06 November 2015
Remembering sacrifice and heroism
Sunday is Remembrance Sunday, so bear with me as I recount an event of immense bravery and courage that involved people who were mostly under 28 years old.
In the early hours of 6 June 1944, six Horsa gliders were being towed across the English channel. Loaded with troops from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and under the command of Major John Howard, they had a key strategic objective: the taking of the Caen Canal Bridge. Many of them expected to die in the attempt.
Pouring out of the gliders, the young troops seized the bridge within 10 minutes and liberated the first house in France, the Cafe Gondre. They lost two men in the process; Lieutenant Brotheridge was killed crossing the bridge in the first minutes of the assault and Lance-Corporal Fred Greenhalgh had drowned in a nearby pond when his glider landed.
Meanwhile, Brigadier Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser, the 15th Lord Lovat, had landed at Sword Beach with his 1st Special Service Brigade Commandos. Their task was to link up with the troops at the bridge who by this time were facing a sustained counter-attack.
Arriving little more than two minutes late, they ran across. Despite losing 12 men to sniper fire, they managed to hold the bridge until they were relieved by the British 3rd Infantry Division. In honour of the actions of the troops, the Caen Canal bridge was renamed Pegasus Bridge.
Only six days later, during the battle of Breville on 12 June, Lovat was seriously wounded when a stray shell fell short of its target and landed among the officers, killing the commanding officer of the 12th Parachute regiment battalion, and seriously wounding others. Lovat was recorded saying to the medics: "Take over the brigade and whatever happens - not a foot back."
This is a story of heroism, grit, determination, guts and courage. It's a classic war story of a squad of men standing together to capture and hold a bridge against the odds. But what has it got to do with us? Well, it seems we are living in dangerous times; the news websites and papers are full of stories of despair, terrorism, wars, refugees, political turmoil and confusion. No one seems to have any clear answers. Nothing seems to be getting better. So we need to remember this: 2000 years ago a man stood alone to provide the bridge between God and humanity. We have messed up and our enemy is driving home an attack with the aim of turning as many hearts and minds away from God as he can.
One man stood alone: Jesus Christ. He didn't fight back with a rifle. Instead, he did so by allowing nails to be driven through his hands and feet. The cross was a daring act of sacrifice and heroism that has made a way for the human race.
Every warrior's boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
This is our greatest and only true hope. A message that transforms lives and nations. Spare a moment on Remembrance Day to honour those who laid down their lives, but also to thank God for Jesus and his sacrificial love for us.
by Carl Beech, director of church planting and church development with the Elim movement.
Image CC: Archangel12