For many years I have been interested in miracles – not just lucky moments which we all experience from time to time, but those moments when a logical explanation cannot explain them. Here is an example:

During the last war London was festooned with barrage balloons. These were balloons filled with hydrogen and tethered to winches by thin steel cables and flown at 5000 feet. They had an explosive charge fixed to them about 50 feet short of the balloon and were effectively stopping German aircraft from low-level bombing. They brought down many aircraft and also many V1s or ‘flying bombs’ later in the war. Occasionally one of these balloons would break loose from its winch and set out on its own cross-country trip downwind trailing several thousand feet of cable.

I was a flying instructor during the war and on 25 September 1942 I sailed into one of these drifting balloons when flying a Magister aircraft, together with a pupil, just north of Aylesbury. The balloon was in cloud and one would never spot a cable at 100 mph. We were flying at 2500 feet – some 500 feet below cloud base. Now for the miracle: The cable struck the Magister’s left wing hard against the fuselage and proceeded to saw into it. The engine continued to run at 2000 rpm and with no loss of power indicating no damage to the propeller. (We had quite a long battle and were brought down to 1000 feet before breaking free). On landing back at Booker a thorough examination showed no scuffing on the wing and just the single gash which reached about half-way through the main wing spar. The propeller was unmarked. The cable must therefore have passed through the propeller’s arc (about 10 feet) when the propeller was pretty close to top-dead-centre.

Now you computer wizards work this out! The news of this episode reached JF Roxburgh, my headmaster at Stowe, and he wrote to me to say he had given the mathematical problem to the top maths and physics teachers. They failed to solve it.

The only satisfactory answer is that it was a miracle, and I stick to this, especially after reading Sylvia Brown’s “The Other Side and Back”. She is psychic and explains how these things happen. You disbelievers have a long way to go!

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