image from en.wikipedia.org
Jolly old England has always been a place of some tough fighting men. This one who stuck out was John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or just “Fighting Jack or Mad Jack,” who served honorably in WWII using a longbow and a broadsword like in the Middle Ages and survived.
Mad Jack was born in Hong Kong in 1906, but his family moved constantly from there to Surrey, England until settling down for good in 1917. His father and grandfather both served in the Ceylon Civil Service. (Ceylon is now known as Sri Lanka, just by the tip of India) Jack went to King William’s College in the Isle of Man and then to Royal Military College in Sandhurst. He graduated in 1926 and entered the army that year and served in the Burma Rebellion of 1930-32. He became a lover of motorcycles around this time and is said to ride his 1,500 miles in India, from Rangoon to Poona then to Calcutta to catch a boat back to Rangoon, on paved and unpaved roads. He also developed his strange eccentricities and disregard for certain modern military behavior at that time, like intently studying the wrong campaigns for a promotion exam or using non regulation equipment, probably due to boredom in a peacetime army. He even got in trouble for bringing an umbrella on parade. His reasoning, “because it was raining.” He was also a skilled archer and bagpiper, despite not being Scottish. He won second place in a piping competition in the annual Aldershot Military Tattoo (performance) in 1938 and represented Great Britain in 1939 World Archery Championships.
In 1936 he left the military and moved to Nairobi, Kenya and made a living as a male model and newspaper editor.
In 1940, World War II reared it’s ugly head and Jack was called back to action as a member of the British Expeditionary Force to France. During this time he fought with his now trademark basket hilt Scottish broadsword and longbow. He signaled an ambush one time by shooting a German sergeant with a barbed arrow, the first British soldier to do so in 500 years. Sometimes he even played the bagpipes in combat. Some favorite songs were “March of the Cameron Men”and “ Will ye no come back again?” Later he joined the British Commandos, and fought bravely in a number of campaigns across Europe. Once he and a corporal captured 42 enemy soldiers single handed.
For all his defiance of danger, it eventually caught up with him, however. In 1944 a grenade knocked him unconscious and Fighting Jack was captured by the Germans. Due to his name he was mistaken for Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s brother and taken to Berlin for interrogation and sent to infamous Sachsenhausen concentration camp! With the help of a few survivors of the famous breakout from Stalag Luft III, Jack made a “Great Escape” of his own and attempted to make it to the Baltic Coast. They made it to the city of Rostock but were recaptured and were among those in transport to Tyrol. This notorious event during the near end of the War in Europe was an attempt to execute high profit prisoners by the SS! Luckily, soldiers from the Wehrmacht (regular German armed forces) protected the prisoners. While most of the prisoners waited for Allied forces near the Pragser Wildsee lake, Mad Jack walked 93 miles to an American encampment in Verona, Italy.
Later he returned to his old stomping ground and served back in Burma. However the war was soon over when the United States dropped the atomic bombs in Japan. Jack, apparently enjoying the war complained, “If it weren’t for those damned Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another ten years.” Still there was more adventure for him in the British Mandate of Palestine and he served in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He helped cover fire in the Hadassah Medical Convoy Massacre against the Arabs and later escorted 700 doctors, students, and patients on the Hebrew University to safety.
Fighting Jack became an instructor of land-air warfare in Australia later in life and became a devotee of surfing. He also used his skills in archery and bag-piping as an extra in several movies before and after the war. He retired from service in 1959 and returned to England and took up a desk job. He remained a notable eccentric, throwing his briefcase off the train on his way home to work and startling others. The British soldier whose motto was: “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed,” died in 1996 in the land of his childhood, Surry. For his service he won two Distinguished Service Orders and two Military Crosses (for those not familiar with the British Honers System that what the bar on the medals is for).
images from discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au and emedals.com
And to answer one last question, no, Mad Jack was not Winston Churchill’s brother or relative, at least not directly, though the Prime Minister did have a brother Jack who was a decorated officer in his own right.
image from hobbybunker.com