I was in Mons, Belgium in the end of March for the third time. This time I spent time with friends Sarah and I made on our last two visits. If you have been reading any of the past fifty blogs I have written, the name Mons should be familiar. And if you have read my book, The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend, the name Dr. Malcolm Leckie would also be familiar. He is a major character in the novel. He was a real person, a medical officer for the Northumberland Fusiliers. For the novel I changed his affiliation to the Royal Fusiliers, who are the soldiers I featured. Leckie was the brother in-law of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The doctor was wounded at the Battle of Mons and died five days later, a prisoner of war. On Saturday, April 4 I went with my friend, Nick Nichols, to the cemetery in Framieres to visit Leckie’s grave.one holds only a few graves of soldiers. They are kept up by the War Graves Commission.
It was a moving experience for me. I had much to say to him in my private thoughts. He took up an entire book in the novel and an addition chapter. Beyond this, Leckie’s death held an important place in Conan Doyle’s life and belief. For on the night of Leckie’s death, he communicated with Doyle and Doyle’s wife, Jean, Leckie’s sister, through automatic writing that, though dead in body, he was still alive in spirit. This event convinced Doyle of the soul’s eternal life. If you read Chapter Thirteen, entitled “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Captain Leckie’s Letter from beyond the Grave” you will find a slightly fictionalize account of what happened on thenight of August 28, 1914 at the Doyle home. Factual accounts appear in almost every Conan Doyle biography.
Most of the military cemeteries in Belgium and France contain only the remains of soldiers. This by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, in the distinctive fashion of the military graves. However, the graveyard contains a vast number of graves of the citizens of Framieres.
The weekend of April 4 – 5 is important for the Belgian city of Mons. Having been designated a City of Culture for the year 2015, the city is opening five new museums. Among them is the Mons Memorial Museum. Like many cities in Europe, Mons has been occupied by many nations throughout its history. The museum will tell the story of the wars in which Mons has been fought for and occupied. What makes this museum unique is that it will look at these invasions and conquests from the point of view of the citizens of Mons. They suffered privations, humiliation, deprivation. They were captives of the oppressors. Many were enslaved, tortured, killed, even made to fight for the enemy who took over their city. I have been invited to the opening ceremonies on April 3 to be followed by a reception and cocktails at the Marie. A professional guide who Sarah and I met in August is taking me to a new Van Gogh museum. He spent two years just outside of Mons, going to preach the gospel and leaving as an artist. His pictures of peasants in the fields date from this time and place. I will also be taken by a person we met last time to the small military cemetery in nearby Framieres to visit the grave of Malcolm Leckie, the brother in-law of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and a major character in my novel “The Angel of Mons.”
The Angel of Mons is packed full of fascinating, real events. I am sure you will enjoy how I have woven into a miraculous novel. Seeing bits and pieces of it is a good way to introduce the stories it tells.
Some of the story takes place away from the battlefield in England. To my amazement, I discovered that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother in-law, Malcolm Leckie, was the chief medical officer for the very company of soldiers (Royal Fusiliers, Company C) I had to write about. Captain Leckie was wounded at the battle of Mons, dying six days later in a German prisoner of war camp. Here is what happened at the Doyle home the night of his death. A friend of the family was practicing “automatic writing”. Conan Doyle is the speaker.
Lily entered into trance more deeply than she ever had before. The whites of her half-closed eyes stared vacantly. The four of us stayed where we were so as not to interfere with what was happening (. . . .) Before my eyes, the message. The slant of the letter, the bold stroke. A pen in the hands of a military medical man. The horrid punctuation for which he was infamous. I hastily read the first words to myself—“I am dead in body. Nevermore shall we meet in the flesh”—my heart came near to bursting, tears rose, blurring my vision. “One moment, please.” I wiped the tears, wiped my fogged reading glasses.
I skimmed the document. I said to myself, then aloud, “Malcolm tells us that he is dead in body, but he lives on. His writing this message confirms that his soul lives on.”
The chapter then describes the message and how the event affected Conan Doyle’s life. This is the beginning of exciting events in England. It is worth mentioning that many Conan Doyle biographies describe this event. I did not make it up, though I elaborated on it. Read to find out what happened. Let me know what you think.
The novel is available on Amazon, and Kindle. For a signed copy, order directly through the publisher, Singing Bone Press.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Brother In-Law Captain (RAMC) Malcolm Leckie, and the Angels of Mons
In this glob I will introduce some of the characters in one major chapter of The Angels of Mons, soon to be published.
As is the case in most historical novels, some of the events in The Angels of Mons really took place. I summarize one extraordinary event. Most of the novel takes place on battlefields in Belgium and France.
While I was creating the story it occurred to me that the psychical, occult, and esoteric societies in England would have an interest in angels joining the war on the side of the British Expeditionary Force. Naturally, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, spiritualist and charter member of the British Psychical Society, came to mind. Little did I think that there would be a direct connection between Doyle and the supernatural events the book presents.
To find out more on your own, Google Captain Malcolm Leckie and Miss Lily Loder-Symmons. All the major Doyle biographies describe the events. Check one out of your library or (if you are lucky) get it as an e-book. Look up the names in the index and be amazed.
Next week I will describe the events of the night of August 29, 1914 that took place at the Doyle home, Windlesham. Stay tuned and be ready to be amazed.