In the fall of 1914, in the wake of the Battle of Mons, people began to report having seen an angel or many angels on the battlefield, protecting the gallant British from the evil Huns. Well, they didn’t say THEY had seen it (or them). They said they knew someone who said he knew someone who had seen a Heavenly Presence.
The Western Front Association describes it this way:
“The rumour typically claimed that an avenging Angel, clothed all in white, mounted on the classical white horse, and brandishing a flaming sword, had appeared in a parting of the clouds at the worst moments of the night battle. The Angel had rallied the troops and enabled them to crush the enemy and halt their advance. This apparition was soon called ‘The Angel of Mons’ though by whom remains obscure.”
On his website AftermathWWI.com, Mike Roden writes, however:
“The legend is often explained as the result of hallucinations by soldiers who had not slept for days. The truth of the matter is that the legend seems to be entirely based on a short story written by Arthur Machen and published in the London Evening Standard at the end of September 1914.
“The story itself which you can read in full here doesn’t amount to much. Machen, who was noted for his occult stories, came up with the idea that one of the beleaguered soldiers summons St.George, who brings the bowmen of Agincourt back to destroy thousands of Germans with their invisible arrows. There’s no mention of angels anywhere in the tale.”
But the angel angle got into the story soon enough and became so firmly entrenched that when Sophy Burnham wrote her best-selling “A Book of Angels” in 1990, she recounted (I don’t know what her source was) that British soldiers told nurses they had seen St. George — in this instance, maybe he counts as an angel — and the French said they had seen the Archangel Michael. Apparently, no one asked the Germans.
More stories of the Angel of Mons here:
Here’s a recording you can’t miss:
John Ortberg, senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California, spoke to ABC News about the study. “There is a real and huge part of the human condition that we want to know that the spiritual is real, that there is a divine presence in our lives,” he said, “and talking about angels is a very important expression of that hunger.”