In a war that featured, for the first time, “modern” formidable weapons such as grenades, mortars, machine guns, flamethrowers, and armored tanks, one eccentric young soldier decided early on to buck traditional convention and stick what he was most comfortable with. Thus, John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, who came to be known as “Mad Jack,” fought in World War II using a sword, bow, and a quiver of arrows, an arsenal that proved quite effective and earned Mad Jack two Distinguished Service Orders, a Military Cross, and a promotion to commanding officer. When asked about his outdated weaponry, Mad Jack flatly stated, “In my opinion, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.” Romantic and sensitive, Mad Jack was an avid reader of history and poetry, knowledgeable about castles and trees, and compassionate to animals, even to insects. But on the battlefield, enemy soldiers called him the “British Demon”.
Churchill believed an assault leader should have a reputation which would at once demoralise the enemy and convince his own men that nothing was impossible. He was awarded two DSOs and an MC, and mentioned in despatches.
Romantic and sensitive, he was an avid reader of history and poetry, knowledgeable about castles and trees, and compassionate to animals, even to insects.
On the outbreak of war in 1939, he was recalled to the Colours and went to France, taking with him his bow and arrows which he used on patrols against the Germans in front of the Maginot Line. The weapon was silent, accurate to 200 yards and lethal.
After the Germans attacked in France, Jack Churchill was awarded the MC in the retreat at the Battle of l’Epinette (near Bethune) where his company was trapped by German forces.
Jack Churchill fought back with two machine guns (and his bow) until ammunition was exhausted, then extricated the remains of the company through the German lines at night and reported back to Brigade HQ. Later he was wounded and carried a bullet in his shoulder all his life.
During the British landing at Salerno, he won another award for bravery. His squad was charged with taking out an artillery battery that was pinning down a nearby British force, despite the fact that the town of Piegoletti (where the guns were based) was garrisoned by a force much larger than his own Number 2 Commando. Well Churchill was like, “fuck that”. In the middle of the night, he had his men charge the town from all sides, screaming “COOMMAAANNNNDOOO!!!” as loud as possible. The Germans were confused and surprised, and mounted a futile resistance. The 50 men of Number 2 Commando took 136 prisoners and inflicted an unknown number of casualties.
Churchill continued to lead his men in action against the German forces in Yugoslavia, but was eventually captured by the enemy while fighting for Point 622 on the island of Brac in the Adriatic Sea, when every man in his Commando team was killed or wounded and all of his revolver ammunition ran out. Knowing that he was not going to escape, and having no further means of killing Nazis, Jack started playing sad songs on his bagpipes until he was finally knocked unconscious by a frag grenade and taken off to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.
But it would take more than some fucking concentration camp to hold Jack Churchill. One night in September of 1944, he escaped the camp by crawling under barbed wire and through and abandoned drain. He was later recaptured while walking towards the Baltic coast and shipped off to a prison camp in Austria.
This too would prove to be insufficient to hold Jack Churchill, however.
When the camp lighting failed one night in April 1945, he dropped his shovel and walked away from work detail. He marched 150 miles through the treacherous terrain of the Alps, “liberating” vegetables he found along the way, until finally he met up with a U.S. Armored column and was sent back to England.
Unfortunately, the war was pretty much over at this point. He expressed interest in fighting the Japanese, but as his train was pulling into the station in Burma he received word that the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and the Pacific Campaign would soon be over.
However, Jack’s adventures weren’t finished yet. At the age of 40, he qualified as a paratrooper and completed jump school. He went on to serve in action in Palestine, where he earned fame for defending a Jewish medical convoy from an Arab ambush – radioing for backup and providing small-arms fire while wearing his full military dress uniform. Another time he and twelve other men evacuated a hospital full of Israeli medical personnel when they came under attack by Arab rockets.
After Palestine, Churchill went on to serve as an instructor at a land-air warfare school in Australia and become a hardcore surfer. He even designed and built his own surfboards. He retired from the army in 1959, recipient of two awards for bravery.