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William Angus VC

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Their names will be remembered for evermore

Staggering back to their trench as bombs fell, two men emerged through the smoke from a rescue mission that stunned their fellow soldiers. William Angus had crept over the parapet and crawled across no man's land to reach his wounded comrade. It was an action that gained him the Victoria Cross, the first awarded to a Scots territorial soldier during the war.

Lance Corporal Angus, a former Celtic player, was with The Highland Light Infantry, 70 yards from the German front line. On 12 June, 1915, the men were ordered to attack. Led by Lieutenant James Martin, they captured the trench, but found it full of mines, and were ordered back. An explosion quickly followed and Martin was missing. As the smoke cleared, he was seen lying 15 yards from the German trenches.

Between Safety and Danger

An eyewitness described the Germans' periscope reaching up eerily and being trained, first on Martin, then on the British line then, slowly, turning back on the injured soldier. For the next hour, the two sides watched each other. Suddenly, Martin made a move for his trench, but the Germans opened fire. They dashed for Martin but British fire pushed them back. Angus volunteered to go out and bring Martin back, a request his commanding officer at first refused, as Martin lay just a few feet from the German parapet.

Rescue by Stealth

The British turned their fire on the German line and, while the attack took place, Angus slipped over the parapet and crawled towards Martin. The Royal Scots' commanding officer wrote to the soldier's father: "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 had at least a dozen bombs thrown at him as he guided Martin back, but the two men stumbled to safety through the smoke. Angus lost sight in one eye and had injuries to his legs, arms, head and shoulders. When Martin visited him in hospital, both men were overcome and neither could speak.

A Hero Comes Home

Three months later, Carluke's streets were packed at Angus's homecoming ceremony. Flanked by Martin and the Lord Newlands, the chairman of the Lanarkshire territorial force, Angus received a hero's welcome. Martin thanked his rescuer: "It was an act of bravery second to none in the annals of the British Army." Praise for his actions came from many others, including William Maley, the secretary of Celtic, who remarked: "No club ever had a more willing or conscientious player, and one who always showed that fine spirit."

Angus was the son of a Carluke coal miner and had eight siblings. Before the war he had followed his father down the mines, and had begun his semi-professional footballing career, signing for Celtic in 1912. After the war he 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.

William Angus's citation in The London Gazette

View original referenced text here: pdf icon William Angus VC [115kb]


  • Private Angus, before departure for France. Credit: Courtesy of J McNulty, 'For Valour' website and Mrs F Hill.
  • William Angus in the football strip of Glasgow Celtic FC. Credit: Courtesy of J McNulty, 'For Valour' website, and Mrs F Hill.
  • At a military hospital in Boulogne, after being told he was being awarded the Victoria Cross. He is accompanied by nurses from one of the military nursing services. Credit: Courtesy of J McNulty, 'For Valour' website, and Mrs F Hill.
  • Arriving at Carluke Station, 4 September 1915, with Lord Newlands (Chairman, Lanarkshire Territorial Force Association), on the left and Lt Martin, whom Angus rescued. Both men have removed their own medals, in deference to Angus, whose father, George Angus, had accompanied his son from London on a special train. Credit: Courtesy of J McNulty, 'For Valour' website, and Mrs F Hill.
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