When The Nation Prayed

The Providential Hand of God in the Second World War

Dunkirk 1940

May 27th, The German High Command announced: "The British army is encircled and our troops are proceeding to its annihilation."

Churchill said: "I thought - and some good judges agreed with me - that perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 men might be re-embarked. …The whole root and core and brain of the British army … seemed about to perish upon the field or to be led into captivity."

But, the previous day, Sunday, May 26th, at the request of His Majesty King George VI, was observed as a National Day of Prayer. In a stirring broadcast, the King called the people of Britain and the Empire to commit their cause to God. The whole nation was at prayer. Three miracles then happened:

  • Hitler stopped his general advance.
  • A storm of extraordinary fury grounded the German Air Force on May 28th.
  • A great calm settled over the English Channel for several days.

men of the British army were evacuated from Dunkirk!

The Battle of Britain - another miracle

Hitler did not follow on after Dunkirk to cross the Channel and invade Britain, whose army had lost all its weapons. He continued to hesitate all through June 1940, giving Britain a breathing space. Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command, was asked: "What are your plans for defeating an overwhelming number of the German Air Force?" He replied: "I believe in God. And then there is radar."

Field Marshal Goering told his Air Commander that the way ahead for launching an invasion was to destroy the Royal Air Force.

On August 30th, 800 enemy aircraft darkened the skies of Southern England, flying in to put key airfields out of action. By September 6th, Fighter Command was in serious trouble. Aircraft and pilots were being lost at a rate far in excess of replacements. Defeat in the air appeared inevitable, and this would open the way to invasion.

Hitler suddenly ordered the Luftwaffe to switch its attack to London, and this saved Fighter Command. For the Germans it was a catastrophic blunder. Fighter Command built up its strength. Dowding later said: "By mid to late September, we were all right for aircraft. I think it was because we had faith."

The King, as if gifted with some foreknowledge, has expressed the wish that Sunday September 8th, should be fixed as a National Day of Prayer. There was a tremendous response. At a crowded service in Westminster Abbey, the final prayer began: "Remember, O God for good, these watchmen, who by day and night climb into the air. Let thy hand lead them, we beseech thee, and thy right hand hold them."

Germany had massed barges in ports from Ostend to Le Havre, sufficient to carry 50,000 men and much of their equipment. But by September 10th, the RAF had still not been destroyed and abnormally bad weather for the time of year caused Hitler to postpone his invasion plans.

Douglas Bader, DFC, later said: "The 15th September 1940 was the day that the battle was won. It was a Sunday." By the time Sunday worshippers were leaving their churches, the routed German air armada was in full flight. In the afternoon, Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park commanding 11 Group was asked what fighter reserves were available. Park replied: "There are none." Ten minutes later, the action ended. The Germans had cracked. The miracle had happened.

On September 17th, a tele-type message clacked out from the German Supreme Command postponing the invasion of Britain, "until further notice."


There were later divine overrulings in the Mediterranean, the outstanding example being Malta, which lay in the path of Italy’s vital supply lines to North Africa. With the fall of France and the entry of Italy into the war, Malta was hemmed in by enemy powers.

The island was virtually unarmed, having only 16 anti-aircraft guns and 4 Fleet Air Arm Gloster Gladiators in crates in store!

General Dobbie was appointed as Governor of Malta. He was a Christian, a man of faith who testified to the power of prayer. He issued an Order of the Day to the garrison which included the following: "I know that the courage and determination of all ranks will not falter, and that with God’s help we will maintain the security of the fortress."

General Ironside sent General Dobbie a personal telegram containing the Bible reference, Deuteronomy Ch 3:22. Looking up the text, Dobbie read:" Ye shall not fear them, for the Lord your God, he shall fight for you."

Miracles Followed One Another During the Two Following Years

Remarkably, Italy did not attempt invasion. God sustained all on the island through the devastating 2,000 aerial bombardments. Remarkably, the German General Rommel, on arrival in the Western desert in 1941, did not invade either, in spite of the island hindering his supply route. Brigadier Desmond Young noted later that the Germans were strangely blind in failing to see until it was too late that the key to all supply problems and indeed the key to the control of the Mediterranean, was the capture of Malta.

Rommel later wrote in his official ‘Papers’: "It had actually been intended that Malta should be taken by Italian and German parachute landing forces early in 1942 … but for some unaccountable reason our High Command abandoned the scheme." Surely this was a sign of the restraining hand of God resting on the German High Command.

At the end of April 1942, Brigadier Young recorded Hitler gave permission for a surprise attack on Malta - Operation Hercules. It was twice put off and finally postponed "until after the conquest of Egypt", which never happened.

General Dobbie later wrote: "The very fact that in spite of all her disadvantages, Malta has remained in British hands … that surely is a miracle which cannot be gainsaid. It is God who works such miracles."

At the Gate of Cairo

After the fall of Tobruk, the Eighth Army was in full retreat, reaching the El Alamein line of defence on Monday 29th June 1942. Rommel’s army came up to it next day. Alexandria was only 65 miles away. The German radio boasted that Rommel and the Afrika Korps would sleep in Alexandria on Saturday night. Suddenly the advance stopped, the panzer divisions rolled westward. This sudden receding of the tide remains a mystery. Rommel, in his ‘papers’ said "Our strength failed in front of El Alamein."

The Turning of the Tide

Two dedicated Christian men were appointed to the most responsible  position in the Middle East on August 15th 1942, Field Marshal Alexander as Commander-in-Chief and General Montgomery as Commander of the Eighth Army.

On September 3rd, according to the wish of King George Vl, there was held another National Day of Prayer. People flocked to the churches all over Britain.

On October 23rd, Montgomery issued this Order of the Day to the Eighth Army:"Let us pray that the Lord, mighty in battle, will give us the victory."

A succession of remarkable occurrences followed. When the attack on the German Forces was opened, Rommel was in Germany, sick for the first in his life. General Stumme, appointed to take his place, died of a heart attack next day, leaving the German High Command structure in a hopeless state of confusion. At the same time  Rommel’s Chief of Staff was actually on leave. And, due to faulty intelligence, the Afrika Korps was completely off its guard when the bombardment began. Then, too, Montgomery’s tremendous pre-offensive build up had remained completely hidden from the Germans, although it included the movement of 900 tanks. Finally, the German Military Attache` in Rome, responsible for ensuring that supplies of petrol reached the Afrika Korps, had been on leave and was unable to give sufficient attention to the problem.

By the time Rommel arrived back at his headquarters in North Africa on October 25th, the battle was already lost. As his General Cramer said: "Alamein was lost before it was fought. We didn’t have the petrol." Surely none of these things could have been due to coincidence.

Said Churchill afterwards, concerning the Battle of Alamein: "Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat."

A Bumper Harvest

During 1942, shipping normally used to bring food to these shores from overseas, was urgently required for carrying men and munitions. Yet Britain had to be fed. A supreme effort was made by British agriculture and a degree of co-operation and united labour was achieved as never before in our history. Added to this were the prayers of innumerable people that God would bless their efforts.

There was a bumper harvest! It had become apparent to R.S. Hudson, the Minister of Agriculture, that God had been with us, for in a postscript to the BBC Nine O’Clock News on Old Michaelmas Night 1942, he said: "But this also I would say to you, in humility and seriousness. Much hard work and technical skill have played their part in these mighty yields, amongst the richest of all time. But I believe that we have a higher Power to thank as well, and from the depths of our hearts. Some Power has wrought a miracle in the English harvest fields this summer, for in this, our year of greatest need, the land has given us bread in greater abundance than we have ever known before."

D-Day 1944 - The Deliverance of a Continent

The task was a huge one. A massive instrument was needed and God had been preparing it and the men to lead it. King George Vl, General Montgomery, Admiral Cunningham, Admiral Tovey, General Sir Miles Dempsey (Commander of the British Second Army in the invasion of Europe and General Eisenhower (the Supreme Commander) - all these had a declared testimony of their faith in Almighty God.

There was also the preparation of the forces about to be involved in the coming invasion. The Deputy Chaplain-General, Canon Llewellyn Hughes, said: "The consecration of our armies has not been a last-minute effort. We were asked, and strongly asked, to make our men as Christian as we could, to preach the Word of Christ faithfully because it is true; to bring men to God that He might make them good. Most of the men are not regular churchgoing men but they are God-going men, and they have their picture of the King of Kings in the sanctuary of their hearts. And when General Eisenhower and General Montgomery in their final Orders of the Day asked us all to pray that God would prosper us, that prayer went up, and went up from honest hearts, freely and fully convinced that the business in hand was a liberation according to the will of God."

The Decision When to Invade

The Supreme Commander, his Commander-in-Chief and their Chiefs of Staff met at 4 a.m. on Monday June 5th for "the final and irrevocable decision". Messages went to all the vast forces concerned: the invasion of France would start on the morning of the next day. General Eisenhower gave testimony to the effect that this had on him, when he was speaking in Abilene, Kansas, his home town, on June 4th 1952 (‘Time’ magazine, June 16th 1952). "This day eight years ago, I made the most agonising decision of my life. I had to decide to postpone by at least 24 hours the most formidable array of fighting ships and of fighting men that was ever launched across the sea against a hostile shore. The consequences of that decision at that moment could not have been foreseen by anyone. If there was nothing else in my life to prove the existence of an Almighty and Merciful God, the events of the next 24 hours did it. The greatest break in a terrible outlay of weather occurred the next day and allowed the great invasion to proceed, with losses far below those we had anticipated."

V.E. Day 1945

The Rev. David E. Gardner, in his book ’The Trumpet Sounds for Britain’, Vol.2  (Christian Foundation Publications), from which the preceding material has been drawn (used by permission), writes: "I well remember V.E. Day. London was rejoicing. The Royal Family, the Prime Minister, the Service Chiefs and members of the Cabinet, all appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace before a joyful and tumultuous throng. It was a proud moment in our history. The Service Chiefs came to the microphone in turn, made short speeches, and paid tribute to the part which their respective arm of the Services had played in bringing about this great victory. The Prime Minister spoke - the one who had always been conscious of that overruling providence, that guiding, guardian hand. He must have come straight from the Thanksgiving Service in St. Margaret’s Westminster. His Majesty King George Vl then stepped quietly to the microphone. I can still hear his voice today, as he said with great emphasis: "We give thanks to Almighty God for the victory he has granted us in Europe." 

Written by Tremore Christian Fellowship, Tremore Manor, Bodmin.