The miracle of Dunkirk.
One day, while at junior school, in 1963, our teacher, Mrs Downing, told the class of a story during the war when the entire nation went to church to pray. She told us that God answered their prayers and halted the German army.
Of course, we were nine years old. It was eighteen years after the war and we didn’t understand everything she was talking about. But years later, after doing some research, here is the full story.
Back in 1940, the German army, Hitler’s panzer division, had the whole British army trapped in a pincer movement on the beaches of Dunkirk in France.
Over 300,000 allied troops were gathered on the beaches of Dunkirk. The German Luftwaffe was bombing and shooting at the troops relentlessly, killing hundreds. All looked lost for the British army.
Winston Churchill, the British prime minister and his war cabinet, estimated that only a possible 20,000-30,000 troops would escape the carnage. The admiralty of the British Navy estimated 45,000. The British army would be wiped out, killed, and many carted off to prisoner of war camps.
Churchill was about to face parliament and announce the greatest disaster in British military history.
We had a God-fearing man on the throne. King George VI called upon Britain and the commonwealth countries for a national-day-of-repentance and prayer on a Sunday of the 26th May 1940. The churches, chapels, and cathedrals of the nations filled, spilling out onto the streets in response.
A series of miracles happened at the hand of God.
First, it halted the Panzer forces for two days, enabling the allies’ precious time to reform. This confused historians over why it happened. German generals were against the call, but the order came from Hitler, and his generals could do nothing but follow orders. So, the German armoury came to a grinding halt. God’s influence, no doubt.
Churchill gave a theory that Hitler wanted to save his ground troops and armoury from attack and annihilate the allied forces by using air attack only.
The force of God again followed.
The Sky opens up over Flanders
Within 48 hours of the sending up of prayers, a mighty storm broke out over Flanders, this aided in giving cover to the allied troops. The marshlands became soft and boggy, keeping the German armoured division back and grounding the Luftwaffe for most of the operation.
On the 30th of May 1940. General Halder, head of the German Army General Staff, made a note in his diary:
The pocket would have been closed at the coast if only our armour had not been held back. The bad weather has grounded the Luftwaffe, and we must now stand and watch countless thousands of the enemy get away to England right under our noses.
English vessels to the rescue
At this time, the sea became as calm as a millpond, a very unusual scene to see over the English Channel. Many ships and boats of all shapes and sizes crossed the water to rescue the stranded soldiers. Just about anything that could float and carry passengers took to the waters. It was a rescue attempt beyond belief and was successful.
On the 8th of July 1940, The Daily Telegraph printed a report:
Those accustomed to the Channel testify to the strangeness of this calm; the phenomenon of nature staggered them by which it became possible for tiny craft to go back and forth in safety.
Rescue mission accomplished
On the 4th of June 1940, Operation Dynamo triumphed, (the code name) The mission rescued 338,000 troops from the slaughter on the beaches of Dunkirk. Around 140,000 of which belonged to the allied forces of France, Belgian, Holland, and Poland.
The Admiralty came up with a best estimated rescue mission of saving 45,000 troops over a two-day plan of action.
Churchill stated In the House of Commons on the 4th of June, noting that he had only hoped to rescue 20,000-30,000 soldiers. He was ready to announce what he referred to would have been the greatest military disaster in British history, had it not been for the miraculous rescue.
On the same day, came a report from the BBC: “The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, has described the miracle of deliverance from Dunkirk and warned of an impending invasion.”
Admiral Sir William James acknowledged the rescue mission as a miracle. He was in charge of later evacuating the Normandy and Brittany ports. In his words: “Thank God for that miracle of Dunkirk.”
After reflecting on the events of Operation Dynamo, Vice-Admiral Ramsay had similar thoughts. He wrote a letter to his wife stating: “The relief is stupendous. The results are beyond belief.”
General Pownall, Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief of the BEF, (British Expeditionary Forces), also had thoughts of divine intervention. He wrote in his diary: “The evacuation from Dunkirk was surely a miracle.”
Comedian, Spike Milligan, referred to it also as miraculous. He later wrote: “the Channel was like a piece of polished steel. I’d never seen the sea so calm. One would say it was miraculous.”
O the 8th of June 1940, C.B. Mortlock wrote in the Daily Telegraph:
… the prayers of the nation were answered… the God of hosts himself had supported the valiant men of the British Expeditionary Force… One thing can be certain about tomorrow’s thanksgiving in our churches, from none will the thanks ascend with greater sincerity or deeper fervour than from the officers and men who have seen the hand of God, powerful to save, delivering them from the hands of a mighty foe, who, humanly speaking, had them utterly at his mercy.
When congregations gathered for services of national thanksgiving in all churches on the following Sunday, it was with a great feeling that many a choir and congregation sang the words of Psalm 124, for they applied to that situation through which the nation had just passed:
“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, let Israel now say – if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive,” (Psalm 124, KJV Holy Bible).