b. 12/01/1918 Hampstead, London. d. 05/10/1943 Termoli, Italy.
John Thompson McKellar “Jock” Anderson (1913-1943) was born on 12th January 1918 in Hampstead, London, the son of John Anderson (1872-1932) and his wife, Mary Ann McNicol (nee McKellar). He had an older brother, Robin, who died aged just 18 in 1928. Anderson was educated at Stowe School where he was in Chatham House along with his close friend Leonard Cheshire, who was also awarded the VC, and at Trinity College, Cambridge.
On 25th July 1940, he married Moira Goddard in Surrey, just prior to completing his BA (Hons) in Modern Languages and History at Trinity College. He and Moira had a child together, and Jock decided to enlist in the 8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and was posted first to North Africa. He was promoted from Lieutenant to Acting Major when he was awarded the DSO “in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in North Africa” but that award had not yet been published when the action took place for which he was awarded the VC, on 23rd April 1943 at the Battle of Longstop Hill.
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 on the Battalion’s first objective, 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.
On the first objective and 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.
He was gazetted for the VC on 29th June 1943, and was soon moved from North Africa, to the assault on Italy in the latter part of 1943. Sadly on 5th October 1943, he was killed in action at Termoli, and was buried in Sangro River War Cemetery with full military honours. His medals were donated by his family to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, Stirling Castle, Scotland.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ARGYLL/SUTHERLAND HIGHLANDERS MUSEUM, STIRLING.
BURIAL PLACE: SANGRO RIVER WAR CEMETERY, ITALY.
PLOT VIII, ROW A, GRAVE 44
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Grave Photograph
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map
Thomas Stewart – Medal Group image and VC Board from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum, Stirling Castle.