Indeed my father always attributed his deliverance to the Living God facilitated by the faithful prayers of his own father. His dad met with the Revd Harry Stoddart, the Aberlour Free Church Minister to pray for his safe return. These men ‘prayed without ceasing’ meeting every morning at 7am between 1940 and 1945.
This penultimate extract from his wartime retrospective, ‘We’ve Been a Long Time Coming Boys’ amply illustrates the power of prayer to preserve and deliver the believer from danger.
“I HAVE OFTEN BEEN ASKED about attempts to escape, and have always had to admit that I never had a go. To my mind, it seemed a pointless and highly dangerous operation, and was not for me. However, there was one occasion when I made my escape, in more ways than one.
As always, our day began with the short march from our temporary billet to Rastow village, and from there on to work on Ludwigslust railway station. This day, however, our normal routine was to be changed. Allied aircraft had bombed the main Berlin/Hamburg line some miles out of town, and urgent repairs were required. At once a party of prisoners was organised to go out and fill in the freshly-made holes. For some reason, I decided to join this special task-force, and so, we set off with an engine, two wagons of sand and a covered-in truck full of shovels and men. Before we reached the place where work was to begin, our train suddenly stopped.
Wondering what was going on, I looked out the right-hand sliding door of our coach. Overhead I could see a squadron of our own fighter-bombers circling slowly around in the morning sun. Quite clearly they were having a good look at us and I hoped that an attack was not on. All at once, they went into a line-ahead formation and I knew that the worst had come. Down they dived on us, guns blazing, and bombs screaming from the sky. I saw a civilian jump from our train and throw himself flat on the ground. Instinctively I copied him. That man, unconsciously, saved my life. Had I run, as I was tempted to do, I most certainly would have been killed. A split-second later, a bomb exploded beside us, throwing its deadly shrapnel into the air. A colleague who leapt from the left-hand door, caught the full blast of a second bomb, and was instantly killed.
From the sound of their engines, I knew that the aircraft were climbing up again to come in for a second attack. In panic, I got up, determined to run this time, and went head-over-heels into the bomb crater. I can still see the bomb nose-cap sticking out of the ground and the smoke from the explosion all around. Picking myself up, I took off again like a hare, intent on getting as far away as I could, for quite clearly we were going to be for it again. Those R.A.F. “fools” up there. Could they not see they were actually bombing their own men! Wheeling into the sun as they always did, they dived on us once more. After several more such attacks, they seem to have decided they had given us enough, re-grouped and set off for home.
Now, our work-party was scattered all over the fields, quite some distance from our train. Several of our men said they had no intentions of returning to work that day. I heartily agreed and a few of us got together and set off to where, we did not know. Gradually however, as often happens, first one then another changed their minds and decided to go back to the guards until, in the end, I found myself alone.
Stumbling aimlessly along across the open field, at length, I came on a branch railway-line, heading away from town. I decided to follow it — it mattered not where. And so, I had escaped, setting off with a spring in my step. Now I was free —free as the wind. As I kept walking on like the old song about “Felix the Cat”, which my older readers will know, I passed a civilian concentration camp close to my railway-track. Little did I imagine that we would find 600 unburied dead in that camp when we were liberated some six weeks later.
As I debated in my fuddled mind what to do next, I suddenly realised that, along the line on which I was walking, three armed German soldiers were coming my way. I could see that the railway ran absolutely straight for about a mile ahead. Moreover, there was no cover whatsoever in which to hide. What to do? I just kept walking towards them and, as I walked, boy did I pray! As the distance narrowed between us, I could see they had started a discussion. Perhaps they were wondering what their tactics would be. As for me I just kept on walking. When about five yards apart, the three soldiers paused, and their leader spoke: “Bonjour, Monsieur”. I did not let him say any more, but quickly replied, “Bonjour Messieurs”, smiled faintly and walked right through their ranks. They seemed to hesitate for a moment, then let me pass. I presume they must have decided I was a Frenchman, perhaps a prisoner on parole. I could not for the life of me imagine where they thought I was either coming from or going. As for me, I just said, “Thank you” to God that my French had been good enough to carry me through.
For most of the day, I walked along the track, neither knowing nor caring where it would lead me. Finally, to my surprise, I recognised our old barn and the familiar village of Rastow. All unknown I had been walking the line we travelled each morning to work. Any other branch line could have led me to goodness knows where. I have often heard of someone attempting to break out of prison but this was ridiculous. I had decided to break in. I could see the perimeter fence was still patrolled by our guards. Waiting my chance, I made a dash for it, got inside unnoticed and lay down on the ground with a group of sick men. What else could I have done? Walk all the way home? Later in the evening, our working party arrived from Ludwigslust to report, “one man killed and one man missing”. The missing man? Yes, I was he.”
My father entered World War 2 as a nominal Christian. Through his five years of captivity in the ‘furnace of affliction’ he came to lean wholly on the Lord Jesus. In doing so, he came have complete confidence in his Heavenly Father who was his protector and deliverer.
In his Epistle, the Apostle John emphasizes the confidence and comfort of prayer which is available to anyone who puts their trust in the Living God:
‘And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.’ 1 John 5:14-15
We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’ by Charles Morrison, Published by Albyn Press ISBN 0284 98840 5
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