"Young man, you did a fine thing to give up your film career to fight for your country. Mark you, had you not done so − it would have been despicable". - Winston Churchill to David Niven, 1940. Born James David Graham Niven in London on St. David’s Day, 1910. His father was Lieutenant William Niven, who died at Gallipoli on 21st August 1915, aged 25, while serving with the Berkshire Yeomanry. He was reported missing until 1917. He attended Stowe School and Sandhurst Military Academy. After he left Sandhurst he was asked to write down his three preferred regiments, he wrote 'anything but the HLI' (Highland Light Infantry) he was inevitably commissioned into the HLI. Although he had done well at Sandhurst Niven did not enjoy his time in the regular Army, in part because he was not accepted for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on which he had set his heart. He served for two years in Malta and two years in Dover with the Highland Light Infantry. While on Malta, he became acquainted and friendly with Captain R.E. "Wallard" Urquahart, who would later lead the British 1st Airborne Division during the ill-fated Operation Market-Garden campaign. Niven had grown tired of the peacetime Army and saw no opportunity for promotion or advancement. As he related in his memoirs, his ultimate decision to resign from the Army came after a lengthy lecture on machine guns, which was interfering with his plans for dinner with a particularly attractive young lady. During the period at the end of the speech, the Major General giving the lecture asked if there were any questions. Showing the typical rebelliousness of his early years, Niven stated that he felt compelled to ask, ''"Could you tell me the time, sir? I have to catch a train."'' After being placed under close arrest for this act of insubordination, Niven claims to have finished a bottle of whisky with the officer who was guarding him and, with the connivance of the latter, escaped from a first floor window. En route across the Atlantic, Niven sent a telegram resigning his commission. Niven relocated to New York, where he began an unsuccessful career in whisky sales and horse rodeo promotion in Atlantic City. After subsequent detours to Bermuda and Cuba, he finally arrived in Hollywood in the summer of 1934. After the outbreak of the World War II, Niven forsook Hollywood and rejoined the British Army. First serving with the British Rifle Brigade, Niven was assigned to a motor training battalion. Niven later interviewed for a position with the British Commandos, and was assigned to a training area near Lochilort Castle in the Western Highlands of Scotland. Niven would later claim credit for introducing British hero Robert Laycock to the Commandos. Rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel by General Frederick E. Morgan and being assigned as a liaison officer between the British Second Army and the First United States Army, Niven took part in the Normandy landings, arriving several days after D-Day. He acted in two films during the war, both of strong propaganda value: ''The First Of The Few'' (1942) and ''The Way Ahead'' (1944). During his war service, his batman was Private Peter Ustinov. Despite the public interest in what celebrities did during the war, Niven remained politely, but firmly, close-mouthed about the subject. After Great Britain declared war in 1939, he was one of the first actors to join the army. Although Niven had a reputation for telling good old stories over and over again, he was generally silent about his war experience. He said once: ''"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 meagre wartime experiences. Niven stated, ''"Anyone who says a bullet sings past, hums past, flies, pings, or whines past, has never heard one − they go crack."'' He did, however, finally open up about his war experience in his 1971 autobiography, ''The Moon's A Balloon'', mentioning his private conversations with Winston Churchill, the bombings, and what it was like entering a nearly completely destroyed Germany with the occupation forces. Niven stated that he first met Churchill during a dinner party in February 1940 when Churchill singled him out from the crowd and stated, ''"Young man, you did a fine thing to give up your film career to fight for your country. Mark you, had you not done so − it would have been despicable."'' In spite of six years' virtual absence from the screen, he came second in the 1945 Popularity Poll of British film stars. On his return to Hollywood after the war, he was made a Legionnaire of the Legion of Merit, the highest American order that can be earned by a foreigner. This was presented to Lt. Col. David Niven by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Reputedly, he refused to work with Rex Harrison or James Mason − the latter was an avowed pacifist and Niven saw the former as late to the colours in the war. He died in 1983 of Motor Neurone Disease. Sources: Wikipedia and IMdb.