Giles Milton’s, Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a very interesting book with a lot of lessons for all who are engaged in today’s Culture War. At first glance, such a conclusion might not be obvious, but it will hopefully be clear by the end of this review.
This book tells the story of a relatively unknown British military organization during World War II. Its mission was to slow down the Nazi war machine through sabotage and other creative operations behind enemy lines. This organization was called the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
The Need for New Tactics
Sir Winston Churchill personally supported and arranged funding for the SOE and made it answerable only to him. Upon entering into the war, he realized that England was in no condition to take on Nazi Germany. Without America’s entry, England alone faced the Nazi menace. New tactics to cripple the Nazi infrastructure were needed.
Many in the British military opposed the methods of the SOE, considering them to be unethical and un-sportsmanlike. However, Churchill offered his total support to the SOE, which explains the book’s strange title.
It also explains the SOE’s unique collection of individuals, who had as their goal the total defeat of Nazi Germany. Innovative scientists, inventors and weapons experts worked seven days a week from morning until midnight with only one day off per month. They developed all sorts of weapons including special compact and powerful explosives.
Impressive Accomplishment by a Daring Few
The list of their accomplishments is extraordinary. SOE agents destroyed a dry dock for the German battleship Graf Spee, which was diverted to a place where it was eventually sunk. They destroyed a heavy water plant in Norway, delaying Nazi Germany’s efforts to develop an atomic bomb before America. By destroying an important bridge in Greece they hampered supplies to Rommel’s North African army. The SOE arranged the assassination of one of the most monstrous figures of the Nazi regime, Reinhard Heydrich, known as the “Butcher of Prague.” Its members delayed armored reinforcements to the D-Day beaches for two weeks.
What impresses the reader is the fact that such a small organization was able to inflict a disproportional damage upon the enemy. Due to their innovative and daring methods, they used a small amount of war materiel. It is estimated that the total weight of all the explosives used amounted to the payload of a single bomber. The same amount of damage would have required hundreds of bombers.
No one can say the SOE could be credited with singlehandedly winning the war. However, it did contribute a disproportionate share in achieving the eventual defeat of the Axis nations.
A Modern Application
Books like these become helpful when readers see analogies with their own situations. In this case, readers engaged in the Culture War in America might find the SOE’s struggle to be strikingly similar to their own. Those who promote and support a culture of death and immorality appear formidable. The media does everything possible to make them appear disproportionally great. This intimidates those who oppose the evils of the day.
The example of the SOE shows what the daring and innovation of a few dedicated souls can accomplish with very limited resources. It gives courage especially to those Catholics engaged in a similar effort to be among the brave few.
Unconventional Situations Today
The Culture War involves unconventional situations in which focus strategies of a peaceful and legal character can have great impact. The opportunities of public witness and protest can impress huge corporations or institutions and force them to cancel blasphemous or immoral plays or exhibits or close down abortion clinics.
Organizing or participating in a public prayer or public square rosary rally can serve as a means of reparation and encouragement to the general public who sees you. Invite more people to join you. Similar rallies in defense of an issue like traditional marriage keep these issues alive. New technologies make it possible to organize an effective online protest that can go viral and have an amazing effect upon a debate.
Like the SOE, these actions may not entirely stop an immoral trend or action, but they do put sand in the gears of the liberal and progressive machine and cause disproportional damage that may eventually cause it to stop.
The Impact of Total Dedication
The book also shows the impact of a total dedication to a cause. Those who fight today for a return to order can see that victory can eventually occur because the brave souls give their all. In the present context, this dedication is fortified by the Sacrament of Confirmation, that makes those who receive it into soldiers of Christ.
From a Fatima perspective, Mr. Milton’s book is particularly applicable. It shows how the focused yet small acts of the faithful can prepare the day of the triumph of her Immaculate Heart.
Of course, all analogies have their limitations. The book only deals with the natural efforts of individuals who fought the Nazi threat. It does not mention any supernatural aspects of the fight. The Church teaches that divine grace multiplies one’s ability to practice virtue and fight against evil.
Thus, the SOE accomplished a great deal from a purely natural perspective. However, the Catholic reader can use this natural effort as a basis for imagining what might be accomplished when assisted by the grace of God.