From about the time of Dunkirk onwards, the course of the war in the Mediterranean also began to be punctuated with instances of divine ruling. For instance, there was the outstanding example of the siege of Malta, a Southern European Island.
The Island of Malta was part of the British Empire and was transformed into a British crown colony in 1813. It gained its independence from Britain in 1964. Its location had great strategic importance as a naval base, and the Island has a rich and long Christian heritage as the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked on Malta.
The Island was lying in the path of Italy’s vital supply lines to North Africa, and on the holding of which so much was to depend. With the fall of France and the entry of Italy into the war, Malta was in a state of extreme isolation.
Those who were responsible for Malta’s defense were fully aware that the Italians had long boasted that they intended to occupy her as soon as war declared. What is more they had said they expected to capture the fortress within a day or two! So Malta found herself faced with immediate threat of a full-scale invasion by sea and air.
The man who took over the great responsibility for Malta was General Sir William Dobbie, who was appointed as Governor of Malta by Divine Providence. He was a man of faith and also proved to testify to the power of prayer.
He was a man who believed that, in fighting Nazism, Britain was involved in a righteous cause; and for that reason, he believed that God was on our side. Since it was obvious to him that human resources on Malta were inadequate, he says he was constrained to “turn his eyes to the hills, from whence came his help” and to encourage others to do the same, he saw clearly where the secret of Malta’s defence lay—in a quite reliance upon God.
Dobbie wrote that “When the siege of Malta began, behind all human factors was God.” The story of the next two years was the story of belief being worked out in quite remarkable ways. Many miracles happened that proved God was a work on their behalf.
The help which He gave was, to the garrison and people of Malta, very obvious and very real. General Dobbie said that they soon became aware that it was the same help which was seen at the time of the withdrawal from Dunkirk and during the first Battle of Britain.
The first miracle which they experienced, for instance was that Italy made no attempt whatsoever to invade them, although at that time everything was in her favor. Commenting on this, General Dobbie writes:
It is truly remarkable that Italy did not attempt the invasion, immediately after she had declared war, when the advantages were all in her favor, nor at any other time. “We are justified in asking, Why?
By the same token we are justified in asking another question: Why did not the Germans invade Great Britain immediately after Dunkirk? “It is difficult to find satisfactory answers to either of these questions on the human level. It seems that our two enemies each made a colossal blunder when they did not seize the opportunities given them of gaining a decisive success. “What caused them to make these blunders?”Asked General Dobbie.
“The only reason which I can find” he said, “and which seems to cover the facts, is that in each case, God’s restraining hand kept them from attacking us at a time when we were very ill-prepared to meet such attacks. If this is so, and I firmly believe it is, it was not the first time that God has acted in this way. Scripture has many instances of just this thing, instances which are recorded for our comfort and hope.”
If invasion did not take place immediately after Italy entered the war, the aerial bombardment, aimed at crushing all resistance on Malta, did. And here, perhaps, is the second great miracle. For the story of that bombardment is the story, not so much of how God delivered them from this prolonged attack, but of how he sustained, enabled, and protected them throughout it.
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 that 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.”
Adapted from the Trilogy of David E. Gardner, The Trumpet Sounds For Britain, Copyright © Christian Foundation Publications, 2003