The Soldier Who Saw the Angels of Mons

Private Cleaver Swears on Oath to Having Seen the Angels at Mons

The only named witness to the Angels of Mons to come forward during the First World War was Robert Cleaver, a private in the 1st Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment. Not only did he claim to have seen the Angels, he swore an affidavit before a Justice of the Peace affirming that he had seen the Angels.

I personally was at Mons and saw the vision of angels

Witness to the Angels’ Supernatural Intervention

George S. Hazelhurst, Justice of the Peace for the county of Flint, North Wales, had heard rumours that a certain soldier was going about claiming to have been at Mons and seen the Angels, a soldier who “frequently spoke to his friends in the canteen of what he had seen at Mons.”

Suddenly a vision came between them and the German cavalry

Hazelhurst decided that he must find the man who had seen the Angels of Mons. He found him at Kinmel Park in the county of Flint and wrote about it to the Daily Mail on 24 August 1915:

“He said that things were at the blackest with our troops and if it had not been for this supernatural intervention they would have been annihilated. The men were in retreat and lying down behind small tufts of grass for cover. Suddenly a vision came between them and the German cavalry. He described it as ‘a flash.’ I asked him if the Angels were mounted or winged. He could say no more than that it appeared as ‘a flash.’ The cavalry horses rushed in all directions and were disorganized; the charge frittered away.”

Hazelhurst had him swear to this effect:

“I, Robert Cleaver, (No.10515), a private in the 1st Cheshire Regiment, of his Majesty’s Army, make oath and say as follows: That I personally was at Mons and saw the vision of angels with my own eyes – Robert Cleaver.”

The Spiritualist magazine Light, described this as “striking confirmation.” Harold Begbie printed Private Cleaver’s story as a factual account alongside others in his On the Side of the Angels (1915)

The Cheshire Regiment at the Battle of Mons, 1914

The Chesire Regiment was indeed involved in the action at Mons in August 1914. The 1st Battalion of the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment was part of the 15th Brigade, 5th Division, and was deployed outside the Belgian village of Audregnies on the Mons front. Along with the 1st Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment tey were ordered to take up a defensive position. In the event of a withdrawal, the Cheshires and Norfolks together with L Battery RA, the 9th Lancers and the 4th Dragoon Guards would fight the rearguard.

The Battalion behaved magnificently in the face of terrible odds

The Battle of Audregnies

According to the Cheshire Military Museum, of the 25 officers and 952 other ranks of the 1st Battalion engaged in the battle, only 7 officers and 200 other ranks remained alive – only 40 men remained unwounded. Afterwards, the Commanding Officer of the 15th Infantry Brigade, Brigadier-General Count Gleichen, said of the Cheshires:

“The Battalion behaved magnificently in the face of terrible odds and immense difficulty, one could not expect more of them. They did their duty, and did it thunderingly well, as I should have expected from such a gallant battalion, and I am only grieved that they had such terrible losses.”

Or as the Cheshire Military Museum put it: “they had been abandoned by the rest of the Allied army and left to fight to the death against an enemy sweeping down on their positions from all directions.”

The Real Private Robert Cleaver

There certainly was a Robert Cleaver who had served in the Cheshire Regiment. His Medal Card (WO 372/4/159675) survives amongst the records of the War Office held at the National Archives in Kew and confirm that he was a private in the regiment, no, 10515.

But Hazelhurst was not entirely convinced by Private Cleaver’s testimony. Rumours reached him that Cleaver had not been at Mons.

Was Cleaver at the Battle of Mons?

Hazelhurst wrote to the Regimental HQ of the Cheshire Regiment to check the details A Major Hicks replied that Cleaver had been mobilized in Chester on 22 August 1914 and sent with a draft to the 1st Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment, in France on 6 September 1914. He was sent back to Britain on sick leave on 8 December 1914.

Private Cleaver could not have been at the Battle of Mons. He could not have seen the Angels of Mons. There was no need to inquire into the paranormal problem of witnessing angels interceding directly and visibly in human affairs: Cleaver was simply not physically present.

Hazelhurst wrote again to the Daily Mail (2 September 1914) to reveal his findings. he did not need to spell out Cleaver’s infamy:

“The battle of Mons was in August 1914 and readers will draw their own conclusions. Information sworn on oath is usually regarded as sufficiently trustworthy for publication, but apparently not in this case.”

Hazelhurst made a general appeal for witnesses to the Angels:

“Will none of the officers who were at Mons and saw the angels, of whom Miss Marrable speaks, come forward and confess it?”

“No Sane Person Believes this ‘Angel’ Yarn”

A correspondent writing to the Evening Telegraph (23 November 1915) about Cleaver and the Angels of Mons, opined that:

“It is simply amazing to find grown people, supposedly educated, talking such a lot of nonsense as that reported by you from a speech made at Blairgowrie by Lady Griselda Cheape. No sane person believes this ‘Angel’ yarn, and conclusive evidence as to the kind of person who usually disseminates such piffle is supplied by a London daily on September 2 last as follows: ‘A certain private swore on oath before Mr Hazelhurst, JP, Birkenhead – ‘I personally was at Mons and saw the vision of angels with my own eyes.’ Having some doubt in the matter Mr Hazelhurst wrote the Records Office of this man’s regiment only to find that he had been deliberately lying, had never been at Mons, and, in fact, was not in France till long after the Battle of Mons. Further, no responsible person, officer or private, has publically [sic] come forward and made any assertion of such a thing, and never will. ”

The strongest evidence for the Angels of Mons – a sworn affidavit from an eye-witness – had been exposed as a lie. Begbie cut Cleaver from the second edition of On the Side of the Angels.

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