Friday, 26 December 2014

The Carols of Advent: Part Three


        Good Morning, Readers!  I trust you all have had a wonderful Christmas Day.  Before the Christmas Holidays are over, however, we come to our final post in the Carols of Advent Series.  The reason why I chose to post this after Christmas Day, is because I believe that this hymn, though rightly sung during Advent, ought also to be sung year round, as I outline below.  But first, the hymn:

"Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

"Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

"Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! Come away!

"Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
See the day of God appear!

"Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!"

        As we come to the last post in the Carols of Advent Series (see Parts One & Two), we also come to a grand hymn of praise for the saving work of Christ, but also a hymn of longing for His second coming.  Written in the mid 1700's by Charles Wesley, this hymn, although sung at Advent, is nevertheless a hymn that ought to be sung year-round.  This hymn begins by referencing the text of Revelation 1:7 (ESV): "Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen."  It continues, making reference to Christ's saving work on the cross; of his coming not just as a King, but as a Judge, yet also as a Redeemer of His people.  And finally there is an awesome doxology of praise to the Trinity, and a longing for Christ's promised return.
        We should sing this hymn at advent, remembering the coming of our Saviour to earth as a baby, but we ought also to sing it every day, looking forward to the time when Christ will come again in His glorious second coming.  Those who are his have nothing to fear when that Day comes, but for those who have not placed their trust in Christ there will be just condemnation.  My greatest longing is for those who do not have faith in Christ to put their entire hope in him, and to that end I pray for you, reader.  Will you be ready for Him?

        "Now to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever: Amen." ~ Rev. 1:5 - 6

Written and Posted by William A. Moore

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Carols of Advent: Part Two


"Hark, a herald voice is sounding:
'Christ is nigh,' it seems to say.
'Cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day!'

"Wakened by the solemn warning,
let the earth-bound soul arise;
Christ, our sun, all sloth dispelling,
shines upon the morning skies.

"Lo, the Lamb, so long expected,
comes with pardon down from heaven;
let us all, with deep repentance,
pray that we may be forgiven,

"That when next he comes with glory,
and the world is wrapped in fear,
with his mercy he may shield us,
and with words of love draw near.

"Honour, glory, might, and blessing
to the Father and the Son,
with the everlasting Spirit,
while eternal ages run."

        Hark, A Herald Voice is Sounding is one of my favourite Carols of Advent.  I learned it when I was very little, and the verses have stuck in my head ever since.  The text that is sung nowadays was translated from an old Latin chant titled Vox Clara Ecce Intonat.  This hymn is believed to have been sung as far back as the fifth century, even though the earliest manuscript dates from the tenth century.  However, it was an English clergyman by the name of Edward Caswall(b. 1814) who translated the hymn into English in the mid-1800's.  He also translated many other hymns from their Latin text into English, but this carol is likely one of the best known from his works.  From the darkness of sin and death, to glorious light of Christ, this Carol of Advent is a wonderful and glorious song of praise and worship to Christ our Saviour.  As the apostle John said, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.*"

Written and Posted by William A Moore

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*John 1:5

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Carols of Advent: Part One


        This is the first post in a short series for Christmas called The Carols of Advent.  In three posts before Christmas we will be looking at three hymns normally sung during the Christmas season and briefly studying their history and theology.  Here is the first one:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

        "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" is a beautiful hymn of longing and hope for the coming of our Saviour. The hymn was written by Charles Wesley, who was a missionary and hymn-writer, in the mid 1700's* for the season of Advent.  Since then, it has become one of the better known Advent hymns sung by Christians around the world.
        In the first verse, the singer longs for the coming of Christ, both now and in the future.  Now - for we yearn for Jesus to set us free from the bondage to sin in our flesh; and the future - when Christ will release us from our mortality and we will obtain eternal freedom as children of God. The second verse points out that Jesus is truly the only Comforter, and comes to bring peace, joy, and freedom in the end.  In the final two verses, we first see Christ as the One who died on the cross for our sins - the one who came in the likeness of man, condemned sin in the flesh, and raised to the right hand of the Father, where he reigns forever. Finally, by His Spirit, Jesus rules in those hearts which trust in Him, and by his work, not our own, raises us as new creations once and for all time.
        As today is two weeks before Christmas, let us sing or read this hymn looking forward to Jesus' coming.

Written and Posted by William A Moore

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*This hymn is one for which the exact date of writing is not known.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Recollections of War: Eleventh Month - Eleventh Day - 11:00


This post is part of the 100th Anniversary of World War One Series on this 
blog commemorating the anniversaries of certain events during WWI.

"In Flanders Fields the Poppies Blow"
        Even though the 96 years since the Great War ended is not a specifically memorable anniversary in terms of number of years, it should be remembered as much as any greater commemoration of the First World War.  Because even though, as Winston Churchill said, 'the War was decided in the first twenty days of fighting, and all that happened afterwards consisted in battles which, however formidable and devastating, were but desperate and vain appeals against the decision of Fate,' the fact remains that there were still hundreds of thousands of casualties in the ferocious fighting that took place.
        This day, the Eleventh of November, we remember the final ending of the Great War which began one hundred years ago. After four long years fighting, in France's Compiegne Forest the Allied Nations and Germany signed the Armistice at 11:00 am, thus bringing an end to the First World War - a war that had cost so much was now over.        But still, though the guns were now silent, though men ceased to shoot each other, and those who were left returned to their homes, even to this day:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
          Between the crosses, row on row,
      That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
       We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
                     Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
           The torch; be yours to hold it high.
        If ye break faith with us who die
             We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant John McCrea, Canadian Army

- - - We will Remember Them


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Is Reading Fiction a Waste of Time?


               Presented below is a brief essay that I wrote on the subject of fiction literature.  
              A lot more could be said and written on this subject, and I would be happy to 
              discuss this further.

    Should we read fantastical and fictitious stories? I believe the answer is a resounding 'yes'. For although some have said we should not read fantasy and fiction because it creates something which is not real, what those who have said that fail to see however, is that good, God-honouring fiction* does not create new truth. The well known author G. K. Chesterton once said, "Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."
    For example, let us briefly look at The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Speaking of the Ring, which has been given to Frodo to destroy, Tolkien writes: "'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo. 'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'" In this quote, Tolkien, using the time-honoured way of speaking real-world truth through fictional characters, thus gives great depth to the story, and subtly brings out the doctrine of God's sovereignty in the affairs of men as well.
    You see, reading a story, fiction or not, is not just enjoyment. Whether we realize it or not, the author seeks to influence the readers minds. In the old myths, through middle age fables, down to recent fantasy literature, the real truth revealed through the created world, and in the hearts of authors, is exposed to those who read it. If we read with a discerning mind and a wise heart, we cannot but help read wonderful fictional and fantastical literature, gaining wisdom and insight, and courage and hope in so doing.  May all such reading be to the honour of our King.


Written and Posted by William A Moore

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*By 'God-honouring' I mean any fiction or fantasy, fable or myth, written by Christians or not, that teaches Biblical morality in a specific or general way.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Recollections of War: The Heroism of the Allied Airborne Forces


As it is the 70th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden this past week,
this post is dedicated to the men of the British, American, and Polish forces
who participated in Operation Market Garden - and did not return.

        One of my favourite scenes from the movie A Bridge Too Far, which recreated the victorious defeat of the combined British and American Operation Market Garden, is embedded here below.  I think it shows to memorable effect the courage and heroism of the soldiers and pilots who participated in that great operation.
        The film A Bridge Too Far, made in 1977, is one of the best made movies I have seen about the Second World War.  Almost all of the events portrayed in it are true to history, and even though it was made before the advent of Computer Generated Visual Effects (CGVFX), the producers took a lot of care in making sure the special effects done right.  In the scene clipped from the movie below, you will notice at 1:55 there is a shot of a Dakota C-47 transport aircraft surrounded by sister aircraft and Horsa gliders.  Those were painted onto the film stock before it was cut together for the final product.  That shows the amount of care and precision taken and required for this amazing film.
        One of the things I like about this scene is that the film just has music at this point, leaving the viewer to really be drawn into the emotion and heart-pounding power of the movie as the real action starts to begin.  Even though Operation Market Garden ultimate plans did not come to fruition, as can be read about here, through the courage and sacrifice of men of the Allied Airborne Forces, much was achieved - though opposed by great odds.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Recollections of War: Operation Market Garden: A Bridge Too Far?

           As it is the 70th Anniversary of World War II, below is one of the longer essays that I have written regarding history - in this case, Operation Market Garden.  
           
            After the invasion of Europe in Normandy during the Second World War, there was another major effort to attack Germany and end the war sooner, and with less cost of lives.  But tragically this invasion failed.  Due to bad weather, faulty information and equipment, and the hurried planning of the offensive, problems were encountered before the operation even began.  At the end over 1,000 men of the Allied forces were casualties in the final defeat.  This offensive, intended to spear-head into Germany itself, and so end the war, was called Operation Market Garden.

          The plan was conceived by General Montgomery, commander of the British forces in Europe. The success of the D–Day landings had been slowed down as resistance by the Germans became stiffer as the Allies pressed on to Berlin. One example was a major battle of conflicting forces near Falaise, France, which did succeed, but with a cost. However, the Allies had managed to liberate Paris and Brussels, and victory was apparently close. General Montgomery thought that a narrow spear-like thrust, driving deep into Germany, would have more effect than a spread out attack across the whole Western Front. The plan’s name, ‘Market Garden’ was a combination of the two operations that would work together to drive deep into Germany: ‘Market’ stood for the airborne elements – paratroopers, gliders, and supply planes; ‘Garden’ stood for the ground forces: XXX Corps (Thirty Corps), who would advance along the road through Eindhoven and Nijmegen to Arnhem, which was the final objective.

            “Market Garden was one of the boldest plans of World War Two. Thirty thousand British and American airborne troops were to be flown behind enemy lines to capture the eight bridges that spanned the network of canals and rivers on the Dutch/German border.  At the same time, British tanks and infantry were to push up a narrow road leading from the Allied front line to these key bridges. They would relieve the airborne troops, and then cross the intact bridges.” (1)

            The airborne invasion of Normandy, on the night prior to D–Day, had given substantial foundation to the idea of airborne troops capturing objectives ahead of the main army and holding them until reinforced.  This idea was the foundation behind Operation Market Garden, which was to begin on 17 September, 1944.  Seven days before the operation was to go ahead, General Browning was told about the objectives with orders to prepare the offensive.

            “The information he was given on the German troops in the area, however, was alarming. It suggested that there were two SS Panzer divisions around Arnhem, with many tanks and vehicles. Major Tony Hibbert recalls the bleak assessment of aerial photographs made by General Browning's intelligence officer, Major Brian Urquhart: 

     ‘He showed me photographs of two German Panzer 4 divisions; mainly I think they were tucked in underneath woods. I went to General Browning, and said that, because of the presence of these two divisions, in his view the operation could not succeed’. (emphasis added)(2)

General Browning ignored this important information and sent Major Urquhart home on sick leave, thinking that his mind was overstressed.

            Another major fact was ignored as well.  The glider-borne troops were given field-radios to be able to contact the other airborne divisions and XXX Corps as they came along.  But the problem with the radios that were supplied to the airborne element was that they only had a range of three or five miles.  Arnhem was over fifteen miles from the divisional head-quarters in Nijmegen and eight miles from the bridges.  The airborne troops had complained vociferously about the inadequacy of the radios, ever since the Normandy invasion, in fact – but their pleas for capable radio-sets went unheard. 

            Browning planned for the three divisions of American and British paratroopers to land close to the Dutch towns of Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem, capturing intact the eight bridges.  But there were not enough aircraft to take them all over at once.  Therefore, he decided to have them dropped over the course of three days, because, according to the army co-operation staff, the pilots would be too tired after the first flight to make another.  Also, at Arnhem the anti-aircraft defences were thought to be too strong for landing right at the bridge, so the soldiers were to be landed seven miles away outside the town.  This would, of course, throw away any chance they had for surprise.  One of the air staff who helped plan the ‘Market’ side of the plan said this:

     “The air-plan was bad.  All experience and common sense pointed to landing all three divisions in the minimum amount of time so they could collect themselves before the Germans reacted . . . but the First Allied Airborne Army insisted on a plan which had the second wave of troops (with half the heavy equipment) arriving more than twenty-four hours after the German had been alerted.”(3)

             “The planners called the [above plan] an 'airborne carpet', along which the advancing British armour of XXX Corps could push through to Germany.”(4)  XXX Corps was put onto a very tight schedule:  they were supposed to advance 25 miles a day through enemy occupied territory, ousting the opposition, and reinforcing the airborne troops within three days from the beginning of the attack.  They only managed to cover seven miles in the first day – at the cost of at least a score of tanks, jeeps, and personnel carriers.  The German resistance was stiffer than had been expected:

     “XXX Corps had found it difficult to gain any momentum from the outset, and the destruction of the bridge at Son slowed them even further. German pressure on the highway increased as the days passed, undeterred by the British flanking corps, which was struggling to make progress.”(5)

            Some groups of both airborne troops and ground infantry made it to their objectives, the bridges, – only to have them destroyed right under their noses.  Then they would spend thirty-six hours repairing the bridge before moving on again, during which time however, the Germans had mustered up even more formidable oppositions.

            By the time XXX Corps managed to reach Nijmegen, the American contingent tasked with hold the bridge was only just fending off attacks on the south side of the bridge.  It was now the third day, according the ‘proper’ schedule the Corps was two days behind time.  Suffice it to say that after a terribly costly river crossing and landing on the fourth day, Nijmegen and its bridge were finally in the hands of the Allies – who then stopped.  Tired out from four days of continuous fighting XXX Corps needed a rest to recruit their strength.  This proved to have deadly results for the small group of British paratrooper holding the Arnhem bridge against heavy German armour. 

            Since the intelligence was correct about the two German divisions at Arnhem, how could a small group of lightly armed British paratroopers capture the two bridges there without serious casualties? More importantly, why would an undersized attacking force be landed farther away from the objective, eliminating the important element of surprise?  It would, in the long run, be better for the attacking force to suffer slightly more immediate casualties in a surprise landing right at the foot of the bridge than have to slowly fight their way for seven miles across enemy territory to their goal.  What was the problem with transport pilots doing even two flights a day?  Some pilots did four or more flights on D–Day; and the infantry would then have been at least double the force that actually made it to the bridges – doubling the chance of success.

            Why were the airborne troops not given better quality radio-sets?  That at least would have prevented almost all of the communication problems that happened during the operation.  Why did XXX Corps have to be on such a tight schedule with no room for problems?  That relates to the next question: Why did the three airborne divisions have to take so many bridges at once?  If the airborne element had not been tasked with so many bridges so far away, XXX Corps would have had more time for setbacks.  This would have meant a larger force for a shorter time at each bridge to enable the ‘airborne carpet’ to comfortably wait for XXX Corps.

            The above and many other questions can be and have been asked: but we shall never know for certain all the answers.  General Montgomery wrote this:

                 “The uncertainty of the weather and of whether the German forces were actually able to resist the British attack, we all accepted.  It could only have been offset, and the operation made a certainty, by allotting additional resources to the project . . . I must admit a bad mistake on my part – I under-estimated the difficulties: I was wrong.”(6)

            There are differing opinions about the effect and success, or lack thereof, of Operation Market Garden.  Even more diverse are the ideas and suggestions of what might have been done to prevent the terrible mistakes that unnecessarily cost one thousand Allied soldiers their lives.  For example, the operation could have been practiced, if not on a full scale trial, but at least tested like the D–Day assault was months before it was to go ahead.  That would at least have found out the deficiency in the range of the radios, preventing the communication problems, and probably enabling the ‘airborne carpet’ to maintain contact with the other forces.  If conditions in the weather, German opposition, and the state of equipment in the Allied forces had been better thought out, and more completely provided for, Operation Market Garden likely would have seen success.  But the combination of bad planning and worse weather contributed to the ultimate withdrawal of the British and American forces. 

            Many courageous actions were fought during the nine day campaign; many objectives were captured and held; the withdrawal of two thousand troops from enemy territory was amazing and many difficulties not expected were overcome.  But in the end:

     “There is no doubt that Operation Market Garden failed. No matter how close XXX Corps got to Arnhem, the British Second Army did not cross its bridge over the Rhine, and the war in Europe continued into 1945.  Operation Market Garden accomplished much of what it had been designed to accomplish. Nevertheless, by the merciless logic of war, Market Garden was a failure.”(7) 

We shall never know for sure what might have happened if things had taken a turn for the better.  What we do know for certain, however, is that ‘Market Garden’ was, to all involved, both fighting and observing, truly a bridge too far.

Written by William Moore




Footnotes:
[1]Fielder, Mark,  The Battle of Arnhem (Operation Market Garden), http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/battle_arnhem_01.shtml#top,  February 17, 2011.
[2] Ibid.
[3] ‘Arnhem: A Tragedy of Errors’, Peter Harclerode, (Caxton Editions, 2000), Pg. 162
[4] Fielder, Mark,  The Battle of Arnhem (Operation Market Garden). (See link above.)
[5] Clark, Lloyd, Operation Market Garden Reconsidered, http://www.historynet.com/operation-market-garden-reconsidered.htm, August 17, 2007.
[6] ‘Arnhem: A Tragedy of Errors’, Peter Harclerode, (Caxton Editions, 2000), Pgs. 174, 175
[7] Clark, Lloyd, Operation Market Garden Reconsidered. (See link above.)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Why I Have a Blog


        When I started this blog back in early 2013, my first ideas for what I would post have grown and changed.  I started out with a few poems and short historical biographies - now, I enjoy writing about history, theology, the arts, and the reformation, both now and long ago.  But one thing has not changed.  In all my writing and posts, I hope to encourage those who read them, and glorify God through them.
        I had been looking at the Apostle John's letter 1 John of late, and found some wonderful truths which I hope will bless you and encourage me as I write.  First, whether I am studying the writings of G. A. Henty, sharing a poem that I have written, or writing about the Reformation, I want my readers to see that God has a plan throughout history; that there is a great and glorious purpose in Him placing us here at this point in time. I want to remind readers that "I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know . . . the truth." (1 John 2:21 ESV).
        Second, as the apostle John wrote in his letter 1 John, ". . . I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the Word that you have heard." (1 John 2:7).  In other words, my focus is not to write and say something new, but to continually point to the Gospel.  Though the Gospel may apparently be hidden behind something which I write about, I want to bring it to the front and let everyone see how important it is in understanding whatever we think, do, write, or say.
        So why do I have a blog?  Not so I can post my stuff about me.  I have a blog so that the name of Christ may be glorified, so his people may be built-up through thinking His thoughts, and so that I can use my love of writing and history to become excellent at it for Christ's glory.

"I write to you, young men [and women], because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one."
~ 1 John 2:14


Written and Posted by William A Moore


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Recollections of War: The Battle of the Falaise Pocket



 Major David Currie, seen talking with the young man in
the white shirt, commanded Canadian Forces
during the fierce battles near Falaise.
70 Years Since Falaise

        The Battle of Falaise, officially fought from August 12 - 20, 1944 was one of the hardest fought battles during the Allies campaign to liberate Europe.  At the end of the major portion of the fighting over 15,000 troops from both sides lay dead.  But the Allied breakthrough from Normandy was eventually completed and the German Seventh Army was no longer to oppose the British, Canadian, and American forces in Europe.

        The Battle of Falaise began when the German counter-attack on the American forces near St. Mortain was forcefully stopped by the US 30th Infantry Division on August 11-12.  Thus the German Seventh Army found itself becoming trapped between two Allied lines of advance.  The British and Canadian Divisions were coming east and south from Normandy, while the Americans were advancing north-east up from the south of France and Italy.  The epicenter of the final position of the Allies was the town of Falaise.  Study the map to the right for an excellent strategic view of things.


        While the Americans were making steady progress north, the Canadians were meeting heavy opposition.  The 2nd Canadian Division on August 14 was heavily repulsed, but on August 16 they broke through the German lines, and the next day, Falaise was captured and fell into Canadian hands.  But the Battle of the Falaise Pocket was far from over.
The initial objective was to encircle the German Seventh Army and link up with the Americans at Argentan, but this was then changed to the villages of Trun and Chambois by Gerneral Montgomery, who realized that the line would possibly be too weak to stem the German retreat at Argentan, and so ordered a stronger line formed with the capture of the latter villages.  This was finally accomplished on August 18th with the 4th Canadian and 1st Polish Armoured Divisions capturing, respectively, Trun and Chambois.

        Finally, the destruction of the German Seventh Army was achieved.  The Battle of the Falaise Pocket was over.  10,000 German troops were captured, and a large part of France was liberated.  Within a few weeks more, the western part of Europe was liberated from the Nazi occupation - from the Atlantic Ocean to Paris.  But at what cost?  Over five thousand Allied troops were casualties of the terrible fighting over the course of that one week.  Granted, it was considered the price that had to paid for many heroic stands and assaults, but in the end, war is a terrible thing. We should not glorify war, but we should remember and thank those who fought for freedom.

        On a related note, to the left is a photo of one of the actual maps issued to Canadian troops when passing, or as the case might be, fighting through Falaise.  My Grandfather brought this map back home with him after the war, and we found it just a few days ago.  He well remembers using it to navigate as his workshop which he commanded passed through Falaise following the Canadian artillery on its way through Europe.



Written and Posted by William A Moore



Bibliography

"The Normandy Landings" - Derek Blizard, Reed Intl Books, 1993.


Closing the Gap ~ Robert Taylor


Monday, 4 August 2014

Recollections of War: 4 August 1914 - 100 Years


        100 years ago - war was declared.  After Germany marched through Belgium, violating the Treaty of London, the British ultimatum delivered to the Germans was ignored, and at 23:00 (11:00pm) on August 4, Britain - and with her the Commonwealth, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - a state of war existed between the Axis Powers and the Allies.


        Future Prime Minister Winston Churchill later wrote about the scene in London that night:
                “It was eleven o’clock at night – twelve by German time – when the ultimatum expired. The windows of the Admiralty were thrown wide open in the warm night air. Under the roof from which Nelson had received his orders were gathered a small group of admirals and captains and a cluster of clerks, pencils in hand, waiting. Along the Mall from the direction of the Palace the sound of an immense concourse singing ‘God save the King’ flouted in. On this deep wave there broke the chimes of Big Ben; and, as the first stroke of the hour boomed out, a rustle of movement swept across the room. The war telegram, which meant, “Commence hostilities against Germany”, was flashed to the ships and establishments under the White Ensign all over the world. I walked across the Horse Guards Parade to the Cabinet room and reported to the Prime Minister and the Ministers who were assembled there that the deed was done.”


        With that telegram, four years of conflict began.  Nation fought against nation - countries banded together against the enemy - whoever that was.  The world was changed.  Many wondered which side God was on?  However, the real question was, and in some ways still is - Who was on the Lord's side?  For this war and its victories and defeats, humanity and horrors, brought home to many the realization that this world is a broken world - yet, there is hope.  When Christ comes again he will make all things new, and there will be no war and death. Until then, we must live in light of that knowledge.
        Rudyard Kipling summed up the state of the world at this point in history many years earlier with his poem, "God of Our Fathers:"
'God of our fathers, known of old-
Lord of our far-flung battle line
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine-
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!'

(Read the rest of the poem HERE.)

        Thus began one of the most fiercest worldwide conflicts in all of history - The First World War. 


Written and posted by William A Moore


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Recollections of War: "Capture Caen!"



Canadian Soldiers advance through Caen      
        Operations Goodwood & Atlantic were the codenames of the offensives by the British and Canadian Forces to capture and liberate the French city of Caen just south of the D-Day Invasion beaches.
        And 70 years ago this day, July the 9th, the city of Caen, for the most part, was in Allied hands by the evening.  It was the end of a ferocious and hard fought battle that had stretched from June 6th until a little over a month later.
        My grandfather, who served with the Canadian Army in WWII, (more on that another day) passed very close by Caen the day after it was liberated, and he told me how it looked:
                                  "It was destroyed . . . the church was in ruins . . . but by the end
                                   of that day we were well away from the town."

The damaged Cathedral interior.
        The Allied forces, prior to advancing upon the German fortifications, had bombarded the city severely, and there were many casualties both among the military forces and what was left of the civilian population.   Early in the morning the Third Canadian Infantry Division had advanced on Caen from the west, capturing Carpiquet Airfield before moving against the city.  After a hard fight at the German line, which boasted over five hundred guns of many sizes, the Allies quickly forced their way to the other side of the city, and Caen, and Carpiquet airfield were in Allied hands.
        The British and Canadian soldiers had had a hard time in and around this area, but with the fighting over Caen and the surrounding area finished, the Allies could now focus on breaking out of Normandy into the rest of France, and finally on towards Germany.

The Battle of Normandy was over.  The Battle of France had just begun.

                                                               ~ William Moore


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Recollections of War: 70 Years Ago . . .



Archival Map showing Allied Positions on June 28,
just after the liberation of Cherbourg.  (Credit)
THE AMERICANS LIBERATE CHERBOURG!

        70 years ago this day, the American Armed Forces, under the command of Major General J. Collins, finally captured Lieutenant General Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben, who had been leading the defense of the Port of Cherbourg, just north of Normandy, and the major opposition in the city ceased.
        The Battle for Cherbourg had begun eight days earlier with the American 4th, 9th and 79th Infantry Divisions heading north up the Cherbourg Peninsula.  Ordered by Collins, the main assault began on June 22, but progress was slow.  The German defenders were well situated in the city, but on the 25th Allied naval vessels bombarded the city, and with an effort, the 79th Infantry Div. captured Fort du Roule, and effective resistance ceased.
German prisoners being marched through the
streets of Cherbourg by American soldiers.
        Small pockets of Germans fought on until July 1, but with the liberation of Cherbourg, the Battle for Normandy could be continued without fear of a rear counter-attack.  The capture of the port also allowed the Allies, by the end of July, to use it for landing supplies and reinforcements, contributing to the final defeat of the German Army in France.

Written and Posted by William A Moore






Friday, 6 June 2014

Recollections of War: 6 June 1944 - An Overview of Overlord: Special Post!

This post is dedicated to those who did not return from the D-Day attack.


AN OVERVIEW OF OVERLORD
        Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Europe in June 1944, was a remarkable achievement. It provided the springboard from which forces from Britain, the United States, and Canada, as well as men from other countries under Nazi domination could liberate Europe from the hand of the Third Reich. After an assessment of the options, among which included the narrow, yet heavily defended Pas de Calais, it was decided that an initial assault force of 150,000 men would land on the beaches of Normandy, in northern France.  Here the English Channel was wider than at the Pas de Calais, but Normandy was chosen because its beaches were close to English ports, were within range of Allied aircraft stationed in England, and had the French port of Cherbourg a few miles away.
        The final plan demanded that three airborne divisions be delivered to Normandy, to protect the flanks of the main invasion force of five divisions assaulting the beaches.  The details of this plan were worked on during the winter of 1943, and on 1 April 1944 heavy bombers began to soften up the German defences all along the Channel coast.

THE AIRBORNE FORCES
        Meanwhile, the British 6th Airborne Division was preparing for two major airborne assaults.  Seven bridges on the east plank of the landing beaches had to be captured: five had to be blown up, and two held until reinforcements could arrive.  This would prevent the German Army Group 'B' from counterattacking the Allied landings.  Two German Panzer units did attack the Allies landing on Juno and Sword Beaches, but were beaten off successfully.  The British 6th Airborne, totaling around 12,000 men, traveled in C-47 Dakota airplanes, like the one pictured below, or Horsa gliders.  (To learn more about the Horsa gliders and their role in the invasion, see my film, Operation Deadstick.)
An RAF Dakota, which dropped paratroopers on D-Day
        In the early hours of 6 June 1944, two American and one British airborne division began landing in Normandy.  The 13,000 strong American Airborne force landed on the west side of the Allied landings, south of the Cherbourg peninsula.  It encountered some problems, including thick cloud and heavy German anti-aircraft fire, but in spite of many casualties, the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions captured their objectives by the end of D-Day.
        As the American 82nd and 101st were traveling towards their objectives, the British 6th Airborne Division was minutes away from battle.  The first gliders, with Major John Howard's Company of the Oxforshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, landed near the Caen Canal at 00:16hrs (sixteen minutes past midnight) and the rest quickly followed.  After a short but fierce fire-fight the bridges over the Caen Canal and Orne River were captured, and a few minutes later the signal was received that the other five bridges over the river Dives were blown up.  Then the rest of the 6th Airborne gathered themselves together and prepared to defend the captured territory.

THE SEABORNE FORCES
        In the mean time, the beach assault troops, packed into their landing craft and supported by a huge number and variety of naval vessels and aircraft, approached the Normandy coast.  After a ferocious bombardment by many warships of the beach defences, known as Hitler's Atlantic Wall, the signal was received to move in.  The beaches were attacked at different times due to the tide, beginning at 04.55 hours with an assault in the American sector at what had been code-named 'Utah' beach.  Unfortunately some of their 'swimming tanks', which were Sherman tanks fitted with heavy canvas inflatable skirts so they could float and propellers for propulsion, sank due to their being launched too far from the shore and being swamped by the waves.
American Troops Landing on Utah Beach
The second landing took place on the American 'Omaha' beach, which had the most dead and injured of the day at around 3000 men.  Then came the Anglo-Canadian assaults on 'Gold' and then 'Juno' beaches, before the British hit 'Sword' beach at 07.25 hours.  A gallant attack by the 3rd Canadian Division on Juno Beach resulted in a firm foothold in Normandy, but with a cost of 946 casualties.

        The men who were to reinforce the airborne troops at Pegasus Bridge were men of Lord Lovat's Brigade who landed early on D-Day on Sword Beach.  Within twenty-four hours of the invasion, they had teamed up with Major Howard's forces at Pegasus Bridge.  Forty-eight hours later, the main bulk of the assault forces had firmly established a foothold on Fortress Europe, and the beginning of the end of WWII had come.

VICTORY ON D-DAY
        The landings were a great success, although there were heavy casualties on Omaha Beach and the British failed to take Caen as planned. Nevertheless, by the end of the day, 150,000 men had managed to get ashore and a firm foothold had been established for the cost of 2,500 dead.
Canadian Forces Landing on Juno Beach
        The cost in life would have been far higher if it had not been for the determined attack and defense by the British 6th Airborne Forces on the bridges over the Caen Canal and Orne River, which prevented what might have been a successful German counterattack.  I believe it is one of the most heroic and marvelous events in World War II history, and it gives great honour to the history of the British Armed Forces.

A GREAT PRIVILEGE
        When I was over in Europe last summer, I had the great pleasure of being able to go to Juno Beach, and actually walked along the same stretch as is shown in the picture just above.  It was a great reminder of the sacrifice, heroism, and honour that is being commemorated this 70th Anniversary of D-Day.


Written and Posted by William A Moore

________________________________
        Don't forget to watch the film, Operation Deadstick, at this link: Operation Deadstick: The Movie.

        Most of the information for this short history of D-Day was taken from the books: Dawn of D-Day, by David Howarth; The Normandy Landings, by Derek Blizard; and from the BBC History website.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

"Operation Deadstick: The Airborne Attack on Pegasus Bridge" is Released


Friends and Readers of this blog:
       I am pleased to announce that my film, Operation Deadstick, has been released to the public, and can be watched below!  To find out more about the history of D-Day and Operation Deadstick see the last post on this blog.  I hope you enjoy this film, and the history it recounts!

Directed and Produced by William A Moore




Monday, 2 June 2014

Recollections of War: Operation Deadstick: The Story


        As many of my readers will no doubt know, this year, 2014, is the 70th Anniversary of the greatest battle fought during World War Two: the Invasion of Europe through Normandy, widely known as D-Day.
        I have a great interest in this history, and especially in one particular action fought on D-Day that proved to be, in the words of Air-Vice Marshal Leigh-Mallory:  "[O]ne of the most outstanding flying achievements of the war."  That "flying achievement" was the British 6th Airborne's attack on Pegasus Bridge.  This is the story.


Operation Deadstick: Pegasus Bridge – D–Day, June 6, 1944

            In the dark cloudy sky above the lush pastureland of Normandy, at fifteen minutes past midnight on June 6, 1944, the first of the glider pilots cast off from their tugs, and drifted down in silence towards their objectives.  Before dawn the British 6th Airborne Division had to win and hold at all costs an area of twenty-five square miles until reinforcements could arrive.  This task called for speed and good timing, and for new and daring techniques.  The 6th Airborne was to seize seven bridges: five over the River Dives and two over the Caen Canal and River Orne respectively.  This is the story of the airborne assault on Pegasus Bridge – the bridge over the Caen Canal. 
            The name of the operation was Deadstick; the objective: a lift bridge over the Caen Canal; the men: three platoons or 160 men of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and their leader, Major John Howard; the result: Operation Deadstick completely successful.
            On the evening of June 5th, Howard and his men ate their last meal, for a while, in the mess of their quarters at their airbase in England.  Everyone then finished their personal duties and checked their kit one last time – in less than five hours they would hopefully be in possession of the canal bridge.  At 22:30hrs Howard ordered his men to their gliders, following himself.  Within 20 minutes they were airborne, the three large Horsa gliders being towed by three Halifax bombers. 
            On the way over to Normandy the men had plenty of time to think.  Howard thought about his family – he had a pretty wife named Joy, and two children all of whom were, at that moment, unaware of what he was doing.  At the controls of the glider was Howard’s friend, Staff Sergeant Wallwork of the Glider Pilot Regiment.  The glider pilots were trained to fight as well as fly, and when they landed the gliders would form up into their own platoon and fight along with the regular troops.  During the last few weeks before the operation, Wallwork had done the most to allay any reservations Howard had about the operation.  For example, on one of the latest reconnaissance photos strange dots had appeared on the landing zones which Howard had been told were for anti-glider posts to impede glider landings.  “That’s just what we needed,” Wallwork had said. “We’ll land between the posts.  The posts will break the wings off and slow us down, and we shan’t hit the bridge so hard.”  It was impossible not to trust a pilot who could say that.
            Yet Howard felt he may have asked for the impossible from his experienced pilots.  He had told them he wanted the first glider, which he was in, to stop with its nose breaching the wire defences, and the others to halt five yards to the right and ten yards behind.  He had no idea how that could be achieved, but Wallwork made light of the request and the troops had caught the mood of confidence. 
            All these thoughts raced through Howard’s mind, and similar ones probably did the same in those traveling in the glider with him.  But the one thought that stayed uppermost was this: did the Germans know that they were coming, and would they make it through their jobs in one piece?
            At 12:16, in the wee hours of the morning of June 6, 1944, Wallwork turned halfway ‘round in his seat, and, yelling above the roar of wind, shouted, “Casting off!”  Howard called for silence; the glider checked its speed, the sound of the wind died to a whining hiss; and each man ran over what he was to do when they landed.  Howard and his second in command, Lt. Brotheridge opened the forward door, and peering out, Howard could see the gleaming stripe of the Caen Canal slowly wending its way across the countryside.  “Hold tight,” Wallwork shouted.
            The men in the glider lifted up their feet and locked arms with each other.  Then it came.  At ninety miles an hour the glider tore into the earth and careened across the tiny field with a noise like thunder as timber cracked and split and smashed itself to pieces.  The stunning noises and shocks went on for a count of seconds – and then suddenly for a split second everything was perfectly silent and still.  The time was 12:21.  Even in the stunned silence the men’s training came into action.  Howard was out the broken wreck of a door, shaking himself for broken bones before he knew what he was doing.  He looked up.  There, standing out against the night sky, right where it should be was the bridge. 
            As Howard and his men ran for the bridge, he heard a crash behind him, and then another.  It was the two other gliders coming in.  Soon, above the noise of battle, he heard his other two platoons running up.  The action had already begun around the bridge – which they had rehearsed numerous times on bridges all over England.  A smoke-bomb was thrown at the pillbox by the bridge.  A machine gun opened fire, but one man ran forward and dropped a grenade through the gun port, and the platoon scrambled across the wire which the glider had demolished, up an embankment and onto the road.  They ran across the bridge, firing their weapons from the hip, overcoming the pillbox on the other side, and neutralizing all opposition.
            Within ten minutes it was all over.  The garrison of Germans came out from their barracks and surrendered; the engineers searched for and disconnected the demolition wiring, while the rest of the men systematically cleared the houses on both sides of the bridge.  It was the first British landing, and victory, on D-Day.

            That is the story of Operation Deadstick, the story of Major John Howard and his company of ‘Ox and Bucks’ – the story of one of the greatest airborne landings and victories in all of British history.

Written and Posted by William A Moore

Thursday, 9 January 2014

On the Fear of God and Loving One's Neighbour


        What exactly is the fear of God?            
        And how does it influence our lives?
        These are some questions which I had when I first read about the fear of God. There are many places in the Bible which talk about the fear of God: Deuteronomy 10:12, Ecclesiastes 12:13, Proverbs 9:10, and 1 Peter 2:17 are just some of the references to the fear of God. The first question can be answered fairly quickly: the fear of God is a reverence of Him and His works as well as a trembling regard for His awful power and majesty.  If we have a fear of God, we will be so careful that what we do fits in line with what He has commanded us through His Word - because not fearing God is also the most absurd and wrong thing we could ever do.
    But how does this fear of God influence our lives?  I enjoy studying logic and one of the benefits of that is when a question like the one above comes up, I start thinking in logical terms how this question can be answered and explained, which is what I shall do in following paragraph.
    If the fear of God has had a impact upon our lives - in other words, if we understand what the fear of God is - then we will begin to grasp how it affects our day to day life.  In John 14:15 Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."  Now, we know that Jesus is God.  And if Jesus is God, then He is also the one whom we should fear and love.  One of God's commands is to love our neighbour as our self (Leviticus 19:18b).  So if we have a fear and love of God, we will obey His commands, one of which is to love our neighbour.  That love for others will be evident in our lives when we truly seek to revere and serve God in everything we do.  When we love and serve others, we ourselves will be blessed, because the Lord will reward those who love and fear Him - and keep his commandments. Colossians 3:24:  ". . . knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. [For] you are serving the Lord Christ."

Fear the Lord, for it is the beginning of wisdom ~ Proverbs 9:10


Written and Posted by William A Moore