Tag Archives: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel

Beginning today I will write and post weekly notes about Bellicourt Tunnel: The Crowning Battle of the Great War. Some will be comments about the book, some comments by writers about it, accounts of decisions I made, obstacles that imagination overcame, and often a photograph.

Please follow, if you will, and share with friends and encourage them to read and share, too. Let me know what thoughts what I write brings to mind. I write stories because I want readers to pass a few hours enjoying a world of imagination that reading brings to the mind’s eye and ear. Without looking for too strict a definition, I would call Bellicourt Tunnel a fantasia. It blends fact, fiction, and fantasy (if help from the revenant—souls returned from the dead—and angels and demons can be considered fantasy.)

To begin

The book begins with an epigraph, a quotation from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book Adventures and Memories.

Doyle often visited the war as official correspondent for the government. He was its chief propagandist.

 “I had not expected to see any more actual operations of the war, but early in September 1918 I had an intimation from the Australian Government that I might visit their section of the line. Little did I think that this would lead me to see the crowning battle of the war.”

Here’s the behind the scenes story.

Once I decided that I would write Bellicourt Tunnel as a sequel to The Angel of Mons it meant that I would bring several characters forward. Tommy Atkins, St. George, Joan d’Arc, angels, and Sherlock Holmes are fictional creations who I would write about again. Since Winston Churchill and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, also characters in the Angel, were real people, I intended to find out where they were around the time of the battle. I expected to need to create a pretext for Doyle to have something to do with this story, as I had to with Winston Churchill. At the University of South Carolina Thomas Cooper Library I went to the shelves of Conan Doyle material and read along the spines. I came to a book entitled Adventures and Memories, looked at the copyright date—1924—after the War. Maybe here I could find out where he was around the time of the battle.

I read down the chapter titles and came to “Breaking the Hindenburg Line.” This was the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel! Doyle wrote: “I had not expected to see any more actual operations of the war, but early in September 1918 I had an intimation from the Australian Government that I might visit their section of the line. Little did I think that this would lead me to see the crowning battle of the war.”

That he was present at the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel, actually making his way, guided, onto the field of battle I took as an auspicious sign for my story .

Then he wrote: Under our very eyes, was even now being fought a part of that great fight where at last the children of light were beating down into the earth the forces of darkness. It was there. We could see it. And yet how little there was to see! This passage is perhaps as significant as the first for the novel. Because in the Angle of Mons Doyle was initiated into the “Golden Arrows of God,” he experiences and sees the divine battle taking place along with the human battle. The above passage hints at that.

In Chapter 18, “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Tommy Atkins” Doyle testifies to what happened when he was at the battle, now that he is free to explain.

More and different to come next week. Please, if you have questions or would like to have me write about particular problems I encountered (these are always a surprise, and the solutions even more of a surprise, let me know. You can go directly to the book title or my name on Amazon and buy the book there. If you would like an inscribed copy, send a request to singingbonepress@gmail.com.






On My Way to Mons Again

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.” malcolm leckie


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.

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.

Arthur Conan Dolye gets a Letter from beyond the Grave

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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.


William Butler Yeats and St. George, the Angel of Mons

Often, when beginning a book, especially an historical novel, an author has in mind hoping to have certain characters play a prominent role. Last week I wrote about the way I was able to insert Sir Arthur Conan Doyle into the novel. This week it is the poet William Butler Yeats. My first encounter with Yeats’ poetry was in a survey of modern British literature. I “discovered” a meaning beyond the poem’s surface when I studied, on my own, his poem “Leda and the Swan.” Then I took a graduate course in Yeats with the scholar Leonard Unger and did my Ph.D. dissertation under his direction in a facet of Yeats’ poetry and thought. So I dearly hoped to find a way to include him in the mystical novel, St. George, the Angel of Mons. It was my good fortune to find a connection between Yeats and the novel’s events. Yeats was for many years the leader of a branch of a mystical order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The actual origin of the legend of the Angel of Mon came about, not from the battlefield, but from a story written by Arthur Machen, a well-known writer of the time. As luck would have it, Machen was (at an earlier time) a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn. By juggling the chronology, making him a member at the time of the novel, I was able to involve Yeats in the story. When the book comes out you will discover a fantastic voyage between realms of reality that Yeats takes, an exciting, poetic, mystical read.

Question: If you read Yeats, what do you most appreciate about his poetry? Which of his poems do you best recall? Where do you rate his poetry among all the poets you have read?

Are you familiar with the lesser-known writer Arthur Machen? What is your view of his work? If you do not know his work, I think you will find it of interest, especially the story directly related to St. George, the Angel of Mons, The Bowmen and Other Legends of War. The work has recently been reprinted and is available on Amazon.

The Angels of Mons Coming Soon to a Book for You to Read

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.St. George Jerred Metz

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.