Category Archives: The Angels of Mons

There Is No Telling with Angels

For writers, poets, painters, sculptors, and film makers, angels can present any ideas or The Angel of Mons: one versionconceptions the imagination calls up. Angels can be of any size, shape, form, or even religion. They can be the fat babies with wings, the cherubim, we see in so many Renaissance paintings. They can be magnificent, stately beings of glorious proportions standing beside Jesus or God. They take many forms in the Hebrew Bible. There are innumerable representations of St. George. Type his name in Google and see many ways artists have depicted him. They can be demi-gods or even demonic. The great angels of the apocalyptic writings herald the coming of the end of time. They do much of God’s work.

Thus, St. George, Joan of Arc, and the myriad angels they command saving the British Expeditionary Force are part of the tradition writers and artists follow, making angels part of mankind tales.

It pleased me to have angels serve the story, saviors of the soldiers, instruments of peace after four years of war.

Recommend a Worthwhile Passage to Send

Recommend a Worthwhile Passage to Send

The University of Rhode Island’s Alumni Association (my BA and MA are from URI) asked me to send a 400 word selection from The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend to publish in the quarterly Quadangles, thealumni magazine. Instead of picking one myself, I want readers to recommend a worthwhile passage to send.

A Reward for Each Suggestion — The Angel of Mons Apocrypha

Six chapters were omitted from the novel for a variety of reasons, but are interesting nonetheless. Four are versions of the first chapter. “Song of the Vickers Guns” (16 pages), “We English are Here,” Their Presence Said, “And Many Will Follow, and Soon” (16 pages), “To Mons” (31 pages). The first actual chapter is none of these.

Two are from elsewhere in the book. These are “William Butler Yeats and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Attempt to Set Things Straight with George Bernard Shaw” (11 pages), and “Ypres, the Wipers Viper, and the Angels Teach the Skeptic Sewell Macmaster” (21 pages).

Readers suggesting a selection for the Quadangle can pick one of the four. You will receive it as a .pdf file.

Two Major Collections Add The Angel of Mons: A First World War I Legend

At the Toronto Public Library The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, one of the most important

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Doyle and Doyle-related collections in the world, has added a copy of The Angel of Mons: A First World War I Legend.

Conan Doyle and his family appear in five chapters in the book. Three feature Conan Doyle’s brother in-law, Captain Malcolm Leckie, RAMC. Sherlock Holmes appears in two.


                                       Two official notices about Dr. Malcolm Leckie
                    Dr. Malcolm Leckie, Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. Royal Army Medical Corps.   malcolm leckie               Supernumerary Captain, Restored to the establishment. Returned in February. 1914

Daily Chronicle

              Malcolm Leckie Burial, after Aug 28, 1914, Register B 202, Plot 1, row B. Grave 1.            Frameries Communal Cemetery. Age 34.
            8 December, 1914. DSO. First British Medical Officer to die in the war
            London Gazette

The Joseph M. Bruccoli Great War Collection in the Ernest F. Hollings Collections Library, University of South Carolina has also added The Angel of Mons to the collection.

Four documents are the foundation for the legend.

1) Arthur Machen’s “The Bowmen”,
2) Phyllis Campbell’s account in the Occult Review,
3) “The Angel Warriors at Mons”

including numerous confirmatory testimonies,
Evidence of the Wounded
And certain Curious Historical Parallels
An Authentic Record by Ralph Shirley,
editor of The Occult Review

4) Harold Begbie’s On The Side of Angels (1915)

Several of these are in the collection. The Great War Collection added The Angel of Mons, not because the book is rare, but because it recognizes the library’s resources being put to use.

People Believe that St. George and his Angels Saved the British

I give the impression in all the blogs I have written about The Angel of Mons that from the start the The Angel of Mons: one versionaccount was taken to be a legend, something made up. This is not the case. In England it was taken to be an appearance and an intercession that really took place at the battle of Mons. People from England who I know tell me that at school it was taught as fact. And at the least, they report that the British and German soldiers saw the angels, but what they saw was a hallucination—a result of fatigue, hunger, and thirst, and the terrors of battle. An example: In his introduction to his translation of The Voyage of Argo, the classic poem by Apollonius of Rhodes, E.V. Rieu recounts a scene in which the Argonauts saw a vision of Apollo. Then he wrote, “Our own men in the retreat from Mons had labored even harder (than the Argonauts.) And each party had its own appropriate vision: Angels for the British troops: Apollo for the Greeks.”

Even a classical scholar believed that the soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force reported seeing angels.

Even more closely do the people of Mons hold to the belief that St. George and his angels came to save the British, and, hence, Belgium and Europe.

Please share these blogs with people you think might be interested in reading them. Buy, read, enjoy, and share The Angel of Mons.


The 3 D Projection of The Angel of Mons

The Legend of the Angel of Mons In an earlier blog I wrote about seeing a 3-D projection telling a version of the story of the Angel of Mons when we were in Mons, Belgium for the centenary commemorations of the battle.  Here’s a video of the projection.

The text of the video is in French. I knew that I would enjoy the story more if I knew what was being said. I asked a friend, Gail Bienstock, if she could translate the text. She tried to do it by watching the YouTube recording, but found it too difficult. So she sent an e-mail to the Ministry of Culture in Mons asking if she could get a copy of the script. She used my name, which were the magic words. The author sent it to her and she translated it.  Here is the script of La Legende des Anges, in both English and French.

This version, my book The Angel of Mons: A World War Legend, and a graphic novel are all fiction. This version gives a visual depiction, while mine, of course, as a novel, creates a much more detailed version of the events. In any case, enjoy.


Who is Real and Who is Made Up?

Angel of Mons Valse-Cover Art

Angel of Mons Valse-Cover Art

Readers have asked which characters are real people and which fictional creations. Everything portrayed in the novel is fiction. To discover the facts regarding the Angel of Mons I recommend the Angel of Mons by David Clarke. After you read his book you will see what I did with the facts to make them interesting in the novel.

Characters of Historical Significance

 Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Writer
William Butler Yeats, poet, Hierophant, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Minor Historical Characters

Members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Maude Gonne, Actress, political activist, mystic, subject of many of Yeats’s poems
Florence Farr, Actress, Praemonstratrix
Arthur Machen, writer, author of “The Bowmen”,
Alliester Crowley, mystic, magician
John Todhunter, author, playwright

 The Conan Doyle Circle

Lady Jean Doyle, wife of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Oliver Lodge, physicist, President, British Psychical Society
Miss Lily Symmons-Loder

The Churchill Circle

Lady Archibald Campbell, occultist, aunt of Winston Churchill
Phyllis Campbell, occultist, niece of Lady Campbell, author of an account of St. George’s appearance

Historical Characters, Military

General Horace Smith-Dorrian, in command of II Corps, British Expeditionary Force at Mons and Le Cateau
N.R. McMahon, “the musketry manic”, head of musketry and machine gun training before the war
Captain L.F. Ashburner commanding, 4th Royal Fuliliers
Captain Malcolm Leckie, RAMC. brother in-law of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Quartermaster Fitzpatrick
Lieutenant Maurice Dease, Vickers machine gun squad leader, first recipient of the Victoria Cross
Private Sidney Godley, also at Nimy Bridge, a first recipient of the Victoria Cross
World champion bicycle racers Goullet, France, and Bailey, Australia

Rather than hyperlink each of the names above, I suggest that you google any of the names you would like to learn more about. You can do the same for the three fictional characters in the next group.

Fictional Characters

Sherlock Holmes
St. George
Joan of Arc

Fictional Soldiers

The two Vickers machine gun crews


Lieutenant Dease, Privates Tommy Atkins, William Catchpole, Louis “Ziggy” Palmer, Paul Carmichael


Sergeant Henry Sanders, Privates Gabriel Jessop, Anthony Hardy, Howard Thomas Lang, Walter Sage, Carrew Nancarrew

You will meet them as you read, and see what each character does.

Sigfried Sassoon: A Continuation of Last Week’s Blog

Last week I wrote about our visit to the canal at Sambre-Oise Canal at Ors where the poet SassoonWilfred Owen was killed. That same afternoon the Bird brothers took us to the Point 110 New Cemetery to talk about the poet Sigfried Sassoon. Sassoon was Owen’s poetic mentor during the war. It is well worth reading about their relationship and the influence Sassoon had on Owen’s poetry. Their experience in the war led to a poetry critical of the war. “Avoiding the sentimentality and jingoism of many war poets, Sassoon wrote of the horror and brutality of trench warfare and contemptuously satirized generals, politicians, and churchmen for their incompetence and blind support of the war. Their view was vastly different from that of the jingoists like Kipling and Rupert Brooke.” Avoiding the sentimentality and jingoism of many war poets, Sassoon wrote of the horror and brutality of trench warfare and contemptuously satirized generals, politicians, and churchmen for their incompetence and blind support of the war.

Both poets became widely read in the United States during the Vietnam War. I read them several years before while working on my master’s thesis.

At New Cemetery we stood before three graves, one next to the other. Tony and Nick described the significance.D.C. Thomas

“On March 18, 1916 (this, before the Battle of the Somme) Robert Graves and Sigfried Sassoon were devastated when, within a space of 24 hours, three subalterns were killed, 2nd Lt. David Thomas, Prichard, and Richardson. Sassoon was particularly upset at Thomas’ death, with whom he was clearly in love.” Le Cateau & The Somme: A Tour: Aug 25-28, 2014 by Antony and Nicholas Bird.

Sigfried Sassoon stood at the foot of the hole while three were buried. Thereafter, “He began to undertake dangerous duties, especially patrols, sometimes going into No Man’s Land. Sassoon became known as ‘Mad Jack.’”

The day before we toured the Military Museum in Peronne, France. I watched an official British Army film showing the burial of a dozen soldiers. Each was wrapped in a canvas shroud, the shroud tied with rope. With care, the bodies were handed from a couple of soldiers at the top of the dirt mound to those in the hole. Around the perimeter stood the comrades of those who had been killed.

I stood at the grave site of the three, too, and was moved to tears the second time that day. Sadness and grief. Folly and waste. Loss and useless sacrifice. Of course, the war finally ended. So that was a good thing. But what was gained and what was lost?

Afterward, the war officially spoken of in terms of the old jingoism—bravery, courage, sacrifice, and so on. As Kurt Vonnegut writes in Slaughterhouse Five, “So it goes.”

The General by Sigfried Sassoon

‘Good-morning; good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

There are many blogs I have written about characters and events in The Angel of Mons. I know you will enjoy reading them. You can get to all of them at my web site:

Standing where Wilfred Owen was Killed

When we left Mons, Belgium and Le Cateau, France we visited the battlefields of the Somme with guides Tony and Nicky Bird . At the banks of the Sambre-Oise Canal I stood where I would have been able to see Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, the finest and most important poet of the war, in a small boat trying to cross.

As was so often the case, the action Owen and his men were expected to carry out was difficult in the extreme. A pontoon bridge and rafts were being laid across the canal. The location was under heavy and constant machine gun fire. But the soldier must obey.

Owen was shot and killed while trying to cross the canal. For a moment I was seeing it happen Lieutenant Wilfred Ownebefore my eyes. Once in a while, especially when I hear certain songs, my chest tightens and sobs arise. This happened to me while I stood on the banks of the narrow Sambre-Oise Canal and looked at the water.

Lieutenant Owen was shot and killed a week before the Armistice was signed. At the moment when church bells were ringing in England to celebrate the Armistice, Owen’s mother was handed the telegram announcing that her son had been killed.

Owen’s war poetry is not like that of Rudyard Kipling or Rupert Brook, who both glorified war. His was of the horror and ugliness, the brutality and pointlessness of it. In the “The End” he asked:

Shall Life renew these bodies? Of a truth

All death will he annul, all tears assuage?

Or fill these void veins full again with youth,

And wash with an immortal water, age?

 The answer to these rhetorical questions is No. These few lines convey a sense of Owen’s view of war.

His mother, Susan Owen, quoted from these lines for her son’s gravestone. However, she removed the question mark after the second sentence, reversing her son’s poem’s very meaning. And she left out the rest of the stanza. She thought it better to let those who view his grave, which is frequently visited, thing that he believed that God (he) will cancel (annul) death, that there is life after. This is not what her son wrote.

I have had an academic interest in World War I for a long time. My Masters thesis was on a tetralogy, (four related novels) about the First World War, Parade’s End by Ford Mattox Ford. In my study for that work I also read deeply in the poets of the war, especially Wilfred Owen and Sigfried Sassoon.

I am also a poet, having had five books of poetry published. Poets often feel a kinship with one another. So while I was surprised at the depth of my emotions, I was not surprised that I was moved. I am grateful for being at that place, having those emotions, and, in that small way paying tribute to Owen. I thank him for helping shape my own attitude toward war when I read him years ago.


A Day of Commemoration and Commitment

The Legend of the Angel of Mons

The Legend of the Angel of Mons

Sarah and I had the privilege of taking part in four hours of ceremonies commemorating the first battle between the Germans and the British in World War I in Mons, Belgium. The afternoon began with the planting of a tall oak tree in a park. There were moving speeches by the Prime Minister of Belgium, the ambassadors from Germany, Canada, and Great Britain. Of course, we could best understand the speeches that were in English. I was moved to hear special mention made of two of the major characters in The Angel of Mons, Lieutenant Maurice Dease and Private Sidney Godley.

Then the entourage—and four buses of invited guests, the two of us included—went on to three sites in Mons where wreaths were laid in commemoration of the soldiers who died on all sides. At Place des Martyrs, and at the memorial to the first and last battles in which Great Britain’s soldiers fought words of reconciliation and prayers for peace were spoken.At St. Symphorien Military Cemetery, where soldiers from Belgium, England, and Germany are buried, hundreds of people attended a stirring ceremony. The one priest who delivered his address in English was eloquent in his plea that the nations and peoples of the world work for peace for all. Then we attended a reception at the Town Hall, a magnificent building, the focal point of the Grand Place.

Many times during the day Sarah and I were moved to gentle tears.

We have met many people who we have enjoyed getting to know. We will stay in touch with them.


We carry with us thoughts of our many friends and family, and convey in our hearts their good works for peace for all the peoples of the world. In a way, we are your ambassadors.


Events Sarah and I will Take Part in in Mons

Angel of Mons Valse-Cover Art

Angel of Mons Valse-Cover Art

On August 23, two days from now, Sarah and I will take part in ceremonies in Mons, Belgium commemorating the first battle between the British and the Germans on this same date one hundred years ago. The Germans predicted and promised that the war would be over, and Germany victorious, before Christmas of that year. In fact, the hope was that it would be over “before the leaves turned.” As we know, the war ended four years and two months later. More than 9 million soldiers died and 7 million civilians. These numbers are beyond our comprehension. The world was turned upside down. Nothing good came of it.

Sadly, I am reminded of the predictions made by our own political leaders regarding the war in Iraq. Weeks or a couple of months at the outside. We would be hailed as liberators. That was the promise of those in the administration. Ten years later the war came to a miserable end.

The events we will take part in in Mons

> From 10am until 4pm:  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is organising an open day at St. Symphorien Military Cemetery. The CWGC invites you to find out about the different skills used withintheir association, including stone engravers, gardeners, historians, tree surgeons and bronzeworkers.

> From 10am until 5:30pm:  An additional educational camp will be open, with representatives from the British infantry and cavalry, in UCL Mons’ fields next to the commemorative sites at La Bascule. Throughout the day visitors will be able to watch training exercises involving the horses.

> 9pm:  Military music concert in the Grand’ Place in Mons including the participation of Pipe Bands (Celtic Passion from Mons and the Somme Battlefield Pipe Band) and a unique performance by the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.

> 10:30pm:  3D screening in the Grand’Place in Mons, with stunning pyrotechnics in memory of thelegendary appearance of the Angels of Mons.

Be with us in spirit and prayer. It is always my hope that the world will see peace for all, and peace everlasting. I am sure that you share this hope and do what you can to see its fulfillment.

It would be fitting for you to be reading The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend on August 23. If not then, read it soon, and let me know what you think of it.