Mad Jack Churchill: WWII’s infamous British bagpipe player and swordsman
Back in World War II, there was a Lieutenant Colonel named John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill but his friends mostly called him “Mad Jack.” Rest assured, this guy lived up to his nickname by being a little crazy in all the most awesome ways. A born adventurer, instead of strapping on a machine gun for WW2, Mad Jack showed up brandishing a longbow, a sword, and his trusty bagpipes. He then proceeded to go all medieval on Hitler’s forces in ways the Keiser never saw coming.
Born to be mad
Though Mad Jack was born to British parents, it would have been way too boring to have been birthed on English soil. So instead, he was born in Hong Kong in 1906 and spent a few years kicking around China before moving back to England with the folks in 1917. He went on to graduate from the Royal Military College in 1926 and was recruited to the Manchesters, a famed British fighting regiment. He served in the Burma Rebellion, once reporting for duty after driving his motorcycle 1,500 miles back from India, where he’d hopped over to for a minute to attend a course. Apparently he even accidentally crashed it into an unamused water buffalo on the way back, but that didn’t stop him from showing up to fight.
After that particular stint of military service was done, he occupied himself with the same things any off-duty soldier would. He worked as a newspaper editor in Kenya, became a model, starred in two feature films, became a world-class archer, and oh yeah, learned to play the bagpipes. So, you know, the usual.
Mad Jack joins the Allies
Well just as Jack had been getting into the swing of competing in the World Archery Championships in Oslo, Norway, the Germans came along and started declaring war on everybody. Having perfected his archery skills, Jack showed up ready for action. While most guys turned to machine guns, the popular weapon at the time, Jack hadn’t spent all those years perfecting his sword and longbow skills for nothing. He often went into battle insisting on utilizing both, but only when he wasn’t walking around throwing grenades while he played the bagpipes.
Among his most brilliantly mad moments came during the Dunkirk evacuation in May of 1940, when he found himself leading his infantry after his commander had been wounded. The plan was to attack this German patrol unit that the Brits knew was going to be coming their way. So all of his fellow soldiers took to hiding spots while Jack climbed up in this tower and told them to await his signal. Well, the German unit did indeed show up and what was the attack signal for the Brits to be? Mad Jack straight-up shooting the Germans’ sergeant in the neck with an arrow and thrusting his sword into the air as he screamed “charge!” Jack then joined his boys in the fight, killed five German guys with the sword, and took out two others with the revolver he had in his left hand. The Germans surrendered and Mad Jack became a legend.
Bringin’ madness back
As impressive as this feat sounds, Mad Jack’s exploits weren’t over yet. At another battle, he managed to capture 42 German soldiers with nothing but the aforementioned sword and revolver. He kept on swashbuckling and bagpiping his way across Italy, Norway, Yugoslavia, and everywhere in between. Though you might think the guy with the bagpipes would be the first to go, Mad Jack proved to be quite a different story. He went on to be captured a couple of times, but uninterested in being a P.O.W., he escaped not one, but two, German prisoner-of-war camps.
Despite, or perhaps because of the bravery involved in, his antics, Jack lived on to the ripe old age of 89 and died on his own terms in 1996 in Southern England.