For many of us, sword fighting and WWII are two concepts that do not blend together. After all, the Second World War was fought with tanks, bomber planes, and high powered rifles. Swords didn’t fit on a modern battlefield. Or did they? For a soldier like Jack Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or “Mad Jack”, the practice of historical European martial arts belonged on the front lines. Mad Jack was living evidence that taking sword fighting classes in the 20th century was far from just a form of exercise.

Sword Fighting in WWII

Mad Jack Churchill brought ancient sword fighting techniques onto the modern battlefield. A trained and competent officer, Churchill was a phenomenal shot with a rifle and pistol, and an accomplished bowman and swordsman, having taken sword fighting classes for years. As war broke out in Central Europe in the 1940s, Churchill insisted on carrying a Scottish broadsword with him at all times. When asked why, he cavalierly replied: “In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”

A Little Less “Saving Private Ryan,” A Little More “Braveheart” Please

The broadsword wasn’t just for show either. Churchill actually used the sword throughout his fighting career in Europe. As the German invasion of France turned into a rout of the British Expeditionary Forces, Churchill ambushed a squad of Germans. Churchill fired the opening shot of the ambush with his longbow, killing the squad leader. Mad Jack seized the element of surprise, rushed the enemy with basket-hilted broadsword raised, and cut down several combatants before they could react.

His sword-wielding days didn’t end at Dunkirk. Churchill led of a group of British Commandos in daring raids across Norway, and Italy. During the invasion of Salerno, Italy, Mad Jack put the lessons from his sword fighting classes to good use. He captured 42 enemy soldiers using nothing but his sword.

Churchill time and time again faced overwhelming odds while fighting in WWII. Eventually, he was forced to surrender to a much larger enemy force. Before they took him captive, he played traditional marching songs on his bagpipes that he had carried with him to the front lines. Despite his capture, Mad Jack escaped from prison and was rescued by Allied soldiers.

Lessons Learned

Mad Jack Churchill embodied many of the ideas and principles that we at Baer Swords teach in our sword fighting classes. He faced his problems and made sound tactical decisions that resulted in victory more often than not. He embraced the concept of Earth and Sun and led stunning counter attacks against overwhelming odds. While Churchill was undoubtedly a disciplined man in his own right, we suspect the training he received in sword fighting added a cutting edge to his already fearsome demeanor. Mad Jack Churchill was awarded twice for his bravery in the service of Britain. Sign up for sword fighting classes from Baer Swords in Kansas City, and you too can keep the spirit of sword fighting alive in the present day.