William Angus VC of The Highland Light Infantry was honoured at Carluke and Armadale on the anniversary of the day his courageous actions that resulted in the award of the Victoria Cross: 12 June 1915 – the first Territorial soldier in Scotland to be awarded with that honour.
The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy” to members of the British armed forces. William’s VC is displayed in the National War Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle.
William Angus, one of nine children of a Carluke coal-miner was born in 1888 and followed his father into the mines. However, he had also begun a semi-professional footballing career with Celtic in 1912 and had one game with the first team.
As a member of the local Territorial battalion of The Highland Light Infantry, he was mobilised as soon as war was declared in 1914. The 8th battalion, The Royal Scots (8 RS), were the first Territorial battalion to join the Expeditionary Force and suffered a great many casualties – Angus’s HLI company was, therefore, transferred to re-enforce 8 RS.
On 12 June 1915, Lance Corporal Angus took part in an attack on a German trench at Givenchy-les-la-Bassee, led by Lieutenant James Martin, also from Carluke. When the smoke cleared, Lieutenant Martin was missing. Angus insisted on crawling into No Man’s Land to find him and in the words of his Commanding Officer, writing to Angus’s mother:
“It seemed so hopeless. With a rope 50 yards long, your son crept out. Owing to the clever way he crept, he got to Martin without being seen. Martin staggered to his feet and, directed by Angus, made a dash for our line.”
Angus went in a different direction to draw the enemy fire and was grievously wounded, including losing the sight in one eye and wounds to his legs, arms, head and shoulders.
Three months later, Lance Corporal Angus returned to his home town to a hero’s welcome – the crowd included Lieutenant James Martin – every year on the anniversary of the act of valour, Lieutenant Martin sent a telegram to his friend, William Angus, thanking him for his courageous deeds.
After the war, William had a business as a goods carrier, married and had five children. He died in 1959, aged 71, and he and his wife Mary are buried in Wilton Cemetery, Carluke.
The King, George V, presented the Victoria Cross to William Angus on 30 August 1915 at Buckingham Palace. Legend has it that when the King expressed surprise that William looked so well after sustaining around 40 wounds, William replied: “Aye, sir, but only 13 were serious!”