Tag Archives: Arthur Machen

An Arthur Machen Curiosity

In the 1980’s I began gathering material for the novel. I got a Xerox copy of Ralph Shirley’s

The issue in which Phyllis Campbell's article appeared
The issue in which Phyllis Campbell’s article appeared

fifteen-page pamphlet–“The Angel Warriors at Mons: Numerous Confirmatory Testimonials: Evidence of the Wounded: An Authentic Record”–and the two sides of the front cover. Putting together material for talks I am giving, I noticed that the back side of the front page of the cover was signed “Arthur Machen” with the name of a place and the year1930. Machen, author of The Bowmen, lived until December, 1947.

I am trying to find a sample of Machen’s signature. I am doing this just for research fun. Being a xerox of a badly worn cover, my document would be of no monetary value. But as a possibility, it is interesting to consider that Arthur Machen owned it. Naturally, Ralph Shirley’s pamphlet would have interested him. In it, he “demonstrates” that what Arthur Machen wrote was communicated to him telepathically from the battlefield. Therefore, it, along with many pages of “testimony” from soldiers who saw the angels, is evidence that St. George and his host of angels really did fight on the side of the British Expeditionary Force at the battle of Mons.The-Bowmen-men

Arthur Machen
Arthur Machen

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.

Why I disparaged and misrepresented the writer Arthur Machen

When I began planning the novel The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend I wanted it to extend beyond the battlefield and present the effects of the apparition on the esoteric, spiritualist, occult, and psychical societies in England. I especially hoped to find a way to have William Butler Yeats be a major character.

The source of the legend of the Angel of Mons was not reports of sightings from soldiers on the battlefield. The source was a story, The Bowmen, Arthur Machen wrote and was published in the Evening Standard.

I had the good fortune to discover that at one time the writer, Arthur Machen, had belonged to The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Yeats was the Order’s leader and head. Thus, a connection between Yeats and the Angel of Mons.

To work Machen into the novel I played several writer’s tricks. First, by 1914, when the war started, Machen was no longer a member of the Golden Dawn. So I switched the time of his membership and his standing in the Order. Secondly, to make the coincidence of his short story and his membership compelling, I introduced conflict and betrayal. Thus, I misrepresented and maligned a perfectly good writer. To see how I did this, read the book, soon to appear. Stay tuned.



St. George, the Angel of Mons and Arthur Machen


This writer, Arthur Machen,  known now to few is, more than anyone else, the “cause” of the legend of the Angel of Mons. There are many in Mons who claim that angels really did intercede in the battle of Mons. However, the facts as I, and the one other expert I know of on the subject, David Clarke (The Angel of Mons), are that the legend had its origin in a story that appeared in the newspaper, the Evening Standard. “The Bowmen”, by Arthur Machen, tells a story that came to be thought of as an account of angels stepping in to save an army from defeat. He does not name a time, a place, or who the combatants were. Word of mouth and other means led it to be thought of as a truthful account of what happened at Mons.

In a later time, Orson Wells and the Mercury Theater’s presentation of the War of the Worlds had a similar effect, though the response by the public and the repudiation of the truth of that event were immediate.

In fact, the legend of the Angel of Mons encouraged the British people, believing as they did, that God and the angels were on their side. More about Machen next week. My apologies to him. Do you know about Arthur Machen? There is a web site called Friends of Arthur Machen. Let us talk about him and his writings.

David Clarke’s book, The Angel of Mons Recommended

Amazon has a section called If You Like as a way to recommend related books. In that spirit I strongly recommend David Clarke’s The Angel of Mons: Phantom Soldiers and Ghostly Guardians. If you are interested in my novel, St. George and The Angels of Mons. #theangelofmons Dr. Clarke’s book is the authoritative source of information about what really happened regarding the Angel of Mons. Phyllis Campbell and Arthur Machen are the primary sources for what developed as the World War I legend of the Angel of Mons. Clarke treats their writings (properly) as the origins of the legend appear in Clarke’s book. Naturally, the two characters inhabit the novel, though I slightly mangle history for the sake of plot. At the same time, I drew on history to make the events, outlandish as they are in the novel, make sense.