It might not have the glitter and glamour of this week’s Oscars surrounding it, but a film made on a tiny budget by school pupils tells the epic tale of how a Carluke man won the nation’s highest award for valour.
Tomorrow, February 28, marks the 131st anniversary of the birth of William Angus who, on June 12, 1915, won what many regard as the ‘best’ Victoria Cross of World War One.
It was awarded not for killing the enemy but for saving a wounded fellow Carluke man at a colossal cost to himself, receiving terrible injuries that would dog him for the remaining 44 years of his life.
Last year Carluke marked the centenary of the end of the ‘Great War’ and, quite rightly, the tales of Willie Angus and his fellow Carluke VC Thomas Caldwell featured prominently.
However, the film of his near-suicidal rescue of Lt. James Martin from the No Man’s Land between the trenches in France has been made ‘over the border’ in North Lanarkshire as a joint World War One project by St Aidan’s. Coltness, Clyde Valley and Calderhead High Schools.
Certainly, Willie had a strong connection to that part of Lanarkshire: once a promising Celtic signing, he was, at the outbreak of war in 1914, the captain of Wishaw Thistle football club.
In the film the parts of the major figures in the story of the rescue, including Willie, are played by students from the schools partnership. They are all decked out in World War One uniforms and a little corner of the North Lanarkshire area was transformed into the trenches near Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée, France where Willie’s gallant act took place. They also somehow managed to get hold of a World War One machine gun as a ‘prop’!
There is a trailer video in which pupils in the cast talk about how the story of the Carluke man’s act of self-sacrifice inspired them 104 years after the event; in rescuing Lt Martin, Willie Angus was almost literally riddled with bullets, receiving over 40 wounds and losing an eye. Until he died in 1959, William received a telegram of thanks from Lt Martin on every anniversary of the event.
The trailer shows the stars of the 45-minute film talk about how making the movie brought home to them the horrors of war. More positively, the filming has led to one of the young cast contemplating a career in acting.