We do understand that our English speaking visitors would like to know more. This is possible. You can contact us by e-mail at email@example.com. Please be advised, if you want a "Official Tour" please contact the Mons Tourist Office. We are locals and take people on tour for a gift, a smile, a "Thank you". Of course we feel we do a better job, personal approach, well spoken English, we take our time and adapt to you.
Anything is possible according to your schedule, but please send an e-mail with you phone contact/number. We will do more in English, but again, we're just locals trying to show our beautiful city.
Americans, UK residents, Canadians, all is possible.
Ich werde bald es auch auf Deutsch schreiben aus repekt fur die Deutsche Soladaten und ihren Gräber. Sie können mir immer contaktieren bei e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Legend has it that on the night of August 23th 1914, when the British Army was cornered, winged figures, very bright, would have appeared in the sky over Mons Belgium to assist the British troops. These angels are said to have temporarily halted the German advances, allowing the British to organize their retreat.
The origins and history of this legend are multiple.
Indeed, it is common in wartime, facing the violence of fighting, that the soldiers are taken by a certain spirituality that responds to their logic questions, questions exceeding the very basis of the individual immersed in a cruel war. The proximity of death and stressful living conditions are a breeding ground for the spread of legends, in a world in which the means of communication between the front and rear are scarce and where whispers are all over.
The Great War 14-18 will know many legends that tell many different stories of the front-lines, soldiers reportedly asked and received help of celestial figures. Depending on the context, these figures take the form of religious figures (Christ, the Virgin Mary), legendary characters or national heroes (Saint-Georges, Jeanne d'Arc, ...). These reflect the fact that these apparitions, beyond simple search for spirituality, are rooted in the collective unconscious and in a more complex phenomenon related to the legitimization of war.
Many factors come into play in the spread of these legends. For the angels of Mons, an important element is the involvement of Arthur Machen, British fantasy writer.
On 29 September 1914, he published in the London Evening News, a story that tells about a British soldier during a battle against the German soldiers, invoked St. George who assisted by redirecting archers’ shooting at the Battle of Agincourt. The patron saint of the British army misguided the German army… The tone of the story is that of “the witness” and not a fiction teller, story teller. This caused confusion in the perception of history. The author stipulated, shortly after the publication of his work, it was pure fiction that was written to support the morale of his countrymen.
But the rumour spread rapidly in Great Britain.
During the following months, many articles and books appeared relaying testimonies of soldiers who participated in the Great Retreat of the British forces from Mons. The legend took various forms and the angels who appeared to the British troops, were presented in many different ways: bright cloud rider winged knight, etc ... spiritualistic magazines seized the phenomenon, just as the Church.
Sermons telling the legend and divine intervention were published all over and artists painted the phenomenon, music was composed. The legend had truly penetrated British society, with the obvious support of authorities who saw it as a way to support the war efforts.
Reading the clerical press was, in the early twentieth century, very important and influential. Thus in May 1915, Rev. Gilson, editor of All Saints, and an influential and popular preacher of Manchester, took on the reprint of the history of Machen. The story was published in large numbers. Other editions or re-edits of Machen appeared all over the UK.
The story of a nurse who claimed to have treated soldiers who saw the Angels will also emerge and be rapidly be published in parish magazines and used in the sermons of all Protestant churches in the United Kingdom.
In August 1915, Arthur Machen republished his work, he adds a clear preface indicating that his story was fictitious and that there is no basis to reality to it. However, the denial of Machen will not change the situation, the population still believes the appearance of Angels. One consequence of this new edition is the publication of a wide range of books claiming to provide evidence of their existence. By 1915 a survey of the Society for Psychological Research indicates that there is no first-hand testimony. It also states that the angels prove ,after investigation, be based solely on rumour and can not be linked to any serious source.
Work by Marcel Gillis, a Local Mons Artist
In fact, the Angels of Mons were often cited as "proof" that God was on the side of the Allies. At the end of the summer of 1915, it was unpatriotic, or almost a betrayal to doubt the story. This will continue even into the 1960’s as a British historian writes in one of his books that a supernatural intervention was observed, more or less reliable, the British side, in fact, the Angels of Mons, were a mere fact of the supernatural, a war and cause, recognized by the higher authorities.
It is therefore felt by the public that the British state is not involved in this story. Two facts emerge: the first, is the non-intervention of the Government in the expansion of the legend. The second is that it would have secretly encouraged it. This second trend seems to be the best assumption. Indeed, authorities do not interact formally, no statement concerning the appearance, but the vision of Angels gave a patriotic boost!
The State wanted the men to enlisted in the army and was keen for the support of civilians in their war effort. This is temporary, because the recognition of God's help in the First World War allows public opinion rallied towards the cause of the Government.
Mons then becomes the place were proof is to be found, because of it’s place in time; the first British conflict, the defeat that turned into victory by the retreating BEF and the appearance of angels grows into a tangible sign of future victory of the Allied armies.
Authorities have considerable censorship systems, where importance is given to propaganda, misinformation and rumours when needed in support of Victory. The only way to get first hand information is from the soldiers returning home from the battlefields, common knowledge, newspapers and magazines.
And, all of them have their information only, from the reports that the army wants to release. People needed to hear from the continent where the battle was fought.
For example, in 1914, a rumour spread quickly; “Russian soldiers have arrived in England with snow still on their boots”.
In that case, we see a blur between rumour and truth. Legend of the Angels and the rumour of the arrival of Russian troops on the western front, are clearly beneficial to the Allied cause and therefore the authorities let the information spread. The censor could stop the spread of these assertions despite it’s large arsenal of information management systems. But, it not only allowed the dismissal of “harmful to the cause” new letters from soldiers who were direct witnesses to the blood filled trenches, but also the retention of information that was deemed useful for their purposes.
Brigadier-General Charteris will play an important role in this story.
Intelligence officer, he participated, among others, in the retreat from Mons, he was aware of the power and usefulness of misinformation. His involvement in spreading the rumour of the arrival of Russian troops can not be confirmed, either denied, another legendary story has been definedtely created by Charteris.
It relates to the history of the growing of bodies. He would have been the originator of the rumour claiming that the Germans used the bodies of dead soldiers to make ammunition or even food! This strange and horrible rumour will continue to spread throughout the first war and later to be denied in 1925! During a conference in the United States, Charteris explicitly affirmed the creation of this story by British Intelligence to get China to join the Allied forces. Knowing his involvement in spreading stories during the war, it can be assumed that he played a major role in the expansion of the “appearance of angels”in the Mons surroundings on August 23rd 1918. It is even said he wrote the story in a letter to his wife where he dealt with Angels during the retreat from Mons, however, this document, supposedly to be found in the collection of the letters to his wife, which is more than 1200 pieces, has never been found. A coincidence? The evidence of the involvement of British intelligence services in spreading the myths is overwhelming.
The Grou9 of Angels in the Yearly procession of the Reics of Sainte Waudru in Mons, the third time since 1919.
Machen's book may have had a role in creating the myth later on, but it seems probable that he was assisted all along by British Intelligence Services. If this is correct, the Angels of Mons can be regarded as an interesting piece of social history, but also as a masterful and enduring example of the beginning of misinformation campaigns and propaganda through mass media.
After the war, many people will start looking for the Angels of Mons. Results of this research: there was no connection with the actual experience in the field in the area of Mons.
The origins of the “Angels of Mons” would not be found in the events of the battle itself but within the army entered a new phase of trench warfare, thereby causing incessant suffering that would shock the people at home. The aversion of War in stead of a certain admiration for the hero’s would cause the effort back at the home fronts diminish greatly. The only real evidence of visions occurring during the debates afterwards came from soldiers actually in service who said they had visions of horsemen-ghosts, no angels or archers, and this happened during retirement rather that during the battle itself. As for the facts, many soldiers were exhausted, and had not slept properly for days-on-end. It may be that these visions were hallucinations….?
The story of divine intervention was able to develop against the dark context of the cruel “New” war. A war that had nothing to do with heroism, or hero’s, a war that was carnage, machine guns mowing down row after row of young men that became the victim of old tactics and new inventions. The Government might have acted to boost the morale of the British public after numerous defeats and stagnation of the war, when it was said and believed by all that all troops would be back for Christmas, many songs were written... More and more soldiers died on the battlefield and several legends and myths grew in Great Britain and in other countries. The story of the Angels of Mons will take larger dimensions over time due to the work of Machen who indicates that, even though the story is an invention, it triggered a popular movement of belief and took care of fears that would have undoubtedly have come forward. All this resulted in the creation of a sustainable legend, surviving beyond the short period of history that had created it and it was embraced by the British as an essential part of folk memory.
An amazing show on the Grand Place of Mons about the Angels of Mons, Live projestion on the ald City Hall. From August 1st to August 14th 2014 by "Tour of Sites" Click on link for their information.
In 1919 and in 1945, a group representing the Angels of Mons participated in the Procession of the Golden Carridge, carrying the relics of Sainte Waudru through the town of Mons. A yearly festival originating hundreds of years ago. This group was surrounded by armed British soldiers and dressed as angels in white. The appearance of the group stirred a lot of emotions in the Mons’public after two wars.
For the festivities of the 2014 Procession of the Golden Carridge, the Coordinating Committee Commemoration City, supported by the patriotic associations in Mons staged this group “Angels of Mons” again, and participated in her way in commemorating the Battle of Mons, reiterating that the presence of this group in the procession not only underlines the thankfulness of the people of Mons towards the Allied Forces but, according to legend, the British would have invoked St. George, the Angels would then appeared ... Saint George the Patron Saint of the City of Mons, the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2015.
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