This must be one of the most craziest stories to emerge from WWII. This man must have been the luckiest man ever. I am not sure if he was crazy or a psychopath(in a psoitive way) or totally fearless but one thing is sure he was one of a kind.
Lieutenant-Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming “Jack” Churchill, (16 September 1906 – 8 March 1996) was a British Army officer who fought throughout the Second World War armed with a longbow, bagpipes, and a basket-hilted Scottish broadsword.
Nicknamed “Fighting Jack Churchill” and “Mad Jack”, he is known for the motto: “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.” It is claimed that Churchill also carried out the last recorded longbow and arrow killing in action, shooting a German NCO in 1940 in a French village during the Battle of France.
It was May 1940, and the German officer’s unit was attacking toward a village called l’Epinette, near Bethune, France. Five of his soldiers took cover behind a farmyard wall, sheltered from the fire of British rearguards covering the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force to the English Channel. Without warning, one German crumpled, the feathered tip of an arrow sticking out of his chest. From a small farm building on their flank, rifle-fire tore into the others.
While he may have known that his enemy was soldiers of the Manchester Regiment, the German leader could not have known that they were led by the formidable Captain Jack Churchill. It was Churchill’s arrow that skewered the luckless German, while his men’s rifles accounted for the rest. However deadly, bows and arrows were surely anachronisms in modern war. They were formidable soldiers and always had been, precisely the sort of men Jack Churchill was cut out to lead.
But then, so was the bowman.
John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill—known as “Jack Churchill” to his friends, and later “Mad Jack” or “Fighting Jack”—was a professional soldier, son of an old Oxfordshire family. Born in Hong Kong, Churchill graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1926 and was commissioned in the Manchesters, a storied regiment with battle honors dating back to the 18th century. The regiment had been raised as the 63rd and 96th Regiments of Foot and had shed their blood for Britain all across the world. Forty-two battalions of Manchesters served in World War I alone.
Jack Churchill’s younger brother, Tom, also became a Manchesters officer, and in time would rise to major general, retiring in 1962. His younger brother, called Buster, opted for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm and died for his country off Malta during the fierce fighting of Operation Pedestal.
That Churchill was a free spirit was obvious from the beginning of his service, even in an army rich in such men. For example, while serving in Burma before the outbreak of World War II, he attended a course in signals at Poona in India. It might appear odd to some that Churchill took his motorcycle all the way from Rangoon to Poona, but it did not seem at all remarkable, at least to Churchill, to return the 1,500 miles from Poona to Calcutta—whence he was to take a ship for Rangoon—riding his bike. Along the way he lost a contest with a large and hostile water buffalo but returned to his unit in time to serve in the Burma Rebellion of 1930-32.
As soon as the Nazis invaded Poland and war became imminent, though, Churchill rushed to the battlefield. The longbow came out almost immediately during the Allied retreat to Dunkirk, France, in mid 1940. He took to practicing guerilla tactics, staging raids, and earning commendations for his bravery, even surviving a clipping by machine gun fire. Then, while watching a German force advance from a tower in the little village of L’Epinette, Churchill signaled his attack by shooting a Nazi sergeant through the chest with a barbed arrow, immediately followed by a hail of bullets from two fellow infantrymen in tow.
As befitted his love of things Scottish, Jack Churchill carried the basket-hilted claymore (technically a claybeg, the true claymore being an enormous two-handed sword).
Later on, asked by a general who awarded him a decoration why he carried a sword in action, Churchill is said to have answered: “In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”
The war-diary of 4th Infantry Brigade, to which Churchill’s battalion belonged, commented on this extraordinary figure. “One of the most reassuring sights of the embarkation [from Dunkirk] was the sight of Captain Churchill passing down the beach with his bows and arrows. His high example and his great work … were a great help to the 4th Infantry Brigade.”
During the retreat, Churchill took command of his company when his company commander was wounded, and it was during this fighting that he spitted his hapless German soldier with, as the chronicles of Henry V’s wars would put it, “a cloth-yard shaft.” One of his brother officers, an old friend, saw him about that time chugging across the Flanders plain on a small motorcycle, his bow tied to the frame, arrows sticking out of one of the panniers on the back, a German officer’s cap hanging on the headlight. “Ah!” said Churchill, spotting his friend, “Hullo Clark! Got anything to drink?”
Once Churchill had dismounted, his friend noticed dried blood smeared across one ear and asked Churchill about the injury. German machine gun, said Churchill casually. His men had shouted at him to run but, he said, he was simply too tired. He won his first Military Cross during the retreat to the Channel, when he hitched six trucks together to salvage a disabled British tank; although in the end he could not save the tank, he did rescue a wounded British officer.
His close call did not seem to impress Churchill in the least. Then and afterward, he seemed to be one of those extraordinary men who thrive on danger and fear it not at all. Some fellow soldiers are said to have called him “Mad Jack,” and the nickname was not altogether undeserved.
In 1941, Churchill volunteered to join the newly formed British commandos, with whom he launched his screaming Nordic raid. After emerging from the battle unscathed, a British demolition “expert” accidentally detonated a charge next to him, sending shards from the bottle of wine he was drinking into his forehead. But he was back on his feet soon after, joining the 1943 campaign in Italy, where he snuck out one night with a corporal, creeping from one German post to the next and surprising the guards with his claymore. By the end of the night he’d captured 42 prisoners with a sword and soon after earned the Distinguished Service Order.
In 1944, Churchill was sent to assist Josip Broz Tito’s forces in Yugoslavia, leading a full frontal assault on a well-defended tower on the island of Brač.
Leading a charge through strafing fire and mortars, he was one of only seven men to reach the target and, after firing off every bullet he had, found himself the last man standing. So he stood playing “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” on his pipes until the advancing Germans knocked him out with a grenade blast. The Nazis reportedly ignored orders to kill him out of respect, but it probably helped that they assumed he was a relative of Winston Churchill, which prompted them to send him to Berlin for interrogation. After proving he had no valuable intel and causing panic by lighting a trash fire during one of his moves, he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
He promptly escaped the camp, shimmying under a wire fence, and attempted to walk about 125 miles through Nazi territory to the Baltic Sea. He was captured just miles from the shore and transferred to another camp, this time in Italy. As should have been expected by then, he escaped in 1945, sneaking away during a power outage and walking about 100 miles using a stolen rusted can to cook what he considered liberated vegetables looted from Nazi-held fields until he found an American regiment in Verona and convinced them he was a British Officer.
As the Pacific War was still on, Churchill was sent to Burma, where some of the largest land battles against Japan were being fought. By the time Churchill reached India, Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been bombed and the war ended.
Churchill was said to be unhappy with the sudden end of the war, saying: “If it wasn’t for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years!
Though Jack Churchill might have thought that he was through with war, he was not. After World War II ended, he qualified as a parachutist, transferred to the Seaforth Highlanders, and later ended up in Palestine as second-in-command of 1st Battalion, the Highland Light Infantry. And it was there, in the spring of 1948, just before the end of the British mandate over that troubled land, that he again risked his life for other people.
Those were dangerous days, with much blood—Jewish, Arab and British—shed by Arab terrorists and by Jewish radicals, notably the so-called Stern Gang.
On a day in May a Jewish medical convoy—ambulances, trucks, and buses—was ambushed by Arabs on a narrow street in Jerusalem, not far from a small HLI detachment at a place called Tony’s Post. Churchill rushed to the site in a Dingo, a small armored car. This one had its turret removed for repair, but it gave him a semblance of protection at least.
Accurately assessing the potential for mass murder by the Arab terrorists, he radioed for two Staghounds, heavy cannon-armed armored cars, and these were diverted from convoy protection and dispatched to him. It would take time for the armored cars to reach him, however, and while they were on their way, Churchill acted. He drove down to the beleaguered convoy in a large armored personnel carrier covered by the only escort available, an open-topped Bren gun carrier and a small police armored car armed with a machine gun. Leaving his tiny convoy and swinging a walking stick, he walked calmly into the open and down the road to the convoy.
Marching into the teeth of the battle around the convoy, he must have been quite a sight. Since he had just come from a battalion parade, he was resplendent in full dress: kilt, glengarry bonnet, red-and-white diced stockings, Sam Browne belt, and white spats. And as usual he later made light of this extraordinary cold courage: “I grinned like mad from side to side,” he said afterward, “as people are less likely to shoot at you if you smile at them … [that] outfit in the middle of the battle, together with my grinning at them, may have made the Arabs laugh because most of them have a sense of humor. Anyway, they didn’t shoot me!”
Churchill spoke to the occupants of one bus and offered to drive his big armored personnel carrier down to the convoy and make as many trips as necessary to evacuate the patients and their medical personnel. He warned those at the convoy that there might be casualties when they moved to the British vehicle, and one of the Jews asked whether he would not first drive off the Arabs. He patiently explained that he could not; there were hundreds of Arabs and he had only 12 men.
After a discussion with one of the doctors, as Churchill stood in the open, his offer was refused. “Thank you very much but we do not want your help. The Haganah (the Jewish defense force) will save us.” Churchill walked down the convoy repeating his offer, but was uniformly refused. By now one of Churchill’s men had been mortally wounded, and he ran back to his vehicles and sent them out of harm’s way. Returning to Tony’s Post, he supported the Jewish convoy with small arms fire until Arab gasoline bombs and rifle fire destroyed the Jewish vehicles and most of their passengers. The Haganah had not arrived to save them after all, and 77 Jews died in the narrow street.
Later, Churchill engineered the evacuation of some 700 Jews—patients, staff, and students—from the university and hospital atop Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus. Churchill made an early run up Scopus in his jeep accompanied by Eli Davis, the deputy medical director of the hospital.
Here is how Davis later told the story: “Major Churchill told me there was slight chance of getting through … because the Arabs saw the British meant business. He agreed to make the trip up to Scopus and invited me along. The Major took a Jeep and his driver. I sat while he stood in the Jeep twirling his stick. He looked as though he were on parade in London…”
In later years, Churchill served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, where he became a passionate devotee of the surfboard. Back in England, he was the first man to ride the River Severn’s five-foot tidal bore and designed his own board.During this time back in England he worked at a desk job in the military.
Jack Churchill never changed, never lost his flair for the unusual, not to say the flamboyant. In his later years, passengers on a London commuter train were often startled by seeing an older male passenger rise, open a window, and hurl his briefcase out into the night. The passenger would then leave the car and wait by the train’s door until it stopped at the next station. It was Churchill, of course, enjoying his little gesture and reasonably sure that his fellow passengers could not know he had thrown the case into the garden of his house. It saved him carrying it home from the station.
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