On 23 April, exactly 70 years after the Battle of Longstop Hill in Tunisia, the Museum Committee hosted a Reception in the Museum at which Major Duncan MacMillan MM TD unveiled a painting of the battle. Major MacMillan, the only known survivor, was awarded the MM for his leadership during the battle.
Mr Stuart Brown, of Skipper Press, was commissioned to complete the painting; the Museum Committee is very pleased with the result. The painting records the 8th (Argyllshire) Battalion’s collective gallantry and determination against significant odds producing an important victory and contributing to opening the route to Tunis for the Allies and the subsequent Axis Forces’ defeat in North Africa. For his leadership and gallantry during the battle, Major Jack Anderson DSO was awarded the VC. The 8th’s sacrifice and success resulted in the Regiment being awarded the Battle Honour “Longstop Hill 1943”.
Most of the guests at the unveiling had direct connection with either the 8th or the Museum. Mrs Sarah Bradley and Mrs Anna McKnight, granddaughters of Major Jack Anderson, were guests of the Museum Committee.
Before the Reception, Colin Graham played the late George McIntyre’s pipe music composition, “Longstop Hill 1943”, and Sandy Blackett, Chairman Museum Committee, spoke about Major Jack Anderson’s life, the background to and outline of the battle and the source of funding for the painting, which was the residue of the 8th’s Kilt Fund.
Between April and August, the painting will be on public display in Argyll. The programme, co-ordinated by Rob Layden and Maurice Steuart-Corry, is:
3 – 31 May Campbeltown Museum
1 – 20 June Oban Library
21 June – 12 July Dunoon Library
13 July – 2 August Helensburgh Library
3 August – tbc Inveraray Castle
Thereafter, the painting will be displayed in the Museum.
Readers might find an explanation of the 8th’s Kilt Fund interesting. At the beginning of the Second World War, the authorities withdrew the kilt from all Highland Regiments and decreed that these regiments wear the new battle dress like the rest of the British Army. The order caused much resentment in Argyll where it was decided to invite public subscription to buy kilts and so properly clothe the 8th. The principal driving force behind the initiative was Miss Olive Campbell of Lochnell. Miss Campbell’s brother, Colonel Colin Campbell of Invereill, was a former Commanding Officer of the 5th Volunteer Battalion, which later became the 8th. The appeal was successful; several hundred kilts were purchased, and the 8th walked out properly dressed.
When the 8th went overseas, the kilts were stored in the UK. They were reissued when hostilities ceased, while the 8th were in Austria. The Battalion paraded properly dressed and outshone all other units.
On reformation of the Territorial Army in 1947, the kilt was again issued to Highland Regiments and the 8th’s private stock of kilts was sold. The money raised was placed into a Fund. Over the years this was used for various Regimental and charitable purposes. For some time, calls upon its bounty had declined, and the Trustees (Robin Malcolm, Alastair Campbell of Airds and Donald McDiarmid) decided to wind up the Fund. The Trustees and the Museum Committee decided to spend the remaining balance on a painting commemorating the 8th’s most famous Battle Honour: “Longstop Hill 1943”.