The Virgin Mary at the Battle of Augustovo

A Vision of the Virgin Mary on the Eastern Front, 1914

On the eve of the Battle of Augustovo, the Russian Army was allegedly witness to a religious vision of the Virgin Mary, Baby Jesus and a huge shining cross, inspiring them to victory against the Germans.

Ralph Shirley, the editor of the Occult Review, published a story described as having been ‘communicated by a Russian general’ in his book The Angel Warriors at Mons about a vision, not of angels, but of the Virgin Mary and on the Eastern rather than Western Front.

While the Western Front was bogging down into the trench warfare that would define the war in this region, the Eastern front remained a theatre of classical manoeuver warfare. The Russians had boldly invaded East Prussia and at the beginning of October 1914 had penetrated as far as the forests of  Suwalki.

On the Eve of the Battle of Augustovo

The Russian General Nikolai Vladimirovich Ruszky had recognised the vital strategic importance of the town of Augustovo (or Augustowo, now Augustów). Amidst forest, lakes and marshland, Augustovo was the intersection of the few good roads in the region.

The battle would be a bitter one, replete with the huge, wasteful losses of men that so characterises the First World War. Shirley called this battle the one where ‘the German army met with its first disastrous defeat at the hands of the Russians’, but few know that a vision of the Virgin Mary may have inspired the Russian soldiers.

According to the story, the hour was late, eleven o’clock in the Russian camp. While most soldiers shivered in their bivouacs, the sentries stood staring into the darkness. No one was expecting to see the Virgin Mary: ‘Suddenly a soldier from one of our outposts, wearing a startled look, rushed in and called the captain.’

A Vision of the Virgin Mary, Baby Jesus and a Shining Cross

The sentry took the captain to the camp perimeter, where he ‘witnessed an amazing apparition in the sky. It was that of the Virgin Mary, with the Infant Christ on one hand, the other hand pointing to the west.’

The soldiers knelt reverently, staring at the vision of the Virgin and Child. It slowly faded, giving way to another vision,  ‘a great image of the Cross, shining against the dark night sky’. It, too, slowly faded.

The next day, fortified by signs of divine support, the Russian army marched west to victory at the battle of Augustovo.

Shirley used this story of a vision of the Virgin Mary in support of his argument of the reality of the Angels of Mons, largely against the claims being made by Arthur Machen.

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