Mad Jack Churchill Fought in WWII With a Bow and Sword
Mad Jack Churchill Fought in WWII With a Bow and Sword

Mad Jack Churchill Fought in WWII With a Bow and Sword

Stephanie Schoppert - February 19, 2017

Mad Jack Churchill Fought in WWII With a Bow and Sword
Mad Jack Churchill (lower right) charging into battle with his trademark sword.

Churchill was an aggressive soldier and leader. He refused to back down or give up ground to the enemy without making them pay a heavy price. He often went on raids and counterattacks, taking small groups of soldiers that were hand-picked by him (likely men who were equally skilled and fearless) to fight against the advancing Germans.

By July 1943, Mad Jack Churchill was now a commanding officer leading 2 Commando. He led his men with his Scottish broadsword around his waist, a longbow and arrows around his neck, and bagpipes under his arm. He was oddly equipped compared to his men, but Churchill believed that any man who went into action without a sword was improperly dressed. In diaries and writings of other men who served with Mad Jack, his presence was reassuring and a strong example for them to follow. No. 2 Commando landed in Italy during the autumn of 1943 with the objective of stopping the Germans from placing artillery fire on the western half of the Bay of Salerno. It was Churchill who directed the final counterattack, and his men managed to stop the Germans.

It was during the intense fighting at Salerno that Churchill came up with a particularly effective strategy. He ordered his men into six parallel columns in the middle of the night. The area they were fighting in was overgrown so his counterattack had no chance of catching the Germans by surprise. So he went with a different approach. Mad Jack told his men to shout “Commando!” as loud as they could as they attacked. This prevented them from shooting each other in the pitch-black night and completely confused the Germans. All total, Churchill and his men took 136 prisoners and accomplished all of their objectives.

It was during the same campaign that Churchill decided to sneak out from the camp one night with his corporal. As they walked toward the town in hopes of catching a German or two, they heard German soldiers digging all around them. Guided only by the glow of a cigarette, they managed to surprise two of them, Churchill coming out of the darkness with his sword drawn. He ordered the men to put their hands up and they complied. He left one prisoner with his corporal and took the other with him.

He used his prisoner as a shield as he carefully went to the other Germans digging and ordered them to surrender to his sword. By the end of it he took 42 prisoners and he marched them all back to enemy lines carrying their own weapons, mortars, and bombs, and dragging their wounded in a cart. Churchill stated that he always made his prisoners carry their own weapons because it slowed them down, he just made sure to take their rifle bolts out.

In 1944, he was in Yugoslavia leading his commandos yet again and given another seemingly impossible mission. Mad Jack was given orders to raid the island of Brac which was then held by the Germans. He put together a ragtag force of 1,500 Partisans, 43 Commando, and one troop from 40 Commando. At the attack, Churchill led the 40 Commando and the 43 Commando, while the Partisans stayed at the landing area. Only Churchill and six other men made it to their objective. Churchill was still playing “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” on his now famous bagpipes when a mortar shell killed the other six. He was knocked unconscious by a grenade and captured.

Mad Jack Churchill Fought in WWII With a Bow and Sword
Jack Churchill (left) in later life playing his bagpipes at a commemoration ceremony. Daily Mail

He was interrogated in Berlin before being sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In September 1944, not long after being imprisoned, Churchill and an RAF officer managed to crawl under the prison wire and then through an abandoned drain. The men had hoped to make it to the Baltic coast, but they were captured near Rostock. In April 1945 he was transferred with 140 other prominent prisoners to Tyrol, a concentration camp that was guarded by SS. A delegation of prisoners then approached senior German army officers and told them of their fear of execution. The German army unit decided to protect the prisoners and the SS left. The prisoners were then released and Churchill walked all the way to Italy where he met an American armored force.

Still not done with the war, Churchill was sent to Burma to fight in the Pacific war. By the time he reached India, the war was over and Churchill lamented the sudden end stating “If it wasn’t for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another 10 years!” After the war, Churchill remained in the army until he retired in 1959. His life never had a dull moment, and he lived to be 89 years old.