DID ANGELS INTERVENE
IN WORLD WAR I?
(Investigator 38, 1994 September. This version slightly revised.)
In late August 1914 armies totaling
millions of men moved across northern
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?
called for a march by 2 million German troops through
to ruin in the
It has been said that Angels at
A story by Arthur Machen
called The Bowmen in the Evening
Other newspapers and headlines
took up the story.
Changes were made, details added or subtracted, alleged quotes from
soldiers who had been at
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
straight that he had written a story and not a news report. However,
explanation was ignored. The magazine Light (1915 May 15)
Miss Campbell quoted a number of
eye-witnesses and even added stories of Frenchmen rescued from defeat
appearances of Joan of Arc. Next, she added tales of Saint Michael
the Russian Front!
Challenged by Machen for
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 inc1uding the lie that angels fought against Germans.
Detailed histories of World War
One do not
describe any intervention by angels at
What happened on August 23/24
1914 was that the
Germans arrived at
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
This fatally weakened the German
forces in the
West and resulted in a gap between two German armies at the
Ironically the missing two corps
arrived too late in
The French/British victory at
the Marne was
important because it turned the war into a long war and enabled
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
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
In 1915 the Germans defended in
In 1917 General Nivelle's
attempt to win the War in one mighty blow led to a quarter of a million
casualties and brought the French armies to the verge of
On November 11, 1917 the German leaders met at Mons(!) to decide on their strategy for 1918. The basic alternatives to choose from were:
- Negotiation from a position of strength;
- Wear down the coming American intervention by careful defense;
- Try to win by launching one or more mighty attacks.
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
By March 1918 600,000 troops
with all their
equipment, had reinforced the armies in the west. For the first time
plus British were outnumbered. But the Germans needed to win before too
Americans arrived. By the end of December 1917 there were 175,000
MICHAEL vs THE ANGEL OF AMIENS
Around 5 a.m. March 21, 1918
people living on
Across the Channel in
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
Now, in The Advertiser (
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." Amiens
specific church building is named in this story it makes sense to
the most prominent church is meant. The Cathedral of Notre
By March 27 Michael had advanced
40 miles and the
17th Army was ordered towards
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
On March 28 a renewed onslaught
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."
described scenes of soldiers getting drunk, chasing chickens or cows,
looting. The diary entry for March 29 mentions semi-drunk soldiers
Albert to resume the advance to
The final reason for Michael's
It should be noted that
ANGELS BLOCK BETHUNE BAYONET CHARGE
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
- It was initially intended as a diversionary attack but when it met with initial unexpected success Ludendorff allocated extra forces too slowly;
- Several opportunities were missed. For example on April 25 Ludendorff intervened to stop his forces exploiting their capture of Kemmel Hill;
- Australian forces stemmed the attack at crucial points such as the Battle of Hazelbrouck on April 12 and at Villers Brettoneux on April 24;
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 gave
victor's peace must be enforced, and in enforcing the terms of the
treaties of Brest-Litovsk and
THE REST OF THE STORY
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.
Meanwhile the Americans poured
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.
the July Offensive Fleming (1992) says: "If Ludendorff
had switched his attack
divisions north to
This assessment is overly
optimistic. Even a
full-scale transfer of the remaining million men in
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
concluded that the situation was not as bad as feared. It was too
peace process was resounding throughout
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.
ANGELS EXIT HEAVEN IN 1914
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
different. In that previous interpretation the angels were
bishops and the war in heaven was the struggle between pagan
And what about the alleged
the year 1914 from the Bible?
1914 was derived by adding 2,520 years to the date when
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!
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Flemming, T 1992. Day of the Storm Trooper, Military History, Volume 9 No. 3 August pp. 35-41.
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Jonsson, C O 1986. The Gentile Times Reconsidered, Second Edition, Commentary Press.
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Purnell C 1970. History of the Great War.
Russell, C T 1889. The Time is at Hand, WBTS.
Rutherford, J F 1917. The
Rutherford, J F 1933. The Watchtower, December 1 p. 364.
Schnopp, E 1989. The Gentile Times, Investigator No. 9.
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