Our heaviest loss in Night Bombers, in raids over Germany up to December, 1942 was thirty-four in one night; and they have been officially accredited as being lost mainly “BECAUSE OF THE WEATHER.”
Then again, H.M.S. Price of Wales, the pride of the Navy, together with H.M.S. Repulse, were sunk by Japanese bombers, as we know, and the official cause given as, that Admiral Phillips trusted to CLOUD cover, but that it broke, and his Vessels were seen.
YES – IT WAS “BECAUSE OF THE WEATHER” that our mightiest Battleship afloat was lost.
Think also of the remarkable escape of the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, together with the Prinz Eugen, from Brest Harbour, and here again I cannot do better than quote from the Daily Press of February 14th, 1942.
The “Daily Express” says:
“Why were the ships able to steam so long up-Channel in daylight before they were observed? The answer may be that visibility was so bad that our reconnaissance missed this fleet escorted by aircraft, over the vast spaces which the landsman never quite visualizes when he thinks about the sea.
Then it will be asked why Phillips lost the Prince of Wales and Repulse by air attack, while we failed to get the Scharnhorst, the Gneisenau or the Prinz Eugen….
The answer is that the German weather bureau did a good job for the German captains choosing a day for them when heavy cloud obscured the sea.
Phillips, too, relied on low cloud. But the clouds that dispersed in Malaya for the Japanese, stayed thick in the English Channel for the Germans.”
While the “Daily Mail” says:
“How did the Germans manage to get out without being seen?
Because of the Weather. They could not have done it yesterday. But on Thursday visibility varied between three and five miles and there was a cloud ceiling of, at best, only 1500 feet in the Channel.
There was no moon on Wednesday night. These were perfect conditions for the German enterprise.
How did the German fleet manage to get so far? It was 11 a.m. of Thursday, when they had already steamed some 400 miles from Brest, that they were sighted.
The answer is again the weather.”
On March 28th, 1942, the “Daily Express” said:
“The R.A.F. intends to step up the bombing offensive against Germany on the largest possible scale at the earliest possible moment. There has been some delay. It is due to the diversion of bombers elsewhere; concentration on Brest to stop the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau; disappointments in the deliveries of aircraft last autumn; and above all the winter weather.”
On 10th April, 1941, our Prime Minister speaking in London, said, that “only Weather is holding up Britain from launching a great Blitz. The R.A.F. is WAITING FOR GOOD WEATHER.”
And the “Daily Express” of April 21st, 1942 said:
“It is true that the Germans a year ago attempted to sustain their attacks on us in almost all weathers. But in doing so they shattered their long-distance bombing force. By May, 1941, the first great long distance bomber force which the world has ever seen was exhausted, and the attack on Britain had been called off.
For however little people realize it, the weather is still a more deadly enemy to the bomber pilot, than all the defences of the enemy.
But our bomber force must not be smashed, as it could easily be, by attempting to use it in impossible weather conditions.
In such conditions it is no good for us to accuse Bomber Command of over-caution. For not only will bad weather inflict appalling losses, it will prevent the pilots doing really worthwhile damage.”
And how often since then, has a heavy raid had to be “called off” after the planes have actually been briefed and bombed up, and even in April 1944, “recalled from over enemy territory” IN DAYLIGHT, “Because of the Weather?”
Even by taking the chances which the waging of war demands, bad weather presents an obstacle to the operation of big bomber forces, which none of the amazing technical developments of the war have yet solved.
But 1942 also saw the great German drive into Russia with its sweeping victories. What part did the Weather play in this great battle? Let us see.
We have only space enough to quote a few press extracts but they will sufficiently tell the story for us.
“Daily Express” 15th May, 1942:
German radio commentators and front-line reporters were less boisterous last night about the progress of operation on the Kerch front.
We are being spared nothing in this battle” a reporter said.
Our heavy weapons could not be brought into action and our aircraft were pinned to the ground.
We could only advance step by step.”
“Daily Mail”: 20th July, 1942:
“The Germans last night blamed the weather for the slower pace of the advance on the Southern front.
German controlled Paris radio stated that the German advance in South Russia continued, but was being slowed down by the “deplorable weather.” Heavy rains had transformed the ground and reads into seas of deep mud.
The waters of the River Don were very high and the countryside was “menaced” with floods.”
But by August that year there were two crucial battlefronts. One around Rzhev where the Russians were driving the Germans back from Moscow; the other with the German hordes within sixty miles of Stalingrad, but THE WEATHER intervened in BOTH.
“Daily Express” 27th August, 1942, speaking of the advance on Stalingrad said:
“The Red Army is not only outnumbered in men, tanks, and planes, but the elements have turned against them.
The wind called “The Suhayi,” which sweeps across the Volga Steepes during July and August is driving a wall of flames and smoke towards the Russian lines.
Behind this screen, forming a gigantic flame thrower, the Germans advance without being detected by Russian planes.”
Whilst the same paper reported the following day:
“This terrible battle for Rzhev has in it many characteristics of the battle of Passchendaele.
In the first few days, directly after the initial breakthrough of the German front line, there came rain.
The tanks stopped, the lorries bogged down and the Stormoviks grounded. The assault slowed up. There was at this stage little resistance from the Germans.
Then the rain blotted out air activity too, and at night the Red Army strove to bring up its supplies through the mud, and the Germans worked to reorganize their defences along the second and third lines after the Gzhatsk River line had gone.”
Yes,- the Weather intervened as……….many times more during 1942, as we……..and 1944. Thus we are not surprised………later that this same weather which…….tot the very Gates of Stalingrad and ……… at one time only a few buiuldings separated the German Forces from their final goal on the banks of the Volga) was to bring relief to that hard hit noble Garrison.
That “Restraining Hand” was in evidence.
The “Daily Mail” of October 20th, 1942, had for its front page headline that day,
“WEATHER COMES TO AID OF STALINGRAD.”
“Sudden deterioration in the weather has brought unexpected relief to the sorely pressed garrison of Stalingrad. Cold, clear skies have given place to scudding cloud and heavy rain, which has blinded and almost grounded the Luftwaffe, the Germans most dangerous weapon on this front.
Today it has been impossible for dive-bomers to b last a way for tanks and infantry.”
But to return nearer home; Mr. Churchill said, in the House of Commons, concerning our loss of two more Cruisers, H.M.S. Dorsetshire and H.M.S. Cornwall and the Aircraft Carrier Hermes that
“While the Japanese were attacking ….mbo, our torpedo aircraft sallied out to attack the carriers from which the Japanese attack was being delivered. Owing to thunderstorms and low clouds they could not make contact on that day.
The weather in the other part of the Indian Ocean was not subject to those conditions of cloud and thunderstorm in which the Japanese carriers had shrouded themselves.”
Whilst on land, General Alexander’s Army had to march up a temporary road 6000 feet over the hills of Burma into India.
……..soon, they would wash away the……..the Japanese could come upon………ost reached the top when the ……..and cutting off their pursuers.
BECAUSE OF THE WEATHER
The great outstanding event of 1942, however, in the west, was verily the African Campaign, and what have we to say of that?
The month of June, l942 was a black one for the Allied cause. With superiority in Men, Munitions, Tanks and Aircraft, our hopes were high for early and complete Victory in the Middle East, but instead, came humiliation and defeat, with the loss of Tobruk in the matter of hours, and our Forces falling back many miles to El Alamein.
Mr. Churchill declared in the House of Commons on July 3rd, 1942, that “we were defeated under conditions which gave very reasonable expectancy of success.
We had in the desert, he said, 100,000 men; the Axis had 90,000 (including 50,000 Germans). Our superiority in numbers of tanks was 7-5; in guns nearly 8-5, including several regiments of the latest howitzers and certain secret weapons.
We had air superiority, and Rommel’s dive-bombers were ….. at Bir Hacheim and Tobruk, but were neither ….. nor a massive factor in the battle.”
But it…so happened that some time previously, July 1st, 1942, had been officially appointed as the Day to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Dominion of Canada at Westminster Abbey, and on that day our King and Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, together with several members of the War Cabinet, Cabinet Ministers and Ambassadors were present in their official capacity.
The Daily Press of the following day reported that at that Service a “SPECIAL PRAYER” was offered for those fighting in Egypt and the Mediterranean.
If that prayer was just a cold formality, as so many of us are used to hearing Sunday by Sunday, then little could be expected of it, but if, as reported, it was really a “SPECIAL Prayer” from the hearts of such an Official and representative body of our War-time Leaders, are we right in thinking it merely a matter of co-incidence, that from that VERY DAY-July 1st, 1942, Rommel’s advance was first checked, and then repelled, and we never looked back, in N. Africa, from that day.
If special prayer was offered, why should it be thought incredible, or co-incidence, for God to answer that Prayer?
One thing must be stressed, however, and that is that we have certainly failed to recognize Divine intervention, and consequently failed to RETURN THANKS for it.
God will not thus be trifled with! If we sincerely sought His aid, why not sincerely RETURN thanks and acknowledge that what superiority in Men, Munitions, Tanks and Planes COULD NOT DO, God did within a few hours, when our Leaders PUBLICLY ASKED His aid.
We can hardly expect continuance of Divine aid and blessing, if we thus fail to appreciate and acknowledge such help, and we must not, therefore, be surprised if God permits further reverses and retreats if we persist in our foolish way of trusting to the Arm of Power and Might, rather than the “God of our help in ages past.”
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in Princes, wrote the psalmist long ago. Do we believe it today?
I appeal to my fellow countrymen. Let’s be honest and sincere in this matter. Do we wish God to help us? - Do we realize that alone we cannot do it! - Then let us heed this indication of the path to Victory. If we don’t, then let us say so, and be prepared to take the consequences.
If God has shown us (and this is no isolate event) that He IS ready and willing to honour TRUST in Himself, by thus answering a “Special Prayer” of a portion of our Leaders; I ask, what may not be the possibilities of a truly NATIONAL recognition of God in this way, and a PUBLIC seeking of His help?
Alexander Clifford the well-known “Daily Mail” War Correspondents wrote on May 15th, 1943, of those eventful days of July, l942:
“In the Summer of 1942 the Eighty Army was more of a traffic – jam than a fighting force. At last the danger which had so often menaced Egypt was becoming a fact.
And then, by the merest hair’s breadth, we were saved.
Inperceptibly in the first four days of July, when the Africa Corps came butting with ever-increasing feebleness against the Alamein line, these forces were swinging in the balance back to level again.
And on the fifth morning in July there came no attack on the Alamein line. The balance had been tilted down on the side of the British. Egypt was saved.
Whilst a young Swedish Rfeporter who was in Berlin during those days writes in the “Daily Mail” of Sept. 27th, 1943:
“No light of hope pierced the gloom until the summer of 1942, when a miracle happened in the desert-Rommel began his forward sweep and the fall of Tobruk gave the Germans greater stimulas than any event sine the fall of France.
In Berlin the people said to me “Perhaps Rommel will win the War for us yet,” and absolute intoxication gripped official Berlin.
‘We are going to strangle the Middle East with two great fists,’ said a Wilhelmstrasse spokesman to me one day. ‘Soon there will be a great drive against India to link up with Japan, and our parachutists will be in Afghanistan.’
Then came El Alamein the miracle of the Marne of this war.”
Concerning which, another Correspondent with the 8th Army wrote, reported in the “Daily Express” of Nov. 10th, 1942:
“Rommel’s fleeing columns are having to retreat in the most depressing conditions imaginable. Autumn rainstorms which scarcely touched Alamein before the Rommel line broke have been falling in Axis territory for several days past.
It has been a miniature monsoon. The road along which the enemy fled is almost washed away in places.
Torrents of water are running down wadis off the escarpments, boiling over the road, making watersplash after watersplash on their way to the sea.
The sand is sodden into brown mud for miles, in which vehicles stick and small lakes have been formed in low-laying areas.
Lowering skies have been drenching Rommel’s retreating army. Hailstorms have beaten down, soaking them to the skin in their thin shoddy cotton uniforms.
They must feel that even the weather has turned against them.”
Whilst on our side, Lt. Gen. Lumsden said, “that it was a bitter disappointment to him that sudden bad weather made it impossible for us to finish up Rommel’s army completely right on the spot.”
Following the break through at El Alemein came the landings in North Africa, the full story of which we have not yet heard, but let me quote the words of one who had inside information at the time, for they very forcefully bring home my point.
G. Ward Price of the “Daily Mail” wrote in that paper on the 14th Nov., 1942
“Only the thoughtless can fail to realize how great a part Providence has played in the swift and successful transformation of the war situation upon which our hopes are henceforth founded. Those who have heard something of the inside story of the dramatic events of this historic week are reminded of that dispensation that smoothed the waters at Dunkirk.
The Allied General Staff had been warned by weather experts that after October lst the Atlantic swell off the coast of Morocco would probably be too high for landing operations. So it was- with the exception of last Sunday, the date for which the landing had been planned.
In this, skeptics may see no more than a fortunate ‘co-incidence,’ but it is not the only feature of a great undertaking that will suggest to others the need for expressing their gratitude to God, when the victory bells begin their cheering chimes.”
Speaking of a later stage in the N. African Campaign, Mr. Elmar Davis, Director of the American Office of War Information said:
“General Mongomery has clearly outsmarted the out-generalled Rommel, but Rommel withdrew under cover of a sandstorm, so his losses have not been so heavy as we hoped.
That sandstorm saved Rommel from the air pounding. Once more he got out with most of his stuff intact and he will be in a position to fight a good delaying action.”
“The Times” of Oct. 27th, 1942, said further, concerning the Madagascar Campaign:
“The weather played a leading part. The country was hidden in a vast blanket of cloud and the valley below was invisible. The mist was one of our best allies. It gave perfect cover for infantry movements and attack, and together with the fact that we had had two days to prepare our plans and register artillery targets, it best explains our success.
Without losing a man here, the British took 800 prisoners.”
So much then for 1942. But what of 1943?
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