In August 1914, the British Expeditionary Force began a full retreat after intense fighting during the World War I Battle of Mons.
The Germans, who vastly outnumbered the British, began to pursue the British forces to try and make the most of their numerical advantage.
Soldiers in the British army were desperate, and luck would have it, they would pass by an old celebrated battlefield that would have a huge impact on the battle. Passing by the site of the battle of Agincourt, one of the soldiers said a prayer to Saint George, and in a supernatural way, it would turn the tide of the British retreat.
This is remembered as the miracle at Mons WWI.
What was the Battle of Mons?
Just days after the British declared war on Germany in August 1914, the first soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force began arriving in France.
The British first rallied near Maubeuge, before advancing to Mons on August 22nd. As the British reached Mons on the Belgian French border, they planned an offensive to move further into Belgium, but a German army much greater in number was ready to engage.
This was to become a huge part of the Battle of the Frontier in the opening weeks of World War I.
Though the Germans greatly outnumbered the British, they took a lot more casualties. Both sides fought a hard intensive battle, and both sides paid dearly. It was estimated that the Germans suffered around 5,000 casualties, and the British around 1600.
Who Is Saint George?
George was a Praetorian Guard serving under the command of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, but was executed in the year 303ad for not recanting his Christian faith. He has now become known as the most prominent of all military saints.
Saint George underwent some of the most horrific torture, even by Roman standards, but was able to show incredible courage and faith throughout. After his display of heroic courage, he was eventually beheaded near Lydda in Palestine.
It wasn’t long before the stories of his courage began to spread throughout Europe. One of the most famous tales is of George’s fight with a dragon. Throughout the medieval era, the depiction of a dragon was often in reference to the devil, and not the literal mythological creature we often think of today.
It’s highly unlikely that Saint George ever visited England, but his name became known throughout the country by the Eighth-century.
King Edward III declared him the Patron Saint of England, and at the battle of Agincourt in France, King Henry V further glorified the saint.
William Shakespeare wrote that King Henry V finished his speech at Agincourt with the famous phrase, ‘Cry God for Harry, England and St. George!’
The Prayer That Changed The Battle
The miracle at Mons occurred when the British were retreating south. The soldiers passed the site of the famous battle of Agincourt, where King Henry V’s longbowmen dealt devastating attacks on the French army. Some estimates of the battle claim the French outnumbered the English 6-to-1.
Facing similar daunting odds in 1914, one British soldier said a prayer to Saint George that would change the outcome of their retreat.
The primary account of what followed, tells us that a divine army of English longbowmen appeared, led by Saint George, which both scared and killed the pursuing German army.
Some veterans who recounted the miracle at Mons, claimed they were witnesses to a divine occurrence.
Though stories sometimes differ, some say the Germans were found with arrow wounds rather than bullet wounds, and that the ghostly army which appeared before them, was actually an army of angels in the form of English medieval knights, led by Saint George himself. Some accounts also tell of the British retreat into a wall of clouds.
Arthur Machen Retelling
The Welsh writer Arthur Machen was an influential author, and the tale of the spectral soldiers is often attributed to a story Machen wrote after the battle, entitled The Bowmen.
In The Bowmen, an army of angelic archers appear after a British soldier prays for help from Saint George. After a thousand angels led by Saint George slaughter the enemy, there are no wounds to be found on the German troops, which leads the Germans to believe the British are using a new type of gas weapon.
Some people claim Machen fictionalized a true story, while others believe it was Machen’s story which was taken as true account.
Whether or not you believe the story to hold any truth or not is up for debate, but the miracle at Mons is just one of the many fascinating stories to come out of the World Wars. There are many more stories of divine intervention and spectral beings which are fascinating.
The miracle at Mons WWI definitely makes for an interesting story, but due to no surviving eyewitness testimony, it’s hard to distinguish fact from fiction.