It's understandable that when you are in an unknown and highly dangerous situation, your thoughts could turn to the possibility of dying; from there it is a small step to thinking about something comforting to help you through the ensuing situation, such as a loved one or a cherished faith.
The frontline troops in the trenches of the First World War suffered unthinkable horror and devastation, and it is no surprise therefore that many paranormal stories exist from those tragic four years of conflict, some of which involve sightings of loved ones and spirits.
5 The Disappearance Of The 5th Norfolk Regiment At Gallipoli
Known as the Sandringhams, due to all the members being employed on the British Royal Estate, E company of the 5th Norfolk Regiment were formed from a personal request by their employer King Edward VII, in 1908. Over one hundred part-time soldiers joined the company, made up of estate workers, led by the King's land agent, Frank Beck.
The company were soon in action, deployed to the Dardanelles campaign in August 1915 and taking place in their very first battle on the twelfth of that month; however by the end of that day, all the members of the Sandringhams had disappeared without a trace. The whole regiment suffered heavy losses. However no trace remained of the Sandringhams at all; no bodies, no prisoners, nothing.
Fifty years later, three veterans claimed to have witnessed the 'supernatural disappearance' of the 5th Norfolk Regiment. They claimed to have watched 'six or eight loaf-shaped clouds' form and then hover over the area of the battle, just as the advancing troops marched into it, stating that the clouds slowly rose up about an hour later, and no trace of the soldiers was ever seen again.
4 The Angels Of Mons
During the Battle of Mons in 1914, what looked like certain defeat and further huge loss of life for the British and Allied forces was temporarily averted when the German cavalry suddenly retreated from one part of the battlefield for no apparent reason, giving the Allies a chance to take cover themselves. Word spread quickly among the troops that angel-like apparitions had appeared between the two opposing sides, shielding the British and terrifying the Germans into retreat.
The English newspaper The Daily Mail reported on an interview with a Private Robert Clever of the 1st Cheshire Regiment, who had purportedly been at Mons and saw the 'supernatural visions' for himself.
"Suddenly the vision came between them and the German cavalry. (Private Clever) described it as 'a flash'..."
Whether or not the soldiers were saved by angels that day it no doubt gave them and their worried relatives back home a tremendous morale boost in the face of extreme difficulties.
3 Canadian Soldier Saved From Certain Death by His Lost brother
Corporal Will Bird, a soldier in the 42nd Battalion of the Canadian Black Watch, was asleep with some comrades on the floor of their dugout near Vimy Ridge. When Cpl Bird was awoken by two warm hands on his back, the last face he expected to see was that of his dead brother Steve, who had been killed in action two years earlier. Not speaking aloud but beckoning Cpl Bird to follow him, Steve led his astounded brother out of the dugout and to a bombed-out ruin on the edge of the battlefield, where he promptly disappeared.
Overcome with exhaustion and emotion, Cpl Bird collapsed into a deep sleep before waking several hours later to resume his place in the line. However when he arrived, he discovered that the bunker he and his comrades had been asleep in had been destroyed by an enemy shell, killing all those left inside. There was no doubt in Cpl Bird's mind that his dearly departed brother had returned that night to save him from the same fate.
2 The Red Baron 'shot down a UFO' Over The Trenches
The most famous airman of the First World War was the 'Red Baron', Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen. He was revered and feared by other pilots, who could not equal his airborne skills. Perhaps less well known about this flying ace though is the story that he supposedly shot down a UFO over the Belgian trenches in early 1917, reported as 'an upside down silver saucer with orange lights' by witness and fellow fighter ace Peter Waitzrick. Even more incredibly, there were purportedly survivors, as two occupants were seen to jump out of the crashed craft and run into the trees.
Despite the story being widely questioned, Waitzrick was convinced he had seen a UFO and that the Red Baron had shot it down over the Belgian battlefields.
1 The Ghost Cavalry
When the guns finally fell silent in 1918, James Wentworth Day, later to become a famous broadcaster and writer, was accompanied by a Corporal Barr on a mission to collect post and rations before returning to their camp. They walked past a wood where trees had been disfigured by shell blasts and as they drew alongside it, ghostly German cavalrymen swept out of the trees and charged towards a spectral vision of French troops on the other side of the wood.
Not quite knowing what they were seeing the men waited for the clash of swords or gunfire but none came; only silence and a vision of empty devastation all around them.
The men agreed they'd both seen something 'mighty queer' but said no more about it and reached camp again soon after. The next day, Wentworth Day asked a peasant in the nearest village about the wood.
'Ah M'sieu, that is a wood of dead men...the cavalry of France and Germany have always met each other by that wood...' And the man took Wentworth Day to see the graves that stood in the tiny churchyard, of all the cavalry lost in those terrible wars.