Angels of Mons


Angels of Mons
   During 1915, there were strong rumours that British and French troops had been miraculously protected from the Germans during their retreat from Mons late in August 1914. The earliest allusions are in letters written by Brigadier-General John Charteris on 5 September 1914 and 11 February 1915, though only published in 1931: [5 September 1914] 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.
   [11 February 1915] I have been at some trouble to trace the rumour 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. [At GHQ (1931), 25-6, 75].
   During the spring and summer of 1915 the story flourished in the religious press, whether Spiritualist, Catholic, or Anglican, in parish magazines, and in sermons, before eventually reaching the national press. The accounts are given with heartfelt conviction, but none is a first-hand eyewitness report. The details vary considerably. In some versions 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 armour 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.
   Arthur Machen, a leader-writer on The Evening News, later maintained that these rumours had all grown out of a story he published in that paper on 29 September 1914, entitled 'The Bowmen'. This tells 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. As Brigadier-General Charteris's first letter shows, the legend was current three weeks before Machen's story, so his claim to be its originator cannot be accepted, though he may have genuinely believed he was. Moreover, there are no angels in his story, and no ghostly bowmen in the oral rumours. The latter are best explained as a *contemporary legend which satisfied religious and patriotic needs, and became a powerful and enduring part of the mythology of the Great War.
   ■ Kevin McLure, Visions of Angels and Tales of Bowmen (Harrogate, 1996); John Harlow, The Sunday Times (26 Jan. 1997), 9.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Angels of Mons — The Angels of Mons is a popular legend about a group of angels who supposedly protected members of the British army in the Battle of Mons at the outset of World War I. The story is fictitious, developed through a combination of a patriotic short… …   Wikipedia

  • Mons — Mons …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mons — This article is about the city in Belgium. For other uses, see Mons (disambiguation). Montes redirects here. For other uses, see Montes (disambiguation). Mons The Belfry in Mons …   Wikipedia

  • Battle of Mons — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Battle of Mons caption=Map of the Battles of Charleroi and Mons partof=the First World War date=August 23, 1914 place=coord|50|27|N|03|57|E|type:city|display=inline,title Mons, Belgium result=Tactical British… …   Wikipedia

  • Anges De Mons — Les anges de Mons sont un groupe d anges censés avoir protégé les membres de l armée britannique durant la bataille de Mons au début de la Première Guerre mondiale. Les sceptiques suggèrent que l histoire est fictive, engendrée par la combinaison …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Anges de mons — Les anges de Mons sont un groupe d anges censés avoir protégé les membres de l armée britannique durant la bataille de Mons au début de la Première Guerre mondiale. Les sceptiques suggèrent que l histoire est fictive, engendrée par la combinaison …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Anges de Mons — La légende des Anges de Mons est une légende urbaine selon laquelle un groupe d anges seraient apparus aux soldats de l armée britannique, au début de la Première Guerre mondiale, lors de la bataille de Mons (Belgique). Elle fut particulièrement… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • John Charteris — Brigadier General John Charteris (1877 1946) was a British general during the First World War. He was Sir Douglas Haig s Chief of British Army Intelligence Officer at the British Expeditionary Force s headquarters from 1915 1918.Despite his grasp …   Wikipedia

  • Arthur Machen — Infobox Writer name = Arthur Machen quote = birthdate = birth date|1863|3|3|mf=y birthplace = Caerleon, Newport, Monmouthshire , United Kingdom deathdate = death date and age|1947|12|15|1863|3|3|mf=y deathplace = occupation = short story writer,… …   Wikipedia

  • Earthling Publications — is an American small press run by Paul Miller and specialising in fine limited edition books in the horror and dark fantasy genres.In 2003, Earthling won the Horror Writers Association Specialty Press Award .Books Published by Earthling Midnight… …   Wikipedia