Beyond The Odds: Providence in Britain’s Wars of the 20th Century

Pages: 598 At many times in the two World Wars the nation was saved from disaster in circumstances that defied probabilities. There were sudden changes in the weather, inexplicable mistakes in strategy and tactics by the enemy and other extraordinary events. Beyond the Odds explores turning points in the World Wars, with in-depth accounts of diplomacy and wartime operations. Leaders and commanders in the Second World War, such as Churchill and his Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Alan Brooke, saw the outworking of providence in that war. Recording the beliefs of commanders and National Days of Prayer, the book provides fresh perspectives on momentous occurrences, as seen by those who experienced them. Three chapters focus on the First World War – 1914 and 1918 – when the Allies were perilously close to defeat, and the 1917 campaign in Palestine. The five chapters on the Second World War include the fall of France, the Dunkirk evacuation and the Battle of Britain in 1940, as well as the war in North Africa, Italy, Russia and the Pacific in 1941-1943, and D-Day in 1944. Further chapters encompass the siege of Malta in the Second World War and the Falklands conflict of 1982, and there is a revealing discussion of Churchill’s Christianity. The book includes surprising accounts from contemporary sources. These include the evacuation of Channel ports by the French in 1914 – the Germans failed to see that they could take these (as they then did in 1940); the experiences of the soldiers who captured Jerusalem in 1917; British diplomacy in 1938 and 1939, with a remarkable admission by Chamberlain to Hitler about the opening of the First World War; and incidents in the Dunkirk evacuation, including one recounted to the writer by his father. The authors do not shrink from the calamities of war and describe failures as well as successes, but the resilience of the wartime generations shines through. The book is strong on accessible narrative history.
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