, all the while making loud small talk about the weather like the battle around him wasn't happening at all. He even made his rowboat crew stop to pick up some drowning men from a British ship that happened to be sinking nearby, what with the bloody, raging battle that was all around them.
When Nelson's anxious crew finally got to the flagship, the wounded rear admiral of course refused help getting aboard the ship because, hey, he still had his legs and one good arm. Finally on board, he calmly told the surgeon to hurry up and cut off his arm already because there was a battle he needed to fight, goddamnit. The man never gave, you know, saving the arm a second thought.
"Can't we replace it with a cannon? What this battle needs is another cannon."
In the end, the British were unable to take the town, probably because their troops were too overwhelmed by their leader's testicular elephantiasis. Nelson himself was bitterly disappointed by the defeat and from that day saw his missing arm as little more than a daily reminder never to lose another battle.
He went on to rack up a great number of naval victories, always in the thick of the battle despite the whole "just one arm and eye " thing -- and a tendency to wear full parade uniform to the battle despite the whole "enemy snipers " thing.
Predictably, it didn't end well.
The son of a Belgian who worked for the British Imperial office, Adrian Carton de Wiart had already seen much of the world at a very young age. He had also decided he wanted to fight as much of it as possible. He ended up joining the British Army during the Boer War, where he soon developed a reputation as a fierce and reckless warrior -- and was promptly shot through the lung.
Eye patches are the HOV lane to Badass.
Not letting a mere life-threatening wound stop him, de Wiart recuperated just in time to sign up again when World War I broke out. Deployed to Africa, he was part of Allied action in Somalia, where during one particularly heated battle he received wounds in the ear and elbow and a blinding blow to his left eye in what to everyone else was a bloody encounter but that he described as "exhilarating fun."
"A rip-roaring good time!"
Still not one for a desk job, de Wiart, now donning a badass eye patch, felt it was time for a bigger challenge. So he headed for the front lines in France where he was -- everybody together now -- wounded multiple times, each time bouncing right back into action like it was nothing. Once, while leading his men over a trench, de Wiart was hit in the hand. Wanting to get back into action faster than the doctors would have allowed, he is said to have bitten off his own goddamn fingers to help them with the decision on whether to amputate or not. True or not, de Wiart certainly thought nothing of the loss of his hand, comparing it to having a tooth pulled.
And that was just the beginning. The rest of de Wiart's life reads out like the man was written by Quentin Tarantino. He rose up the ranks, became Winston Churchill's main man and went on to become the UK liaison officer in Poland during their struggle against the Soviet Union.
The man rolled with the big boys.
His pirate-like visage and larger-than-life warrior antics fit the Polish fighting mentality like a glove, and he happily remained there until the Nazis invaded and England called again. After several James Bond movies' worth of adventures, de Wiart was finally captured by Italian troops in 1941 during a mission in Libya. While this may sound anticlimactic, it must be said that he was in his sixties and presumably pretty tired from having just swam a mile to the shore because his plane had dropped into the ocean.
The sharks didn't bother him. Not after he turned the first one into a tasteful handbag.
A high-profile prisoner, de Wiart was treated well from the beginning. This, of course, didn't stop him from trying to escape through a tunnel with another high-ranking officer as soon as the guards looked the other way. Keep in mind, he was one-eyed, one-handed and in his sixties.
Perhaps the ultimate testament to de Wiart's unique brand of badassness is his autobiography, where he merrily reminisces about his wounds and generally treats the whole "losing body parts while fighting for your life " thing as jolly good fun. Its title? Happy Odyssey.
Good times were had by all. Except the millions who died.
For more badass soldiers, check out 5 Real Life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like a Pussy and 6 Soldiers Who Survived Shit That Would Kill a Terminator.