100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

“Angel Of Mons” Incident Puzzles British Brigadier-General

In August 1914, the first major engagement of the British Expeditionary Force occurred at the Battle of Mons. Advancing German forces were thrown back by heavily outnumbered British troops. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. It graphically demonstrated that this conflict would not come to a quick resolution.

“Shining Angels throw a protective curtain around men from the Lincolnshire Regiment at Mons”. Illustration by Alfred Pearse published in The Chariots of God, by A. Churchwoman, 1915

“Shining Angels throw a protective curtain around men from the Lincolnshire Regiment at Mons”. Illustration by Alfred Pearse published in The Chariots of God, by A. Churchwoman, 1915

Rumors started spreading a British troops being miraculously saved from Germans by angels. Sometimes there are only two or three angels, in others a whole troop; in some, they are visible to the British soldiers, in others only to the Germans; in some they merely deter the Germans from attacking, in others they actually kill large numbers of them; in some, there is an individual leader of the visionary host, described as a horseman in armor and identified by the English as St George and by the French as the Archangel Michael or as Joan of Arc; in some, ‘a strange cloud’ comes between the Germans and the British.

Brigadier-General John Charteris in September 1914 wrote :

“Then there is the story of the ‘Angels of Mons’ going strong through the 2nd Corps, of how the Angel of the Lord on the traditional white horse, and clad all in white with flaming sword, faced the advancing Germans at Mons and forbade their further progress. Men’s nerves and imaginations play weird pranks in these strenuous times. All the same the angel at Mons interests me. I cannot find out how the legend arose.”

Arthur Machen, author of the short story THE BOWMEN

Arthur Machen, author of the short story THE BOWMEN

That same month, Arthur Machen, a leader-writer on The Evening News published a story entitled ‘The Bowmen’. It told how an English soldier called on St George for help, and became aware of an army of medieval archers slaughtering the Germans with their arrows; he realizes they are the bowmen of Agincourt. Written is a style that made it seem like a battle report, it was believed as true by many readers. Now such stories coming from the battlefield are being repeated including an account that told how the corpses of German soldiers had been found on the battlefield with arrow wounds.

When the phenomena of “The Christmas Truce” happened, where British and German soldiers stopped fighting and exchanged holiday greetings with each other on Christmas 1914, Army Command on both sides became wary of reports of miracles which could hamper fighting morale. Yet stories continue to appear in newspapers quoting “personal accounts” of other-worldly battlefield occurrences.

Brigader-General John Charteris

Brigadier-General John Charteris

On February 11, 1915 Brigadier-General John Charteris wrote on the subject again:

“I have been at some trouble to trace the rumor to its source. The best I can make of it is that some religiously minded man wrote home that the Germans halted at Mons, AS IF an Angel of the Lord had appeared in front of them. In due course the letter appeared in a Parish Magazine, which in time was sent back to some other men at the front. From them the story went back home with the ‘as if’ omitted, and at home it went the rounds in its expurgated form.”




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