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ack Churchill was born in Colombo, British Ceylon — the British Crown colony of present-day Sri Lanka — on September 16, 1906. Churchill’s family was British and, in 1917, he and his family returned to England. He graduated from the Royal Military College in 1926 and, after that, he was sent to Burma where he served with the Manchester Regiment. While there, he got his first real combat experience. Moreover, he developed the weird idea according to which a true soldier should not fight with the “vulgar” and noisy weapons of the twentieth century, but by relying just on his skills with a longbow and a sword.

While in Burma, Jack Churchill travelled around the country riding a motorbike and he also learned to play the bagpipes. In 1936, he left the army to settle in Nairobi, Kenya, where he worked as a newspaper editor. However, his incredible ability to use the longbow brought him to represent Great Britain at the World Archery Championships in Oslo in 1939.

World War II

When Hitler’s tanks crossed the Polish borders, Jack Churchill decided to return to service and fight the Axis forces. After the fall of Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway, the Nazis seemed unstoppable. They headed towards France and, in particular, Paris. England sent more of its soldiers to support France, but the Nazis prevailed. While the British were retreating to Dunkirk, Jack Churchill faced the Nazis for the first time. Among other troopers, all equipped with weapons, Jack was the only one with a longbow and arrows.

Jack Churchill (far right) leads a training exercise, sword in hand, from a Eureka boat in Inveraray (Scotland) (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Jack immediately showed signs of incredible courage. In May 1940, during the battle in defence of L’Épinette, Jack first gave the signal to attack by raising his claymore — a Scottish sword — and then killed a German sergeant with his longbow. While retreating to Dunkirk, Jack specialized in the boldest guerrilla techniques and set up several ambushes. Such an audacity earned him the nicknames of “Mad Jack” and “Fighting Jack”. For his actions at Dunkirk and Vågsøy — a Norwegian island where the British conducted a raid on a German garrison — Mad Jack received the Military Cross and Bar.

Mad Jack in Italy

In July 1943, Jack Churchill became commanding officer of a regiment in charge of landing in Catania, Sicily, first and Salerno, Campania, then. Mad Jack headed the regiment with his trademark Scottish broadsword slung around his waist, a longbow and arrows around his neck, and his bagpipes under his arm.

Artillery being landed during the invasion of mainland Italy at Salerno, September 1943 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In Italy, Mad Jack was ordered to capture a German observation post on the top of a hill outside the town of Molina. Such an observation post was giving the Germans a huge advantage as they could hit their enemies on the beaches. Mad Jack decided to surprise the enemies by approaching silently with his troopers and then, to the general amazement, stood up and led the charge with the sword steady in his right hand. The Germans were shocked to see some of their comrades pierced by a sword. He commented that it was “an image from the Napoleonic Wars.”


After the Italian Campaign, Mad Jack served in Yugoslavia. While there, he was captured as the only survivor of a mortar shell dropped by the Germans. While his enemies were advancing towards him, he played “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” on his bagpipes. Mad Jack was later transferred to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He escaped it in September 1944 together with three Royal Air Force officers and Major Johnnie Dodge — an American-born British Army officer who fought in both world wars and became a notable prisoner of war during World War II. They were captured once again but later released by the Germans. After that, Mad Jack was sent to Burma, where everything had started, to fight the Japanese. When World War II ended, Jack Churchill was posted to Mandatory Palestine as executive officer of the 1st Battalion, the Highland Light Infantry.

Jack Churchill stares down the barrel of a captured Belgian 75 mm field gun (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

History gives us a multitude of anecdotes. They sound pretty much like fairy tales. They are forgotten tales of women and men who managed to shape the events by imposing their vision of the world when the world was living chaotic and dramatic moments.

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