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Any Officer Who Goes Into Action Without His Sword is Improperly Dressed

Article #177 • Written by Jason Bellows

In 1940, some of the German commanders who were overseeing the push into France began to receive seemingly random reports of soldiers having been killed with broad-head arrows or hacked with a English Claymore. Effective enough weapons it would seem, but archaic even in that day and age. They likely could have guessed the bowman was an English soldier, but they couldn’t have appreciated these as the calling card of the rabid eccentric, Captain Jack Churchill.

Jack Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill was born on 16 September 1906 in Hong Kong, to English parents, and lived his entire life with an affection for all things Scottish. He was a lifelong soldier who knew no fear, and in fact thrived on violence. He graduated the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in 1926 and was commissioned in the Manchester Regiment, but in 1932 all the peace that was roaming around Europe irritated Jack right out of the army. He spent his years off mastering the bagpipes-- an unusual hobby for a Brit-- nevertheless, it was a pastime at which he excelled. His leisure time came to an end with German’s attack on Poland, and Jack promptly re-enlisted, and was assigned back to the Manchesters. He insisted upon carrying a bow, arrows, and a sword with him into combat.

His name, being a bit of mouthful, was abbreviated by his comrades to “Fighting Jack Churchill” or sometimes just “Mad Jack”. When the English put out a call asking for commando volunteers, Jack didn’t know what a commando was, but he heard there would be more action, so he signed up.

While training for the commandos, Jack was famous among his fellow trainees for praise when earned, scolding for sloth, playing his bagpipes at 3:00 AM, and making ad hoc speeches such as: “There’s nothing worse than sitting on your bum bottom doing nothing just because the enemy happens to leave you alone for a moment while he has a go at the unit on your flank. Pitch in and support your neighbor any way you can.… ”

Commando training ended with an attack on Nord Fiord, Norway. While the two companies he commanded advanced on their target, Jack stood in the lead craft, and played on his pipes “The March of the Cameron Men”. His report at mission's end was simply: “Maaloy battery and island captured. Casualties slight. Demolitions in progress. Churchill.”

In another attack Mad Jack and one of his enlisted men managed to sneak up on a pair of German sentries making rounds. He leapt at them, sword in hand and shouted, “haende hoch!” The Germans obeyed by dropping weapons and raising their hands. One sentry was taken back to camp while the other had Jack’s belt wrapped round his throat, and together they continued the rounds. At each guard post his prisoner would say something to lull the guards into complacency, then a mustached-mad-man with a sword would jump out and order them to drop their arms. All in all, the two Brits rounded up forty-two prisoners that night.

In 1944 Jack’s luck and tenacity took a slip when he was ordered into an impossible situation. Most of his squad was killed, and Jack was taken captive. After being hauled to Berlin for questioning, he was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was meant to stay until war’s end. He might have done so, but one night the power went out, and Jack was prepared: he had a rusty can and some onions. It was all that he needed. In the darkness he just walked away and made his escape.

The rusty can became the cook pot for the Nazi occupied vegetables he “liberated” on the way. Jack stayed off the road to avoid detection, and held a steady route south until he encountered a column of tanks bearing the white star of the US Army. By the time he stepped out of the brush and snapped out a passable Sandhurst salute he’d been free for eight days and had walked 150 miles.

By the time Colonel Churchill was back in action, the war in Europe was almost ended. Never one to let circumstances get him down Jack asked to be redeployed because, “there are still the Nips, aren’t there?” By the time he got there, however, the atomic bomb had been dropped and the war was over.

Mad Jack continued in the army and until 1959, after having qualified as a paratrooper and serving in the Palestine conflict. Even in retirement his eccentricity continued. He startled train conductors and passenger by throwing his attaché out of the train window each day on the ride home. Before he died in 1996, he explained that he was tossing his case into his own backyard so he wouldn’t have to carry it from the station. Seems perfectly reasonable for a man who said “people are less likely to shoot at you if you smile at them” and “In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”

Article written by Jason Bellows, published on 06 May 2006. Jason is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows. Article suggested by Connor M..
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50 Comments
another viewpoint
Posted 06 May 2006 at 03:32 pm

Great Ceaser's Ghost...ALL HAIL FREDONIA!


Prince
Posted 06 May 2006 at 03:56 pm

first of all its cAEsar. And what the hell is Fredonia? if you mean scotland, then the word your thinking of is Caledonia


APA7HY
Posted 06 May 2006 at 03:57 pm

Jack was undoubtedly a badass.


Mark
Posted 06 May 2006 at 04:06 pm

Wow, that's so interesting! And, actually, hilarious -- that briefcase thing is the best thing I have ever heard.


Xiphias
Posted 06 May 2006 at 05:00 pm

Article said: "He spent his years off mastering the bagpipes– an unusual hobby for a Brit"

I think you mean an Englishman there, Scotland is part of the British Isles.


whittington
Posted 06 May 2006 at 05:36 pm

An "English" Claymore sword?
Robert the Bruce is turning in his grave, as that weapon is 100% Scottish, not some Pommie invention.


Mandolin
Posted 06 May 2006 at 05:38 pm

I know that *I* never go into battle without my bows, arrows, and sword. This Jack and I, we are birds of a feather.


RichVR
Posted 06 May 2006 at 06:07 pm

Prince said: "first of all its cAEsar. And what the hell is Fredonia? if you mean scotland, then the word your thinking of is Caledonia"

Obviously not a Marx Brothers fan.


Kevin
Posted 06 May 2006 at 06:49 pm

What a badass.


Texas Fred
Posted 06 May 2006 at 07:13 pm

Just found the site and it does look damn Interesting.. I must get a Claymore sword...:-})


Ralesk
Posted 06 May 2006 at 08:45 pm

Not counting the nitpicks, excellent — great choice for Damn Interesting; I had much fun reading about him. One awesome soldier.


Crispy
Posted 06 May 2006 at 08:51 pm

Damn Interesting indeed! He sounds like a total nutcase. :-)


grey matter
Posted 06 May 2006 at 09:47 pm

Article said: "In the darkness he just walked away and made his escape."

wasnt there any security?
'walked away' makes it sound as if he were a guest there


Jason Bellows
Posted 06 May 2006 at 10:00 pm

whittington said: "An "English" Claymore sword?

Robert the Bruce is turning in his grave, as that weapon is 100% Scottish, not some Pommie invention."

I concur, actually. The Claymore is a giant Scottish sword, and the English created one later that was called by the same name most of the time, though technially the later is a Claybeg. Instead of going into the history of swords though, I adopted the axiom.


Prince
Posted 07 May 2006 at 12:51 am

RichVR said: "Obviously not a Marx Brothers fan."

wow, you are the smart one. Fill in the blank. It took me ______ hours to figure that out.


the100thmonkey
Posted 07 May 2006 at 03:02 am

i have a new hero :D


another viewpoint
Posted 07 May 2006 at 06:13 am

Reference to Fredonia was not with regards to the Marx Bros (although I had forgotten 'bout that), but rather a movie call, The Mouse That Roared. The story line went something like this...Fredonia plumbing was in terrible condition, but they didn't have th means to upgrade it. They thought they would declare war on the US, knowing full well that they couldn't win the war. Instead, the US would destroy the country and then pay to rebuild it...and Fredonia would therefore get their new plumbing system.

As for Mad Jack...where is he when you need him most. Could have certainly used his services in Tora Bora! Go Jack!


1c3d0g
Posted 07 May 2006 at 07:49 am

Excellent story. Mad Jack is a winner, and deserves a well-earned applause.

/me claps e-hands... ;-)


Stuart
Posted 07 May 2006 at 08:23 am

another viewpoint said: "Reference to Fredonia was not with regards to the Marx Bros (although I had forgotten ’bout that), but rather a movie call, The Mouse That Roared. The story line went something like this…Fredonia plumbing was in terrible condition, but they didn't have th means to upgrade it. They thought they would declare war on the US, knowing full well that they couldn't win the war. Instead, the US would destroy the country and then pay to rebuild it…and Fredonia would therefore get their new plumbing system.


As for Mad Jack…where is he when you need him most. Could have certainly used his services in Tora Bora! Go Jack!"

The fictional small European country in 'The Mouse That Roared' was called 'The Duchy of Grand Fenwick'. Freedonia is, as Another Viewpoint said, the fictional nation from the Marx Brothers film 'Duck Soup'.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mouse_That_Roared

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_Soup


ScottMaximus
Posted 07 May 2006 at 09:00 am

I know I would surrender to any crazed British man with a large sword.


alias
Posted 07 May 2006 at 10:40 am

So what exactly did he do with the rusty can and onions? How did he use them to escape? I didn't understand the partabout the german vegetables he liberated, could somebody explain?


mojotoad
Posted 07 May 2006 at 10:41 am

Regarding Fredonia, etc, the citizens of Key West actually did this when they formed the 'Conch Republic' in response to a blockade:

http://www.conchrepublic.com/republic_position.htm

Cheers,
Matt


Xiphias
Posted 07 May 2006 at 11:10 am

alias said: "I didn't understand the partabout the german vegetables he liberated, could somebody explain?"

It's a joke I think, liberate is both the act of freeing something from oppression and it's also a modern euphemism for theft. So while he stole vegatables to keep him alive you also get the image of a man helping oppressed vegatables throw off the evil nazi rule.

Then again, maybe I'm just seeing funny things where they weren't intended.


just_dave
Posted 07 May 2006 at 12:14 pm

people are less likely to shoot at you if you smile at them.

That is classic. As is the briefcase thing!

Definitely a guy you want on your side.


Stuart
Posted 07 May 2006 at 12:42 pm

alias said: "So what exactly did he do with the rusty can and onions? How did he use them to escape?"

The rusty can he used as a cooking pot (as explained in the article) and the can of onions, I assume, were taken as a source of food for the long journey he had to reach friendly territory, as he can't have known for sure whether he'd be able to 'liberate' any other food along the way.


sierra_club_sux
Posted 07 May 2006 at 05:45 pm

Buy that man a beer. ...then hope he doesn't drown you with it and slit your friend's throat with the glass...


Alexalamode
Posted 07 May 2006 at 10:03 pm

He was the Chuck Norris of World War 2.


white_matter
Posted 07 May 2006 at 10:04 pm

Awesome. Friggin Awesome.

But I don't know about the whole "I've got a sword, throw down your guns" thing.

Think Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc. (I hear they're making a 4th one, by the way)


karilyn
Posted 08 May 2006 at 04:41 am

often had the idea of throwing my shopping out the window rather than carry it home, but someone might nick it. sure it would have been a fool to steal of mad jack


Admiral_Dread
Posted 08 May 2006 at 04:45 am

Yes, this guy is the best. And I was thinking that the onions was to mask his trail from dogs, if they bothered to go after him...


Carcer
Posted 08 May 2006 at 11:07 am

I.......LOVE......THIS.......MAN!


Berkana
Posted 09 May 2006 at 01:16 am

I wonder who would win if you put this guy and that "liver-eating Johnson" bad-ass in the octagon.


alias
Posted 09 May 2006 at 11:06 am

Liver eating johnson seems the more ruthless of the 2.


leob1
Posted 09 May 2006 at 07:07 pm

Mad Jack was more than a badass, he was atrue BMF if there ever was one.


Spike
Posted 11 May 2006 at 04:10 pm

Wow, a role model for McGyver. You have to love this guy!


verybigj
Posted 18 May 2006 at 06:33 pm

This is likely the greatest thing I have ever read on the internet.


WolfManDragon
Posted 22 June 2006 at 06:25 am

white_matter said: "


But I don't know about the whole "I've got a sword, throw down your guns" thing.
"

Any long blade has an advantage over a gun at close range. That’s why there are bayonets that can be attached to the end of battle rifles.
The broadsword version of the claymore, more commonly know as the basket-hilted claymore, which is the version that I am assuming that he used, is one hell of a close- quarters weapon.
If it was the original version of the Claymore, 4 foot of naked steel is enough to scare the crap out of anyone.


me09
Posted 08 July 2006 at 03:12 pm

Carcer said: "I…….LOVE……THIS…….MAN!"

I know!!!! He's like some modern Don Quijote de la Mancha walking around the place. Wonder who kept his sword after his death...


rodb
Posted 17 July 2006 at 09:26 pm

Great story! That is some funny (and admirable) stuff!
Love the briefcase touch. Makes sense I guess.


Xystus
Posted 05 August 2006 at 04:53 am

We need more people like this in the Occident--& in my local pipe band! Funny I'd never heard of him--& with all his violent adventures, he lived to *90*!


Leeroy
Posted 08 April 2007 at 03:27 pm

He isn't a madman nor a BMF, rather a brave and bold man.


igorbeevor
Posted 21 August 2007 at 06:25 am

Erm...Claymores are not English, but Scottish Highland...another example of ignorance...Or English arrogance?

Would have been nice article had I continued reading, but was too insulted...Please, author, please would you correct your mistake so I can read this?


Former-Marine
Posted 10 November 2007 at 12:11 am

Oorah! Jack Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill would have made a damn-fine U.S. Marine. Thanks for the story.


Former-Marine
Posted 10 November 2007 at 12:14 am

By the way, just in case you were wondering, today - 10 November 2007 - is the 232nd U.S. Marine Corps Birthday. That's right sports fans, the U.S. Marine Corps is "older" than the USofA. Oorah!


Vinko
Posted 19 November 2007 at 04:39 pm

igorbeevor said: "Erm…Claymores are not English, but Scottish Highland…another example of ignorance…Or English arrogance?

Would have been nice article had I continued reading, but was too insulted…Please, author, please would you correct your mistake so I can read this?"

Had you not been so horrendously offended, I am sure you would have read the earlier comment of the author explaining the usage of the word.
By the way, Chuck Norris has Nothing on this guy. And that’s saying ALOT.


Watcher
Posted 02 August 2008 at 08:30 pm

"all the peace that was roaming around Europe irritated Jack right out of the army."

LOL!


sweeper
Posted 28 November 2008 at 06:14 am

ok, old thread, but in response to the athor's comment

"I concur, actually. The Claymore is a giant Scottish sword, and the English created one later that was called by the same name most of the time, though technially the later is a Claybeg. Instead of going into the history of swords though, I adopted the axiom"

spelling mistakes aside, the claymore (big sword in anglicised Scottish Gaelic) refers to two different swords, a large, 2 handed weapon and a smaller broadsword, often with a basket hilt. Claybeg means small sword, and is, as its name suggests, a smaller sword. Churchill carried the broadsword-type claymore, not a claybeg. None of these weapons were created by the English (hint: the names of the weapons come from the Gaelic). I think the reason the author doesn't go into the history of swords is that he knows sod-all about it.

Oh, and bagpiping is not that an unusual hobby for a Brit, I see at least one bagpiper most days and I live in Britain.


yupodium
Posted 16 April 2009 at 06:26 am

me09 said: "I know!!!! He's like some modern Don Quijote de la Mancha walking around the place. Wonder who kept his sword after his death…"

actually, his sword was put into a museum, and i don't remember, but i think his bow was as well.


Lord Flasheart
Posted 17 June 2011 at 02:17 am

Why has this not been made into a movie?


Paul Joseph Hershey
Posted 22 February 2014 at 04:19 pm

yupodium said: "me09 said: "I know!!!! He's like some modern Don Quijote de la Mancha walking around the place. Wonder who kept his sword after his death…"
actually, his sword was put into a museum, and i don't remember, but i think his bow was as well."

OH...his sword is in a Museum? Really? WHERE? I would have thought it was confiscated during his capture and therefore lost. I would be interested in seeing this real 'mythological' sword of the great Jack Churchill. As an Archer myself, I'd also like to see his bow as well. MORE INFO PLEASE! - pjh


END OF COMMENTS
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