Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham was awarded the VC twice.
The first was in Crete in 1941. He led his platoon, and being a "lead from the front" type of officer personally destroyed several machine gun nests with grenades. But this part is what struck me as badass:
When his platoon was ordered to retire he sent it back under the platoon Sergeant and he went back to warn other troops that they were being cut off. When he came out himself he was fired on by two Germans. He fell and shammed dead, then crawled into a position and having the use of only one arm rested his rifle in the fork of a tree and as the Germans came forward he killed them both. The second to fall actually hit the muzzle of the rifle as he fell.Since he almost certainly was using a bolt action Enfield, he had to shoot and cock the rifle one handed. And still greased Fritz.
The second VC award (technically the "bar" - seems a bit disrespectful, sort of like saying ibid) was in Africa fighting Rommel. This is the bit where he dialed badass up to eleven:
Captain Upham, during the engagement, himself destroyed a German tank and several guns and vehicles with grenades and although he was shot through the elbow by a machine gun bullet and had his arm broken, he went on again to a forward position and brought back some of his men who had become isolated. He continued to dominate the situation until his men had beaten off a violent enemy counter-attack and consolidated the vital position which they had won under his inspiring leadership.But this is the part where the story gets good. Badly wounded in the action against the tanks, Upham was captured by the Bosche. Sent to a hospital in Italy, he tried to escape so many times that he was sent to the maximum security POW prison in Colditz Castle. There he tried to escape when he was transported on a truck (he jumped from the truck, breaking his ankle), another time when he was being transported on a train (jumping from the train and knocking himself out), and a third time when he went over the fence in broad daylight. Caught between the inner and outer fence, he found himself staring down the barrel of a guard's pistol. The guard announced he was going to shoot Upham.
And so Upham lit himself a cigarette and stared the guard down.
Placed in solitary confinement after all this, he tried to escape again, running through the guard's barracks and out the main gate. Soon recaptured, the guard in the machine gun post overlooking the exercise yard was asked why he didn't shoot Upham down. The guard replied that he respected the Captain too much to do that.
And here is where the story gets really good (no, we're not done yet). When the Allies liberated Colditz, most of the prisoners headed home to see their families. Not Upham, who broke into a German armory to arm himself, and go out hunting Germans.
Wow. I believe that this qualifies Cpt. Upham as the most badass man who ever lived. Only two other men have been awarded the Victoria Cross twice, and neither of them were combat soldiers (both were doctors). Astonishingly, nineteen men have been awarded the Medal of Honor twice.
But back to Upham, because this is where the story gets really, really good. He married a pretty nurse in 1945 and returned to his native New Zealand where his fellow countrymen were, as you can imagine, pretty thrilled by his exploits. They raised £10,000 (perhaps a half million dollars in today's money) to buy him a farm.
He turned it down.
Instead, he used the money to set up a scholarship for the children of war veterans.
It seems that he lived a quiet life until the end of his days in 1994, his only apparent quirk was that he wouldn't allow a German to set foot on his farm. At his death, he had simultaneous funerals - one in Christchurch, and one in London's St. Martin-In-The-Fields (attended by the Royal Family).
Holy cow, what a man.