The Angels of Mons Revisited
Posted: 12:30 June 6, 2008
The Korean war was given the moniker "the forgotten war" because of the relatively small amount of attention it recieved from the public compared to the two world wars. As time has progressed, however, World War I seems to get increasingly less attention, and the Korean war more. As the veterans of WWI die, there are only a handful left now, that war is rapidly fading from living memory and becoming a conflict relegated to academia and an all too brief mention in school history books. In fact, WWI was a horrific conflict that took the lives of nearly nine million people and served to shape the subsequent history of the 20th century. WWI was also a war riddled with supernatural occurences more fitting accounts of a medieval war, than a modern one. Chief among these stories are the Angels of Mons.
The Battle of Mons was the first major action by the British Army in World War I. After the forced withdrawl of French and Belgian forces, the British were left exposed and while they fought valiantly, they too were forced to take a costly retreat in the face of overwhelming German forces. In the midst of this retreat a strange apparition of angels holding back the Germans was claimed to occur. Accounts filtered to the media in Britain of three angels appearing between the British and Germans, protecting the British in their retreat. The angels appeared as larger than men, with a center angel in bright light, with wings extended, seemingly protecting the two smaller angels in the face of the Germans. The British interpreted it as St. George, and the story was used in the recruitment of British soldiers.
But did it really happen? The seed for the story may have been planted by occult novelist Arthur Machen, who wrote a short story in the London Evening News about a month after the battle called "the Bowmen". Machen himself said the story was fictional, and it wasn't specifically about Mons. In fact, it wasn't even about angels, the story relates that a soldier prayed to St. George, who brought back a spectral host of bowmen from the Battle of Agincourt who fought on the side of the British. But a number of soldiers present at the battle swore that St. George himself had appeared at the battle and staved off the Germans. Its a fact that something did cause the Germans to waver, for a time they recoiled and withdrew which allowed the British to retreat, but was it St. George? The story of the Angels of Mons bears so little resemblance to Machen's story that its hard to swallow that it was the seed that led to the legend.
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