Harrowing novel of war on the front line
The Angels of Mons by Carl Leckey
National Pacific Press $24.95 Reviewed by Robin Carr
This novel, told in the first person, about the experiences of a very common soldier, Scouse, during the Somme campaign of World War 1, is both harrowing and uplifting.
The events that form the basis of the story were distilled from childhood recollection of reminiscences of the authors' grandfather and his friends who served in the Labour Corps.
The soldiers of the Labour Corps were recruited from those with little or no education, and their duties were often appalling and degrading.
Scouse, who is illiterate, joins up at 16, and is posted to a front line casualty hospital where his job is to collect and bury the "bits and pieces", that fall from the operating tables. The gradual transition from the initial revulsion and horror to the final and inevitable callous acceptance of the pain and suffering is cleverly portrayed.
The story brings in many aspects of the war that in this modern "enlightened age" we may find unacceptable; the execution for cowardice of a 16year-old shell shocked soldier and the inhuman treatment of the extraordinarily brave conscientious objectors many of whom were in the most dangerous of duties as stretcher bearers.
The author's descriptions of situations and conditions are graphic and explicit, from the bloody and gruesome, through Scouse's first sexual experience with a beautiful prostitute in Le Havre. to some of the amusing episodes that made life just bearable.
It is an easy read, and the simplicity of the text is in keeping with the character portrayed, without. losing the power of the subject.
If your stomach is weak, don't try it - but you will miss a moving story.'
Don't, be surprised if you learn little of the "Angels of Mons".