Tag Archives: Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel

The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel

Thirtieth Division in the World War

It has been quite some time since I’ve written a blog. The main reason is that I have been concentrating on the next novel, which I mentioned a while ago: The Crowning Battle of the Great War: The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel: A Novel.

As soon as The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend was published, I began looking for a battle that would 1) take place in the last days of the war (so I would have the time to write a book and get it published.) The climactic day of the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel was September 29, 1918, less than two months before the Armistice. 2) The book had to involve soldiers from South Carolina, where I have lived for twenty years. Sure enough, I discovered that soldiers from the Second Army, American Expeditionary Force, 30th Division, made up of soldiers from South and North Carolina and Tennessee fought at the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel. My friend Mitch Yockelson, of the National Archives, wrote about these soldiers in his book Borrowed Soldiers.

As is always the case, there were many surprises. I though there might be a way to bring some of the characters from the Angel of Mons into this one. The character who is the narrator of the last chapter of the story, Tommy Atkins, was still alive and fighting until the last days. He is a major character. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle appears in a major role, and in smaller roles are Winston Churchill, Sherlock Holmes, (now a spy for the British), and even smaller roles for two of the major “war poets”, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.

While I am far from finished, I am far enough along to know that the book should be published in December, 2017 or January, 2018.

From now until then I will regularly write about the book, the battle, the location, characters, and whatever else I think might interest you.

Feel welcome to share my blog with friends. When the book is ready, you will be ready for it.

A German View of the British Empire

As I continue my journey through a second World War I novel–working title: A German Map: The British Empire, Scavanger of the WorldBreaking the Hindenburg Line: The Thirtieth Division’s Triumph–I discover interesting “roadside attractions.” Over the next three weeks I will present “maps” of Europe that convey political views, each one characteristic of the country in which it was produced. The illustrations for magazine and newspaper covers and contents graphic represented easily accepted ideas and strongly felt emotions. We can tell that the pictures confirm and reinforce the nation’s readers’ view. These three examples of such propaganda make their messages clear, even when we do not understand the language.

Please send me a translation of the caption.

I would love to see your comments about the maps.


One of the Pleasures of Writing II

Thirtieth Division in the World WarOne 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 and exchanged e-mail addresses. Then, by chance and good fortune, I was finishing a presentation at the South Carolina Civil War Relics 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.

One of the Pleasures of Writing

One of the pleasures of writing is meeting with people who are expert in what I am writing about. One such person, Mitch Yockelson, Ph.D., works for the National Archives in College Park, MD. The author of Borrowed Soldiers: Americans under British Command, he is one of the most knowledgeable writers about the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel, and, specifically the 30th and 27th Divisions of the American Expeditionary Force’s II Corps. Soldiers from South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee principally made up the 30th. These soldiers are the main characters in the novel I am writing about them in the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel.

The British saved the bridge less than a mile south of Bellicourt Tunnel
The British saved the bridge less than a mile south of Bellicourt Tunnel

Dr. Yockelson and I conversed at the National Archives.

When we were saying good bye he said that he admires historical novelists, books like my own The Angel of Mons. I answered that I marvel at historians who can write books like Borrowed Soldiers. His book is ripe with detail, drawing on a vast store of resources. I got a good of who these American soldiers were, and what brought them to this battle. Since I have a special need for the information, I am grateful to Dr. Yockelson to have undertaken the writing of this record.

Already, I have met with others expert in facets of the battle. These memorable meetings and friendships are one of the great pleasures for me.

The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel and Dante’s Divine Comedy

Dante's tomb 2
Where Dante’s Bones are Buried

Our daughter’s first name is Ravenna. I knew that Ravenna, Italy was once the capitol of the Byzantine Empire. Beyond that, I knew that it has churches from that time group of that decorated inside with world-renown amazing mosaics. It was always our plan to someday visit Ravenna with our daughter. Last month we made that trip. Truly, the mosaics were astounding.

Dante Alighieri's tomb in Ravenna, Italy
Dante Alighieri’s tomb in Ravenna, Italy

A highlight of the visit to Ravenna for me was a visit to the tomb of Dante, the poet. Exiled, he spent the final years of his life there. This year is the 750th year since his birth. Over the years I read the three books that make up his Divine Comedy. I taught The Inferno a couple of times. The epic poem is one of the greatest literary creations of Western Civilization, for several reasons.

Part of my plan for The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel is to use the structure of Dante’s Divine Comedy as a pattern. In literary terminology, this is called a trope. I was deeply moved, nearly to the point of tears and sobs (but I have that response at times, like at the military cemeteries at Mons, Belgium and Bony, France.)

I will incorporate the three levels of the afterlife that the Divine Comedy treats–Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

I know that at some time in the near future I will go back to Ravenna—first, to marvel at the mosaics we did not get a chance to see in the few days we were there, and second, to spend time with Dante and visit the Dante museum. We had “The Kid” along, my two-year-old grandson. His interest in churches, mosaics, and museums was naturally limited. He needed action.