During May 1940, months after the beginning of World War II, large numbers of British, Belgian and French allied troops became trapped and surrounded by Nazi troops in mainland Europe. The decision was made to evacuate the allied troops, and the French seaport Dunkirk was determined to be the best place to attempt the rescue.

A covert operation, codenamed Operation Dynamo, was set in motion, but officials estimated that only a small number of the total troops – around 30,000 – would be able to be rescued.

Ahead of the unfolding operation, King George VI called the people of Great Britain to a National Day of Prayer to take place across the nation, on Sunday 26th May 1940. News coverage of the National Day of Prayer stated:
‘It is well for us to show the world that we still believe in divine guidance and in the laws of Christianity; may we find inspiration and faith from this solemn day.’

That very day, the evacuation began. Hundreds of boats set out across the English Channel in a rescue attempt, vulnerable to attack – but unseasonal storms meant the Nazi air force were grounded and unable to fly. Additionally, Hitler had ordered his ground forces to halt, and they didn’t move for three days. This combination of events meant that the evacuations were able to take place largely uninterrupted for three days, leading to over 338,000 men being rescued – ten times the expected number!

The British prime minister Winston Churchill called it a ‘miracle of deliverance’.

Lord God,
At the darkest time your miracles take place.
Give me faith to pray for the world as well as for those I know.