The heroes of Call of Duty Vanguard are audacious in their Nazi-smashing theatrics. Taking on entire armies single-handily, while surviving near-death experiences and nail-biting set-pieces that would result in the premature death of many a lesser video game protagonist. Surely though, with such ridiculously over-the-top moments on explosive display, there can be no real-life counterpart. Surely, no soldier who really fought in WW2 could come close to matching their bonkers gung-ho machismo? Right? Very, very wrong. If we ever see a Call of Duty Vanguard 2, it should star elite war hero, Jack Churchill.
Even before serving in WW2, ‘Mad’ Jack Churchill had led an adventurous life. Jack worked and had experience of wildly different disciplines; he had a brief stint as a male model, a movie extra, and, in 1939, competed at archery for Britain in the World Championships. In addition to this already eclectic mix, Jack was also a bagpipe enthusiast, coming second in the officer’s championships held in Aldershot, England.
During the war, Jack saw frequent action and was frequently seen in action. After all, any man wielding a bow and arrow and carrying a sword was definitely going to stand out. That’s right, Jack went into a modern war armed like he was marching to the Battle of Agincourt. Jack, true to his love of all things Scotland, carried a basket-hilted claymore strapped to his belt. Once, when asked by an officer why he carried a sword to war Jack replied “In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.” Seriously, what a dude. Not only that, but Jack’s bow and arrow was not for show. He was credited with the only archery based kill of the entire war, when he shafted a German soldier in May 1940 during a defensive operation. Mind you, the sword wasn’t just for aesthetics either, Jack once returned to a town to retrieve the weapon after having lost it in hand-to-hand combat.
As the war continued, Jack was soon earning himself a reputation as a maverick. His fame was only enhanced when he arrived at Dunkirk riding on a bicycle with his bow and arrow strapped to the handlebars. Jack was late because he had refused to retreat, often attacking the enemy full-on. During this time he had shrugged off injuries in a style akin to Master Chief when he hides behind a wall for ten seconds. Once, a fellow soldier noticed smeared blood covering Jack’s ear. When asked what had happened Jack responded simply ‘German machine gun’. Nothing more needed to be said.
Jack escaped the beaches of Dunkirk, having been awarded his first military cross, and became a Commando. Jack excelled in the role. On December 27, 1941, he led a successful attack on a German garrison. Now get this, during the naval assault on the shore line, Mad Jack stood at the front of his landing craft playing his bagpipes. Playing his bagpipes. He then leapt ashore holding his sword aloft, lobbed a grenade, and leapt into the smoke, chaos and cries of battle.
Mad Jack’s Commando missions were like something out of a video game. He captured numerous prisoners while leading night time raids. Even his raids were outrageous, as he and his fellow soldiers would charge from cover shouting ‘Commando’ again and again. Jack played his bagpipes to inspire his squad in battle and performed sneak attacks on enemy outposts that would have made Sam Fisher proud.
Eventually, even Jack’s luck ran out. Isolated on a hill surrounded by Germans, Jack kept on fighting until his ammo was depleted. At that point, he put down his gun, reached for his bagpipes, and played “Will ye no come back again” until the shrapnel from a German grenade rendered him unconscious.
If you’re worrying that this tale might end in sadness then you don’t know Jack. Mad Jack escaped from German confinement, twice. On his second attempt he walked some 90 miles on a sprained ankle to make it to freedom. That wasn’t the end of the story for Jack, oh no. He re-trained as a paratrooper at the age of forty and fought in many more conflicts. When he eventually retired, Jack became an enthusiast for surfboarding because, well, of course he did. Jack was legendary in everything he attempted, he designed his own surfboard and became the first man to ride a five-foot tidal bore on the River Severn.
So, Sledgehammer Games, if you’re looking for a hero to helm Call of Duty Vanguard 2, Mad Jack Churchill probably did all that and more before breakfast. Only he did it for real.