Hitler had sacked General Walter Weiss, the commander of the Second Army, for having warned Führerheadquarters that Elbing could not be held. In his place, he had appointed General Dietrich von Saucken, the former commander of the Großdeutschland Corps. A cavalry officer who regularly wore both a sword and a monocle, Saucken personified the archetypal aristocratic Prussian conservative who despised the "braune Bande" [brown mob] of Nazis. When he was ordered to take command of the Second Army on 12 March 1945, he came to Hitler's headquarters with his left hand resting casually on his cavalry sabre, his monocle in his eye, the Knight's Cross with Swords and Oak Leaves at his neck, then saluted and gave a slight bow. This was three "outrages" at once. He had not given the Nazi salute with raised arm and the words "Heil Hitler", as had been regulation since 20 July 1944, he had not surrendered his weapon on entering and had kept his monocle in his eye when saluting Hitler. Hitler asked Guderian to brief him on the situation in Danzig. Once that was completed, Hitler told Saucken that he must take his orders from the Gauleiter, Albert Forster. Saucken returned Hitler's gaze, and striking the marble slab of the map table with the flat of his hand, he said: "I have no intention, Herr Hitler, of placing myself under the orders of a Gauleiter". In doing this he had bluntly contradicted Hitler and not addressed him as Mein Führer. Even Guderian, who had been through more rows with Hitler than most people, was shaken. Yet onlookers were even more surprised by Hitler's acquiescence. "All right, Saucken," he replied weakly. "Keep the command to yourself". Hitler dismissed the General without shaking his hand and Saucken left the room with only the merest hint of a bow. Saucken flew to Danzig the next day. He was determined to hold the two ports to allow the escape of as many civilians as possible. A month later von Saucken commanded the 2nd Army in Prussia and provided logistical support to the Evacuation of East Prussia. In April, his army was renamed to Army East Prussia. On 8 May, von Saucken received notice that he had been awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, making him the last of 27 officers to receive this award. Though an airplane stood by to evacuate him, he refused to leave his troops when they surrendered to the Red Army on the following day of 9 May 1945. After surrendering on the Hel Peninsula, Saucken went into Soviet captivity. Initially he was imprisoned in the Lubyanka Building and the Oryol Prison before being transferred to the Siberian Tayshet camp in 1949. Kept in solitary confinement, ordered to hard labor and maltreated by Soviet interrogators after refusing to sign false confessions, Saucken was confined to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Released from Soviet captivity in 1955, he settled in Pullach near Munich. He died there in 1980, aged 88. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx A cavalry officer who regularly wore both a sword and a monocle, Saucken personified the archetypal aristocratic Prussian conservative who despised the braune Bande ("brown mob") of Nazis. When he was ordered to take command of the Second Army on 12 March 1945, he came to Hitler's headquarters with his left hand resting casually on his cavalry sabre, his monocle in his eye, . . . [and then] saluted and gave a slight bow. This was three 'outrages' at once. He had not given the Nazi salute with raised arm and the words 'Heil Hitler', as had been regulation since 20 July 1944, he had not surrendered his weapon on entering....and had kept his monocle in his eye when saluting Hitler.[2][3] When Hitler told him that he must take his orders from Albert Forster, the Gauleiter (Nazi governor, or "District Leader") of Danzig, Saucken returned Hitler's gaze....and striking the marble slab of the map table with the flat of his hand, he said, 'I have no intention, Herr Hitler, of placing myself under the orders of a Gauleiter'. In doing this he had bluntly contradicted Hitler and not addressed him as Mein Führer.[2][4] To the surprise of everyone who was present, Hitler capitulated and replied, "All right, Saucken, keep the command yourself." Hitler dismissed the General without shaking his hand and Saucken left the room with only the merest hint of a bow.[2][4] xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx When Hitler ordered him to take command of the second army the March 12 , 1945 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx With the war winding down, Hitler was entombed in the unground fantasy world known as The Bunker. Which is where the unthinkable happened. Von Saucken sauntered into Hitler’s presence reeking of disrespect. He wore his sword (officers were not allowed to bring weapons to meetings with the Fuhrer after the failed assassination attempt the previous July) and didn’t remove his monocle. He gave an indifferent military salute, rather than the official German Greeting required by regulations (the outstretched arm accompanied by an enthusiastic “Heil Hitler.”) The others in the room began sweating. Hitler had frequently had offenders shot for less. The meeting wasn’t getting off to a good start. Incredibly, Hitler didn’t seem to notice. He told von Saucken he was to immediately fly to East Prussia (modern Poland) and take command of the Second Army. Then he casually added, “and you will report to Gauleiter Forster.” A gauleiter was like a civilian governor of a state, always a fanatical Nazi Party flunky and a Hitler bootlicker. Ordering a 35-year military professional to be a subordinate to a political hack was too much. (COL) *20.04.1889-30.04.1945+ Politiker, NSDAP, D Lagebesprechung im Hauptquartier der Heeresgruppe S¬∏d in Saporoshje (Ukraine); Hitler mit der Generalit‚Ä∞t am Kartentisch (v.l.): Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein, Adolf Hitler, General Theodor Busse, Generalfeldmarschall Ewald von Kleist - 19.02.1943 Foto: Walter Frentz "english_caption" Hitler and the generals look at maps during a briefing at the headquarters of 'Heeresgruppe Sued' (Army Squad South) at Saporoshje (Ukraine). From left: General Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, Adolf Hitler, General Theodor Busse, General Field Marshal Ewald von Kleist - 02.19.1943 Picture: Walter Frentz "english_e Von Saucken gave a sneer that said, “Are you kidding me?” But Hitler didn’t see it; his attention was riveted on a battle map. Von Saucken slapped his hand on it. That got the Fuhrer’s attention. The general looked him straight in the eye and said, “I have no intention, Herr Hitler, of taking orders from a gauleiter!” Hearts froze around the room. Von Saucken had gone too far by saying “Herr Hitler” (the civilian “Mr. Hitler”) rather than the required “Mein Fuhrer” (“My Leader”). The generals braced for a hysterical outburst that would surely end with von Saucken being hauled out of of the bunker, stood against a wall and shot. Except, it didn’t. Hitler was quiet. Then, to the utter amazement of everyone, he softly said, “Alright Saucken, have command of it yourself.” He dismissed the rebellious general with a hand wave. In one final blast of disrespect, von Saucken gave a very tiny bow (instead of the Nazi salute), spun about on his heels and stormed off to his new command. Nothing was said about his defiance of The Leader. Von Saucken fought tenaciously in the war’s dying days. As the end neared, he was provided an airplane so he could fly to the west and surrender to the more compassionate Americans. Von Saucken refused; he would stay and suffer the same fate as his men with the Soviet victors. On May 8, the Third Reich went out of business. One of its final official acts that day was awarding von Saucken the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, Nazi Germany’s highest battlefield medal. He was the very last of its 27 recipients. Von Saucken surrendered to the Soviets the next day, and they lived up to their reputation for brutality. They beat him so savagely that when he was released from prison in 1955, he was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He suffered quietly in intense pain until his death in 1980. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx March 1945 he was G.O.C. 2nd Army in Sopot, Gydnia and Danzig areas. His fellow-cavalryman Captain Gerhard Boldt has left a brilliant description of a meeting between Hitler and von Sauken in the Chancellory in March 1945. ‘Slim, elegant, his left hand resting casually on his cavalry sabre, von Sauken saluted and gave a slight bow. This was three outrages at once. He had not given the Nazi salute with raised arm and the words “Heil Hitler”, as had been regulation since 20 July 1944; he had not surrendered his weapon on entering the operations room; and he had kept his monocle in his eye when saluting Hitler….’ Guderian and Bormann, who were present, seemed turned to stone, but Hitler merely asked Guderian to brief von Sauken on conditions in East Prussia and the Danzig area, where he was to take over 2nd Army Group. Hitler then told the General that in the Danzig area he would have to accept the authority of Gauleiter Forster. Von Sauken stiffened and, still with eyeglass in place struck the marble table with the flat of his hand and said: “I have no intention, Herr Hitler, of placing myself under the orders of a Gauleiter!” Boldt adds: ‘One could have heard a pin drop on the carpet. It seems to me that Hitler shrank physically from the General’s words. His face looked even more waxen, his body more bowed than ever….’ Guderian and Bormann then tried to persuade von Sauken to be reasonable, but he would only reply, “I have no intention whatsoever of doing so….” Hitler, who seemed at last to have met his match in the matter of gazes, finally said in a weak voice: “All right, Sauken, keep the command to yourself.” After a few more minutes of discussion von Sauken left ‘with the merest hint of a bow’. Hitler did not shake his hand. After surrendering von Saucken went into Soviet captivity. Doenitz had sent an aircraft to evacuate von Sauken, but he refused to abandon his troops and went into captivity with them. After his capture by the Russians, von Saucken refused to sign a false letter and was subsequently sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment and sent to a Siberian work camp. Here he was tortured and spent twelve months in solitary confinement. He returned to Germany in 1955 as a marked man and settled in Munich, where he took up amateur painting. He passed away in 1980. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx The physical tortures the Russians inflicted on him left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Intrestingly there was send a sea-plane to fly him out of Hela in the final day , but he refused this proposal with the words "Mein Platz ist bei meinen Soldaten" ( translation : My place is amongst my soldiers ) . He ordered to to fill the plane with wounded soldiers and sent it back to Schleswig-Holstein ( BOWMEN AND ANGELS



...the threatening sky, the restless symmetrical movements...the whole scene reminded me in some strange way of Milton�s description of the legions of dark angels practising for giant warfare with St Michael on the plains of Hell...

~Captain Arthur Osborn of the 4th Dragoon Guards, Cavalry Division, B.E.F. describing the Retreat from Mons

The Bowmen was a short story produced by writer and journalist Arthur Machen within weeks of the declaration of the First World War. Published by the London Evening News on 29 September, 1914, Machen could never have imagined that his words would become the source material for �the first urban myth� of the 20th century.

Machen�s story appeared to describe a wonder that had occurred during the battle of Mons, in Belgium, on 23 August, 1914. A group of British soldiers who were outnumbered, cut off and surrounded by the advancing German army, called upon their patron saint, St George, for help. In a flash, �a long line of shapes, with a shining about them� � the ghosts of fallen archers from Agincourt - appeared beyond the trenches. They drew longbows and showered the attacking Germans with deadly arrows, killing thousands of the gray-coated infantrymen without leaving a mark on their bodies. This intervention turned the tide of the battle and allowed the British force to retreat.

Machen�s inspiration came from newspaper accounts of the retreat from Mons. Heavily censored by the War Office, they portrayed a beleaguered British force making a �miraculous� escape from the battlefield. The intention was to shock a complacent nation, and encourage new recruits to join up. Machen recalled seeing the newspaper billboards announcing the bad news, and that morning took his thoughts to church where the story of The Bowmen occurred to him: �....I seemed to see a furnace of torment and death and agony and terror seven times heated, and in the midst of the burning was the British Army...So I saw our men with a shining about them...�

The Bowmen was just one of a series of patriotic, uplifting stories that appeared in newspapers and magazines that summoned divine assistance against the German foe. Heroic figures from British mythology such as King Arthur and St George, who was famously invoked by King Henry V on the field of Agincourt, were called upon to turn the tide of a victory that was far from certain. If the Germans were really devils, as they had been portrayed by the Allied propaganda machine, then it was only logical that angels would be fighting the evil horde alongside the British army. Within this context, Machen�s story neatly captured the latent appetite for signs and wonders in the midst of a war that was characterised by industrialism and materialism.

Within days of the appearance of The Bowmen, the editor of the Evening News began to receive letters from readers asking for the identity of the soldiers who witnessed the miracle on the battlefield. Requests also came from the editors of the spiritualist magazines that were popular during the Great War. They wanted to republish Machen�s story, and asked for the authorities upon which he had drawn. �I could not give my authorities,� Machen responded, �because I had none, the tale being pure invention.�

Six months passed after Machen produced his romantic fantasy before reports of visions were published as �fact.� Within a week of St George�s Day, 23 April 1915, new variants of Machen�s story appeared in Light and The Occult Review and these were quickly reprinted by the national newspapers. The earliest on record came from an anonymous �military officer� who called at the offices of Light with a second-hand account of a battlefield vision. �It took the form of a strange cloud interposed between the Germans and the British,� he claimed. �Other wonders were heard or seen in connection with this cloud which, it seems, had the effect of protecting the British against the overwhelming hordes of the enemy.�

Those who had lost loved ones in the slaughter were comforted by these tales, and the �angels� provided an ideal conduit for a renewed outpouring of faith and patriotism. Clergymen used the story in Sunday sermons as a moral booster, replacing the �bowmen� with angels. Machen believed the link between the two versions was his use of the word �shining�. He wrote: �..in the popular view shining and benevolent supernatural beings are angels and nothing else�and so, I believe, the Bowmen of my story have become the Angels of Mons.�

The defining moment came with the story of Miss Marrable, the daughter of a clergyman, who claimed she had first hand evidence from two army officers. They had seen �a troop of angels� appear between the British and the German lines at a crucial point in the retreat from Mons, leading the enemy cavalry to stampede in terror. Her story was enthusiastically taken up as the proof that would confound the skeptics. When Marrable was eventually traced and questioned it was found that she had been misquoted and had no idea who the officers were, if they even existed. This revelation was ignored by those promoting the claims. In subsequent reprintings of the story, her denial was ignored and her name removed. From this point onwards, the boundary between literary invention and real �experience� became increasingly blurred.

Rallied against Machen in 1915 were the believers in �divine intervention.� The patriotic author Harold Begbie hastily published On the Side of the Angels, that was subtitled �an answer to Arthur Machen.� Begbie argued that Machen had exploited a true story for his own commercial ends, or that he had been inspired by a telepathic vision from the brain of a dying soldier at Mons. His book presented the �eyewitness� accounts of soldiers that he claimed proved Machen was wrong, but his argument was shattered when a key testimony, given under oath by a soldier from the Cheshire regiment, was revealed as a hoax. Begbie also relied upon the dubious evidence of a nurse, Phyllis Campbell, who claimed to have cared for wounded and dying soldiers who had seen the angels. But as Machen pointed out, none of the witnesses could be identified by name: �Someone (unknown) has met a nurse (unnamed) who has talked to a soldier (anonymous) who has seen angels. But THAT is not evidence.�

Machen used his position as a leader writer for the Evening News to challenge Begbie and Campbell, demanding they produce the names of the soldiers who had made these statements before they could be accepted as evidence. Unable to answer, Campbell claimed there was a Government conspiracy to hide the truth. The soldiers who had seen the angels could not be named, she claimed, because of a cover-up. Those who had witnessed wonders on the battlefield were forbidden by the British Army to discuss what they had seen, but Campbell promised that �the evidence exists...and when the war is over and the embargo of silence is removed, Mr Machen will be overwhelmed with corroborative evidence.�

The Real Miracle of Mons

The Battle of Mons was the first engagement between British and German forces on the Western Front during World War One. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had been mobilised on 4 August 1914, with the British declaration of war, and had mostly arrived in France by 17 August. Sir John French, a veteran of the Sudan and the Boer War, was placed in command of the BEF, which was made up of 4 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, supported by an extra cavalry brigade � a total of some 70,000 men.

Originally, the BEF was to join General Lanrezac�s French Fifth Army in an offensive against the advancing Germans, but the German armies were by now streaming across Belgium, capturing Liege and Brussels and breaching the supposedly excellent defences at the River Sambre.

This was not something that the French military planners had envisaged, but was the basis of Germany�s Schlieffen Plan to knock France out of the war before dealing with the Russians. Instead of attacking across the French-German frontier, the Germans planned a swing up through Belgium and then on into France.

Lanrezac, still ignorant of the real strength of the German forces � he was now in fact now facing some 700,000 German troops � decided to abandon plans for an offensive and, instead, save his Fifth Army by beginning a retreat toward Paris. The BEF, unaware of this, was still blithely marching North towards the Germans, and it arrived at the Mons-Conde Canal on 22 August. By the time the situation had become clearer, Sir John French agreed to aid the French withdrawal by holding the canal for 24 hours, and by the morning of 23 August the British force was deployed along a 20-mile front, II Corps to the West of Mons and I Corps to the East. Opposing them from the North was the whole weight of General Alexander von Kluck�s First Army. The British force of 70, 000 men and 300 guns was outnumbered by some 150, 000 German troops and 600 guns.

Early on 23 August the German attack began, with artillery barrages followed by massed infantry attacks. The British troops, roughly dug in along the canal and amongst the slag heaps and mining villages, defended magnificently, cutting down the dense ranks of oncoming Germans with sustained rifle fire.

The German attacks continued until the afternoon, but despite their superior numbers they gained little ground. The strength and rapidity of British rifle fire was such that the Germans believed they were being fired on with machine guns (of which there were, in fact, only two per battalion) and many German regiments were utterly decimated by the end of the battle.

Both sides had fought bravely (the first VCs of the war were won at Mons), but the experience and sheer tenacity of the BEF won the day; as one soldier wrote home: �It was like a Third Division team playing the First Division, the Germans were beaten thorough.� [1]

There had been some 1,600 casualties on the British side; the German casualty figures were never officially disclosed, but are generally thought to be least 5,000 and possibly as high as 10,000. Nevertheless, by the evening it had become apparent to French that the BEF was facing an enemy far superior in numbers, and that if contact with the Lanrezac�s Fifth Army was not to be completely lost, a retreat would have to be ordered. Another, larger-scale, battle took place at Le Cateau on 26 August, where British casualties reached 8,000; it was at Le Cateau, in Kevin McClure�s opinion, that whatever real events might lie behind the �Angels of Mons� legend most likely occurred. [2]


Although the BEF once again inflicted extremely heavy losses on von Kluck�s army, there was no option but to continue the retreat all the way back toward Paris. From this point until 5 September, the hungry, exhausted BEF was constantly on the move, often forced to fight its pursuers as it retreated over 200 miles of the Belgian and French countryside. But unlike the BEF�s �miraculous� escape from Dunkirk 36 years later, the seemingly disastrous retreat from Mons allowed the BEF to remain in France to fight another day.


1. David Lomas, Mons 1914: The BEF�s Tactical Triumph, Osprey, 1997

2. Kevin McClure, Visions of Bowmen and Angels: Mons 1914, Wild Places, undated



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