Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming “Jack” Churchill, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar (16 September 1906 â€“ 8 March 1996), nicknamed Fighting Jack Churchill and Mad Jack, was a British soldier who fought throughout the Second World War armed with a longbow, and a Scottish broadsword. He was known for the motto “any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly armed.”
In May 1940 Churchill and his unit, the Manchester Regiment, ambushed a German patrol near L’Epinette, France. Churchill gave the signal to attack by cutting down the enemy Feldwebel (sergeant) with a barbed arrow, becoming the only British soldier known to have felled an enemy with a longbow in WWII. After fighting at Dunkirk, he volunteered for the Commandos.
Churchill was second in command of No. 3 Commando in Operation Archery, a raid on the German garrison at VÃ¥gsÃ¸y, Norway on 27 December 1941. As the ramps fell on the first landing craft, Churchill leapt forward from his position and played a tune on his bagpipes, before throwing a grenade and running into battle in the bay. For his actions at Dunkirk and VÃ¥gsÃ¸y, Churchill received the Military Cross and Bar.
In July 1943, as commanding officer, he led 2 Commando from their landing site at Catania in Sicily with his trademark Scottish broadsword slung around his waist, a longbow and arrows around his neck and his bagpipes under his arm, which he also did in the landings at Salerno. Leading 2 Commando, Churchill was ordered to capture a German observation post outside of the town of La Molina, controlling a pass leading down to the Salerno beach-head. He led the attack by 2 and 41 Commandos, infiltrated the town and captured the post, taking 42 prisoners including a mortar squad. Churchill led the men and prisoners back down the pass, with the wounded being carried on carts pushed by German prisoners. He commented that it was “an image from the Napoleonic Wars.” He received the Distinguished Service Order for leading this action at Salerno.
In 1944 he led the Commandos in Yugoslavia, where they supported Josip Broz Tito’s Partisans from the Adriatic island of Vis. In May he was ordered to raid the German held island of BraÄ. He organized a “motley army” of 1,500 Partisans, 43 Commando and one troop from 40 Commando for the raid. The landing was unopposed but on seeing the eyries from which they later encountered German fire, the Partisans decided to defer the attack until the following day. Churchill’s bagpipes signalled the remaining Commandos to battle. After being strafed by an RAF Spitfire, Churchill decided to withdraw for the night and to re-launch the attack the following morning. The following morning, one flanking attack was launched by 43 Commando with Churchill leading the elements from 40 Commando. The Partisans remained at the landing area; only Churchill and six others managed to reach the objective. A mortar shell killed or wounded everyone but Churchill, who was playing “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” on his pipes as the Germans advanced. He was knocked unconscious by grenades and captured. He was later flown to Berlin for interrogation and then transferred to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
In September 1944 Churchill and a Royal Air Force officer crawled under the wire, through an abandoned drain and attempted to walk to the Baltic coast. They were captured near the coastal city of Rostock, a few kilometres from the sea. In late April 1945 Churchill and about 140 other prominent concentration camp inmates were transferred to Tyrol, guarded by SS troops. A delegation of prisoners told senior German army officers they feared they would be executed. An army unit commanded by Captain Wichard von Alvensleben moved in to protect the prisoners. Outnumbered, the SS guards moved out, leaving the prisoners behind. The prisoners were released and after the departure of the Germans, Churchill walked 150 kilometres (93 mi) to Verona, Italy where he met an American armoured force.
As the Pacific War was still on, Churchill was sent to Burma, where 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.