Rob Forsyth
Tom (l) and Jack (r) probably in 1939 before the regiment went off to France
A German photo of Jack outside HQ 118 Jäger Div Near Mostar (Jugoslavia) in June 1944. He was captured during the diversionary attack on Brac (to take the heat off Tito). Tom was in London at a Combined Forces HQ meeting at the time.
Robert (Buster) in the uniform of a naval lieutenant. His Fleet Air Arm pilots 'wings' can just be seen on his left arm.
                                      Photographs are courtesy of Toby Churchill, Tom's son

Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe (Jack) Churchill DSO* MC*(1906-96)

Jack (known as  'Mad Jack' by his contemporaries) grew up in the Far East and was educated at Dragon School & Magdalen College, Oxford, before joining RMC Sandhurst (1924) and was commissioned into 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment in 1926. He served in Burma and India until 1932, including service in the 1930-32 Rebellion in Burma for which he received the Indian General Service Medal with Burma clasp - the first of many ribbons. He resigned in 1936 because he found peace time soldiering too boring but remained on the Regular Army Reserve of Officers (RARO). He represented Britain in the 1939 world archery championships in Oslo. On outbreak of war he immediately rejoined his regiment on which the regimental wag commented "things have come to a pretty pass when they are calling up the bowmen". He served with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France and Belgium and was evacuated via Dunkirk. Almost immediately afterwards he joined the Commando Brigade.

John Churchill, who very kindly provided a pdf version of The Churchill Chronicles written by Tom Churchill, has this to say about his relative...

"Jack Churchill was one of the the most famous British soldiers of WW2, being the last person in the British Army to slay an enemy with his bow and arrow, near Dunkirk, during the retreat and evacuation. He was an international archer in his spare time.

His obituary in the Daily Telegraph is on the internet and is a quite remarkable read. He led commando raids up beaches whilst playing his bagpipes and brandishing a claymore! During the Sicily campaign he crept into a heavily defended village at night with a Corporal, referred to as his "half back", and they disarmed and captured the entire defending force, whilst he was armed with his sword, leading one prisoner away with his revolver lanyard around the unfortunate mans neck with a knife stuck  in his back.

He was later captured after a Commando attack in Yugoslavia in which he was playing on the bagpipes "Will ye no go come back again" after his ammunition had run out and his commandos and partisans were driven back. Because of his name, he was flown to Berlin and incarcerated in a concentration camp with several German political prisoners. He tunneled out of this camp but was recaptured and returned to  a POW camp from which he escaped and after traveling for many days was rescued by a US patrol.

Readers of this article will be intrigued by his obituary in the Daily Telegraph. Jack was recommended for the VC and the family hold a copy of the letter of recommendation signed by the overall Commando Brigade commander, for the escapade in Sicily, but this was reduced to a DSO, possibly due  to the Errol Flynn appearance and techniques he employed in his exploits. The Authorities would perhaps not wish to create a legend out of such unlikely and far fetched methods."

Some of Jack's extra-ordinary exploits as a commando were recorded in a 23 page memoir Unlimited Boldness written by his life-long friend and fellow soldier Rex King-Clark. It is now out of print; however, with the very kind approval of Mrs King-Clark and the help of John Churchill, I published an anthology of Rex's writings on Jack under the imprint 'Oxon Publishing'. PDF copies can be purchased for £10 from myself by email or the book itself from Deddington Library.


  • Jack talked on tape to the Imperial War Museum (IWM) about his war experiences in seven separate recordings. The link takes you to an IWM page which contains a synopsis of the contents of each recording and links to each recording.



Jack can also be seen playing his pipes in a contemporary news reel clip following a commando raid on Vaagso in Norway 27 December 1941 known as Operation Archery. Jack appears briefly at 9 minutes and 8 secs into the recording


Major General Thomas (Tom) Bell Lindsay Churchill CB CBE MC (1907-90)

Tom also grew up in the Far East and was educated at Dragon School & Magdalen College, Oxford, before joining RMC Sandhurst in 1925 and then joining his elder brother in the 2nd Battalion, Manchester Regiment, in 1927 to go to Burma where he was awarded the MC for his actions against  insurgents in the Burma rebellion.

From 1934 onwards he became the three services expert in the interpretation of air photographs and was acting in that role with the British Expeditionary Force in France at the start of WWII returning to England after (but not via) Dunkirk.

In 1942 he joined the Commando Brigade where his brother Jack was already serving. He took part in the Salerno landings and was then given command of the 2nd Commando Brigade in Italy and took part in the Anzio landings. Soon afterwards he attacked and captured Monte Ornito in the Appennines. During all this period he was in regular contact with his brother commanding No 2 Commando.

In March 1944, in conjunction with his brother, he took command of the Yugoslav island of Vis where Marshal Tito retired to 3 months later when he was driven out of his country by a German attack on Montenegro. It was from Vis that Tito planned the setting up of a Yugoslav Government when Belgrade was liberated. Tom got to know the Marshall well. It of interest that serving on Tom's staff was the oldest man on active service in WWII - the remarkable Admiral Sir Walter Cowan aged 74! More about why and how the Admitral served can be found HERE.

Tom's final battle was against the Germans was in Albania where his capture of the port of Sarande led to Corfu being liberated.

Post war he served successively as Zone Commander in Austria until 1949, at the War Office in London, attended Imperial Defence College and then was a staff officer at Western Command, Chester. From 1955-57 he was in charge of Administration for GHQ, Far East land Forces, Singapore during which time he played a major role in the military arrangements for Malayan Independence. From 1957-60 he was Vice-Quarter Master General to the Forces. His final appointment was as Deputy Chief of Staff, Allied Land Forces, Europe before retiring in 1962.

Tom authored his own book Commando Crusade recounting his military career. This is now out of print but copies can still be obtained (2014) on the internet and can also be borrowed from Deddington Library.

His obituary in the Daily Telegraph containing more detail can be found HERE. 

Lieutenant Robert Farquhar (Buster) Churchill MD Royal Navy (1911-42)

Buster joined the Navy and was present at the Invergordon Mutiny in 1931. He subsequently left the service but rejoined in 1939 serving on minesweepers. He transferred to to the Fleet Air Arm in 1941 and was a pilot in 884 Squadron embarked on the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious tasked with protecting a convoy to Malta known as Operation Pedestal. He was shot down and killed in action on 12 August 1942. Before he was shot down Buster had destroyed two heavily armed Italian reconnaissance Cant aircraft. The convoy reached Malta but at a very high cost. An account of its struggle to reach Malta and the heavy losses it incurred can be found HERE.

He is remembered on Bay 3, Panel 1 of the Fleet Air Arm Memorial at Lee on Solent*, a family stone plaque on the wall of Deddington Parish Church and the War Memorial Plaque inside the church.

He was the husband of Olive H D Churchill (née Townroe) of Cuckfield, Sussex.

*This Memorial can be found on the waterfront at the head of the sea plane and hovercraft slip way into what was formerly HMS Daedalus Air Station.

The History of the Churchill Family in Deddington

 Please click on this LINK