Steve Maltz asks who you gonna call?
It was Britain's darkest hour. The events over the period of a few months in 1940 would determine the future, not just of our own country, but the whole World. The Nazi menace was on our doorstep, peering in and already salivating over the spoils. The odds were on their side, they had been proven invincible in Europe, each country falling in turn, like a cascade of dominoes. We were next.
In the spring of 1940 the Nazi Third Reich directly controlled or influenced almost all of continental Europe, large parts of North Africa, and had not been defeated. Adolf Hitler seemed invincible. On the 10th of May he launched his forces against France and Belgium. It was over in two weeks and the British army found itself trapped and encircled, mocked by the Nazi boast that it was moving in for the kill.
Our army, numbering over 300,000, was stranded and the only salvation was a full evacuation over the English Channel. This withdrawal, at Dunkirk, has been well documented and on the BBC website it is described as the 'miracle' of Dunkirk and Churchill himself called it 'a miracle of deliverance.' So what made this so special?
Where shall we start? Firstly, the manner of the rescue. These soldiers weren't just rescued by a convoy of warships, destroyers and transport ships, but also by yachts, fishing boats, rowing boats, motor boats, some taken there by their owners, eager to 'do their bit'. Secondly, there was a curious decision made by Hitler to hold his troops back and not attack the trapped British army. This was later described by some historians as Hitler's first really fatal mistake of the war. Thirdly, the German air-force was stranded in Flanders, hemmed in by a furious storm. Fourthly, the English Channel was still and calm. Finally, when some German planes did manage to attack, casualties were very low. A curious combination of factors that ensured that, for those who witnessed Dunkirk, miracle seemed to be the first word that came to their lips.
We move on a few months to the summer of that same year.
No-one expected Britain to hold out. Even the Americans contacted Churchill and asked if the Royal Navy would be sent to Canada when England fell. "We will survive, not surrender!" growled Winston Churchill, our wartime leader. It was brave rhetoric, as few believed him in their heart.
The German air-force - the Luftwaffe - was poised. If the Nazis were to mount a successful invasion, there was a small matter of the British air force, the RAF, to deal with first. It was a small matter, after all Germany had almost 2,800 operational aircraft, against some 900 British fighters. Hermann Goering, head of the Luftwaffe, had promised Hitler that the Luftwaffe could destroy the RAF prior to a full invasion.
It began on August 13, with attacks on the British airfields and radar stations. The Battle of Britain had started. These attacks on the airfields continued through to August 24 and the RAF suffered greatly. Almost 25% of their pilots were lost then and, if the Germans had continued these attacks, the RAF would surely have been destroyed. But Goering then changed tactics, switching the attack from the airfields to the control centres, which sustained major damage, severely compromising the command infrastructure.
Nevertheless, the Luftwaffe were also losing many planes, but, as they had so many more than the British, they coped with this. Hitler was itching for the invasion and good weather for it would not last past September. They had to act soon. The writing was on the wall.
Then something strange happened. One single German airman, on a bombing raid, altered the course of history. Stuck in a fog over London and tired after a long day of mayhem, he mistakenly dropped the remainder of his bombs over the City of London on August 24 a civilian rather than a military target. Winston was incensed and the RAF responded by mounting a major raid on Berlin on the following night. Causing only minor damage, this raid embarrassed Goering, who had promised Hitler that Germany would never be bombed. Hitler, enraged at this, ordered Goering to switch the bombing campaign to London civilian targets in retaliation.
On September 7 the Blitz began. German bombers appeared in force over London and for the next fifty-seven nights, nighttime raids would pound Britain's cities in an attempt to break the will of the British to fight. Although a tragedy for the civilian population, it released the pressure on the RAF, who were unexpectedly given time to replenish airplanes and trained pilots.
Churchill, in his War Memoirs, gives September 15 as "the culminating date" in the Battle of Britain. He tells how he visited the RAF Operations Room that day and watched the progress of the battle in the skies. At one point he asked the Air Marshal, "what other reserves have we?" The answer came. "There are none." Then another five minutes passed, and he later wrote "it appeared that the enemy were going home. The shifting of the discs on the table showed a continuous eastward movement of German bombers and fighters. No new attack appeared. In another ten minutes the action was ended." The Luftwaffe had had enough and decided to go home, snatching defeat from the hands of victory!
It was, in fact, the end of the Battle of Britain and, soon afterwards, Hitler ordered the indefinite postponement of his invasion plans.
When we review the facts of that momentous year we can identify two key moments, hinges of history, when the most significant events took place. The first was the 'miracle' of Dunkirk. The second was on September 15, now known as 'Battle of Britain Day'.
Believe it or not there is one single act that ties those two dates together, an unprecedented decision of the reigning royal, King George VI, to call the whole nation . to prayer. This he did two days before Dunkirk and seven days before 'Battle of Britain Day'. Two days when the churches of Britain were packed to the rafters, with Westminster Abbey boasting the sort of queues that wouldn't embarrass a U2 concert. Now Christianity was in decline in those days, many smarting over the carnage of the First World War and blaming God for the loss of a generation of young men, lost in the trenches of Flanders. But a spark remained and these were trying times, so, on those two days in 1940, Christian Britain prayed like never before.
So they prayed and the deliverance at Dunkirk occurred. Then they prayed again and the Battle of Britain was won. What can we say about this? The calls to prayer were made at times of sheer desperation, at times when everything else had failed. Deliverance didn't seem possible at the time, but it still came and we have to consider whether the prayers had any affect on the outcome.
This was acknowledged, after the war, by Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, Commander-in-chief of Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain. He noted that "even during the battle one realised from day to day how much external support was coming in. At the end of the battle one had the sort of feeling that there had been some special Divine intervention to alter some sequence of events which would have otherwise occurred".
It seems that the affairs of mankind are not always in the hands of mankind and there's often more to our daily existence than meets the eye. Perhaps a day will come in the near future when our nation is in a similar position as it was in 1940. Who will we call on then to save us, God or Bob Geldof?
This article is based on material in Steve's latest book, The Truth is Out There - the Ultimate World Conspiracy. For more information go to www.truthisoutthere.comThe opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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