Encyclopedia - Angels of Mons
The phenomenon that was the 'angels of Mons' was experienced by British troops retreating in the aftermath of the Battle of Mons on the Western Front in August 1914.
Numerous soldiers claimed to have seen visions in the sky of St. George surrounded by angels, horsemen and cavalry.
The visions, which were subsequently charitably attributed to the extreme tiredness of the British troops, most of whom had not slept in days, actually originated in a short story published by the journalist Arthur Machen (an author of occult fiction) in the London Evening News at the close of the month following the battle, entitled The Bowmen.
The only link between the Mons retreat and Machen's story was its beginning, which observed that troops of the British Expeditionary Force were in retreat: Mons itself was not mentioned. However the BEF was saved in Machen's story by the appearance of St. George et al.
Bizarrely however veterans of the battle subsequently lent support to Machen's story, ensuring that the apparent visions took on a legendary quality both during and after the war. For a while towards the end of 1914 and into 1915 many people in Britain apparently gave Machen's story some credence, somewhat to the embarrassment of the latter, who repeatedly denied any element of fact in his story, writing "the story itself is nothing" - a stance which merely heaped sceptical disbelief upon Machen (with one cleric refusing to believe Machen's word).
If nothing else, however, the fantasy nevertheless proved a remarkable morale booster in Britain at a time when military success on the battlefield was proving elusive.
Click here to read the text of Arthur Machen's story The Bowmen.
A "Brass Hat" was a high ranking officer.
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