When he was a POW during World War 2, my late father proved many times that the Living God was his comforter, protector, defender and healer. On numerous occasions, although weak in faith, my father called on the Lord through prayer, and was always answered, sometimes in the most unusual and miraculous ways.
He survived the infamous ‘death march’ of late winter 1945 to tell the tale, preserved by the grace and the strong miraculous hand of the living God. Many years later, he recalled these experiences in his retrospective of World War 2: ‘We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’.
“SIX DAYS before the end of our 700 kilometre hike, my own faith was to be put to the test. Apart from hunger, thirst, cold and exhaustion, I had till now had a comfortable ride compared to some. Whether the day that I carried Joe's luggage as well as my own had any effect on me, I cannot say. Certainly I would not blame him for what was to happen to me.
With over 600 kilometres behind us, I suddenly had problems with my left leg. Every step of the way, it was getting more painful until a point came when I could go no further. I stopped and sat down at the side of the road. Bob arrived and we had a “council of war” about my problem. We knew that Dr Rose, an Army doctor, was with us now, but, this day, he had gone on ahead. However, there was usually a horse and wagon at the end of the column and I told Bob and Joe to go on. I would see them when we bedded down at night. So, they two set off again, and I was left alone.
As I sat there, the endless stream of humanity kept passing me by. Nobody really cared. At last, the sick wagon appeared and my spirits rose. Alas, it was jam-packed with other men who had hitched a lift. Now I felt really alone. Eventually, the road became completely empty, except for a German guard, stupidly waving about his automatic Tommy-gun. The equivalent of the school attendance officer, he made himself quite clear, shouting “Get up and go!” After we had exchanged a few angry words and he had done his own version of a war dance, Tommy-gun and all, he decided he would leave me in the ditch to die. No Good Samaritan act with him, I'm afraid. He just turned on his heel and hurried away. What was I to do now? I had nearly forgotten. I could do nothing — that is, except pray. For maybe ten minutes, I went through the ritual, perhaps a waste of time to some folks, but I just prayed and prayed. Then, it dawned on me that I should expect an answer. After all, you don't pick up the phone at home and speak to yourself. You expect “Someone” at the other end to reply —and reply, He certainly did. In simple faith, I got up from that ditch and put my foot to the ground. The pain was gone! I picked up my kit-bag and set off, like a scalded cat. Soon, I saw the sick wagon. I overtook that, ignored it, caught the end of the column, thumbed my nose at my Tommy-gun school attendance officer, caught up with Joe and Bob, who stared open-mouthed at me and, at nightfall, was at the front of the column. Later, when my friends eventually trailed home, I had selected a place in the Dutch barn and was waiting for them at the door. Do you believe in miracles? I certainly do.
It will never cease to amaze me how feeble my faith was. Next morning, I gingerly put my foot to the ground. “Oh ye of little faith”. There was no pain. But then, doubts began to flood my mind. You see, as a boy, I had trouble with my left instep. This could have been the cause of my problem, or so I now thought. Perhaps, it would trouble me again and I would be stranded and next time, no help would come.
During the next few days, I had no problems with my leg, I must admit, but always some niggling little doubts kept passing through my mind. Eventually, however, unknown to us at the time, we reached the end of our long march at a village called Rastow. Next day, we were despatched by train to work at the neighbouring town of Ludwigslust on the main Berlin-Hamburg railway line. At once, we could see that the station had taken a good old hammering from the Allied bombers. Soon, I was on the prowl amongst the wreckage looking for food. Wandering into the remains of the station-master's house, guess what I found! I found an arch-support for a left foot, exactly the size I needed for that foot I feared might trouble me again. Yes! I do believe in miracles, to be sure. That day on which I sat in the ditch, unable to walk, I felt like a boxer down on the floor, nearly out but “saved by the bell”. In answer to my prayer for help at that time, I was saved by the bell all right — the telephone bell up there in Heaven.”
I recall that when my father prayed, he did so in a simple manner, using language which was clear, direct and to the point. I am sure that in many crisis situations during his captivity these prayers would have similar to those which are recorded in the Psalms:
“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer” Psalm 4:1
“Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy”. Psalm 64:1
The great evangelist, C.H. Spurgeon said: ‘A true prayer is an inventory of needs, a catalog of necessities, an exposure of secret wounds, a revelation of hidden poverty’.
Feeble though they often were, my father’s prayers during the years of his captivity were truly ‘a revelation of hidden poverty’ which the living God always answered in abundance.
We’ve Been A Long Time Coming Boys’ by Charles Morrison, Published by Albyn Press ISBN 0284 98840 5