‘Mad’ Jack Churchill Became The Only Man During WWII To Kill An Enemy Soldier With An Arrow Fired From A Longbow

Jack Knight

To those he fought beside, Jack Churchill seemed like a man without fear, but to those he faced in combat, he was a terrifying figure, such was his bravery in battle. Few could withstand him at close quarters. He moved quickly and quietly, workmanlike and efficient, most often with a basket-hilted broadsword in one hand and a rifle, bayonet honed to a keen edge, in the other. The combination of sword and bayonet suited him. He practiced hard and used his skills at any opportunity.

Jack was a crack shot with a rifle or a pistol, but he had a talent for archery, too. Before the outbreak of war in 1939, Jack was in Oslo, Norway, competing in the World Archery Championships. In ’39, the championship was in its eighth year, and it still runs today, but during the war years it did not run, and Jack Churchill had to find another venue to display his abilities with this particular weapon. He took himself and his bow back to Britain.


The fighting around the ancient port of Dunkirk in northern France in 1940 was some of the fiercest the British army had yet seen. All across Europe, the chaos of war was escalating rapidly. Countries fell, governments were replaced, maps were redrawn. The steady advance of the enormous Nazi war machine seemed unstoppable.

It was during May of 1940 that Jack Churchill performed the feat which cemented his already growing reputation. ‘Fighting Jack Churchill,’ they called him after that.

They were in a tower overlooking an empty little town. Jack was in charge of a small unit of men, and they were preparing an ambush. An enemy patrol was due through the town at any moment. As usual, Jack was armed with a longbow, broadsword, bayonet and small arms. He fairly bristled with weaponry. There were two knives and an unusual looking revolver on his belt.

There were grenades on his belt, too. His small pack hid water, a little food, and a very comprehensive first aid kit. Ammunition in pouches was strapped under the pack, the quiver of arrows for the bow was strapped securely to the side. There was a keen look in his eyes, and the men around felt their fear lessen as they watched him. He was not afraid.

A Scottish basket-hilted broadsword, of the kind used by churchill (wikimedia commons)
A Scottish basket-hilted broadsword, of the kind used by Churchill 

The orders had been given to the men at the base of the tower, and to the men concealed in the surrounding streets and buildings. Fighting Jack’s tower would the signal the attack.

Through the rough opening in the floor of the tower flowed the loose-limbed form of the tall longbow archer. The bow itself was by no means a small weapon, being almost as long as the man himself, yet he negotiated the ladder and the hatch with ease. He clinked and rustled as he moved forward to the parapet and peered over.

© Copyright 2019 - War History Online