World War One Legend of the Battle of Mons

World War One and the Battle of Mons

This exploration is for all ages, as the colored smilies show. You can create a timeline of WWI and then build a 3D map of the World War One Battle of Mons with your whole family together!

1st thru 4th grades
5th thru 8th grades
9th thru 12th grades

Layers of Learning Unit 4-8
Unit 4-8: World War I, Plains States, Earthquakes, Expressionism

The Battle of Mons exploration is from Unit 4-8 about World War One. Layers of Learning has hands-on learning in every unit of this family friendly curriculum. Learn more about Layers of Learning.

You can use the timeline below to explore the whole scope of WWI then take a closer look at one of the first battles, the Battle of Mons.

The Battle of Mons was one of the earliest battles in World War One. It was fought between the Germans, who had invaded Belgium, and the British. The British were beaten during this battle, forced to retreat many miles over the course of two weeks, by the greatly superior numbers of the Germans. But the British commanders and the press spun it as a victory. Part of that victory was told in the form of a myth about angel warriors guarding the retreat of the British.

Step 1: Library Research

Before you begin exploring, read a book or two about World War One. Here are some suggestions, but if you can’t find these, look for books at your library about World War One. The colored smilies above each book tell you what age level they’re recommended for.

DKfindout! World War I

by Brian Williams

Covers from why the war began to how it ended. With younger kids, you’ll want to sit alongside and talk about the book. You might not read it cover to cover with your little ones, just pick out interesting bits.

Everything World War I

by Karen L. Kenney

Packed with pictures and maps plus tons of important information about the “War to End All Wars”

Mons 1914: The BEF’s Tactical Triumph

by David Lomas

This book is short and gets to the point, but explains well why the British consider Mons a victory even though it was a retreat. The Battle of Mons determined strategies throughout the rest of the war.

Step 2: World War One Timeline

For this exploration you will need the WWI Timeline printable, scissors, glue, and crayons or colored pencils.

Click on the image to get the printable.

This is what the WWI timeline looks like assembled.

This is the timeline assembled.

Here is a closeup of part of the timeline.

First cut apart the timeline strips on the dashed lines. Glue them together end to end to make one long strip.

Then color the timeline squares. Cut them apart. Arrange them on your timeline strip in order. Glue them to the timeline strip one by one as you read about each event on the timeline. The printable above has an explanation of each event and why it was important to WWI.

If you like you can add this timeline as a pop-out timeline to your Book of Years. It can also be used alone or folded and glued on a page in your notebook. This video shows how the timeline can be added to the Book of Years.

This was glued to the top of the book on the “1920” portion of the timeline at the top if the Book of Years.

Explore World War One With A Map of Mons

You will need salt dough, paint, crayons, or markers, glue, and the printable Battle of Mons paper figures.

Try this recipe for no-cook play dough.
Washable tempera paints work great, but whatever you have is fine.
Printable Battle of Mons figures
Click on the image to get the printable.
Crayons, markers, or colored pencils will be used to color the paper figures.

First tell the story of the Angels of Mons.

The Angels of Mons

A month after the battle of Mons a Welsh author wrote a short story called “The Bowmen” in a London newspaper. The story became extremely popular and not only that, but people thought it was literally true. Even some of the soldiers who had fought in the Battle of Mons began to think the events had really happened, though the author insisted again and again that it was just a story and never intended to be a factual report. This is the story, rephrased.

The British Expeditionary Force had arrayed itself ready for battle, expecting to hold off and most probably repel the British. Then the enemy appeared in the thousands upon thousands. They fought hard all day and all night. In the morning they were still fighting, but the enemy was still coming. There were so many, so many.

The British were being pushed back and soon would have to retreat. A beleaguered soldier, fearing for his life and the lives of his brother soldiers, called upon Saint George, the patron saint of England. And there, as the British withdrew, another host came to hold the line. But this was not an earthly army, though they wore armor and carried the good old English longbow. These were phantom soldiers, angels. The phantom host sent volley after volley of very real arrows into the enemy ranks. The Germans, in spite of their vast numbers were forced to halt, then creep, then halt again as the arrows pierced their soldiers.

The Angels of Mons had saved the British army, allowed them a victorious retreat, and showed that the hand of God was on their side.

Craft a Salt Dough Map of the Mons Battlefield

The Battle of Mons was real, even if the story of the angels was fanciful. You can use your salt dough to craft a model of the battlefield.

This is a map of the battlefield. There was a river that ran through the middle. The bridge over the river was the center of attack. The Germans needed the bridge to advance further. On this map the red are the British and French and the blue are the Germans.
map made of salt dough showing the battle of Mons.
Here is the map we made. The British are at the top on this picture. The white buildings show the town of Mons. We rolled the salt dough out flat, made a depression for the river, and then painted the map to show the landscape. You can paint the salt dough right away. You don’t have to wait for it to dry.

Color the paper soldiers and cut them out, gluing the rectangles into a circle to create a stand for the soldiers. Then you can use the figures to re-enact the battle.

 playing with the Battle of Mons map and figures.

Step 3: Show What You Know

Retell the story of the Battle of Mons and the angels using the paper figures for an audience. Older teens can research the actual events of the battle and include more details.

Discuss why you think the British people liked the tale of the angels so much that they decided to believe it was true. Did the story help the British to win World War One in the end?

Additional Layers

Additional Layers are extra activities you can do or tangents you can take off on. You will find them in the sidebars of each Layers of Learning unit. They are optional, so just choose what interests you.

Writer’s Notebook

Write a heroic poem about the Angels of Mons. Start by writing the story down. Then remove the unnecessary words. Use a thesaurus to choose the perfect words. Arrange the poem into stanzas and make it rhyme if you like.

Additional Layer

This is a photo of the Royal Fusiliers right before the Battle of Mons. They faced the heaviest fighting and were the first to earn the Victoria Cross in WWI. Find out what the Victoria Cross is. What are some similar awards around the world?

Additional Layer

The angels of Mons were said to be dead longbowmen from the Battle of Agincourt come back to save the British. Just in case you don’t think a bow and arrow would be very threatening, watch this.

Even on a modern battlefield, in the right hands a longbow can do at least as much damage as a modern gun.

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