By 5 June 1940, the Germans had launched their final offensive against the French army. This led to an armistice between France and German which had come into effect by 25 June. Britain therefore stood alone.
The whole Continent had been overrun by the Nazi war machine, and the German panzer divisions were standing on the French coast opposite the Straits of Dover. Kent and Sussex had been brought within reach of German fighter cover.
Nothing seemed to lie between Britain and disaster but twenty-five miles of Channel water. With the fall and occupation of France, the threat of a German invasion of the British Isles had become a grave possibility.
Hitler, in his first heady days as Chancellor of the Third Reich, had boasted to an astonished Rauschning: “I will succeed were Napoleon failed. I will land on the shores of Britain.” He seemed within an ace of doing it.
There are those today who belittle this danger as if it was never really there. Author David E. Gardner provides the historical background against which a series of miracles took place.
By way of refuting such nonsense, Gardner writes: “I would remind these people that Mr. Churchill states in his history of World War II that it was “soon after war broke out on September 3rd, 1939, that the German Admiralty, as we have learned from their captured archives, began their staff study of the invasion of Britain.”
So invasion was “on the cards” even then. It is now known that, only five days after the fall of France, General Alfred Jodl, Hitler’s personal adviser on military operations, had prepared a memorandum on “The Continuation of the War against England” and that he wrote it with invasion in mind…..
As to Britain’s extreme vulnerability at that time, it is acknowledged that if the Germans could have got a sizable landing-force ashore as early as June or July 1940, it is as certain as anything can be, in historical speculation, that they would have been able to penetrate the British defenses and defeat the British army with little more difficulty than brushing away cobwebs.
They are also some military minds who are of the opinion that the Germans could probably have captured London at the end of May or the beginning of June simply by using their parachute and airborne divisions in no greater strength than they did against Crete in the following year.
In any event, authorities as a whole find it hard to resist the conclusion that had the Germans been able to launch their onslaught against the United Kingdom in July, Britain would have fallen. Another miracle that happened is that Hitler did not follow on after Dunkirk to cross the Channel and invade Britain whose army had lost all its weapons.
Who then was holding him back? He continued to hesitate all through June 1940, as Napoleon had done before him, giving Britain a breathing space.
Hitler hoped that the war would end after the armistice with France, and the British Government could be expected to change its policy and put out feelers for peace. But Britain was made of tougher stuff in those days. She realized that if she were to go under, the whole of Western civilization would follow. That was the issue at stake. Britain, therefore, was determined to resist at all costs.
Another miracle was that Admiral Raedar had laid down, at a very early stage, the two prime requirements for the invasion of Britain: 1) that the invasion fleet should have full protection from the Germany’s navy, and 2) that Germany should have complete air superiority.
Later on—in the opening days of German’s Norwegian campaign- the German navy had lost nearly three-quarters of its surface strength. So this hoped-for protection from the navy was entirely ruled out, and it was no longer possible to fulfill the first of these two prime requirements
Again we might ask, “Who had taken care of that?”
Then according to Gardner, there was another miracle in the developing chain of events. In the aftermath of Dunkirk, had the fight for air supremacy been joined immediately after the fall of France, Britain’s Fighter Command could only have mustered 331 Spitfires and Hurricanes against the full might of the German air force exceedingly cruel indeed, and had caused the Chief of the Britis Air Staff to ask a point-blank question of Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command:
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.”
By now there was evidence that his faith was being honored. Hitler’s hesitation, causing nearly two months delay over his invasion plans, had provided Britain with a precious breathing-space and in that breathing-space an opportunity to build up her strength in fighter aircraft. I believe we can again see the evidence that the overruling hand of God was at work.
On 30 August, 800 enemy aircraft darkened the skies of Southern England, flying in to put key airfields out of action. By 6 September, 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 the Fighter Command. For the Germans it was a catastrophic blunder. Fighter Command built up its strength. “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, had expressed the wish that Sunday, 8th September, 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 by 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 10 September, the RAF had still not been destroyed and abnormally bad weather for the time of year caused Hitler to postpone his invasion plans. Dowding later said.
Even during the Battle, one realized from day to day how much external support was coming in. At the end of the Battle, one had the feeling that there had been some special Divine Intervention to alter some sequence of events which would otherwise have occurred.
I see that this Intervention was no last minute happening ….It was all part of the Mighty Plan. Again, on one of the anniversaries of the Battle of Britain, he spoke of the part that national prayer had played in the battle, and of divine interventions resulting from them.
He later reiterated,
Britain was not too proud to recognize National Days of Prayer” and should therefore not be too proud to acknowledge the results of those prayers. “I pay homage to those gallant boys who gave their all that our nation might live.
I pay tribute to their leaders and commanders. But I say with absolute conviction that I can trace the Intervention of God, not only in the Battle itself, but in the events which led up to it; and that if it had not been for this Intervention, the battle would have been joined in conditions which humanly speaking, would have rendered victory impossible.
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 17 September, a tele-type message clacked out from the German Supreme Command postponing the invasion of Britain, “until further notice.”
Churchill also later provided further insight into what happened after the German air formations had turned for home. “That same night, he says “our Bomber Command attacked in strength the shipping in the ports from Boulogne to Antwerp.
At Antwerp particularly heavy losses were inflicted. On September 17th, as we now know, the Fuehrer decided to postpone “Sea Lion” indefinitely. It was not till October 12th that the invasion was called off until the following Spring.
In July 1941, it was postponed until the following Spring. In July 1941 it was postponed again by Hitler till the Spring of 1942. On February 13th, 1942, Admiral Raeder had his final interview on “Sea Loin” and got Hitler to agree to a complete stand-down. Thus perished operation “Sea Lion.“ Therefore Winston Church makes it plain that Britain deliverance from invasion was complete…..
The question is why did Hitler abandon “Sea Lion”? Both historians and military authorities say the question still defies an answer. In fact one such authority said: “The development and fate of “Operation Sea Lion” cannot be estimated or assessed in any definite way.
When we stand back, and view events as one complete whole, there is no question at all that this was due to the hand of Almighty God on our history.
- It was a miracle that Hitler did not invade this country in June or July 1940, immediately after the fall of France.
- It was a miracle from God that he continued to hesitate, and so gave Britain breathing-space in which to build up her fighting strength.
- It was a miracle that Germany was deprived of so much of her naval strength at the very time when it was needed to cover such a massive sea-borne operation.
- It was certainly a miracle that Hitler suddenly decided to switch his air attacks to London just at the point when the Luftwaffe had the air superiority within its grasp.
- And it was definitely a miracle that bad weather in the Channel delayed his operation during that very week when the conditions were expected to be favorable.
Victory in the Battle of Britain saved the county from invasion, but the enemy wasn’t giving up so easily, as the battle now continued at Malta and the Gates of Cairo. Tune in next time to find out what happened.
Adapted from the Trilogy of David E. Gardner, The Trumpet Sounds For Britain, Copyright © Christian Foundation Publications, 2003
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