The Strange Case of “The Angels of Mons”

Arthur Machen’s World War I Story, the Insistent Believers, and His Refutations


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About the Book

World War I began disastrously for the English when the Germans routed them at Mons, Belgium, on August 23 and 24, 1914. On September 29, 1914, the Anglo-Welsh writer Arthur Machen fictionalized this encounter in a newspaper story, claiming that the English were saved by the appearance of angelic bowmen sent by St. George. But his fiction became accepted as fact. The believers—notables G. K. Chesterton, Arthur Conan Doyle and C. S. Lewis, along with almost forgotten figures like Harold Begbie, Phyllis Campbell and T. W. H. Crosland—wrote pamphlets, testimonies and poems, performed music and created motion pictures attesting to the existence of the guardian angels.
This history of the Angels of Mons controversy for the first time collects and annotates Machen’s work and the responses it inspired, most of which have not been available since their publication a century ago. Also reprinted for the first time are several of Machen’s responses to the believers, including “The Angels of Mons: Absolutely My Last Word on the Subject” and “The Return of the Angels: This Time They Are at Ypres.”

About the Author(s)

Richard J. Bleiler is the humanities librarian in the Homer Babbidge Library at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.

Bibliographic Details

Richard J. Bleiler
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 244
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9867-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2096-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi

One. Introduction 1

Two. Arthur Machen and The Bowmen: The Angels of Mons 19

Three. Harold Begbie and On the Side of the Angels: A Reply to Arthur Machen 31

Four. Phyllis Campbell and Back of the Front 77

Five. A Churchwoman and The Chariots of God 93

Six. T. W. H. Crosland and Find the Angels: The Showmen: A Legend of War 102

Seven. John Garnier and The Visions of Mons and Ypres: Their Meaning and Purpose 128

Eight. W. H. Leathem and “In the Trenches” 147

Nine. C. Conway Plumbe and “The Angels of Mons” 151

Ten. Ralph Shirley and The Angel Warriors at Mons: Including Numerous Confirmatory Testimonies, ­Evidence of the Wounded, and Certain Curious Historical Parallels. An Authentic Record 153

Eleven. Isabelle E. Taylor and Angels, Saints & Bowmen of Mons: An Answer to Mr. Arthur Machen & Mr. Harold Begbie 165

Twelve. Charles Warr and “The Unseen Host” 190

Thirteen. Arthur Machen and “The Angels of Mons: Absolutely My Last Word on the Subject” 197

Chapter Notes 203

Bibliography 218

Index 225