Episode 161: Shell Game



It had been a full century. Since the boots of their soldiers had tread on european soil. In the early days of the first world war britain had stayed outside the fray watching from the sidelines and planning for an unpredictable future. But of course that's the way of war. Isn't it coping with things. We cannot control with human lives hanging in the balance and august of nineteen fourteen. All of that changed one hundred. Thousand troops from the british expeditionary force landed in france to help hold back the oncoming wave of german invasion. If you read about them you'll hear them described as professional soldiers and some people assume that means battle-hardened then experienced but it just means that they weren't enlisted men called up weeks before most of them had never seen combat in their lives however green they might have been. They were still a welcome sight. They were cheered by fishermen when they landed and praised as they pass through the countryside on their way to the front their help was badly needed and so were their guns. Their destination was an old mining town called months which sat alongside a canal. From what i can tell. Monse was chosen because the canal had to make a few sharp bends around the town creating a little peninsula that gave the french and british strong tactical view of the oncoming germans but the british failed to use that position to their advantage. They made a few mistakes in setting up. I even though a number of bridges connected monster. The german side of a canal. No-one destroyed them and second. That wide view of the other side turned out to have a number of blind spots where hills of mining debris blocked their view and lastly yes that peninsula of land offered them a great position but if the germans managed to sneak around behind them they'd be trapped. Details of the battle itself depends solely on the soldiers who survived when the germans finally showed up said that they marched toward the canal in parade formation like one massive sea of bodies the british had set up heavy machine guns and made quick work of that initial wave mowing them down like a field at harvest time after that though things became much less controllable up and down the canal that stretched out from their flanks. The french troops collapsed quickly and began to retreat deeper into the countryside behind months the british held on his best. They could though but that's when their failure to destroy. The bridges came back to haunt them as the germans advanced. They took bridge after bridge surging into months. The battle was over and the british made a hasty retreat following after their french allies. That's the battle of mons as we know. But there's more because as those soldiers began to return to the safety of french territory. Stories began to leak out. Not just one or two mind you but a whole chorus of whispers all describing the same thing. It seems that the reason the british were able to hold on for so long was that they had been protected by an angel. Most of the stories contained the same details to all throughout the afternoon and evening of the battle of figure could be seen amongst the british troops. It was described as glowing brightly with a golden light and seated upon a white horse. One later description by a soldier who is there says it best. We all saw i. There was a sort of yellow missed sort of rising before the germans as they come to the top of the hill. The next minute comes this funny cloud of light and when it clears off. There's a tall man with yellow hair and golden armor on a white horse holding his sword up and his mouth open as if he were saying. Come on boys. I'll put the kibosh on the devils. How figure was interpreted varied from soldier to soldier. Some assumed it was angel while others were convinced it was saint george. The french soldiers who witnessed it believe the ghostly figure was none other than joan of arc. But what was agreed. Upon was that something was seen and its presence gave them hope and this is what we talked about a little while ago in war with so much fear and anxiety wayne down upon them. It has always been easy for soldiers to grasp for anything that might give them. Hope rabbit's foot a stylized doll or an odd shape in the clouds. I've even read stories of soldiers hiding little scraps of paper in their uniforms papers. That contain significant quotes holy scripture or notes from loved ones but most of the time folklore turns out to be a lot like the wizard of oz. You can see him standing there. But he's really just an illusion controlled by someone else behind the curtain and when it comes to the story of the angel of monse that analogy holds true because it seems something else was going on behind the scenes it turns out that almost all of the reports of ghostly golden figure seemed to arrive in the summer of nineteen fifteen nearly a year after the battle itself now granted the war was still going on and a lot of those soldiers were too busy fighting elsewhere to tell their stories right away but it creates an interesting time line interesting because of what had happened back in england months earlier in september of nineteen fourteen. The london evening times published a short story by a man named arthur machen. He was a well known author whose book the great god pan has been cited as deeply influential to writers like brom stoker and hp lovecraft as well as modern storytellers. Like guillermo del toro and stephen king but this new short story called the bowman at an altogether different sort of influence in it's a group of english soldiers are taking intense artillery fire from german troops and just at the moment when they believe all hope is lost. An electric shock seemed to flow through the english troops. At that moment they looked up to see a line of ghostly figures on their side each with shimmering bow in hand at once. The boman released their arrows into the germans. Helping the english win the day. That story was published just when news reports of the battle of months were sweeping into england. And because so much of machen story sounded similar to the real life events to seem to have become confused in the minds of the general public and well. I think we can see the results. A century later. Historians and experts in folklore moore. What happened to create the legend of the angel of months. But it's clear that machen story and the news reports eventually blended. It was a tale that the english wanted to believe was true and much like a fake. Social media post rides to viral status on the wave of gullibility. Most people swallowed it as fact true or not. The results of the stories impact are clearly documented. It went on to become a major piece of british propaganda during the first world war and assign to the english at least that their cause was the just one at unified people whether they were on the battlefield or not and it gave them

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