In this article:
- Mad Jack Churchill, as he would come to be known, was a British soldier who fought in World War II. His claim to fame was that he would always carry around a sword, a bow-and-arrow, and a bagpipe.
- In one battle in Sicily, it’s believed that he captured 42 Nazi soldiers using only his sword.
- In another battle in Norway, he apparently charged from his position, playing the bagpipe and throwing grenades at the same time.
- Eventually, Mad Jack was captured and brought to a concentration camp. Luckily, he dug a tunnel and escaped only days later.
There are some people throughout history that seem more like fantasy characters or comic book superheroes than actual human beings. Most of us wake up at a reasonable hour, do our jobs, eat some food, watch some Netflix, and fall asleep for the night.
Others grab life by the balls, fear nothing, and accomplish more great deeds in a week than most of us could achieve in several lifetimes.
John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill was one of those outstanding human beings. His life was beyond belief from the cradle to the grave and some of the things he did sound like they came from the script of a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Yes, The Most Interesting Man in the World from those Dos Equis commercials needs to watch his back because Mad Jack Churchill was a movie star, war hero, male model, expert archer, an avid player of the bagpipes, and much more.
Seriously, it’s pretty baffling how so much badass could fit inside one human body. In fact, the life of Mad Jack Churchill is so unbelievable that it couldn’t be fiction.
As a soldier, he’s credited with having the last-ever confirmed kill with a bow and arrow in war and he captured 42 Nazi soldiers using only a sword. His famous catchphrase, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed,” has been solidified in military lore for all time.
Outside of his military career, Churchill competed in the World Archery Championship, was the first man to surf on the River Severn (using a board that he designed himself), and even appeared in three films.
And those are just the highlights of Mad Jack Churchill’s life.
Once we get into the details of his military escapades, his adventurous trips to foreign countries, and his various other displays of bravery, you’ll see truly how unbelievable the life of Mad Jack Churchill truly was.
Mad Jack Churchill’s Badass Beginnings
Before he was Mad Jack Churchill, he was John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, born in the city of Colombo in British Ceylon (the colony that is now Sri Lanka) to his mother Elinor and his father Alec.
Soon after Jack was born, the family moved to Dormansland, Surrey, England, and lived there until Alec got a job as Director of Public Works in British Hong Kong in 1910. Then, in 1917, the family moved back to England.
Jack Churchill first attended King William’s College on the Isle of Man. He later graduated from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1926 and began his military career in Burma with the Manchester Regiment.
While there aren’t any legendary military stories from Churchill’s time in Burma, he did reportedly ride his motorcycle almost the entire length of the country. It was also in Burma that Churchill learned to play the bagpipes.
In 1936, Jack Churchill left the army and moved to Nairobi, Kenya, to work as a newspaper editor and male model. He also made his way into an acting career, making an appearance in the 1938 film A Yank at Oxford.
In 1939, he represented Great Britain at the World Archery Championships in Oslo, Norway.
So, in this short span of time, Churchill had already been a soldier, reporter, model, actor, and professional archer. One would think that that would be enough adventure and accomplishment for one lifetime.
However, Churchill would really find his way to glory when he enlisted again in the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 and was sent off to France to fight the Nazis.
Mad Jack Churchill Gains Military Glory
The first instance that cemented Churchill’s place in military history was when he and some of his men ambushed a German patrol near L’Epinette. Churchill, always armed with a broadsword and a longbow, raised his sword and commanded the attack.
During the scuffle, Churchill took out a German commander, firing a barbed arrow and killing him. This was the last-ever recorded kill with a bow and arrow in war.
After fighting at the famous Battle of Dunkirk, Jack Churchill began volunteering with the Commandos brigade alongside his younger brother Thomas Churchill. After the war, Thomas Churchill wrote a book called Commando Crusade detailing many of his brother’s military exploits.
According to the book, during a raid at Vagsøy, Norway in 1941, Jack Churchill jumped from his position and began playing “March of the Cameron Men” on his bagpipes while tossing grenades at the enemy forces.
After this incident, Churchill led the Commandos all across Europe, fighting in Norway, Italy, and Yugoslavia, all the while carrying his trademark Scottish broadsword, longbow, and bagpipe.
In one engagement in Sicily, Churchill was ordered to capture a German observation post outside the town of Molina. Using only his broadsword, he and a corporal captured the post and took 42 prisoners.
Catch and Release
During his campaign in Yugoslavia, Churchill and his Commandos were ordered to capture the island of Brač. However, after some unexpected resistance, only Churchill and six others were able to reach the objective.
Then, a mortar shell either killed or wounded everyone but Churchill. When the German troops arrived to capture any survivors, they found Churchill playing “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” on his bagpipes.
Captured by the German troops, Churchill was brought to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for interrogation because they believed that he might be related to Winston Churchill.
However, only a few days after being captured, Churchill and another officer escaped by crawling through a tunnel under a wire fence that they had dug in secret and then through an abandoned drain.
Out of the camp, Churchill and the other officer began walking toward the Baltic coast. But they were captured only a short distance from the sea and sent to another concentration camp in Tyrol.
Eventually, Churchill and other prisoners at the camp were released, at which point Churchill walked 93 miles to Verona, Italy, to meet up with an American unit.
Even after being captured twice, Mad Jack Churchill agreed to keep fighting and was sent to Burma to keep fighting the Pacific War. When the war suddenly ended with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Churchill seemed unhappy that the fighting had to stop, saying, “If it wasn’t for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years!”
Mad Jack Churchill to the Rescue
Even after the end of World War II, Mad Jack Churchill’s thirst for adventure wasn’t satisfied. So, he got qualified as a parachutist and joined the Seaforth Highlanders and was sent to Mandatory Palestine (a geopolitical entity created by the League of Nations). And, in 1948, he became involved in another conflict.
Jack Churchill was one of the first people on the scene when a Hadassah medical convoy was attacked by Arab forces.
Despite being ordered not to get involved in the conflict, Churchill and his men provided cover fire against the Arab forces. Unfortunately, many of the doctors in the convoy were massacred.
After the massacre, Churchill and his men headed to the Hadassah hospital at the Hebrew University and organized the evacuation of over 700 doctors, students, and patients. If they had not been evacuated, the Arab forces may have massacred them as well.
After the Battles
After retiring from the military for good (and earning many awards), Mad Jack Churchill kept on being a general badass. In 1952, he had a minor part in the 1952 MGM-produced film Ivanhoe.
He also moved to Australia for a bit and taught at a military school there. It was in Australia that he found his love for surfing. And, after returning to his home country of England, he became the first-ever person to surf the River Severn’s tidal bore.
Another hilariously eccentric story about Mad Jack Churchill is that he would, apparently, throw his briefcase out of the window of a train car whenever he was returning home from work.
When the train conductors asked him why he did this, he would tell them that he was throwing it into his backyard so that he wouldn’t have to carry it from the train station to his home. That’s just the kind of madman that Churchill was.
Mad Jack Churchill died at the age of 89 in 1996 in the county of Surrey.