​​The Angels of Mons

The Angels of Mons

It is hard to cover every single aspect of this “legend” without leaving out details that someone may feel is critical in only 500 words, I’m sure students of history get to convey their knowledge and understanding of the situation in thousands of words so if I have omitted something that you think is obvious, I apologise in advance.

The Angels of Mons are one of the most famous supernatural stories associated with World War One, although it is not the only account of celestial intervention that has been recorded in some form or another. When you think of the abject horror and destruction these young men were experiencing – and the women just slightly back from the front line in medical and voluntary roles – it is not surprising that some turned to divine intervention to make it through.

The Battle of Mons was seen to be the first major action seen by the British Expeditionary Forces of WW1 and took place on the 22nd and 23rd August in 1914, this is probably where historians will criticise me for skimming over the details of this offensive but in a nutshell, the Commonwealth forces numbered around 4,000 men, whilst the Germ 1st Army which was approaching from the east had around 21,000. Hence a retreat was ordered, as anyone who studies history and especially historical warfare knows, the retreat is probably the most dangerous part. This is where the Angels came in.

Soldiers are meant to have told colleagues and superiors that they saw angelic medieval archers armed with longbows protecting them against the advancing German army, although the angels have been described as many things over time.

In April of 1915, British Spiritualist Magazine published an article discussing these angelic and supernatural visions that appeared miraculously to save the retreating forces and enable them to escape to relative safety. Even reports of German soldiers with arrowhead shaped injuries were reported to add to the validity of the tale.

But did it really happen? Evidence would suggest not sadly, on the 29th September 1914, fantasy writer and journalist Arthur Machen published a short story called “The Bowmen” which he based on reports from the fighting at Mons but also included artistic license in the form of phantom bowmen from the Battle of Agincourt coming back to protect the commonwealth soldiers in the form of arrow wielding angels.

Even the Society for Psychical Research ran their own investigations into it and could not obtain any first hand testimonies back in 1915, leading them to conclude that the stories of supernormal forces were that of rumour and could not be given any genuine credence without genuine source.

What do I think? I think based on what I have read that on the balance of probability, it was a good story that was created from non fiction and embellished. Any good investigator or researcher needs to see evidence and whether that evidence is visual or from first hand testimony, none of that has been provided in relation to the Angels of Mons.

But….we weren’t there…..we don’t know…..so maybe?

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