"Mad Jack" Churchill
January 31, 2010 9:26 PM   Subscribe

In May of 1940, "Mad Jack" Churchill became the only man in WWII to record a kill with a longbow.

Lt. Col. John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill is a man of many stories:
- He became one of the first British commandos, serving in Norway, Italy, and Yugoslavia.
- He carried a claymore into battle, and at one point captured 42 Germans armed only with his sword.
- He also played the bagpipes in battle; when he was captured in 1944, out of ammunition, he played his bagpipes until knocked out by a grenade.
- He was saved from death under the Commando Order by a German officer, and later escaped twice from camps.
- After the war, he became an avid surfer, and was the first to surf the Severn tidal bore.

The full story is in the first link: a profile of Jack Churchill. (via)
posted by Upton O'Good (41 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
That was cool. Thanks for the tip. I'd never heard of this guy but he's well worth reading about.
posted by irisclara at 10:07 PM on January 31, 2010


Wow. That guy is pure brilliant. A nutter, but great.
posted by Artw at 10:10 PM on January 31, 2010


Brewed a terrible cup of tea though.
posted by Abiezer at 10:11 PM on January 31, 2010


My favorite bit from the story:

"When asked why he was carrying an umbrella while marching on parade, he replied, "It's raining, sir."
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:12 PM on January 31, 2010


What a larger-than-life character. I'd quite like to see these exploits captured in a movie, but I'm too afraid that Hollywood would take a look around & say "Hm, we need an Englishman...get Hugh Grant on the line!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:16 PM on January 31, 2010


Oh my what a character.
posted by gomichild at 10:33 PM on January 31, 2010


I'm too afraid that Hollywood would take a look around & say "Hm, we need an Englishman...get Hugh Grant on the line!"

That would never happen. They'd get Brad Pitt and make him copy Dick Van Dyke's "Mary Poppins" accent.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:49 PM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Ooooooh, it's a jolly 'oliday with Naaaziiis..."
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:53 PM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thanks for that Upton, what a great biography!
posted by Glow Bucket at 11:21 PM on January 31, 2010


I'd pay 10$ to watch Hugh Grant get blown up while playing the bagpipes.
posted by mannequito at 11:31 PM on January 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


He also played the bagpipes in battle; when he was captured in 1944, out of ammunition, he played his bagpipes until knocked out by a grenade.

"Mad Jack played the bagpipes magnificently: he could knock out an entire battalion of Krauts with a single note. They retaliated with Wagner, though. Bloody Nazis."
posted by Skeptic at 11:37 PM on January 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Unsurprisingly, Mad Jack does figure in the Badass of the Week website.
posted by Skeptic at 11:40 PM on January 31, 2010


Here we go idolizing snipers again.
posted by koeselitz at 12:04 AM on February 1, 2010


Paging Ted Nugent.
posted by Balisong at 12:14 AM on February 1, 2010


Those were dangerous days, with much blood—Jewish, Arab and British—shed by Arab terrorists and by Jewish radicals

...
posted by GeorgeBickham at 12:21 AM on February 1, 2010


I'd pay 10$ to watch Hugh Grant get blown up while playing the bagpipes.

Some combinations of some of those words occur in Lair of the White Worm.
posted by Artw at 12:51 AM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've read about the bow and arrow thing before - in this case clearly just a bit of a lark, but you do wonder whether in the trenches of WWI Henry V's archers - using a weapon that basically comes at you out of the sky rather than horizontally - might have been quite effective.
posted by Phanx at 2:16 AM on February 1, 2010


If it didn't work with girt big lumps of iron and high explosive I'm going to guess that a bit of wood with an arrowhead wouldn't exactly shake the foundations of the German trench system.
posted by longbaugh at 2:29 AM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


'Then there was the day on which he appeared on parade carrying an umbrella, a mortal sin in any army. When asked by the battalion adjutant what he meant by such outlandish behavior, Churchill replied “because it’s raining, sir,” an answer not calculated to endear him to the frozen soul of any battalion adjutant.'

This guy seems like equal parts Ace Rimmer and Hunter S Thompson.
posted by Thoth at 3:11 AM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm told my grandfather used to shoot arrows at German planes. Not trying to shoot them down so much as for the effect "We're fighting a bunch of maniacs who are even shooting arrows at us. What the heck are we meant to do?"
posted by Francis at 3:56 AM on February 1, 2010


you do wonder whether in the trenches of WWI Henry V's archers - using a weapon that basically comes at you out of the sky rather than horizontally - might have been quite effective.

Like a trench mortar, for example?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:39 AM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


So we can safely assume that Churchill "went commando" while going commando (while going, "Commando!" apparently) then?
posted by Pollomacho at 4:54 AM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


you do wonder whether in the trenches of WWI Henry V's archers - using a weapon that basically comes at you out of the sky rather than horizontally - might have been quite effective.

Like a trench mortar, for example?


Or fléchettes, for that matter.
posted by Skeptic at 5:09 AM on February 1, 2010


I was expecting someone who successfully used a sword in a modern battle to look… bigger, I guess. Yet he still looks so perfectly British, with his smart mustache.

Good show, 'ol chap!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:31 AM on February 1, 2010


Here we go idolizing snipers again.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:36 AM on February 1, 2010


Lt. Col. John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill is a man of many stories names.
posted by The Whelk at 5:50 AM on February 1, 2010


> - He was saved from death under the Commando Order by a German officer, and later escaped twice from camps.

So the villain's got our hero in his clutches, the guy who's been singlehandedly harrying scores of enemy troops... and instead of killing him on the spot, he puts the guy away?

James Bond's not totally fiction after all.
posted by ardgedee at 6:01 AM on February 1, 2010


Um, I wouldn't call that German officer a villain, given that his display of chivalry there both saved Churchill's life and potentially could have cost him his own. Churchill agreed, and saved the man from the Russians after the war.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:43 AM on February 1, 2010


If only the War wasn't so horrific we'd hear more of the gallows humour and bizarreness that was noted.

My Grandad was an artillery major with the Brits; jaunty cap, bottlebrush mustache, and idiot grin- at least in all the company pictures I'd seen. Gran told me that he kept being busted down in rank for looting. No, not priceless works of art, fine wine, or silverwear, but hats. Which he would wear in those idiot pictures.

They had to keep promoting him because there was no one else to command the team- and having a private yell orders at a corporal is unseemly, don't you know.
posted by LD Feral at 6:43 AM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


They need to make a movie about this guy...
posted by LakesideOrion at 7:28 AM on February 1, 2010


"I maintain that, as long as you tell a German loudly and clearly what to do, if you are senior to him he will cry 'jawohl' (yes sir) and get on with it enthusiastically and efficiently whatever the situation."

Priceless. Thanks for this post.
posted by arcticseal at 7:28 AM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um, I wouldn't call that German officer a villain, given that his display of chivalry there both saved Churchill's life and potentially could have cost him his own.

Given that the order was illegal, I don't know if "chivalry" is exactly the right word.
posted by DU at 7:43 AM on February 1, 2010


After all my years of visiting mefi, whodathunkit: I'm having trouble reading white text on a blue background.

Good post, though!
posted by kimota at 9:42 AM on February 1, 2010


He carried a claymore into battle, and at one point captured 42 Germans armed only with his sword.

Photo?
posted by Kabanos at 9:45 AM on February 1, 2010


Kabanos: "He carried a claymore into battle, and at one point captured 42 Germans armed only with his sword.

Photo?
"

That doesn't look big enough to be a claymore.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:30 AM on February 1, 2010


That doesn't look big enough to be a claymore.

From the first link:

As befitted his love of things Scottish, Churchill carried the basket-hilted claymore (technically a claybeg, the true claymore being an enormous two-handed sword).
posted by Pollomacho at 11:56 AM on February 1, 2010


See also.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:59 AM on February 1, 2010


He also played the bagpipes in battle; when he was captured in 1944, out of ammunition, he played his bagpipes until knocked out by a grenade.

For the record, I'm loving the idea that he wasn't knocked out by an exploding grenade, but by the half pound lump of metal sailing through the air with the pin still in it.

As if some German soldier was just so fucking sick of hearing those pipes that he just launched it the same way someone would traditionally throw a shoe at a cat in heat, and as a weird piece of luck managed to connect with Churchill's head.

Because that would be cinematically the most amusing way to present it.
posted by quin at 2:39 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


If only the War wasn't so horrific we'd hear more of the gallows humour and bizarreness that was noted.

If you're interested and aren't already familiar with them, Spike Milligan's war memoirs are a mixture of gallows humour and bizarreness, with a bit of horror as well. Try Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:46 AM on February 2, 2010


I remember reading about Mad Jack in Cracked of all places...

"If it wasn't for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years!"

He really was like a Garth Ennis character come to life, only slightly less believable
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:08 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


As if some German soldier was just so fucking sick of hearing those pipes

You know, quin, they didn't specify who threw the grenade.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:38 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


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