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God’s hand in the victory at El Alamein

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HOW good it was to be reminded by Henry Getley on TCW recently of the Eighth Army’s victory at El Alamein in November 1942. We are now going through the period which represents the 80th anniversary of this campaign, lasting as it did from October 23 to November 11 1942.  

The significance of the second Battle of El Alamein as a turning point in World War II is not just a matter of historical interest, but it also carries with it vital lessons for our own day, particularly with regard to the spiritual state of the nation.

Shortly before the commencement of Montgomery’s great counter-strike against the Afrika Korps the nation had held a national day of prayer on September 3 1942. This day coincided with the German-Italian offensive against the Eighth Army known as the Battle of Alam el Halfa, which lasted from August 31 to September 7. It ended in failure for the German forces, due in particular to their being short of fuel and ammunition. 

So God’s gracious hand can immediately be seen to be at work in response to the nation’s prayers. Alam el Halfa was the last offensive push which Rommel would make in the region, and also represented the first success for Montgomery in his oversight of Eighth Army operations – he had taken up command of the British forces in the previous month of August.

In September and October 1942 the new commander oversaw the vast preparations necessary to enable the Eighth Army to launch a major and decisive counter-attack against Rommel’s troops. These preparations involved the transfer of 900 tanks and the setting up of fuel dumps holding some 7,500 tons of petrol. Amazingly, such major logistical developments were not discovered by German Intelligence. This was the providence of God at work. 

There were other providential occurrences contributing to Montgomery’s ultimate success, which again tell us that the effect of the nation’s prayers at this time must be brought into the equation, prayers not only on September 3 itself, but the ongoing prayer stimulated by that special day, along with the prayers of the faithful remnant of God’s people which had been constantly offered up since the war had begun. 

These providential circumstances leading to the Eighth Army’s victory included the following: German Intelligence had been certain that no British attack would take place in October, and so Rommel’s troops were far from geared up to respond to it. Also, the German military attaché in Rome, who was in charge of getting fuel supplies from Italy to the Afrika Korps, had been on leave at a crucial juncture. Not only that, on the day that the Battle of El Alamein began, Rommel, incredibly, was not even in North Africa, but was in Germany with a serious illness, and his stand-in general had a fatal heart attack on the day after the offensive began. Furthermore, Rommel’s Chief of Staff was away on leave from the battle area at this time. 

So the German forces were quite simply caught off their guard by Montgomery’s offensive, and as the battle proceeded, a shortage of petrol seriously hampered their resistance, forcing them into retreat. Nothing in this world happens by chance. All of these events were aspects of God’s providential control.  

Shortly before the final victory at El Alamein in November 1942 Sir William Dobbie, the Christian Governor of Malta between April 1940 and May 1942, had written in the Spectator about how prayer makes a difference in the great affairs of nations. He wisely spoke of the need for repentance and personal righteousness to accompany the nation’s prayers. Right may be on Britain’s side, he argued, but that is no excuse for either national or personal sin. 

So Dobbie was expounding the Biblical principle that, while God delights to answer prayer, there must first be humility and repentance. This principle applies to nations as well as individuals. A nation which persists in rebelling against God cannot expect His aid in times of crisis. What a salutary lesson for our own day, and for our own people, where the Bible-rejecting tenets of cultural Marxism now constitute the new all-pervasive religion.

Another major factor contributing to Montgomery’s victory at El Alamein, and to the progress of the war turning in the Allies’ favour, was the survival of Malta from the enemy’s assault. Malta was strategically positioned in the middle of the Mediterranean in respect of the vital lines of communication between Italy and North Africa. 

Between 1940 and 1942 the island was besieged by the Axis forces. The first air raid took place on June 11 1940 when the island was poorly defended, possessing only 16 obsolete anti-aircraft guns. Nearly two years later, in May 1942, as Dobbie’s governorship ended, Malta was suffering its 2,300th air raid. It literally became the most bombed place on earth. The island endured a most horrific pounding, but in God’s providence it did not fall. 

What inspiring leadership Dobbie gave to the Maltese people, gaining their respect by his bravery and trust in God. Each night in the Governor’s official residence he held a prayer meeting, asking for the Lord’s protection of the island, and he knew that these prayers were being answered. He subsequently wrote that Malta could not have survived the German onslaught without the Lord’s intervention. 

This of course is the vital missing ingredient in Britain’s national life today: the realisation that there can only be national wellbeing and prosperity if there is a turning back to faith in the one true Trinitarian God, He alone who is the Governor of the nations. A change of Prime Minister is not the answer to our nation’s problems. Britain, blinded by all its trendy liberal progressiveness, needs to rediscover the reality of God’s providential control over the nations. How we urgently need to remember that ‘righteousness exalteth a nation : but sin is a reproach to any people.’ (Proverbs 14:34)

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Peter Simpson
Peter Simpson
Pastor Peter Simpson has been Minister of Penn Free Methodist Church in Buckinghamshire since 1990, and is a keen open air preacher. He is the author of a book on World War II entitled ‘When a Nation Prays’, which is currently available on Amazon.

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