The heading banner of this article is a section from the original typescript of one of Churchill’s many great wartime speeches. I happened across this and it struck me as deeply significant to us right now. Britain was facing either its destruction or its occupation under a foreign power of such malignancy, that in some ways it has no historical equivalent. Nazi Germany it seemed had its hands around our throat. So how did Churchill see it? Beyond our survival what was at the core of the matter? The answer!
“Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian Civilisation.”
Can you imagine a modern politician speaking in such a way. It is worth asking why a historian, politician and war leader would consider the faith founded by Jesus Christ to be a pivotal reason for fighting on against seemingly insuperable odds. Why Christian? Because Britain was a country founded in Christian roots and values. It was the stable core of our culture and at the centre of our moral values and outlook on life. The fight was against a vile regime and in favour of our faith and the people who looked to that faith in times of trouble, and never more so than at this moment in history. A lesser man would have taken the easier option and signed a deal with Hitler, an option Churchill was urged to take by senior figures in the War Cabinet. His refusal to appease a dictator saved an entire continent and its Christian heritage.
There is a day when we as a nation remember an act of salvation, perhaps forgetting the impact made by prayer and the Christian faith. Annually we celebrate the fight and remember the sacrifices and appalling loss of life in two world wars. We have named it Remembrance Day. As part of this we also remember the famous rescue of our army from the beaches of Dunkirk: how a terrified nation led by the call of our king turned to their God. The photo below marks the occasion a nation turned to prayer.
With the entire British Army trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, King George VI called for a National Day of Prayer. It was held on 26th May 1940. In a national broadcast he instructed the people of the UK to turn back to God in a spirit of repentance and plead for divine help. Millions of people across the British Isles flocked into churches praying for deliverance, and this photograph shows the scene outside Westminster Abbey as people queued for prayer. Where these prayers answered?
The First Miracle
The first was that for some reason, which has never yet been fully explained, Hitler overruled his generals and halted the advance of his armoured columns at the very point when they could have proceeded to the British army’s annihilation. They were now only ten miles away! Later, Mr Churchill asserted in his memoirs that this was because Hitler undoubtedly believed ‘that his air superiority would be sufficient to prevent a large-scale evacuation by sea.’ That is very significant in terms of the second miracle.
The Second Miracle
A storm of unprecedented fury broke over Flanders on Tuesday, 28 May, (1940) grounding the German Luftwaffe squadrons and enabling the British army formations, now eight to twelve miles from Dunkirk, to move up on foot to the coast in the darkness of the storm and the violence of the rain, with scarcely any interruption from aircraft, which were unable to operate in such turbulent conditions. The Fuehrer had obviously not taken the weather into his reckoning, nor the One who controls the weather!
And the third miracle?
Despite the storm in Flanders, a great calm, such as has rarely been experienced settled over the English Channel during the days which followed. It was this quite extraordinary calm which enabled a vast armada of little ships, big ships, warships, privately owned motor-cruisers from British rivers and estuaries, in fact, almost anything that would float to sail back and forth in a desperate bid to rescue as many of those trapped on the beaches as possible, these included remaining parts of the French army.
This momentous event could be described as comparable to biblical miracles. They are difficult to explain in terms of betting odds or any so called rational explanation. These events are less than eighty years ago and still in living memory for some.
How far have we fallen since then?
The day we heralded the progressive move to become a multi-cultural, multi-faith country rather than being known as a Christian country was the day we began our slide into what we see around us now. In the rest of these articles I attempt to lay out what has resulted from political decisions largely made during the Blair / Brown New Labour governments, between 1997 – 2010. The political party that “did not do God.” During that period it became acceptable to sneer at and apologise for the British Empire and its history. However to those who believe the British Empire was a scar on the face of our country, I would just remind you that the colonised countries that made up the empire voluntarily gave up their money, even poor Africans to the cause of defeating Nazism. The 25 million people of Nigeria sent an amazing quarter of a million pounds to the war charities. These contributions have to be seen in the context of local wages. In Nigeria, it was only two shillings (10p) per day. The West African colonies sent a total of one and a half million pounds to the charities, and their governments granted Britain £1 million in interest-free loans. It is only fair to remark that not all was goodness and light, the black races were still held in low esteem. This remained so during the later immigration of people from the Caribbean. We still have much to learn and regret. Nevertheless Africans contributed to a war effort for which many of them had no reason to take any direct interest; let alone sacrifice themselves for an Empire that ruled over them.
The following in italics is a slightly paraphrased account from the Spectator.
For most of the war the majority of German troops were facing not westwards, towards Britain and the US, but eastwards towards Stalin’s Russia. Khan points out that no less than five million citizens of the British empire joined the military services between 1939 and 1945, and that almost two million of these, ‘the largest volunteer army in history’, were from South Asia. At many of Britain’s greatest victories and at several of the war’s most crucial turning points: El Alamein, Monte Cassino and Kohima a great proportion of ‘British’ troops were not British at all, but Indian.
Would these peoples have gathered in such profusion and fought so bravely if they had not valued the cause which drew them into this monumental fight. Why go to war against a dictatorship if they felt Britain itself represented a cruel and oppressive dictatorship? Why such extremes of loyalty? The Commonwealth of nations, which still celebrates its existence and its ties to Britain, is a testimony that despite the United Kingdom’s many failings it remains the heart of the Commonwealth. Perhaps it is time the modern generation studied some history and ceased holding its head in shame. It could if it chose look up and see that of all the empires that have existed, few if any are held in such high regard as the Empire defended by so many people who were not British. Not by birth, nationality or culture. We owe them so much, almost certainly our continued existence. So, in conclusion, why not embrace virtues like thankfulness and gratitude rather than, as many left wing university students do, despoil our heritage with rage and contempt.