With a name like Mad Jack, it’s a certainty that you’ve done a few things that make other people question your sanity. Mad Jack Churchill definitely did many things that made those around him wonder just what was going on in his head. His service during World War II reads almost like an action novel. Churchill is believed to have carried out the very last recorded longbow and arrow killing in action, and was known to carry a sword.
Mad Jack was born John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill in 1906 in the British colony of Ceylon. He moved to Hong Kong at the age of four and then settled in England in 1917. He attended King William’s College and graduated from the Royal Military College in 1926. He served in Burma for a time before leaving the army in 1936. After that, he worked a number of odd jobs including being a male model, playing the bagpipes and shooting a bow and arrow in The Thief of Bagdad, and working as a newspaper editor in Nairobi, Kenya. In 1939 he competed in the World Archery Championships in Oslo.
While Mad Jack definitely led an interesting life, none of it compared to what was yet to come. In 1939 he returned to the army after the German invasion of Poland. He was made part of the British Expeditionary Force. In 1940, Churchill and his unit (the Manchester Regiment) came upon a German patrol near L’Epinette, France. Churchill told the men in his unit that he would fell the first German with an arrow and that would be the signal to attack. True to his word he killed the first German in the patrol with his longbow.
He participated at the Battle of Dunkirk, and then decided to volunteer for the Commandos. On December 27, 1941, he was the second in command of No. 3 Commando in Operation Archery. The operation was a raid on the German garrison at Vagsoy, Norway. Churchill would never do anything halfway, so when the ramps fell from the first landing craft, he jumped ahead from his position and started playing on his bagpipes. He played “March of the Cameron Men” loudly and proudly before throwing a grenade and running into battle. For his bravery and service, he was awarded the Military Cross and Bar.
Mad Jack’s exploits only continued as WWII progressed.