In the WWII era, when all sorts of modern weaponry exist like guns and tanks, and bombs, one warrior emerges amidst the battlefield with nothing but his longbow, sword, and… bagpipe? Yep, that’s Mad Jack.
Who is Mad Jack?
Before he became “Mad Jack” or “Fighting Jack Churchill,” he was plain John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, a British born in British Ceylon. His father, John Fleming Churchill, also served in the army. He was a graduate of King William’s College on the Isle of Man and Royal Military College in Sandhurst, England. In 1926, he was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion in the Manchester Regiment. There, he acquired his excellent bagpipe talent under the Pipe Major of the Cameron Highlanders.
When he joined his battalion in Rangoon, he was tasked to do a signals course in Poona. According to historic.uk.com, “On completion, he drove a Zenith motorcycle 1,500 miles across the Indian subcontinent, crashing into a water buffalo at one point. In Burma, he used to cross railway bridges that had open sleepers by stepping onto the sleepers and pushing his bike along the rails.”
The army life didn’t seem interesting enough for him, so he left and pursued a career as an actor and entertainer. It is said that he appeared in a film called “The Thief of Baghdad” in 1924, where he showed off his archery skills. He was also a participant at the World Archery Championships in 1939.
Jack in the War
When the Second World War broke, Jack was recalled as part of the British Expeditionary Force, an army sent to France after Britain and France declared war against the Nazis.
In May 1940, Jack and his comrades ambushed a German patrol near L’Épinette. When the first Nazi soldier appeared, he shot and killed him with his longbow. Also, his way of signaling the troops to attack was by raising his sword. As he said, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”
It was also reported “that Churchill encouraged his men by playing his bagpipes. In fact, Churchill leaped into action playing the “March of the Cameron Men” on the pipes and then hurled the first grenade before charging onwards. He was wearing a basket-hilted sword of the claybeg type.”
In 1944, Mad Jack led the commandos in Yugoslavia on the Island of Brac, where he was captured. Everyone, except him, was killed and wounded. Jack was just there playing “Will Ye No Come Back Again” on his bagpipes as the German advanced. He was caught and imprisoned and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. His captors thought he might be related to Winston Churchill, so he was locked up with other prominent prisoners, along with others whom they thought might be associated with Winston Churchill.
Mad Jack, of course, dug his way out with the help of a fellow Royal Air Force prisoner. They were caught and transferred to a supposedly more secured prison. Well, it looked like it wasn’t secured enough because he escaped again. They found him a few days later walking across the Brenner Pass to Italy.
If you want to see our guy in action, you can watch his footage here:
It was said that Mad Jack wasn’t exactly happy when the war ended, saying, “If it wasn’t for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going another 10 years!”
The Madness Continued
After the war, Jack worked as a parachutist and transferred to the Seaforth Highlanders and then to the Highland Light Infantry. When he returned to England, he became part of the Army Apprentices scheme and continued his love for motorcycling by participating in motor speed trials.
Whenever he rode a train on his way home, he would shock passengers by suddenly throwing his briefcase out to the window, probably thinking the man had gotten mad. They didn’t know he was aiming it into his garden as the train moved past it.
John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill died at the age of 89 in Surrey.
Like Victor Strand said, “The only way to survive a mad world is to embrace the madness.” Clearly, Mad Jack proved that to us right.