The Angels of Mons: a legend of the Great War – by Dr Dave Clarke

When: Thursday, May 15th, 2014, 8.00 PM

‘…the greatest wartime mystery of the 20th century…’ A.J.P. Taylor

One hundred years ago, in August 1914, a force of 30,000 crack British troops were surrounded outside the Belgian city of Mons by a massive German Army three times as strong. But at the very moment they expected to be annihilated the attack was suddenly halted, allowing the troops to escape and fight another day.

Back home, newspapers attributed the escape of the British Expeditionary Force to “a miracle” and many Christians came to believe that the Germans had been stopped by a vision of angels that appeared between them and the BEF. And as the war bogged down in the trenches wounded soldiers and nurses who cared for them came forward to claim they had witnessed the miracle at Mons. 

The Angels of Mons captured the imagination of thousands across the world, bringing hope of victory to the Allies and restoring faith to those who lost loved ones in the slaughter on the Western Front. As the centenary of the legend approaches the story lives on with plans for a battle of Mons trail and commemorative events to mark the beginning and end of the war in the Belgian city.
In this talk David Clarke – author of the definitive book on the mystery (The Angel of Mons, Wiley: 2004) – sets out to reveal the facts behind the story, drawing upon original documents and accounts from journalists who collected stories about the ‘angels’.
The talk follows the evolution of the story to the present day and asks if it really was ‘the first example of a modern urban legend’.

Dr David Clarke is an expert on folklore and supernatural beliefs. He is a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. From 2008-2013 he worked as The National Archives consultant for the opening of the Ministry of Defence’s UFO files. His book The UFO Files (Bloomsbury 2012) is the first comprehensive history of the MoD’s UFO investigations. His website is dedicated to folklore and journalism:

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