Angels Of Mons - Poem by David Harris
It was late August 1914,
for two days the British Expeditionary Force
largely outnumbered fought the German forces
in the first major engagement at Mons.
Despite suffering large casualties
they managed to push the Germans back,
but now they were out flanked
and a retreat was ordered.
Slowly they moved back towards
the safety of their own lines still fighting in retreat.
An eerie silence fell over the carnage,
looking back several of us were astonished
to see a line of long bow archers
firing arrows afters arrows
keeping the Germans at bay
as we made our retreat.
Alongside the Bowmen stood a Knight
with his sword drawn he shouted orders
as they rained arrows down on the Germans,
covering our escape to safety.
Out of no man’s land we rested
in the safety of our trenches.
We lit cigarettes and spoke quietly
of the line of Long Bowmen
who covered our retreat.
Who were they and the Knight
and where had they come from?
The eerie silence slowly dissipated
leaving only soft moans drifting across
the vast no man’s land of the battlefield.
The story of the Angels of Mons was born.
Back in England
the story spread like wildfire
as churches took it up as a symbol
that God had sent down Angels
to protect the British troops.
Pamphlets were printed about the story
and given to parishioners to fuel the hysteria
about the supernatural events that happened at Mons.
Stanza one and four are true, but two and three are fiction. The story of the Bowmen was a work of fiction written by Arthur Machen. Machen was a war correspondent at the time and a writer of supernatural tales. Looking back you can see why his short tale of The Bowmen could well have been believed fact.
Even today in some true ghost stories the tale about Angels of Mons is sometimes included. However, there is no correspondence from the soldiers from the front writing home ever mentioned it. For years Machen always maintained it was a story of fiction. As I writer I have often had readers believing my muses as true.
13 March 2014
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