September 16: “Mad” Jack Churchill

churchill-archeryJack Churchill was an English soldier who would go out on the battlefield armed with only a longbow and a broadsword. Now, that may not sound that noteworthy, so it’s probably worth mentioning that he used these weapons during World War II! Lieutenant Colonel “Mad” Jack Churchill, born on this day in 1906, operated on a simple philosophy: “In my opinion…any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”

If Churchill’s adventures during World War II were adapted into a movie, it would be laughed at for being unrealistic. Take for instance the time he single-handedly took 42 German soldiers prisoner just by sneaking up on them with his broadsword and ordering them to surrender. Then of course, there was the time in May 1940 when Churchill launched a surprise attack on a German patrol group near L’Epinette, France. How did Churchill signal that it was time to attack? By shooting a barbed arrow from his longbow and into the head of the patrol’s sergeant. Unsurprisingly, the Germans were shocked to see one of their own taken down by an arrow, and they were quickly defeated by Churchill’s brigade.

Churchill was eventually taken captive by the Germans and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Of course, no prison could contain Churchill, and Mad Jack managed to escape through an abandoned drain. However, Churchill was soon recaptured and transferred to a prison camp in Tyrol, Austria run by the SS. Churchill began working on an escape plan the moment he arrived at the Tyrol camp, but he got very lucky one night in April 1945 when the camp’s lighting system went out. Churchill was on work detail at the time and simply dropped his tools and went running into the darkness. He spent the next eight days walking 150 miles through the Alps, surviving only on vegetables that he stole from Austrian vegetable gardens, until he met a U. S. armored column. It took a bit of time for Churchill to convince the Americans that he was not just a scruffy looking refugee, but also an English colonel, but soon enough he was sent back home to England and given a hero’s welcome.

By the time Churchill arrived home, the war in Europe was all but over, so he asked to be sent to the Pacific to continue his one man campaign against the Axis powers. So, Churchill was sent to Burma, the site of the largest land battle against the Japanese, but by the time he got there the United States had already dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, drawing World War II to a close.

After the War, Churchill still found time to be eccentric. It’s said that everyday he took the train home from work, he’d toss his briefcase out the window, much to the shock of those near him. Why did he do this? Well, Churchill later explained that he was simply tossing it into his back garden, so he wouldn’t have to carry the case from the station to his house. Churchill died in 1996 at the age of 89, but I’m sure he put up a hell of a fight before going out.

Tonight, raise a glass to Mad Jack Churchill with one of my favorite drinks, the Churchill. Although it was named for Sir Winston Churchill, I don’t think Sir Winston would mind if we borrowed his drink to honor Jack. It’s a nice strong scotch based drink, which is fitting as Jack Churchill was known to play the bagpipes on the battlefield.


  • 1 1/2 ounces Scotch Whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce Sweet Vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce Triple Sec
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: The Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico.


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