Tag Archives: the Angel of Mons

An Angel of Mons Cartoon — 1915

I had the pleasure of “bringing coals to Newcastle” when I presented my “sound and light show” about the Angel of Mons at the Mons Memorial Museum in July. I was going through all the tourist material I picked up on our month in Europe and discovered this wonderful piece. When I first saw one, I didn’t realize that it was the front of the promotional material about my presentation. Enjoy, comment, and buy copies of the novel, The Angel of Mons: A World War One Legend. You can figure out who the angel is the soldier is referring to.

A 1914 cartoon and the front of an announcement of my presentation at Mons
A 1914 cartoon and the front of an announcement of my presentation at Mons

Today Fulfilled a Great Wish.

Sarah, Jerred, Mons friends Rosaline Debake and Christian Massy.
Sarah, Jerred, Mons friends Rosaline Debake and Christian Massy.

Today fulfilled a great wish. Since last August, when the new Mons Memorial Museum opened, I had hoped to present a program about my novel, The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend. Realizing that many if not all of the people attending knew the legend, I took the approach of presenting the novelist’s problem of converting the legend into a novel. As it turned out, this was the ideal way to share something new with the audience.

This was my fourth visit to Mons. Now we have several friends who we enjoy seeing each time we come. Christian Massy is a professional guide who set aside all four days of our visit to take us to places not on the usual tourist agenda. Since I don’t want to turn this into a “here is what we did on our summer vacation” I will be happy to tell anyone who asks.

Me and Angel of Mons expert Marie Cappart, who came from Brussels to hear my presentation. We had a fine time sharing our insights.
Me and Angel of Mons expert Marie Cappart, who came from Brussels to hear my presentation. We had a fine time sharing our insights.

We plan to return to Mons in November, 2018 to commemorate the end of World War I. Mons has the motto Mons: The first. . .the last.” The idea is that the first British soldier who was killed in World War I was killed in Mons. The last British soldier killed in World War I was shot in Mons. The two soldiers are buried at Saint-Symphorien Military Cemetery, their gravestones facing one another. Standing between them, I am reminded that between the first and the last, ten million soldiers died. Sobering and moving. The folly of man.

Maybe we will get some of you to join us for the ceremonies.

Wexford Born Soldier was Angel of Mons Hero in the Great War

The Angel of Mons is a legend, not a fact. Consequently, there is no version that can

Angel of Mons Sergeant Thomas Fitzpatrick
Angel of Mons Sergeant Thomas Fitzpatrick

be factually accurate. The facts about the legend, however, are well known. They begin with the publication of Arthur Machen’s short story, “The Bowmen” in The Evening Standard on September 29, 1914, over a month after the Battle of Mons. This is only one of several versions. Sergeant Thomas Fitzpatrick, who is written about in this article, is also a character in my novel, The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend. He appears in Chapter Eleven entitled: “The Quarry, St. George, and the Angels of the Golden Mist.”

In 2008, when Sarah Barker and I were taken to visit sites related to the battle by a local historian, expert in the Battle of Mons, and the Deputy Director of the Mons Tourism Bureau. We were taken to an old path into a forest. To our surprise, the historian said that along that path on the night of August 23 Sergeant Fitzgerald and his fifty soldiers, including the Company band, were guided to safety by the Angel of Mons.

A recent article in the British publication Wexford People.ie writes his story under the headline “Wexford Born Soldier was Angel of Mons Hero in the Great War.” Read the story and read the chapter. If you don’t own the book you can 1) buy one on Amazon or 2) thought Singing Bone Press, 3) or ask your library to buy it, 4) or request it on interlibrary loan. 5) Or you can request a copy of the chapter from me. I will be glad to send it to you as a .pdf file. Find out more.

A Newspaper Report from 1914 — The Angel of Mons

Yet another image of Angels protecting the British Army

Angels fighting with us against the Huns at Mons

Of course God was on our side in the Great War and an early proof of this came in August 1914 at the Battle of Mons when, it was reliably reported, He sent His angels to repulse the Huns as they seemed about to overrun the British. One hundred years ago this week London’s New Statesman reported that belief in the Mons miracle was growing.

“The announcement by Dr. Reverend Horton [a popular and influential Manchester preacher and occultist] of his belief in the story of the angels who appeared on the side of the British at the battle of Mons and stuck terror into the Germans, and even into their horses, has created a great deal of interest.

“Whatever its origin, it is now going the rounds of the parish magazines, and is likely to take a permanent place among the legends, true and false, of the war.

“This belief in the active interference of divine and semi-divine beings in the conflicts of men is as old as the memory of the race. The most interesting vision of angels ever seen was that of a French girl-soldier. Poor Joan of Arc saved her country and lost her life owing to the vision of an angel.

“Her story is at least as incredible as the story of the angels at Mons, and yet how many of us in our hearts disbelieve it? Angels … are too vital in the grave procession of history to be dismissed with a lofty omniscience of unbelief.”

The Doudou and “The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend

Each Trinity Sunday in Mons, Belgium two important ceremonies are performed. In the morning the sacred relics of St. Waudru, abbess of a collegiate convent she founded in the Seventh Century, are paraded through the streets, carried on the carte d’or, a cart covered in gold leaf. Later in the day, the city celebrates the battle between St. George and the dragon. There are records from 1440 the ceremony was already ancient. The Ducasse de Mons, the Doudou, and the Lucomon are names for the same ceremony.

The cart d'or containing the relics of St. Waudru
The cart d’or containing the relics of St. Waudru

In April, 2015 Mons opened five new museums. One is dedicated to the history of the Doudou.

The Ducasse de Mons celebrations are recognized as one of the UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Read about the ceremonies and their connection to the Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend in Chapter Four, “The Priest’s Sermon: St. George and Mons.”

The Doudou version of the dragon who St. George defeats.
The Doudou version of the dragon who St. George defeats.

There are several YouTube presentations of the ceremony worth seeing. I am not sure I would like to be part of the throng myself. Too many people for me.

A scene from the Doudou
A scene from the Doudou
A scene from the Doudou
A scene from the Doudou

A Fascinating Book on Many Levels

This review appeared on Amazon — read and enjoyThe Angel Of Mons

By David Wetzel on June 27, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition

Jerred Metz’s The Angel of Mons is certainly a work of magical realism, but that term fails to describe the shimmering interplay (and interplayfulness) of the real and supernatural in this rich, dense, mythically powerful novel. Based on a legend—or was it?—that grew out of the first battle in World War I between the British and Germans on August 23, 1914, at Mons, Belgium, the story begins with the factual death of Maurice Dease, commander of a Vickers machine gun crew at the Nimy Bridge, and describes a meteorological phenomenon—or was it?—that enveloped and stymied the advancing German army in what many observers described as the image of St. George, allowing the vastly outnumbered British forces to begin an orderly retreat. From there Metz elaborates on that sighting, blending the story of the British retreat through the Forest of Mormal in northern France with visions of Joan d’Arc who guides them to safety along a whispering road cut through the forest, though never discovered in history books. They eventually make it to the British Front by way of other visions and miracles descending on characters both historical and fictional.

If this were the extent of The Angel of Mons, it would be good magical realism. But returning the British forces to safety only begins Metz’s fictional celebration-study of legend and myth. Using the deaths of three key participants—Dease, Malcom Leckie, and Tommy Atkins—Metz takes us into what could be considered the shared Twilight Zone of the Coleridge-Wordsworth dynamic: Coleridge making the ethereal real and Wordsworth making the real ethereal. A secondary cast of characters (who happen to be icons of modern history transmuted into entirely believable fictional counterparts) draw out the mystery of Mons through a superb device: twentieth-century spiritualism and psychic phenomena. We find connections between W. B. Yeats, Arthur Conan Doyle (and his “living” counterpart Sherlock Holmes), and even Winston Churchill—all connected, in some way, with the question of proving communication with the dead. It appears that such proof does exist—if only within Metz’s London of early September 1914.

This is the Coleridge side of the dynamic. But the book ends on the Wordsworth side, with the death, in the very last hour of the war—and again at Nimy Bridge—of Private Atkins. In his exalted afterlife, he speaks directly to the reader as the Angel of Grief and Memory, calling forth an image both apocalyptical and transcendent. The vision seems to come out of the Book of Revelation, the theosophical idea of the Brotherhood, and—well—Moby Dick. Truly, the spiritual and philosophical density of Metz’s The Angel of Mons is much like Melville’s, and it’s filled with character, dialogue, and drama worthy of what we might see and overhear on the decks of the Pequod. In short, it is a fascinating book on many levels.

Captain Malcolm Leckie’s Grave

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 theMalcolm Leckie's gravestone night 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.


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


Just Found: The song “The Angel of Mons”: You can Hear

Since I wrote the novel, “The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend”, I keep looking on the magic internet for new old material making its way to our attention. I was delighted to find a song written about the Angel in 1916. The appearance of Angels took place on August 23, 1914. There are two instrumental pieces, the covers only of which have I seen. But to hear the music and lyrics of a song that would have been heard on gramophones in England, played on pianos, and sung in family parlors added a dimension to my appreciation of the impact of the legend on the English. Now you can listen, too. (The picture you will see is not the cover of the sheet music, but the poster for a musical, “Oh, What a Lovely War” performed in 1963. Hit this link and you will be there.