Forget Robin Hood: Meet the Mad Major Who Charged Ashore With Bow, Arrow & Longsword

The famous landing photo, taken during a training exercise in Scotland. Jack Churchill can be seen on the far right of the photo, sword in hand.
The famous landing photo, taken during a training exercise in Scotland. Jack Churchill can be seen on the far right of the photo, sword in hand.

History is full of heroes, but how many of them have carved their name into history with bow and arrow, at least in modern times?After all, who needs a bow and arrow when you have guns, right? Well, Lt. Col. Jack Churchill disagreed.

Lt. Col. Jack Churchill, also known as Mad Jack, was the only person to record a kill with a longbow during an action in WW2. Read this article to learn more about Jack Churchill – one of the most hardcore warriors of all time!

Early Years

The badass crazy headed hero of WWII 1
The hardcore crazy-headed hero of WWII.

Jack Churchill, aka John Malcolm Thorpe Churchill, aka the famous ‘Mad Jack’ or ‘Fighting Jack’ hailed from an old Oxfordshire family. He was a soldier by profession (no prizes for guessing that). He was born in Hong Kong and graduated from the Royal Military Academy in 1926.

The first few years of his life were spent in the army, riding across the Indian subcontinent on his motorbike. There was no agenda for his actions, he was a free spirit and did as he pleased. After spending almost ten years in the army, he retired.

He then worked as an editor for a newspaper, worked as a male model, and even appeared as an extra in movies. Interestingly, Jack also represented England in the Archery World Championship, in 1939.

British Army: A Re-Entry

Something about civilian life did not sit well with Jack, and soon in 1940, he decided to re-enlist himself in the British Army as an officer. Jack was shipped to the country of France to provide assistance to the British Expeditionary Force. The mission was to reinforce the Maginot Line, but it was not long after the arrival of Jack that Hitler decided to send his troops to France! Say what you will about Hitler, but he really surprised the British and French with this move.

However, Hitler didn’t know about Mad Jack. First, he refused to give ground and launched raids on German positions.

Second, he rode into battle on his beloved motorcycle, equipped with a bow and arrow, with a Scottish broadsword as his secondary weapon. When interrogated by a fellow officer about his unusual idea of carrying a broadsword into a battle, he replied:

“In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”

What happens when you bring a sword to a gun fight? Well, Jack was shot in the neck by the Germans, but that didn’t stop him. He fought like a man possessed throughout the campaign of Dunkirk. At one point, he rescued a British officer who was brutally injured from a German ambush. By the time the dust settled, he had won the Military Cross for bravery.

A Commando Leader

After Dunkirk, Jack returned to England and instantly signed up to be a member of the commando’s organization. Jack wasn’t sure what the meaning of the word was, he didn’t care, he just wanted to kick some German ass. As soon as he signed up, he was put under the training regimen of the British Special Forces, which he greatly enjoyed!

He did not just stop with the training. After completing his training, he took part in a daring assault against the German base that was situated in Vaagso, Norway. He was the leader of Number 2 Commando.

Jack with his men chanting 'COMMANDO'S'! 1
British Soldiers Advance on D-Day.

Once, when he was in an aircraft taking his team for an op, he took off his belt during landing, wanting to pump up his fellow men and obviously prove how awesome he was! When the ramp swung open, he was fearless to go deep in the water and at the head of his troops and shouted out ‘Commando,’ blade in hand.

Two hours later, a telegram was delivered from the front that read:

Malloy battery and island captured. Casualties slight. Demolitions in progress. Churchill.’

Awarded For Bravery Or Madness?

His bravery led him to win another award. This was during the landing at Salerno. Here, his unit was responsible for taking out the battery that was killing the British army forces of the nearby areas. The town of Piegoletti (the base of the guns) was heavily fortified due to the presence of a force that was much larger than Jack and his commandos.

However, Jack did not care, and in the wee hours of the night he commanded his men to cover the town from all the ends, and scream commandos as loud as they can.

This left the Germs astounded and confused. The 50 under his command took 136 prisoners with an unknown number of causalities.

This was not the only daring act attempted by Jack. On the night his commandos were busy capturing the town, he took 42 Germans as prisoners and covered the mortar crew with only his broadsword. With only one guard with him, he went to the sentry post, and showed his sword right in their faces, until they all surrendered. When asked how he captured so many soldiers, he replied:

“I maintain that, as long as you tell a German loudly and clearly what to do, if you are senior to him he will cry ‘Ja Wohl’ (yes sir) and get on with it enthusiastically and efficiently whatever the situation.”

Witty and macho, they just don’t make them like they used to.

The Number 2 Commandos in Action
The Number 2 Commandos in Action, Jack is all the way at the right holding a Claymore.

His Adventures Continued

The adventures of Lt. Col. Jack never stopped. When he hit 40, he completed a jump course. He next served in Palestine and earned fame for saving a medical chaperone from an ambush. Next, he went on to serve as an instructor at a land-air warfare school based in Australia.

1959 was the year when Jack retired and also received two awards for bravery. He was one eccentric hero who carried a bow, a broadsword, screamed at the top of his lungs, invented crazy tactics, and he proved victorious at the end of the day.

David Herold

David Herold is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE