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One of the Pleasures of Writing II

One thing about the projects that is about subjects that are limited in scope s that people who are expert in the topic enjoy sharing what we know with other experts. Several weeks ago I wrote about Mitch Yockelson of the National Archives in Maryland. There is another expert in the actions of the federalized Thirtieth Division, Old Hickory, and the 118th Regiment, soldiers from South Carolina.

He is Jim Legg, military archaeologist, University of South Carolina. About a year ago we talked about the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel and exchanged e-mail addresses. Then, by chance and good fortune, I was finishing a presentation at the South Carolina Civil War Relics Room and Military Museum while Jim was installing an exhibit of some of his World War I trench maps. A week later Jim took me on a tour of the maps, from which I learned a lot about World War I military cartography and cartographers.

Since then we’ve met twice. After the first Jim lent me a ledger box filled with Thirtieth Division files (one box of three) for me to use. The second visit he lent me a rare and greatly treasured 243 page The Thirtieth Division in World War I (1936.) The book is filled with wonderful photographs, maps, drawings, and text. In return, I have told him of discoveries I am making. It is likely that I will use Jim’s artillery bombardment map for the battle of Bellicourt Tunnel for the Thirtieth Division as a cover for my novel, The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel.

Combat du Doudou

Combat du lumecon doudou ducasse; This past April a new museum celebrating and recording the history of the ceremony opened in Mons. Sometime in 2016 I will go to Mons to give a lecture at the Mons Memorial Museum on The Angel of Mons. I plan to visit the new Doudou museum when I return to Mons. There is also a home that Van Gogh lived in just outside of Mons that has been restored and is now also a museum. I will visit there also. As is the case with a city we become familiar with, there is always more to see, more people to visit. Ah, the world.

The Doudou version of the dragon who St. George defeats.

Dumb Luck, Good Fortune, the 30th Division, AEF, and the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel

The True Love referred to is of the famous French Soixante-Quinze, the 75.

The True Love referred to is of the famous French Soixante-Quinze, the 75.

Maybe dumb luck and good fortune are the same thing. I seem to be blessed with them. For example. I often visit antique malls when I travel. I have several collections I keep up, two for myself, one for my wife, and one for my daughter. When I am in Staunton, Virginia to see plays at the American Shakespeare Theater, I stop at the Verona Antique Mall. Every time I look through one vendor’s paper ephemera. On the most recent visit I bought three copies of Leslie’s Magazine from the time of World War I. Even though I bought them last winter, I just got to read them. Much to my amazement, the one dated April 20 has an artist’s rendering of the first artillery being fired by Americans. As it happens, the first American soldiers to go to Europe and fight were National Guardsmen from two divisions—the 30th and the 27th. The book I am now writing, The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel: A Novel features soldiers from the 30th , men from South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Dumb luck? I think so. Good fortune? Definitely. Incidents like this happened throughout my writing life. May they continue to occur. I need all the help I can get.

The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel — Beginning Thoughts

Naturally, like many writers, I am attracted to stories of

Marker commemorating the breaching of the Hindenburg Line

Marker commemorating the breaching of the Hindenburg Line

the extraordinary, the unique, the mythic. A look at the titles of my prose books make this clear. Thus, there must be something extraordinary, unique, and mythic in the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel. Of course, this could be said of almost all accounts of battle. There is always heroism, gallantry, courage, horrible circumstances to be overcome, and just the simple problems of weather and terrain. Good confronts evil. There is victory and defeat. There is folly and wisdom, tactics, strategy, deception. Often, presumably there is divine intervention. Surely, each side prays to its deities–often to the same deity–for victory. Signs are read in the elements. Chaplains and the soldiers pray for it. There are personalities, the language of the military. This novel contains these. A canal tunnel three miles long, the plateau it lies beneath being the one reasonable place for the Allies to finally, after all these years, breach the Hindenburg Line.

What lies within the tunnel?

The Angel of Mons painted by Mons artist M. Marcel Gillis

I had been writing about many of the pictures that artists made representing the Angel of Mons during the years of the First World War. Two were the covers of sheet music. The rest were illustrations that appeared as posters, post cards, and in books. The final one I will discuss is by Mons artist M. Marcel Gillis. The paining was done in 1922, four years after the war. It has appeared many times illustrating articles about the Angel of Mons. It holds a place of honor in the new Mons Memorial Museum. It is about 36” X 24” and quite impressive. There is more detail in the picture that can be seen in such a small reproduction.

The Angel of Mons by M. Marcel Gillis of Mons

The Angel of Mons by M. Marcel Gillis of Mons

Introduction to the Table of Contents

The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend features a Table of Contents that is reminiscent of a form found in older books. You may recall seeing such tables of contents in old novels, histories, and books on a variety topics. The idea is to introduce the many parts of the novel with a title that is instructive and entertaining. The reader gets a “preview of coming attractions” by reading the table of contents. The novel is divided into five books, seventeen chapters, and 123 sections.

                                                                     BOOK 2

                          DR. MALCOLM LECKIE AND NURSE’S AIDE PHYLLIS CAMPBELL

Chapter Eight: The Engagement                                                                        Page 100

Captain Malcolm Leckie and his Fiancée, Phyllis Campbell

Chapter Nine: Malcolm Leckie, Prisoner of War                                         Page 107

After Surgery – Another Meeting – “You Saw Them?” “Yes. Clouds Turned to Golden Angels.” – In Parting

Chapter Ten: Greetings and Farewell                                                               Page 115

Malcolm Leckie, Wounded, Returned to British Care – Phyllis Campbell, Nurses’ Aide, Voluntary Aid Detachment, and the Hospital Enquiry Sheets – The Angel of Mons: St. George, Intercessor and Salvation

                                                                           BOOK 3

                              ANGELS AT LE CATEAU AND THE VICKERS TEAMS

Chapter Eleven: The Quarry, St. George, and the Angels of the Golden Mist of Salvation                                                                                        Page 121

Without Pity or Remorse – A Lovely Place. A Deadly March – All that Remained was to Wave the White Flag – The Quarry – To the Bottom – The Problem of Manhandling the Gun to the Quarry Floor – Ziggy and Carmichael down the Wall – Valley of the Shadow of Death – What Tommy Atkins Saw – Tommy Atkins’ Second Encounter with the Divine – The Ascent out of the Pit – Let Death Rest from Toil

Chapter Twelve: St. George and the Angels of the Dark CloudPage 136

On this Vast Plain – Two Tethered Bosch Balloons – The Enemy Arrives – The Air Was Still – The Germans Came up to Us – “Angels Saved us Before. Why not Now?” – Herr Lieutenant Sardonic – A Front Row View – The Sky of Three Suns – The Rocks Arise as Soldiers – St. George! In the Flesh! – “Shoot an Angel of God?” – The Onslaught Halted – As Swiftly as they had Come – Souvenirs

 

Your Favorite Account of Angels Intervension in the Affairs of Mankind

Without doubt, my favorite legend of the intervention by angels are the ones I wrote about in The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend. The history of St. Joan (canonized in 1922) is well known. St. George is the patron saint of Mons, Belgium and of England. He is venerated throughout Europe.

What appearance of angels is your favorite? Please reply.

This poster reminded the British of St. George's aid at Mons

This poster reminded the British of St. George’s aid at Mons

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

The Table of Contents

The Angel Of Mons

Take a look and see this preview of coming attractions.

Table of Contents

BOOK 1

THE ANGEL ST. GEORGE FROM THE CLOUD

Chapter One: The Sun Gaily Passed                                                                      Page 3

 Dusk: The End of the First Day’s Battle – Across the Canal — The Judgment – A Bullet Found Lieutenant Dease

Chapter Two: War will Call Us Soon                                                                    Page 9

Training – The Lectures – Who will be the Top Vickers Teams? – In the Workshop – In the Common Room – Interlude: “The Laughing Husband” and Lord Gooseberry Tart – Gunners Godley and Sanders Report to the Section Leader – On the Firing Range and Fields at Hythe and Grantham – Knackers Hauled a Dozen Dead Horses – The Tournament – Lt. Colonel Norman R. McMahon Congratulates the Winners –Passing out Parade – The Ruffians and Victors Plan their Tableau – Celebration — Next Day, At the Manufactory – Comments, Congratulations, Salutations, and Wishes for Success

 Chapter Three: To Mons                                                                                           Page 34

These Vickers Machine Gun Squads Went on Ahead – Unloading the Limbers – Our Ladies – The Briefing – “Mons Shares St. George with You British”

Chapter Four: The Priest’s Sermon: St. George and Mons                          Page 43

“God and Monseigneurs Saint Georges” – “The Golden Arrows of God”

Chapter Five: The Angel St. George of Mons                                                   Page 49

Preparation – Sunday Morning – By Tonight We Will be Victorious – The Cloud of Dust – Where the Canal Makes a Sharp Turn – On the Slag Heaps –Tommy Atkins’ First Death – At the Victors: St. George and his Horde of Angels Descends

Chapter Six: Across the Canal the Germans Saw The Phenomenon in
the Heavens
                                                                                                Page 66

And So They Saw – From Drunk with Gladness to Sober with Grief – Lieutenant Maurice Deasy’s Ascent and Transfiguration – Even German Officers and Staff in the Field Saw the Angel –They Fought through the Hours to the End of Day: The Retirement – Escape into the Twilight and the Night – That Night the British Generals Marched the Exhausted BEF Thirty-two Miles

Chapter Seven: Jeanne d’Arc and the Road Through                                    Page 75

Ahead Lay the Certainty – The Locale – From the Distance Came the Barking of Dogs and Lantern Light – Mongo Black Disappeared into the Gloom, The Victors Following — The Road where No Road Was – The Cyclists – Goullet Goes Forward – The Return – Captain Ashburner’s Conversion – Report to General Smith-Dorrien: A Pawn Offers Itself for Sacrifice – After Prolonged Silence – The Generals’ Meeting – General Smith-Dorrien’s Dream – The General’s Determination – The Ride Back – Protecting the Secret

BOOK 2

DR. MALCOLM LECKIE AND NURSE’S AIDE PHYLLIS CAMPBELL

 Chapter Eight: The Engagement                                                                        Page 101

Captain Malcolm Leckie and his Fiancée, Phyllis Campbell

Chapter Nine: Malcolm Leckie, Prisoner of War                                         Page 107

After Surgery – Another Meeting – “You Saw Them?” “Yes. Clouds Turned to Golden Angels.” – In Parting

Chapter Ten: Greetings and Farewell                                                               Page 114

Malcolm Leckie, Wounded, Returned to British Care – Phyllis Campbell, Nurses’ Aide, Voluntary Aid Detachment, and the Hospital Enquiry Sheets – The Angel of Mons: St. George, Intercessor and Salvation

BOOK 3

ANGELS AT LE CATEAU AND THE VICKERS TEAMS

Chapter Eleven: The Quarry, St. George, and the Angels of the Golden Mist
of Salvation
                                                                                        Page 121

Without Pity or Remorse – A Lovely Place. A Deadly March – All that Remained was to Wave the White Flag – The Quarry – To the Bottom – The Problem of Manhandling the Gun to the Quarry Floor – Ziggy and Carmichael down the Wall – Valley of the Shadow of Death – What Tommy Atkins Saw – Tommy Atkins’ Second Encounter with the Divine – The Ascent out of the Pit – Let Death Rest from Toil

Chapter Twelve: St. George and the Angels of the Dark Cloud              Page 136

On this Vast Plain – Two Tethered Bosche Balloons – The Enemy Arrives – The Air Was Still – The Germans Came up to Us – “Angels Saved us Before. Why not Now?” – Herr Lieutenant Sardonic – A Front Row View – The Sky of Three Suns – The Rocks Arise as Soldiers – St. George! In the Flesh! – “Shoot an Angel of God?” – The Onslaught Halted – As Swiftly as they had Come – Souvenirs

BOOK 4

THE ANGEL OF MONS,CONAN DOYLE,W. B. YEATS, AND WINSTON CHURCHILL

Chapter Thirteen: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Captain Leckie’s
Letter from beyond the Grave
                                               Page 159

Uncertainty Lay Heavy upon the Heart – Lily Loder-Symmons and Automatic Writing – Captain Leckie’s Handwriting – A Test – The Answer – In the Library

Chapter Fourteen: W. B. Yeats, Arthur Machen’s “The Bowmen” and the Battle of Le Cateau                                                   Page 174

A Heavenly Army Arose to Save Them – Yeats in Mackerson’s Pub – Yeats, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Angels of the Dark Cloud – Africanus Comes to his Aid – Arthur Machen’s “The Bowmen”

Chapter Fifteen: Yeats Meets Conan Doyle                                                     Page 192

Yeats Worried – A Page Torn from a Doctor’s Prescription Pad

Chapter Sixteen: The Angel of Mons,Winston Churchill
And his Aunt, Lady Janey Campbell
                                    Page 196

Lady Campbell’s Note – Tea – On the Way back to his Office

Chapter Seventeen:

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill
with Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes
                           Page 204

 Churchill has Much to Tell Doyle and Holmes – Assignments – A Private Matter – Holmes and Churchill Alone – Word of the Angels will Spread – Ready to Depart

 BOOK 5

THE LAST BRITISH SOLDIER KILLED

 Chapter Eighteen: Tommy Atkins: Angel of Memory, Grief, and Tears   Page 217

Before All the Falderal – In the Nuns’ Woods North – Quiet as a Sunday Morn – Not the Last of the Ruffians and Victors – Marching Northwest into Belgium – Tommy Atkins, His Ascension – Tommy Atkins: Angel of Grief, Memory, and Tears – Dear Reader

 

 

 

Soldiers Reenact the Battle of Mons

In the US we are familiar with reenactments of battles from the Revolutionary War and the Civil Soliders and me in the Grand Place, MonsWar. Not surprisingly, the British and the Europeans also reenact battles. On August 23, exactly one hundred years after the Battle of Mons, British Tommies and officers paraded in the streets and square of Mons dressed in exact replicas of the uniforms the soldiers wore in the opening days of World War I. The same course, scratchy material, the same leather for their boots and belts, real Enfield-Lee rifles, and authentic kits made up their garb.

Most of the soldiers were still in the British army or had retired from it, so they had a direct historical connection with the events they were portraying. Some we spoke to claimed that before they got through the day, their necks were chaffed raw by the course stuff their uniforms were made of. This gave them a good idea of what their fellow soldiers of one hundred years ago had to suffer. In fact, the British Expeditionary Force was issued brand new stiff boots before they embarked for France, and then marched on to Belgium. Blisters, swollen feet, and great pain made their lengthy trek a sore beginning for the fight that was to follow.

In the background of the picture is the City Hall of Mons. It is an ancient, elegant building. After the day’s commemoration ceremonies on the 23rd , along with about one hundred dignitaries, we were received in the second floor great hall by the Mayor of Mons and the Prime Minister of Belgium. We were deeply moved by the day’s events. And we met people who are interested in the Angel of Mons, and in my novel.

La Legende des Anges Performed

The 3-D performance of The Angels of Mons

The 3-D performance of The Angels of Mons

On the night of August 22, Sarah and I attended a showing of the 3-D projection of the story of the Angel of Mons. The picture shows the façade of the City Hall of Mons. Against this backdrop the half hour extravaganza was projected. I had never seen a production like this. I could not imagine how the detailed façade would not distort anything projected upon it, but there was no distortion. There was even displayed the burning of the building (though the building did not burn up in the war.) The narrated text was in French, so I did not get all the details, but could easily follow the plot and could see what was happening. Music and the sound of bombs enhanced the effect.

The production was performed every night from August 4 (the date Britain declared war on Germany) through the 23rd. The night we went, one thousand people filled the cafes, bistros, and outdoor restaurants and much of the Grand Place itself to watch.

It was exciting to see the story I had written about on the “screen.” Several of the main characters in The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend were mentioned: Arthur Machen, Phyllis Campbell, Lieutenant Maurice Dease, and Private Sidney Godley.