Tag Archives: World War I

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.

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.


Two More Representations of the Angel of Mons

There were many representations of the Angel of Mons. Some were to capitalize on the interest in the account of angelic intervention. In any case, each reinforced the belief that, indeed, St. George and other angels served the British. This also supported the hope and conviction that in the end the British, French, Russians, and Italians would defeat the Germans and their allies. I have seen an actual copy of the Paul Pardee sheet music. However, it was framed and behind glass at the Military Museum in Perrone, France. Its being a waltz, I doubt that it had lyrics. The cover to the other piece portrays the angel as a woman. I have not discovered any poems about the Angel of Mons. If you find any, please let me know. Also, please share my blogs with your friends.

Angel of Mons Valse-Cover Art
Angel of Mons Valse-Cover Art


Sheet Music Cover The Angel of Mons
Sheet Music Cover
The Angel of Mons

Artistic Depictions of the Angel of Mons

The Angel of Mons: one versionIn several of the blogs I have written I have accompanied the text with pictures artists had made depicting their idea of the angelic intervention. For the next several weeks I will include them as the main point of what I write about.

Now, to the picture: You can see that the picture views the angels from the perspective of the German soldiers, who appear in the foreground right. In the background is Mons ablaze. Notice the three angels: one is St. George, one, a child, and one British soldier. This comes close to corresponding to the description Arthur Machen gave in his short story, “The Bowmen.”

After that I will begin to describe a new novel I am writing, this one also about World War I and including several of the characters who play a role in The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend. The next novel will be about the Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel. Look it up and tell me what you think about this as a battle worth describing. I invite you to suggest scenes for the novel to depict.


“Where’s Waldo” and “The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend”

People who know about these events will detect the many historical mistakes in the book and enjoy the detection. Like Where’s Waldo, or playing “gotcha.” I hope others will research the characters, learning who they were, and what really happened in the early days of the war. I especially recommend three books, one, a brief, clear report on the people involved in the planning and preparation for the way, with the emphasis upon the Battle of Mons and the Battle of Le Cateau: David Lomas’ Mons, 1914.

Antony Bird’s Le Cateau is not a brief survey, but a detailed account of the battle.

Also, David Clarke’s The Angel of Mons:Phantom Soldiers and Ghostly Guardians will describe where the legend came from, other early war legends it is connected with, and how the angel legend changed during the war.

One of the benefits of writing is getting to know other writers. David Clarke and I have carried on an extensive correspondence via e-mail over the past few years. The same is true of Antony Bird. Sarah and I spent five days touring the Le Cateau and Somme battlefields last August with Tony, his brother Nicky, and five other English folk. What a benefit.

I would like readers to submit discoveries to go into a Readers’ Guide to Historical Near-Truths and Inaccuracies in The Angels of Mons. On occasion I will add examples.

Books Four and Five–The Angel of Mons

Dear Readers:

The past two weeks I have presented the topics of the first three books of the novel. Here are the final two. I will continue to write about the novel, and will begin to introduce the next novel I am planning. But more next week.

I am planning to go to Mons for the dedication of a new Mons Memorial Museum. The events will be held on April 4 and 5. I will be meeting with some officials of the city for visits, dinners, tours, and presentations while I am there. These are people I have gotten to know since my first visit in 2008. Anyone wanting to know more? I will post some links in the next few weeks. If you don’t go with me, you will at least get a taste of what is happening.

Now for the rest of the Table of Contents:

As you can see, the setting has moved from Mons, Belgium and Le Cateau, France to London, England. The final book is in Mons again, now, on the day of the Armistice, November 11, 1918. The Angel Of Mons



Chapter Thirteen: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Captain Leckie’s

Letter from beyond the Grave                                Page 159

Uncertainty Lay Heavy upon the Heart – Lily Loder-Symmons and Automatic Writing – Captain Leckie’s Handwriting – A Test – The Answer – In the Library

Chapter Fourteen: W. B. Yeats, Arthur Machen’s “The Bowmen”,
and the Battle of Le Cateau          Page 174

A Heavenly Army Arose to Save Them – Yeats in Mackerson’s Pub – Yeats, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Angels of the Dark Cloud – Africanus Comes to his Aid – Arthur Machen’s “The Bowmen”

Chapter Fifteen: Yeats Meets Conan Doyle                                                     Page 192

Yeats Worried – A Page Torn from a Doctor’s Prescription Pad

Chapter Sixteen: The Angel of Mons,Winston Churchill
And his Aunt, Lady Janey Campbell       Page 196

Lady Campbell’s Note – Tea – On the Way back to his Office

Chapter Seventeen: First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill Meets
with Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes  Page 204

Churchill has Much to Tell Doyle and Holmes – Assignments – A Private Matter – Holmes and Churchill Alone – Word of the Angels will Spread – Ready to Depart



Chapter Eighteen: Tommy Atkins: Angel of Memory, Grief, and Tears   Page 217

Before All the Falderal – In the Nuns’ Woods North – Quiet as a Sunday Morn – Not the Last of the Ruffians and Victors – Marching Northwest into Belgium – Tommy Atkins, His Ascension – Tommy Atkins: Angel of Grief, Memory, and Tears – Dear Reader




Let me know what this all brings to mind for you.





Table of Contents for Books Two and Three

The Angel of Mons: A World War I Legend features a Table of Contents that is reminiscent of a form found in older books. You may recall seeing such tables of contents in old novels, histories, and books on a variety topics. The idea here is to introduce the many parts of the novel with a title that is instructive and entertaining. The reader gets a “preview of coming attractions” by reading the table of contents. The novel is divided into five books, seventeen chapters, and 123 sections. The table of contents occupies four pages! An oddity, for certain.

                                                                    BOOK 2


 Chapter Eight: The Engagement                                                                        Page 100

Captain Malcolm Leckie and his Fiancée, Phyllis Campbell

Chapter Nine: Malcolm Leckie, Prisoner of War                                         Page 109

After Surgery – Another Meeting – “You Saw Them?” “Yes. Clouds Turned to Golden Angels.” – In Parting

Chapter Ten: Greetings and Farewell                                                               Page 115

Malcolm Leckie, Wounded, Returned to British Care – Phyllis Campbell, Nurses’ Aide, Voluntary Aid Detachment, and the Hospital Enquiry Sheets – The Angel of Mons: St. George, Intercessor and Salvation

                                                                   BOOK 3

                               ANGELS AT LE CATEAU AND THE VICKERS TEAMS

Chapter Eleven: The Quarry, St. George, and the Angels of the Golden Mist of Salvation                                                                                        Page 121

Without Pity or Remorse – A Lovely Place. A Deadly March – All that Remained was to Wave the White Flag – The Quarry – To the Bottom – The Problem of Manhandling the Gun to the Quarry Floor – Ziggy and Carmichael down the Wall – Valley of the Shadow of Death – What Tommy Atkins Saw – Tommy Atkins’ Second Encounter with the Divine – The Ascent out of the Pit – Let Death Rest from Toil

Chapter Twelve: St. George and the Angels of the Dark Cloud           Page 136

On this Vast Plain – Two Tethered Bosch Balloons – The Enemy Arrives – The Air Was Still – The Germans Came up to Us – “Angels Saved us Before. Why not Now?” – Herr Lieutenant Sardonic – A Front Row View – The Sky of Three Suns – The Rocks Arise as Soldiers – St. George! In the Flesh! – “Shoot an Angel of God?” – The Onslaught Halted – As Swiftly as they had Come – Souvenirs

Do the titles give you a sense of what each chapter and section will contain? Let me know. Comment. Share with friends.

This is the forty-seventh blog I have written, most about The Angel of Mons. Collectively, they give a detailed and inside look at the book—a study guide?