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The Angel of Mons: Phantom Soldiers and Ghostly Guardians By David Clarke

Jacket: Hardcover
Pages: 278 pages
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; (2005)
Genre: Military
ISBN: 0470862785

Comments about the author: David Clarke is an acknowledged expert on supernatural beliefs of twentieth century war. He has written seven books on strange phenomena and UFOs and has been an advisor on this subject both to print and broadcast media. He teaches on traditions of supernatural belief at the Centre for English Folklore studies at the University of Sheffield.


Review: The Angel of Mons, by David Clarke (Wiley; $27.95). Clarke is described as an expert on supernatural beliefs of twentieth-century war. In his eighth book, the previous having to do with strange phenomena and UFOs, he explores the supernatural elements of the Battle of Mons.

The Battle of Mons was fought in Belgium in August of 1914 between the English and German armies. As the full-size German army confronted the smaller British forces, a supernatural vision appeared in the sky. The Germans came to an unexpected halt and were soon defeated by the English. There are many versions of what it was exactly that appeared in the sky, some say it was angels and saints while others claim it was bowmen. The legend surfaced months after the battle, by soldiers on their death beds and family members of the wounded or missing. Their stories grabbed the attention of the media and religious and government institutions and soon became a worldwide phenomenon.

Many historians have tried to prove the legend as fact or fiction. But Clarke, acknowledging that it would be impossible to determine the truth behind the myth, instead focuses on the legends evolution. Could the myth, which rapidly spread through Europe, have been taken directly and then modified from a fictional tale told by Arthur Machen to console the English people? Or was there first-hand testimony that confirmed the legend to be based solely on actual events?

Although the subject matter is inspiring, Clarke has a hard time bringing it to life. Within the first chapters of the book, the writing lacks an expected energy when dealing with supernatural phenomena. The sentences, short and distant, have a tendency to suffocate the magnificent details, making the reader feel like the author has told this all before. Yet once Arthur Machen is introduced to the reader, almost halfway through the book, Clarke settles into longer more fluid sentences and allows the text to breathe. The cast of saints, historians, soldiers and journalists who in the beginning cause confusion, subtly fall into place. The text, rich in detail, historical research and narrative, rewardingly chronicles the evolution of a legend.

— Reviewed by: Cynthia Kane
cyn_kane@yahoo.com
Cynthia Kane is a freelance writer who lives in New York City.

 
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