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  • Christina Drummond

Major John Thompson McKellar Anderson VC, DSO, 8th Battalion, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1943, Major John Thompson McKellar “Jock” Anderson VC, DSO, 8th Battalion, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was killed in action at Termoli in Italy.

He was educated at Stowe School and Trinity College, Cambridge, from which he received a BA (Hons) in Modern Languages and History before joining the army. He served in North Africa at first and was awarded the Distinguished Service order “in recognition of gallant and distinguished services".

On the 23rd of April, 1943, he saw action during the Battle of Longstop Hill, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. The citation reads: For conspicuous gallantry and outstanding devotion to duty…Over a period of five hours Major Anderson led the attack through intense enemy machine-gun and mortar fire. As leading Company Commander he led the assault in daylight, over a long expanse of open sloping hillside and most of the time without the effective cover of smoke. Enemy infantry opposition was most determined, and very heavy casualties were sustained, including all other rifle Company Commanders, before even the first objective was reached…still under continual enemy fire, Major Anderson reorganised the Battalion and rallied men whose Commanders, in most cases, had been either killed or wounded. The Commanding Officer having been killed, he took command of the Battalion and led the assault on the second objective. During this assault he received a leg wound, but in spite of this he carried on and finally captured "Longstop" Hill with a total force of only four officers and less than forty other ranks. Fire had been so intense during this stage of the attack that the remainder of the Battalion were pinned down and unable to advance until Major Anderson had successfully occupied the hill. During the assault, he personally led attacks on at least three enemy machine-gun positions and in every case was the first man into the enemy pits; he also led a successful attack on an enemy mortar position of four mortars, defended by over thirty of the enemy. Major Anderson's force on the hill captured about 200 prisoners and killed many more during the attack. It is largely due to this officer's bravery and daring that "Longstop" Hill was captured, and it was the inspiration of his example which encouraged leaderless men to continue the advance.”

Several weeks later he left North Africa to take part in the assault on Italy, and was killed in action at Termoli. He is buried in the Sangro River War Cemetery in Abruzzo, Italy.

Jock, from Hampstead, was 25 years old and married with one child.

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