Lieutenant Colonel Jack “Mad Jack” Churchill of the British Army is regarded as one the greatest warriors of all time. He was the British soldier who killed nazis with a sword and a longbow. He is known for the motto: "Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed." During World War II he recorded what is thought to be the last confirmed bow and arrow kill in modern warfare, killing a Nazi NCO in France in 1940. The archery shot signaled the rest of his men to launch an attack on the Nazi patrol. Prior to his service in WW2, Churchill was the archery champion of Great Britain and represented his country in the world championships.
Method to the madness
Multi-talented, multi-disciplined, and the epitome of the "wild, rebellious commando" stereotype, "Mad" Jack Churchill left a significant impact on the battlefields of World War 2. An advocate for the more martial aspects of warfare, Churchill was recorded as saying "any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed." How terribly English. To punctuate this, he waded into the forefront of the many theaters of the second world war with a longbow on his back and a basket-hilted Scottish broadsword held aloft. While being an eccentric sort, using outdated weaponry (and it could be argued, tactics), nobody can deny that Churchill's supposed breed of madness bred results.
Man of many talents
Graduating from the Royal Military College in Sandhurst in 1926, Churchill would join up with the Manchester Regiment. His younger brother, Tom, would later follow in also becoming an officer in the regiment, eventually retiring as a Major General in 1962. His youngest brother, Buster, would join the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm and die during the events of Operation Pedestal. He was soon deployed to Burma to take part in the British Empire's retaliation of Saya San's Burma Uprising of 1930, which lasted two years. During this period, Churchill was known for travelling vast distances around the country on his motorbike. After the rebellion had been crushed, Jack became bored of peacetime soldiering, leaving the army in 1936 to pursue other endeavours. He went on to take part in many films, and soon began the first budding step into archery when he took an interest after his return from Burma. This allowed him to land a role in the films "Sabu" and "The Thief of Baghdad". He would then go on to represent England in the Archery World Championships of 1939. He would also place second out of over seventy at the 1938 officers’ class of the bag piping championships at Aldershot, where he had been the only Englishman to compete.
"I was back in my red coat; the country having got into a bit of a jam in my absence."
As war loomed on Europe in 1939, Churchill would make his triumphant return to the military by resuming his commission in the Manchester Regiment, being shipped off to France. By the time Hitler's war machine forced the British into a fighting retreat back towards the channel, Churchill was second in command of an infantry company in the regiment’s second battalion. During the withdrawal, Churchill remained aggressive and opportunistic. He took every opportunity he could to counter attack and raid the enemy lines, making the Germans pay for every inch they took. When his SO was wounded, Churchill took control of his company. While engaged in skirmishes with German forces, he would shoot a German Feldwebel (Sergeant) dead with his longbow. He was later awarded the Military Cross for successfully rescuing a wounded British officer during the retreat, and making the attempt to (unsuccessfully) rescue a British tank by hitching six trucks together to tow it.
“There’s nothing worse than sitting on your bum bottom doing nothing just because the enemy happens to leave you alone..."
With the heroic effort of the Royal Navy (and many commandeered and volunteered civilian vessels), the British forces were evacuated from France after the Battle of Dunkirk. Upon arrival back in Britain, Churchill heard rumours of a new and bold type of unit that were in their inception. Daring volunteers with special skills and talents, with the force of will and the tenacity to succeed in the direst of circumstances. Churchill had no idea whatsoever what a Commando was, but from what he had heard, he liked. It became clear that this training was meant for him. He took to it with a great determination, blazing through the exercises given to him as he prepared to strike back at the enemy. It was during his Commando training in Scotland that Churchill would meet his wife, Rosamund Denny. They married in the spring of 1941 and would go on to have two children. It was a happy marriage that lasted until Churchill's death in 1996. The Commando's training came to an end towards the end of 1941, with a daring (and ultimately very successful) raid on the German garrison in Vaagso, Norway by the Number 2 Commando. Churchill stood at the head of the lead landing craft, playing "The March of the Cameron Men" on his bagpipes as his men began their amphibious assault. The aptly-named Operation Archery had begun. Their mission was to destroy the shore batteries on Maaloy Island, opposite Vaagso town. After killing or taking prisoner everyone stationed there, Churchill's mission summary back to the raid Commander was rather typical: "Maaloy battery and island captured. Casualties slight. Demolitions in progress. Churchill." The Germans would react in a panicked fashion, taking troops from other vital areas in order to reinforce their Norwegian garrison. By the time they had arrived, the Commandos had left with 100 prisoners and 70 volunteers for the free Norwegian forces. Vital docks and warehouses lay in ruins, and vital ammunition production process had been hampered. 15,000 tons of shipping was left sunk in Vaagso's harbour that day, and Churchill had earned his second Military Cross.
1943 and Churchill was involved in the heavy and confused fighting around the town of Marina in Salerno, Italy. Churchill directed the counterattack which would the destroy the German artillery which was their objective, earning a Distinguished Service Order. As the fighting escalated, both the Commandos and the Rangers (their American counterpart) found themselves fighting a brutal and drawn-out battle as line infantry, a role they were ill-suited and ill-equipped for. There were many casualties, but every German attack was returned in full and beaten back. The high point of the battle was the night raid on the town of Piegoletti, in which Churchill organised his forces to attack on all sides while shouting "Commando!" as they did so. Not only did this stop the Commandos from accidentally shooting each other, but the repeated yelling of the words from every side of the German's defences through them into disarray, confusing them and allowing Churchill's forces to capture 136 prisoners and complete their objectives. Churchill himself had forged ahead. Accompanied by only one Corporal by the name of Ruffel, they began a two-man sweeping advance in the darkness of the night, ambushing each German sentry position with sword and revolver and forcing them to radio false assurances to the next post. All in all, the two men captured 42 prisoners, all of their weaponry, and their mortar equipment. They then marched them straight back to British lines.
“I couldn’t walk very well and was so out of breath I could scarcely talk, but I still managed a credible Sandhurst salute..."
After leading a small army of Yugoslav partisans to victory around the Adriatic, where he performed raids on garrisons all along the Dalmatian coast, Churchill began an ambitious attack on the German-held Yugoslav island of Brac. Once again playing the pipes, he led his Commandos in a joint Allied Forces operation. The men began to take severe casualties from the severe attrition they faced with the barbed wire and mined hills. They had all but run out of ammunition, and had switched to their revolvers. Stranded, Churchill soon became the only non-wounded member of his unit, and he began to play "Will ye no come back again” as German grenades burst around him, knocking him out. After the war, he would be greatly amused by the German's records of the battle describing his playing as “the doleful sound of an unknown musical instrument.” Captured by the Germans, Churchill and his soldiers narrowly escaped Hitlers despicable "Commando Act" by the decency of Captain Thuener of the Wehrmacht, who told him “You are a soldier, as I am. I refuse to allow these civilian butchers to deal with you. I shall say nothing of having received this order.” Churchill thanked him after the war and repaid him by keeping him out of the hands of the Russians. Churchill spent some time in solitary confinement, and in time he ended up in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He and an RAF officer would attempt escape in 1944, but they were unfortunately recaptured, being relocated to a camp in Niederdorf, Austria. Ever-ready, Churchill remained opportunistic, disappearing from his work detail during a light failure. He would begin the 150 mile walk to Verona, hobbling on a sprained ankle. Here, on the 8th day of the journey, he would meet an American convoy. Managing to persuade them that despite his appearance, he was indeed a British Colonel, he was able to rejoin the Allied Forces. At the same time, he was annoyed that he had missed much of the European theater of war, opting to go straight back to Burma once the troops were redirected against the Japanese. Disappointment sprang again for him however, when the Japanese surrendered after the events of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
“If it hadn’t been for those damned Yanks we could have kept the war going for another 10 years.
Though his role in British warfare was far from over, his role in World War 2 had ended abruptly with the surrender of the Japanese forces. Even if perhaps put out by this development, he took it in his stride, declaring “As the Nips have double-crossed me by packing up, I’m about to join the team v the Indonesians.” Going back to the movies, defusing tensions in Palestine between Jewish and Arabic agitants (where he would evacuate 700 Jews from Jerusalem), becoming a surf instructor, getting his paratrooping qualifications at the age of 40... Churchill's list of accolades did not slow with age, and he rather typically refused to settle. As soon as he retired, he joined the Ministry of Defense as a civilian overseeing the training of cadets in the London district. Though he enjoyed interacting with the enthusiastic recruits, he also enjoyed his office in Whitehall, where he could see the Household Cavalry mounting guard below him. Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill died peacefully in 1996 in his birthplace of Surrey.
“No Prince or Lord has tomb so proud / As he whose flag becomes his shroud.”