AFTER five and a half years of increasingly biller and devastating fighting, the ‘A/iin the west is rapidly ending with the complete destruction of Hitler's Reich.
. At such a moment every other reflection must give way to a sense of the deepest gratitude to Almighty God that the massacres and the destructions are at length drawing to their close in the first and major stage of the second world war. Possibly before these .columns are read the "Cease Fire" will have sounded — but whatever the actual date of this event, our time may well be spent preparing for it by considering how providential the course of our country's preservation has been.
We indeed in this country have, surely, very special reasons for
thanksgiving. Though we have had our share of the common suffering, both in the loss of very many British lives, men, women, children, soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians. and in the loss of homes and monuments of our history and culture, we cannot but recognise that our sufferings have been limited. Moreover they have been limited in the teeth of what at times looked like probabilities, if not certainties.
Let us consider for a moment some of the providential escapes through which Britain has been mercifully spared.
At the beginning of the war it was thought likely that the then overwhelmingly superior Luftwaffe would begin by putting into practice its military theory that the enemy Power must he immediately terrorised and pulverised in its very structure. A quick blow against the virtually undefended capital and chief cities of this country migist have had decisive consequences. That blow, for whatever reason, did not material ise. When it was attempted we were better prepared and our morale had been much stiffened.
Likewise it is well to remember that the only general form of civilian protection then organised Was the issue of gas-masks which might or might not have proved effective. By the grace of God, these strange contraptions were never needed.
' Far more perilous, however, was the situation after the disasters in France. This island, in fact, Jay open to the invader. It seems inconceivable that, even in face of the Navy and the degree of air protection possible, a resolute attempt by the enemy could not have succeeded in establishing the bridgehead he needed in order to sweep across our countryside with the weight of his all-powerful armour But the attempt was never made, possibly because of 'the infinite courage and skill of our handful of pilots which totally deceived the enemy as to the strength of our air defences, possibly because Hitler was too stupid and inflexible—certainly because God did not will it.
We suffered grievously under the bombardments and the blitzes, hut once again the blows were not directed strongly enough and shrewdly enough to be decisive.
Very much more serious was the enemy's attack on our shipping, an attack which came near to closing the vitararteries of this densely populated land, standing alone against the Continent. Yet at no Lime did any family in this country have to go without an adequate—by later Continental standards, a generous—ration of food.
Turning the Tables
But so far all we had achieved was defiance—the defiance of a David against' a Goliath. How the tables were ever to be turned on the otherwise triumphant foe was an unsolved and apparently unsoluble mystery.
Hitlei kindly obliged. ily attacking Russia and by allowing Japan to attack America he created the overwhelming strength of the United Nations which were destined to destroy him.
Even so, the extraordinary tale of providential preservation is not told.
The defeat of Germany in a reasonable time was virtually impossible if we could not land a modern army on the Continent. It seemed, and possibly was, an impossible task but for one brilliant idea : the transportation of our own harbours. But between the conceiving and carrying out of such a staggering plan there was a world of difference. The Luftwaffe was virtually retired in favour of robot bombing, which at every stage was just too late to have any chance of being decisive. • Strung together, these happenings—and there were others which might be added—form a strange
and inexplicable sequence. But they are part of history, and they are the milestones which are leading to these hours of deliverance from the scourge of war and the malice of our enemy.
For the moment we can rest content in the prayer : Deo Gratias!