THANKS to Rev Jonathan Willans for sending us this #ThrowbackThursday photo (above) of people coming to pray during the Second World War. Here’s what he told us about the image…

Dunkirk and Darkest Hour created great interest and fascination in wartime events. There is, however, one major fact not mentioned in either film. Many of those who have seen these films will be interested to learn that the situation was actually so desperate that King George VI called for a national day of prayer on 26 May 1940. In a national broadcast he asked the people of Britain to pray for God’s help. Thousands of special services were held across the country and literally millions of people poured into churches to pray.

This photograph shows the scene outside Westminster Abbey as frightened people queued to pray, a scene replicated across the nation.

Two significant events immediately followed. Firstly, a violent storm arose over the Dunkirk region grounding the Luftwaffe which had been killing thousands on the beaches. Secondly, a great calm descended on the Channel, the like of which hadn’t occurred for a generation, enabling the hundreds of tiny boats to rescue 338,000 soldiers, rather than the estimated 30,000. It was the timing of these events immediately after the prayer day which led people to speak of ‘the miracle of Dunkirk’ and Sunday 9 June was officially appointed as a day of national thanksgiving.

Looking back at this and other events the Bishop of Chelmsford wrote: “If ever a great nation was on the point of supreme and final disaster, and yet was saved and reinstated it was ourselves… it does not require an exceptionally religious mind to detect in all this the Hand of God.”

At the end of 1942, after the tide had turned in the war, Churchill himself was moved to say: “I sometimes have a feeling of interference, I want to stress that. I have a feeling sometimes that some Guiding Hand has interfered.”

In the light of these two films, a leaflet about various wartime miracles has been posted to churches across the UK. To receive an electronic copy, email putting Wartime Miracles in the subject line.

Do you have an old photo related to military life? Share it with us to feature in our #ThrowbackThursday series on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @ArmyandYou

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