WILLIAM ANGUS VC
The location of William Angus's bravery is one that can be identified with unusual precision. Trench maps give locations in terms of proximity to Givenchy village and to local roads etc., but the elevated feature of the elusive salient, coupled with a remarkable absence of development, make it possible to visit that exact spot and see the task that faced the Royal Scots on 12 June 1915.
The German front line around Givenchy took advantage of a relatively small area of raised ground, an embankment along which they ran their front line. Although the British gained ground on either side, they could not shift the enemy from the embankment, with its elevated view over No Mans Land. The embankment was allocated the reference point I4, so regularly did it feature in dispatches concerning its strategic importance.
The trenches and craters of the area have long since been filled in, and the fields cultivated by local farmers. There is little to remind a visitor of the violence and carnage that took place there, other than the legacy of shrapnel that can be collected by the handful in every field, and the regular appearance of shell casings in the wake of ploughing.
The exception is the small embankment that proved so difficult to conquer. It lies at the foot of the garden of the last house in Givenchy, occupying the area between there and the fields that held the trenches. Between the embankment and these fields runs a road, little more than a track, which serves to join the village to the main road running to the nearby village of St Roch. The cost of leveling the embankment would not justify the area of land that could be cultivated, and would leave the road running through such an extended field.
The embankment therefore remains as it was in 1915, a solitary mass of earth in an area of level fields. At it's southern edge, a large gap has been blown in its side, reducing its height to ground level over a large area. This was the result of the mine exploded by the enemy in order to repulse the attack of the Royal Scots. It was this explosion that cast Lt Martin onto the outer face of the embankment, and it was from there that he was rescued by Lance Corporal Angus.
A walk into the field that held the British trenches provides the exact view that faced William Angus as he set out on his perilous mission. To look at the very banking from where he plucked Lt Martin, to stand where his colleagues willed him on, to imagine the hail of fire that followed them across the 75 yards is a powerful experience, and an opportunity rarely available with such precision.
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