The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

So this guy is one of my favorite people ever.  His life story sounds like a Dos Equis commercial. His full name is John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, better known as Jack Churchill or “Mad Jack”.  A few of my favorite qualities and accomplishments of his up front:

  • Officer in the British Army from 1926-1936 and 1939-1959.  During WWII, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.
  • Worked as a newspaper editor and male model in Nairobi, Kenya between 1936 and 1939.
  • His motto was, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”
  • When the war in Europe ended, he was sent to Burma to fight the Japanese but by the time he arrived, the war was over. He really, really didn’t like this because he wanted to keep fighting.
  • After the war he served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, he became an avid surfer.
  • After retiring from the army in 1959, he regularly scared train conductors and pedestrians by throwing his briefcase from the train. Why? He threw it into his own backyard because he didn’t want to carry it home from the train station.

So now for my favorite part: he carried bagpipes, a Scottish broadsword, and a longbow with arrows into most battles. His unusual gear choices followed him into battle wherever he went, and even played a key role in the Battle of France.

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‘Mad Jack’ Churchill with his War Bow; 6′ tall, with an 80-lb pull. The only documented archer to inflict casualties in WW2.

When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, Mad Jack Churchill gave up his roles as a male model and newspaper editor in Kenya to resume his service in the British Army.  As part of an expeditionary force to France, he led his unit – the Manchester Regiment – into battle in May 1940.  Near the Belgian border, Churchill and his men set up an ambush on a German patrol, where he instructed his men to begin the ambush once they saw his arrow fly.

As a Nazi sergeant came into range, he fired an arrow from his traditional longbow and killed the German officer.  In doing so, Churchill became the last known person to kill an enemy in battle using a longbow.

In 1941, Churchill was second in command for a raid on a German garrison on the west coast of Norway.  As the landing craft hit the beaches and the ramp went down, Churchill was standing there blasting his bagpipes.  When he finished his song, he launched a grenade toward the German fortifications and sprinted into battle.

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Far right: Mad Jack storms a beach with his Scottish broadsword

Churchill’s bagpipe skills were on display again as the Allies invaded Sicily and also when they invaded the Italian peninsula near Salerno.  At the latter, Churchill led an attack on a German observation post and captured 42 German soldiers with only the help of a Corporal.

In 1944, Churchill’s forces were tasked with assisting Tito’s Partisan forces in Yugoslavia.  Here they were expected to retake the island of Bra?.  While the Partisan forces remained on the beach, Churchill and six others reached the objective alone.  While he again played his bagpipes, his six fellow soldiers were killed by a mortar and he was knocked unconscious by a grenade and captured.  He was then sent to Berlin for interrogation, after which he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin.

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Wikimedia Commons photo

You would think that was the end of his hilarious eccentricity, but it wasn’t.  Being the badass he was, Churchill and another British officer escaped from the concentration camp and headed north to the Baltic coast.  He was captured again just before he got to the coast and sent to an SS-guarded prison in Tyrol, Austria in April 1945.  Once released, he walked over 90 miles to Verona, Italy, where he ran into an American armored group, who helped him get back to Britain.

That was the last action he’d see in World War II, as his arrival in the Pacific was too late.  Churchill then went on to serve in British Palestine until 1948, after which he moved to Australia to be an instructor at the land-air warfare school.  He eventually retired from the Army in 1959, and lived to the age of 89 in Surrey, England.

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