We couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried.
Our Unsung Heroes series brings history’s unknown badasses out of the footnotes and into the spotlight.
Imagine you’re going to war against one of the most fearsome armies in the world. You have no idea if you’ll make it home alive. You’d probably want the most powerful and technologically advanced weapon your country has to offer, right?
Not if you’re Lieutenant Colonel Jack Churchill. If you were him, you’d only need a sword, a bow and arrow and some bagpipes.
Born John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, “Mad Jack” learned to play the bagpipes while serving in the 2nd Battalion of the British Army’s Manchester Regiment in Burma (which is now Myanmar).
But the call of duty never left Churchill, and the outbreak of World War II convinced him to go back to the army. England “got into a jam in my absence,” he reportedly said.
The German invasion of Poland pushed Churchill to return to the British Army, where he was promptly sent to patrol France in 1939. This was before the Nazis began their blitzkrieg attack on the French, and Churchill became bored with the lack of action. So he volunteered to help defend Finland against the invading Soviet army. Sadly for Churchill, the British canceled their plans for this operation following a peace treaty that ended the conflict.
He would have to settle for a fight against the Germans.
In May 1940, the Nazis began their invasion of France and Belgium, prompting the British Army to deploy Churchill and the Manchester Regiment to defend western Europe. According to Warfare History Network, Churchill once again found himself in France as a second in command of his company — only now he was surrounded by battle, which he had so desperately wanted.
Chuchill’s crowning achievement in badassery during this time was an ambush he orchestrated at L’Epinette, France. During the early days of the blitzkrieg in May 1940, a German force pushed its way toward the small village. British troops were already retreating toward the English channel, but they needed soldiers to hold the Germans off as they moved. With his commander wounded, Churchill took direct command of the company.
Luckily for the British, Churchill had made up his mind about kicking ass that day. The crazy commander launched an arrow at the Germans, striking one soldier in the chest and signaling his troops to open fire. This was the last recorded military kill attributed to a longbow, according to The Daily Mail.
The retreat, which is known as the Dunkirk Evacuation, was a success due to the actions of Churchill and others like him.
However, Mad Jack didn’t end his military career there. Vice tells the story of him playing “The March of The Cameron Men” as he led his men into battle against the Nazis at Vågsøy Island, Norway in December 1941.
You can’t tell me you wouldn’t be terrified of a guy playing that as you’re shooting at him.
Mad Jack’s story doesn’t stop there. A botched operation to capture an important hill in 1944 resulted in the Nazis decimating Churchill’s unit. The Germans eventually captured him and sent him to a concentration camp. Churchill’s first attempt at escape failed, but his second was successful due to a electricity outage. He was able to walk 150 miles to Italy, according to Warfare History Network.
While he excelled in the chaos of battle, Churchill’s life wasn’t all about death and destruction. After the war ended, he devoted himself to a number of different disciplines. He learned how to surf and he and his wife took up sailing. In the end, Mad Jack lived to the ripe old age of 89.
We can only hope he’s up there somewhere playing the bagpipes and kicking Nazi ass.