Scots sword-wielding WWII hero honoured by book

A World War II soldier who captured 42 German troops armed only with a Scottish sword has been ranked as one of the world’s greatest adventurers.
Lt. Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, otherwise knows as 'Fighting Jack', or simply, 'Mad Jack'. Picture: HEMEDIALt. Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, otherwise knows as 'Fighting Jack', or simply, 'Mad Jack'. Picture: HEMEDIA
Lt. Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, otherwise knows as 'Fighting Jack', or simply, 'Mad Jack'. Picture: HEMEDIA

Lt Colonel John Malcolm ‘Mad Jack’ Churchill is featured in a new book compiled by the Norwegian Royal Explorers Club which honours the finest explorers and adventurers of all time.

Churchill is known for his daring exploits, including making the last recorded bow and arrow kill in wartime, saving 500 people in Jerusalem from certain death and capturing German soldiers with the use of his Claybeg sword.

Hide Ad

When once asked about the basket-hilted blade, Churchill - who prepared his men for battle by playing bagpipes - said: “In my opinion, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”

Espen Lazarus, co-founder of the Royal Explorers Club, and researcher of the book, said: “When we first read the stories of Jack Churchill, it immediately become obvious that it would strengthen the book greatly to tell his tale.

“The common trait for all our club members is a desire for adventure and the book we are writing is a homage to the explorers that have inspired us.”

The book, which is set to be released in summer, will see the Lt Colonel commemorated among the likes of American frontiersman Hugh Glass and evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin.

The Royal Explorers Club, founded in 2003, is devoted to celebrating adventure and exploration and has members working across the globe.

Espen added: “I would rate Jack Churchill as one of, if not the most, inspirational and impressive people we have researched in relation to the book.

Hide Ad

“His key traits that contribute to this impression are of course his resilience, somewhat demanding leadership style and obvious disregard for danger.”

Churchill regularly brought his trusty basket-hilted Claybeg sword, a set of bagpipes and a longbow into battle.

Hide Ad

The Lt. Colonel’s son, Malcolm Churchill, 71, from Surrey, explained when these weapons were used.

He said: “He would use the bagpipes to rouse the troops before battle and he’s the last soldier to be credited with killing somebody with a bow and arrow.”

Mad Jack made the last ever recorded bow and arrow kill in WW2 when he shot a German officer in 1940 while holding the village of l’Epinette in France.

Malcolm added: “He and his section were in a tower and as the Germans approached he said, ‘I will shoot that first German with an arrow’ and that’s exactly what he did and they held the rest off with machine guns.”

Churchill used his bagpipes to raise the morale of his troops and lower that of the enemy. He launched into a rousing rendition of the March of the Cameron Men before raiding a German garrison in Operation Archery in Vaagso, Norway in 1941.

After recovering from an injury he sustained in the operation, he further raised his profile by leading troops through Sicily and then the landings in Salerno.

Hide Ad

It was here that, with the help of a corporal, he captured 42 German troops and a mortar crew with just the use of his Claybeg.

But on a later assignment in Yugoslavia in 1944, he and his troops were struck by a German attack and Churchill was sent to the notorious Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Hide Ad

Malcolm said: “He shouldn’t have been captured inasmuch as he was a Colonel and shouldn’t have been in the front lines.

“However he was a fighting soldier and he didn’t care much for being at the back filling out paperwork.”

True to form, Churchill managed to escape but was recaptured and sent to a PoW camp in Austria.

After escaping a second time, Churchill walked 150 miles over to Verona, Italy where he met with an American column who sent him back to England.

Despite these amazing feats, however, Mad Jack, who died in 1996 at the age of 89, didn’t spend much time boasting.

Malcolm added: “He didn’t brag about these things at all but he would be happy to talk to anyone who asked, particularly if it was over a couple of nice glasses of wine in the evening.

Hide Ad

“Mother ran the house, not him. ather was quite happy to have things quiet at home.”

Mad Jack’s civilian efforts were nearly as impressive as his wartime feats as he represented Great Britain in the 1939 World Archery Championships and played roles in films such as Ivanhoe and The Thief of Baghdad.

Hide Ad

Malcolm added: “He was slightly eccentric. He had very unusual taste but was happy so long as he was doing his own thing.”

His feats also include motorcycling across Burma and helping to save 500 Jewish doctors and patients during the Hadassah medical convoy massacre in 1948.