Jack Churchill

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Churchill stares down the barrel of a captured Belgian 75mm field gun.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jack Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill DSO MC,[1] (September 16, 1906March 8, 1996), nicknamed "Fighting Jack Churchill" and "Mad Jack", was a British soldier who fought throughout World War II armed with a bow, arrows and a claymore. He once said "any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed".


[edit] Early life

Born in Hong Kong to British parents and educated at King William's College on the Isle of Man, Churchill graduated from Sandhurst in 1926 and served in Burma with the Manchester Regiment. He left the army in 1936 and worked as a newspaper editor. He used his archery and bagpipe talents to play a small film role in the movie The Thief of Bagdad.

[edit] Second World War

Jack Churchill (far right) leads a training exercise, sword in hand, from a Eureka boat in Inveraray.

He resumed his commission after Poland was invaded, and volunteered for the Commandos after fighting at Dunkirk. Churchill was not sure what Commando Duty entailed, but he signed up because it sounded dangerous. 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 his barbed arrows, becoming the only known British soldier to have felled an enemy with a longbow in the course of the war.[2]

He led two companies in Operation Archery, the raid on the German garrison at Vågsøy, Norway on December 27, 1941. As the ramps fell on the first landing craft, Churchill leapt forward from his position playing The March of the Cameron Men on bagpipes,[2] throwing a grenade and began running towards the bay.

For his actions at Dunkirk and Vaasgo, Churchill received the Military Cross and Bar. He received the Distinguished Service Order in 1943 for capturing the battery at Salerno, while commanding Number 2 Commando. Leading from the front, Churchill infiltrated the town with only a corporal in support. He kidnapped a sentry and forced him to make his comrades surrender. Churchill and the riflemen walked out of town with 42 prisoners and a mortar squad.

In 1944, he led Number 2 Commando in Yugoslavia, where they supported the efforts of Tito's partisans. The commandos raided the German-held island of Brač and assaulted Hill 622. Only Churchill and six others managed to reach the objective. A mortar shell killed or wounded everyone but Churchill, who played "Will Ye No Come Back Again?" on his pipes as the Germans advanced. He was knocked unconscious by grenades and was flown to Berlin for interrogation after being captured. He was placed in Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

In September 1944, he and an RAF officer crawled under the wire through an abandoned drain and set out to walk to the Baltic coast; they were recaptured near the coastal city of Rostock, only a few miles from the sea. In late April 1945 Churchill was transferred to Tyrol together with about 140 other prominent concentration camp inmates, where the SS left the prisoners behind.[3]

He escaped from Niederdorf, Italy in April 1945 and walked 150 miles to Verona, Italy where he met an American armoured column.

As the Pacific War was still ongoing Churchill was sent to Burma, where the largest land battles against Japan were still raging, but by the time he reached India, Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been bombed, and the war abruptly ended. Churchill was said to be unhappy with the abrupt end of the war, saying it could have lasted ten more years if the Americans hadn't intervened[citation needed].

[edit] Later life

In 1946 Twentieth Century Fox was making Ivanhoe with Churchill’s old rowing companion Robert Taylor. The movie studio hired Churchill to appear as an archer, firing from the walls of Warwick Castle.

After World War II ended, Churchill qualified as a parachutist, transferred to the Seaforth Highlanders, and later ended up in Palestine as second-in-command of 1st Battalion, the Highland Light Infantry. In the spring of 1948, just before the end of the British mandate in the region, Churchill became involved in another conflict. Along with twelve of his soldiers, he attempted to assist the Hadassah medical convoy that came under attack by hundreds of Arabs.[4] Following the massacre, he coordinated the evacuation of 700 Jewish doctors, students and patients from the Hadassah hospital on the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.

In later years, Churchill served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, where he became a passionate devotee of the surfboard. Back in England, he was the first man to ride the River Severn’s five-foot tidal bore and designed his own board.

He finally retired from the army in 1959, with two awards of the Distinguished Service Order, and died in Surrey in 1996.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Both the DSO and the MC were, by the end of his military career, awarded 'with bar', denoting second awards of each medal
  2. ^ a b Young, Peter. "Commando", 1969. Ballantine Books
  3. ^ georg-elser-arbeitskreis.de (German)
  4. ^ Smith (2005)

[edit] External links

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