b. 11/08/1894 Coleford, Gloucestershire. d. 01/03/1944 Gloucester.
Angus Buchanan (1894-1944) was born in Coleford, Gloucestershire on 11th August 1894. His father, Peter, a doctor by profession, had served as a Major and Company Commander in the Gloucestershire Regiment. His mother Hannah nee Williams had been married before, to a tin works manager, with whom she had four daughters and a son. After being widowed, she married Peter Buchanan and the couple had two sons together, Angus and Hugh. Angus was educated locally, at St John’s Boys School in Coleford and Monmouth Grammar School in Gwent. He was a talented sportsman, captaining the school rugby team. He won a scholarship to read classics at Jesus College, Oxford.
After the outbreak of World War I, he was commissioned as a Temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, South Wales Borderers, on 27th November 1914. He left for Gallipoli on 28th June 1915 and was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant the same day. However, he was wounded at Suvla Bay on 7th August, soon after B Company landed, and was sent to hospital in Cairo.
In early December 1915, having beem promoted to Temporary Captain, he returned to Gallipoli and was soon back in the thick of the fighting. After taking part in the eventual evacuation of the peninsula, he was twice Mentioned in Despatches and was awarded the Military Cross on 7th January 1916 for bravery at Helles, when in command of B Company in trenches east of Gully Ravine.
Buchanan arrived in Mesopotamia on 4th March 1916 and it was there, on 5th April, that he took part in the action for which he received the VC. During an attack an officer (Captain Stewart Hemingway) was lying out in the open severely wounded about 150 yards from cover. Two men went to his assistance and one of them was hit at once. Captain Buchanan, on seeing this, immediately went out and, with the help of the other man, carried the wounded officer to cover under heavy machine gun fire. He then returned and brought in the wounded man, again under heavy fire.
Buchanan was wounded in the arm later that day, and was evacuated and sent to India for treatment. Furthermore, he was not able to rejoin the Battalion in Mesopotamia until 1st August. Hemingway, meanwhile, had died from his wounds on 6th April 1916, the day after being rescued. On 24th September 1916, while the battalion was moving from Sheikh Sa’ad to Amara, he was again evacuated. His evacuation came two days before the official announcement of his VC. On 13th February 1917, he was wounded for the fourth time – and the most seriously. While he was advancing from a trench at Kut, he was hit by a sniper’s bullet in the right temple. He was taken to India where a surgeon saved his life, but not his sight. He was now blind in both eyes. On 2nd September 1917, he relinquished his commission and retained the rank of Captain.
He was presented with his VC on 8th November 1917 at Durdham Down, Bristol. A crowd of estimated 60,000 had gathered for the investiture by King George V of 127 recipients of gallantry awards and other honours. At his investiture, he was presented with the VC and MC, and the following day he was given a hero’s welcome in Coleford, and presented with a gold watch inscribed in braille with the words “A Tribute to Captain Buchanan VC MC by Dean Foresters, 9th November 1917”.
After returning from the war, he attended St Dunstan’s hospital, supported by blind charity “Blind Veterans UK”, where he learned Braille and typewriting. He returned to Oxford and studied for a degree in law. After gaining his BA and MA in October 1921 and qualifying as a solicitor he started a law practice in his home town. Because of his disability, he did not take criminal work and instead specialised in conveyancing and estate work.
Buchanan, who never married, attended the 1929 Prince of Wales’ dinner at the House of Lords. Sadly, he died after a very short illness, aged just 49, on 1st March 1944 in Gloucester Royal Infirmary. He was buried with full military honours, at Coleford Churchyard. His gravestone noted he “died of old wounds”, having never fully recovered. Buchanan’s medals were held by the South Wales Borderers Museum, Brecon until 2013, when they were purchased privately by the Ashcroft Collection and displayed in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: COLEFORD CEMETERY, COLEFORD, GLOUCESTERSHIRE.
Angus Buchanan's medal group including VC and MC on display at Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (Aug 2014).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
Coleford, Gloucestershire 2013
War Illustrated, 3rd February 1917
Monmouth (Thomas Stewart)