(Investigator 38, 1994 September. This version slightly revised.)






In late August 1914 armies totaling millions of men moved across northern France. The summer sun blazed down on vast columns of weary, sleep-deprived soldiers lacking essential supplies. Hundreds of thousands were reduced to staggering, seeing mirages, and losing track of time. The Germans were buoyed up because they were advancing but the British, according to later reports, had the angels of Mons.


In 1918 the Germans advanced again and five great onslaughts rolled consecutively against the Western Front. The Germans made no allowance for the Angel of Amiens in March or the angels of Bethune in April.


And what about the war in heaven in 1914 when Satan was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him?




The Schlieffen Plan called for a march by 2 million German troops through Belgium and northern France. They were to turn south behind Paris and then eastwards thus forming a vast circle which enclosed virtually all the French armies plus the capital city, Paris. In this way the war against France was to be won in six weeks.


The Schlieffen Plan came to ruin in the Battle of the Marne one of the greatest slaughters in history. In six days, September 5-10, the warring sides suffered about 500,000 casualties a rate not to be approached again until 1918.


It has been said that Angels at Mons on August 24 prepared the way for the French/British victory at the Marne.




Mons was a drab town in western Belgium. The British Expeditionary Force reached it on August 23 and there fought their first major battle. Miraculously, so it seemed, the German advance was checked for one day.


A story by Arthur Machen called The Bowmen in the Evening News (London) of September 29 started with a stirring  description  of  large scale British retreat. Suddenly a long line of Agincourt archers shot the Germans down by thousands with arrows. No wounds were later found on the dead Germans.


Other newspapers and headlines took up the story. Changes were made, details added or subtracted, alleged quotes from British soldiers who had been at Mons were incorporated. An article in the Roman Catholic paper The Universe (1915 April 30) was allegedly based on a letter from a Catholic Officer who had been at Mons.


By May 1915 retellings of the story had changed the Bowmen into an army of shining angels.  In his book The Bowmen and Other Legends Machen tried to set the record straight that he had written a story and not a news report. However, his explanation was ignored. The magazine Light (1915 May 15) had a poem about Mons and described "troops of silent angels".


All over England clergymen preached about angels and newspapers ran comment and debate. Eyewitness testimonies began to appear in print. A Key figure was an articulate nurse named Phillis Campbell.


Miss Campbell quoted a number of alleged eye-witnesses and even added stories of Frenchmen rescued from defeat by appearances of Joan of Arc. Next, she added tales of Saint Michael appearing on the Russian Front! Campbell was a Spiritualist and had written ghost stories before the war. Her claims about Mons appeared initially in The Occult Review!


Challenged by Machen for proof Campbell replied that troops were ordered not to talk about battlefield events.


Campbell went on to write atrocity reports of Germans crucifying civilians and cutting the hands of children off – reports later proven false. She wrote:

It seemed to me that all the wickedness, all the fear and filthiness imaginable that exists can be summed up in one word: "GERMAN."


The lady clearly had a deep hatred of Germans and sought to transfer this hatred to others by means of lies including the lie that angels fought against Germans.


Detailed histories of World War One do not describe any intervention by angels at Mons.  British chaplain Owen S Watkins was at Mons with the British Expeditionary Force. His detailed account With Field Marshall French in France and Flanders published in March made no mention of angels.


What happened on August 23/24 1914 was that the Germans arrived at Mons piecemeal, charged into British guns and suffered high casualties. British troops carried an entrenching tool with which they could quickly dig protective mounds of earth. The rapid-fire technique of the British riflemen had the Germans thinking they faced machine guns and this fear also slowed them down. However, when larger German forces arrived the British faced being surrounded and therefore retreated.


The one day delay to the Schlieffen Plan's six-week schedule was significant but not decisive. There were other delays of one or two days especially in subduing several forts in Belgium. The decisive event occurred on August 25 when the German Chief of the General Staff, von Moltke (1848-1916), ordered two corps to leave France to help against the Russians invading East Prussia.


This fatally weakened the German forces in the West and resulted in a gap between two German armies at the Marne River in front of Paris. Into the gap marched the British Expeditionary Force.


Ironically the missing two corps arrived too late in Prussia to help defeat the Russian invasion. Before they could get back to the West the Battle of the Marne, the most decisive battle of World War I, was over and lost.


The French/British victory at the Marne was important because it turned the war into a long war and enabled Britain to concentrate the resources of the British Empire. Australia alone eventually sent 332,000 troops overseas. The number of British infantry divisions in France increased as follows:


September 1914
May 1915
October 1916
April 1917


Even more ironically the Germans would make a similar mistake again in 1918 and again there would be angel stories! And again a major nation would gain time to gather and concentrate its strength!


The myth of the Mons angels expanded after the War as real history receded into the past. More witnesses appeared and the stories became ever more incredible.


Machen, who had unwittingly started it all, said in 1940: "There was not one word of truth in them, those stories were lies."



Two months after Mons and the Marne the war of movement stopped and trench warfare took over.


In 1915 the Germans defended in France while advancing in Russia. In 1916 came the attempt to bleed the French army white at the Battle of Verdun. In July the British attacked at the Somme and suffered 59,000 casualties in one day. Russia's Brusilov Offensive in June made great gains against the Austrians but ended by losing Russia 1,000,000 men. Rumania joined the Allies and was destroyed in December.


In 1917 General Nivelle's attempt to win the War in one mighty blow led to a quarter of a million French casualties and brought the French armies to the verge of mutiny. Simultaneously Britain was brought to the brink of defeat by Germany's submarine campaign with 2,600 ships sunk that year. In October Italy came within an ace of destruction at the Battle of Caporetto. Next, in November, Russia withdrew from the War. Meanwhile at Passchendaele in Flanders the British and Germans fought it out with casualties on both sides totalling 700,000 in four months. Then came 1918, the huge Michael Offensive, and the entry of United States forces.



On November 11, 1917 the German leaders met at Mons(!) to decide on their strategy for 1918. The basic alternatives to choose from were:

Hindenburg (1847-1934) Chief of the General Staff, and Ludendorff his Quartermaster-General argued for the third option and got their way. The decision was to attack.


The first troops left Russia for the Western Front in November.


By March 1918 600,000 troops with all their equipment, had reinforced the armies in the west. For the first time the French plus British were outnumbered. But the Germans needed to win before too many Americans arrived. By the end of December 1917 there were 175,000 Americans in France but they had not yet joined the fighting.





Around 5 a.m. March 21, 1918 people living on Britain's south east coast were awoken by faint rattling of their windows.


Across the Channel in France 6,500 guns plus 3,000 mortars, lined up for 43 miles, barraged the British trenches. The long-awaited offensive which Ludendorff had codenamed Michael, perhaps after Michael the Archangel, had started.


Thousands of groups of storm troops, armed with grenades and light machine guns, and trained in new techniques of infiltration – 63 divisions of the l9th, 2nd and l8th armies – moved forward.


On the first day the Germans suffered almost 40,000 casualties and the British 38,000 (although almost half of the British casualties were as prisoners of war).


Among the cities in the direct path of the Michael Offensive was Amiens.


Now, in The Advertiser (Adelaide) of July 25 1993 we're informed:

"Amiens had a statue of an angel at the top of its church steeple. Local folklore said that as long as the angel remained in place the town should not fall to the Germans. The church was bombed and suffered serious damage, the angel tipped crazily but did not fall. Amiens was not occupied by the Germans."


Since no specific church building is named in this story it makes sense to presume that the most prominent church is meant. The Cathedral of Notre Dame at Amiens was built in the 13th century. It is the largest Gothic Cathedral in France. Its nave is 43 metres (140 ft) high.


By March 27 Michael had advanced 40 miles and the 17th Army was ordered towards Amiens.


On the 28th to 30th Michael everywhere ground to a halt. For another week attempts were made to restart the advance. Finally Michael was cancelled on April 5. Total casualties on all sides were about 500,000 most of these in the first eight days of the attack.


The historical reasons for Michael's ruin say nothing about a statue on a church steeple. There were at least four reasons for the failure.


The first occurred March 23 when Ludendorff gave his three armies divergent axis of advance.  If all three or at least two had headed towards Amiens then Michael might have forced a general British retreat, captured vital railway centres, and forced the Allies into peace negotiations.


The 2nd reason was the bastion of Arras at the northern extremity of the Offensive. This was the strongest section of the British defenses. Ludendorff's original aim had been to bypass such strong points. This aim he ignored and instead of bypassing Arras he diverted more and more effort to defeat the British where they were strongest. And while the 17th Army battered toward Arras the virtually unopposed 2nd and 18th Armies were ordered to slow down and wait for the 17th!


On March 28 a renewed onslaught towards Arras by nine divisions collapsed in a storm of fire. Even then the 18th Army marked time for two more days before resuming the advance to Amiens. It was too late. The defense had stiffened and the chance to leave trench warfare behind and progress to open warfare was lost.


The third reason was loss of German discipline. A diary entry for March 28 by a junior officer, Leutnant Rudolf Binding, read:


"Today the advance of our infantry suddenly stopped near Albert. Nobody could understand why. Our armies had reported no enemy between Albert and Amiens."


Binding described scenes of soldiers getting drunk, chasing chickens or cows, and looting. The diary entry for March 29 mentions semi-drunk soldiers leaving Albert to resume the advance to Amiens being mowed down by machine guns.


The final reason for Michael's failure lay in Russia.  Before giving this reason let's consider another angel story.


It should be noted that Amiens was briefly occupied by the Germans in 1914 and again in World War II. On those occasions no statue on any church steeple helped.



The second German offensive, code named Georgette by Ludendorff and called the Battle of Lys in most histories, lasted April 9 to 19 with several further spasms on the 24th and 29th.


Douglas Haig (1861-1928), Commander in Chief of the British forces, addressed the soldiers on April 11:

"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end."


Describing alleged events on or about April 16 the Household Brigade magazine (Winter 1942) says:


"At the focal point of the enemy's advance, Bethune, the Germans concentrated high explosive and machine-gun fire, preparatory to bayonet attack in mass formation. Suddenly the enemy shell-fire lifted and concentrated on a slight rise beyond the town. The ground there was absolutely bare yet enemy machine-guns and shells raked it from end to end with a hail of lead. The dense line of German troops which had started to move forward to victory in mass formation halted dead. And, as the British watched, they saw it break! The Germans threw down everything they had, and fled in frantic panic. Here, is part of a statement of a senior German officer who was taken prisoner afterwards.


Fritz, my lieutenant here, said Herr Kapitan, just look at that open ground behind Bethune, there is a Brigade of Cavalry coming up through the smoke I suppose they must be cavalry of one their Colonial Forces, for, see they are all in white uniform and are mounted on white horses, see, our guns have got the range now; they will be blown to pieces in no time.  We saw the shells bursting among the horses and riders, all of whom came forward at a quiet trot in parade-ground formation, each man and horse in his exact place.

On they came and not a single man or horse fell a few paces in front of them rode their leader, a fine figure of a man, whose hair, like spun gold, shone in an aura around his head. By his side was a great sword, but his hands lay quietly holding the reins, as his huge white charger bore him proudly forward.


Then a great fear fell on me, and I turned to flee; yes, I, an officer of the Prussian Guard, fled panic stricken, and around me were hundreds of terrified men, whimpering like children, throwing away their arms and accoutrements in order not to have their movements impeded…all running."


(Based on an account of the Staff Captain, 1st Corps Intelligence, 1st British Army Headquarters, 1916-1918, who took the statement from the German officer).

(From The Advertiser, 1991, January 5, p. 83)


The angel story was probably a deliberate propaganda story to inspire courage during World War II.


Examination of detailed maps of the Georgette Offensive show that the Germans were stopped 2 1/2 miles, or 4 kilometres, from Bethune. This distance is too great for a bayonet attack or for machine guns to rake the town.


Georgette failed not because of angels but because:

  1. It was initially intended as a diversionary attack but when it met with initial unexpected success Ludendorff allocated extra forces too slowly;
  2. Several opportunities were missed. For example on April 25 Ludendorff intervened to stop his forces exploiting their capture of Kemmel Hill;
  3. Australian forces stemmed the attack at crucial points such as the Battle of Hazelbrouck on April 12 and at Villers Brettoneux on April 24;
  4. Russia.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 gave Germany about 1/4 of the Russian Empire. An important effect of this is explained in History of the First World War:


"A victor's peace must be enforced, and in enforcing the terms of the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Bucharest the Supreme Command lost sight of the primary object with which it had begun negotiations. It had sought to free its hands in the east in order to concentrate its reserves of manpower in the west. Yet 1,000,000 men immobilised in the East was the price of German aggrandisement, and half that number might well have turned the scale in the early stages of the German offensive in France. According to both French and British military authorities, only a few cavalry divisions were necessary in March and April 1918 to widen the gap in the Allied line so that a general retreat would have been inevitable. These were not available to the Supreme Command on the Western Front; but at the moment three German cavalry divisions were held virtually idle in the Ukraine. Only in the late summer of 1918, when the German losses had attained fantastic figures, were troops transferred from the east. But they came a few at a time and too late. Ludendorff the Politician had defeated Ludendorff the General".



After Georgette three further offensives followed:


1.   The Bluecher Attack May 27 to June 3.  3,700-gun bombardment on a 38-mile front. 22 divisions in the attack and 24 in reserve. Bluecher stalled because supply lines could not keep up with the advance, large numbers of soldiers looted, got drunk and ignored their officers, and the American forces entered the fighting. Nevertheless, this was the most spectacular and successful attack of trench warfare. 65,000 prisoners taken.

2.   The Battle of Noyon (or Battle of Matz) June 9-14. This attack stalled when again the Americans entered the fighting.

3.   The Second Battle of the Marne (or the Peace Offensive) July 15 to 28. A two-pronged attack east and west of Rheims with 52 divisions. A further 150,000 German casualties.


Meanwhile the Americans poured into France beyond anything Ludendorff had expected. Arrivals in each month were:

March    84,000

April     119,000

May      250,000

June     278,000

July      307,000


These numbers decisively turned the tables. Each of Ludendorff's last four offensives were intended as diversions to draw away Allied reserves before delivering the war-winning blow in Flanders. Each attack (except the July Offensive) was initially so successful that Ludendorff prolonged it. And meanwhile crucial months slipped by.


Regarding the July Offensive Fleming (1992) says: "If Ludendorff had switched his attack divisions north to Flanders at this point, he might have won the war."


This assessment is overly optimistic. Even a full-scale transfer of the remaining million men in Russia might not have prevailed at this stage. The best chance still available would have been a retreat from France to the German frontier, build new defences there, sow the vacated areas with bombs together with timing devices, give greater support to Austria and Turkey, then offer to negotiate. This strategy would have gained the German armies until the Spring of 1919 to recuperate. The Allies then faced with the prospect of losing a further 5 million men in order to win probably would have chosen a settlement by negotiation.


Instead Ludendorff headed for Flanders on July 18th to prepare the Hagen Offensive. But this time the Allies struck first.


August the 8th was the so-called "black day" of the German Army. British, Canadian and Australian divisions, supported by 600 tanks, commenced the Battle of Amiens. This ended September 4 with another 100,000 Germans accounted for.


On September 29th Ludendorff had an emotional collapse and Hindenburg announced to a council of war: "The situation demanded an immediate armistice to save a catastrophe."


In October a vast American attack, the Argonne Offensive, stalled.  Ludendorff felt better and concluded that the situation was not as bad as feared. It was too late. The peace process was resounding throughout Germany.


Hart (1970) writes: "For the profoundest truth of war is that the issue of battles is usually decided in the minds of the opposing commanders, not
in the bodies of their men. The best history would be a register of their thoughts and emotions, with a mere background of events to throw them
in relief."

The decisions of Ludendorff in 1918 support this observation.





Finally, what about the "dragon and his angels" being thrown out of Heaven down to the earth in 1914 and causing "woe to the earth" in the form of world war and other calamities?


This interpretation of the Bible (Revelation chapter 12) was formulated by the Russellite cult (now Jehovah's Witnesses) in 1930.


Their previous interpretation was totally different. In that previous interpretation the angels were Catholic bishops and the war in heaven was the struggle between pagan Rome and Papal Rome. (The Finished Mystery 1917 pp. 188-189)


And what about the alleged calculation of the year 1914 from the Bible? 1914 was derived by adding 2,520 years to the date when Jerusalem was taken by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. That date, according to the Russellites, was 606 BC. However, every recent history book dealing with ancient Jerusalem and Babylon gives the date as 586 BC.


Among the Russellite prophecies for 1914/1915 were: "The Gentile Times prove that the present governments must all be overturned about the close of A.D. 1915..." (The Time is at Hand 1889 p. 242)


Scores of equally inaccurate prophecies for the period 1914 to 1928 have acted as a serious brake on the growth of the sect. In 1917, for example, they predicted:


In one short year, 1917-1918, the vast and complicated system of sectarianism reaches its zenith of power only to be suddenly dashed into oblivion. (The Finished Mystery, 1917, p. 285)


A further retardant to sect growth were its inconsistencies. For example, for almost 80 years the Watchtower sect has placed primary blame for World War 1 on Christian ministers of all denominations. Their reason is that most combatants were nominal Christians. Yet by 1915 about 380 Russellites were in the German armed forces a fact conveniently forgotten or ignored. (Souvenir Notes Bible Students Conventions Supplement 1915 p. 242) How much easier it would have been to stop 380 men going to war than to stop tens of millions!


After every prediction of the cult for the World War period failed the rationalization was that God had intervened in 1918 to cut short the great tribulation. They quoted Jesus (in Matthew 24 in the Bible): "And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened."


In 1961 The Watchtower (November 1 p. 671) still claimed that the alleged tribulation-shortening of 1918 was proved by: "Fulfillment of divine prophecy..."


Then in 1969 the story was changed again and the great tribulation no longer started with 1914-1918 but was transferred to the future. (The Watchtower 1970 January 15 pp. 52-54)


The story of angels tossed down from heaven in 1914 is unbelievable to thinking people because:

1.     No one saw it;

2.     The calculation for 1914/1915 is based on false prophecy;

3.     The story was a later rationalization to give meaning to 1914 after all prophecies for the period had failed;

4.     Other contradictions, failed predictions, and doctrinal changes reveal the interpreters as simply unreliable.


Despite changing doctrines like some men change their shoes the sect leaders also teach:

…angels are delegated by the Lord to convey his instructions to members of his organization on earth. Just how this is done is not necessary for us to understand. (The Watchtower, 1933, December 1, p. 364)


One wonders whether the sect leaders ever get depressed over their own foolishness.


And what about Ludendorff in 1919 when the undefeated German armies in the East returned. Did he dream of what might have been? General Ludendorff lost a son in the Michael battle. Did the General ever question the value of sacrificing millions of young men to death or injury and achieve thereby only brief changes in national frontiers?


One thing is certain – all the angel stories of World War One are nonsense!




Chandler, D (General editor) 1987. Dictionary of Battles, Holt & Company, USA.


Churchill, W S 1923-1927.  The World Crisis, 4 Volumes.


Flemming, T 1992. Day of the Storm Trooper, Military History, Volume 9  No. 3 August pp. 35-41.


Harris, M 1986.  Sorry You've Been Duped, Weidenfeld & NicolsonBritain.


Hart, L 1972. History of the First World War, PanBritain.


Jonsson, C O 1986. The Gentile Times Reconsidered, Second Edition, Commentary Press.


Ludendorff, E F W Second Edition, My War Memories, Volume 2, Hutchinson & Co. Britain.


Purnell  C 1970. History of the Great War.


Russell, C T 1889. The Time is at Hand, WBTS.


Rutherford, J F 1917. The Finished Mystery, WBTS, USA.


Rutherford, J F 1933. The Watchtower, December 1 p. 364.


Schnopp, E 1989. The Gentile Times, Investigator No. 9.


Taylor, A J P (Editor in chief) 1974. History of World War I, Octopus Books, Britain.


Terraine, J 1967. The Great War 1914-1918, Arrow Edition, Great Britain.

The Advertiser (South Australia) 1993. July 25 and 1991, January 5.