A graduate of Sandhurst, he returned to Britain in 1939 and was turned down by the RN, the RAF, and the Scots Guards. He got into the Rifle Brigade, later joined the Royal Marine Commandos, then commanded A Squadron of the "Phantom" reconnaissance regiment.
He told his troops that they only left their butcher shops and factories, but he "could've been with Ginger Rogers right now . . . "
After the war he was made a Legionnaire of the Order of Merit (the highest American order that can be earned by an alien). This was presented to Lt Col David Niven by General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Lt Col David Niven, Royal Marine Commando, Normandy 1944
Although Niven had a reputation for telling old stories over and over, he was totally silent about his war experience. He said "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."
Niven also had special scorn for the newspaper columnists covering the war who typed out self-glorifying and excessively florid prose about their meager wartime experiences.
David Niven, 1910-1983
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