The Angels of Mons
ISBN: 978-0-9582448-6-2 (Old ISBN: 0-9582448-6-3) 303 pages, Paperback, 135mm x 210mm.
National Pacific Press, New Zealand
Price: £ 9.99
About the Book
Carl Leckey is known to Léonie Press readers for his book “Tales of the Cut” but his first published book, ”The Angels of Mons”, came out in New Zealand (where his children now live) in 2004. It is an immensely moving novel about the horrors of the First World War, and the hero is a resourceful under-age soldier who, like Carl’s own grandfather, is put into the Labour Corps because of his lack of education.
The innocent and idealistic lad is initially given the ghastly task of burying the battlefield dead and the body parts left over from field surgery, then graduates to becoming an ambulance driver, working with brave “conchie” stretcher-bearers. One of them becomes his mentor.
The detail in the book is so extraordinarily vivid that Carl feels the story was “channelled” through him by a dead stretcher-bearer as a means of bringing these terrible experiences out into the public domain. Most old soldiers have understandably avoided describing such painful and squalid circumstances in their memoirs about the Great War. In this respect its sometimes disturbing graphic detail carries echoes of Sebastian Faulks’ famous novel, “Birdsong”. Carl says that on checking these facts afterwards, men who had survived the conflict were amazed that he could describe their experiences so convincingly. However the story is not all dark, and it shows how friendship and humour help to mitigate the horrors of life at the Front.
A unique work of fact-based fiction, The Angels of Mons offers a fascinating insight into the work of the unsung heroes of the Great War - the labourers, stretcher-bearers, ambulance drivers and others who risked their lives supporting the front line soldiers.
So how did this story “The Angels of Mons” come to be written?
My daughter, who is a practising mystic, thinks that I have been channelling a long-dead person who related their own wartime story through me.
However, a few years ago a well-established hypnotherapist gave me a session primarily to relieve the pain of arthritis. Prior to the session, I agreed to be regressed back to my youth and beyond, if possible. The experience was, to say the least, uncanny, remarkable, astonishing, incredible.... How many adjectives do I need to describe this major event in my life?
Using a keyword I am able to ease the pain of the arthritis when it becomes unbearable. I suppose the first signs or side effects of the treatment began with fantastic recollections of incidents that occurred during my childhood and my youth. Long forgotten songs, faces and names spring to mind at the most unlikely times. Clear pictures of occurrences, some good, some bad, pop up without warning. Incidentally, when I described these long-forgotten events, the older members of my family confirmed them.
Then the real magic occurred. The story of the “The Angels of Mons” began writing itself through me. This is the only way I am able to describe what happened. I have to admit that it was sometimes a little frightening as the story unfolded page after page. On numerous occasions I would wake up at some ungodly hour and begin writing. I neglected meals, entertainment and the family as this strange phenomenon took control of my life and I became a slave to the computer. There was little respite until the story finally ceased to flow - at a very appropriate stage, the end of the First World War.
I believe I wrote a story describing occurrences that took place in a previous life of mine when near hell-like conditions became normality for many people.
You have had a similar experience to one of our other authors, Pamela Barnett, who felt that she was being directed to write her book by Mathilde, the smiling woman in black she had seen at the bottom of her bed when staying in an old dairy whilst house-hunting in France. The next morning the complete story was in her head and she felt she was being pressured to write it down. Like yours it originates from a time of great stress. After we had published the book Pamela took us to visit the dairy and was shocked to discover she could feel that the spirit was present in the bedroom.
So which explanation covers your own writing?
My daughter puts an extremely good case for her theory that the story I wrote was indeed channelled to me by someone who has passed on and who had experienced war in the front line. She is certainly very competent in her field and has witnessed this type of occurrence on a number of occasions before.
Since I've written the book the hypnotherapist has had similar results to mine with more clients who have voluntarily submitted to regressive hypnosis for one reason or another.
Myself, well, all I know for certain is I had a compelling urge to write this book and could not rest until it was finished. I'll leave it to the reader to decide...
Carl Leckey is the youngest of three children. He grew up in wartime Liverpool and loved the excitement of having Italian prisoners of war in the area. His time as a kid was spent collecting shrapnel and clambering around the shipwrecks on the shore of the Mersey.
One of his favourite places was his grandfather's allotment where old World War One comrades would meet in the garden shed to share a drink and a smoke. They would reminisce and talk through the horrors of what they had experienced. If a boy kept quiet, says Carl, he could hear all sorts of things to fire the imagination.
Carl served on the Mersey tugs for 15 years with a break for two years' National Service from the age of 19 to 21. On returning to the tugs he rose to the rank of Mate, before being made redundant at the age of 30 in 1968 when the company was taken over.
He then worked as a Leading Lock Keeper for British Waterways in Cheshire for 28 years until ill-health brought premature retirement. He was a Union Steward Convenor, and Worker Representative on the Company Pension Fund Management Committee.
In 1985 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study Ports and Harbour Services on the Mississippi and Yangtze Rivers in the USA and China. In 1995 he was awarded an MBE for services to British Waterways.