At the Gates of Cairo and the Bumper Harvest Miracle
After the fall of Tobruk, a port city on Libya’s eastern Mediterranean coast, this is near the border with Egypt. The Eighth Army was in full retreat, reaching the El Alamein line of defence on Monday June 29 1942. Rommel’s army came up to it next day.
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.
He was very frustrated because the German and Italian High Commands together failed to give him the extra supplies and support just when he most required them. That was the time when the petrol which he sorely needed was reported to be lying about in Southern Italy in profusion, and only had to be shipped or flown across.
It is no wonder; therefore, that Rommel exclaimed in his papers that: “Our sources of supply dried up in front of El Alamein.”
While General Montgomery was making preparations to launch the British offensive against Rommel ad his Afrika Korps, so important did King George VI consider the outcome of the forthcoming battle to be, that he declared his desire that it should be preceded by a National Day of Prayer.
3 September 1942-the third anniversary of the outbreak of the war against Hitler’s Germany—was his specially chosen date, and, in taking this action, he was following in the footsteps which his father, King George V, took in August 1918.
For the first time, a National Day of Prayer was held on a week-day, and for this reason it seemed to many that it was observed far more sincerely than any of its predecessors.
Once people flocked to the churches all over Britain, and Westminster Abbey was crowded to capacity, with the King and Queen, other members of the royal family, and members of Parliament present.
God answered that time of prayer in a marvelous way and a whole series of miracles followed in its wake.
The Lord had already seen to it that two dedicated Christian men were appointed to the most responsible positions in the Middle East on August 15 1942: Field Marshal Alexander as Commander-in-Chief and General Montgomery as Commander of the Eighth Army.
On October 23 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.’ How did the Lord mighty in battle, answer?
First, when the attack was opened on the German forces, Rommel was absent in Germany! He had been compelled to report sick at the end of September for the first time in his life, and had flown to Germany for treatment.
The Afrika Korps had therefore been caught on the hop without their famous leader, and that at the most critical and decisive moment of their history. Rommel had appointed General Stumme, as commander to take his place.
Secondly, just twenty-four hours after Montgomery’s bombardment opened, General Stumme died from a heart attack, which left the German command structure in a hopeless state of confusion.
Thirdly, to add to this confusion, and incredible as it may seem, the start of the battle found Rommel’s Chief of Staff, General Bayerlein was actually on leave.
Fourthly, due to faulty intelligence, the Afrika Korps was taken completely off its guard when the bombardment began.
Fifthly, the extraordinary fact was that Montgomery’s tremendous pre-offensive build-up had remained completely hidden from the Germans, although it included the movement of literally hundreds of guns and 900 tanks, and the preparation of dumps containing 7,500 tons of petrol. It was a similar miracle to the one which had happened after King George V had called that National Day of Prayer in August 1918.
Finally, when at Hitler’s personal request, Rommel arrived at his Desert Headquarters from a hospital bed to take command of the situation two days after Montgomery’s barrage had been laid down, he found to his anger that there had been a complete and catastrophic failure of supplies.
He discovered that General von Rintelen, the German Military Attaché in Rome who was responsible for ensuring that supplies of petrol reached the Afrika Korps, had been on leave and had thus been unable to give sufficient attention to the problem!
Consequently, by the time Rommel arrived at his headquarters in North Africa at 8 p.m on 25 October, the battle was already lost. As his General Cramer said, Alamein was lost before it was fought.
We had not the petrol” in fact, Rommel’s Papers reveal that throughout the battle of the next few days his tank forces were frequently standing immobilized on the battle-field for sheer lack of petrol. Surely none of these things could have been due to coincidence.
It cannot be disputed that there is a God who overrules history, and he does so, particularly, in answer to heartfelt, believing prayer. “The Lord, mighty in battle” had most certainly given the Eighth Army the victory, and a result caused the tide of the war to be completely turned.
Churchill said afterwards concerning the battle of Alamein: “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.”
Then Came A Bumper Harvest
Throughout the crucial year of 1942 and the months immediately following it, the entire nation was provided with evidence that God was at work in the fields of Britain. During this critical year, the shipping which normally brings food to these shores from overseas was urgently required for carrying men and munitions. Yet the people in beleaguered Britain had to be fed. There was need, therefore, for a bumper harvest.
To that end, a supreme effort was made by British agriculture, and a degree of co-operation and united labor was achieved as never before in our history. Added to this were the prayers of innumerable people that God bless these efforts.
The yields in the fields that year far exceeded all expectations. It had obviously become very 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.
The prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” has in these tomes a very direct meaning for us all.” God has indeed “crowned the year with his goodness” and granted us the much needed special harvest. Divine blessing continued during the following months, a fact which Fleet Street brought to the nation’s notice. In an article in the News Chronicle dated 6 May 1943, L.F. Easterbrook described the first part of 1943 as this wonderful year” he said:
Mr. Hudson was not ashamed to acknowledge last year the divine power that gave us a record harvest just when we most needed it. Can anyone doubt that the Power has been at work again? It has brought us through what might have been a very difficult winter with an unerring hand. For that, we can be thankful for having sufficient fuel and milk, for wheat in the fields that never looked better, for grass in the meadows that has enabled winter feeding stuffs to be conserved, so that the small poultry keeper is now to get more food for his hens, and the housewife to get more milk for the family. We are still only half-way to harvest, and disaster can still happen. But nothing should take away our thankfulness for a season that has warmed and fed our bodies and cheered our bodies and cheered our hearts more generously than any dared hope.
All Britain therefore was made aware that God’s hand was upon our history throughout those important years of 1942 and 1943, not least by providing enough food.
Adapted from the Trilogy of David E. Gardner, The Trumpet Sounds For Britain, Copyright © Christian Foundation Publications, 2003