Willie Angus: school hall named after war hero

The school's assembly hall will be named after William Angus. Picture: Jim Muncie

The school's assembly hall will be named after William Angus. Picture: Jim Muncie

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He crawled through the mud and barbed wire of no-man’s land to rescue a wounded comrade, gallantry second to none in the annals of army history.

The heroic exploit cost Willie Angus an eye and he became the first Scots Territorial soldier to receive the Victoria Cross in the First World War.

But now he is set to receive a new accolade after the assembly hall of a new school was named in his honour.

The lance corporal, who also played for Celtic, was born close to the site of the £7.5 million Southdale Primary School in Armadale.

The proposal from Lawrence Fitzpatrick, executive councillor for education at West Lothian Council, won widespread backing from the community following a consultation.

The move sparked a 302-signature petition from Armadale and District War Memorial Association in support of the dedication. Cllr Fitzpatrick said: “I’m delighted that the new school in Armadale will be called Southdale Primary.

“The name was the popular choice in the town, and reflects the growing area that the new school will serve. Thank you to everyone who took the time to suggest a name for the new school, which will be open for the start of the 2016-17 academic year.

“Special thanks go to Armadale and District War Memorial Association for their suggestion of honouring Victoria Cross recipient William Angus. Dedicating and naming Southdale’s assembly hall after William Angus will help keep the memory of his heroism alive.”

On June 12, 1915 at Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée, Lance-Corporal Angus voluntarily left his trench to rescue Lieutenant James Martin, who was lying within a few yards of the enemy’s position after he was injured by a mine.

The British turned their fire on the German line and, while the attack took place, he 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 suffered injuries to his legs, arms, head and shoulders.

When Martin visited him in the military hospital in Boulogne-sur-Mer, both men were overcome and neither could speak. After two months’ convalescence, Willie returned to London where he was given the Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace.

When he came back to Scotland, he was given a hero’s welcome and received standing ovations at Celtic Park and Ibrox.

A significant amount of work to build the new Southdale Primary has taken place in the past few months, including constructing the site entrance and drainage works.

Contractor Ogilvie Construction Limited started work in June, with eight new classrooms, two general purpose rooms and nursery provision for 60 pupils set to open for the 2016/17 academic year.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com