History Podcasts

Churchill Prepares for German Invasion of Britain

Churchill Prepares for German Invasion of Britain

On the final day of the evacuation of Dunkirk, June 4, 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill speaks before the House of Commons, triumphant over the rescue of 338,226 Allied troops from advancing German forces. In the address he warns the nation to expect a German invasion and defiantly declares that Hitler's troops will meet an enemy prepared to "defend our island whatever the cost may be."


What if: Germany Had Invaded England?

For individuals in countries that have escaped military invasion and occupation, imagining what such an ordeal would have been like can be a popular pastime. In the 1970s, armchair generals could play “Invasion: America,” a board game in which the fictional European Socialist coalition, South American Union, and Pan Asiatic League try to overrun the United States and Canada. In 1984, American audiences flocked to theaters to watch Red Dawn, a film about doughty high school kids who wage guerrilla war against the Soviet bloc forces that had invaded the western United States. The 1987 television miniseries Amerika depicted a far-from doughty United States accepting Warsaw Pact domination after a bloodless takeover.

The British, too, have often imagined what a foreign invasion would be like. Such musings have included It Happened Here, a 1966 movie portraying a German occupation primarily enforced by the Nazi sympathizing British Union of Fascists Hitler’s Britain (2002), which depicted the roundup of Jews and Socialists and the crushing of a British guerrilla uprising and Island at War (2005), a five-part Masterpiece Theatre production dramatizing the plight of British residents after the actual German occupation of the Channel Islands in 1940. But the most elaborate efforts lie in a number of counterfactual histories detailing a successful execution of Operation Sealion, as the Germans called their plan for an invasion of southern England. Of these, the most noteworthy is military historian Kenneth Macksey’s Invasion: The Alternate History of the German Invasion of England, July 1940, published in 1980 and still in print after three decades.

Macksey’s point of departure is the fact that in July 1940, the British armed forces were at their weakest. Following the evacuation of Dunkirk in late May and early June, the British army, forced to leave behind nearly all its heavy equipment, was left with only a few hundred usable tanks. The Royal Air Force had also taken a beating and was still rebuilding itself. The British had few beach defenses in place and their proposed main line of defense, the GHQ (or General Headquarters) Line, existed only on paper.

The window of opportunity this created for the Germans was narrow, however. Macksey believes that it would have diminished substantially by August and disappeared altogether in September. The only reasonable chance for a successful German invasion lay at the Strait of Dover, where the English Channel is only about 20 miles across. Here alone the Germans could fend off the Royal Navy, thanks to a combination of warships, shore-based heavy artillery, a massive air umbrella, and minefields at either approach to the strait.

Macksey’s rewrite of history begins on May 21, when Grand Admiral Erich Raeder approached Hitler about the prospect of invading Great Britain. Hitler in actuality dismissed the idea and did not revisit it until the British failed to do as he anticipated: sue for peace after his conquest of France. But in Macksey’s account, the idea captivates the Nazi dictator. He throws the weight of his absolute power and unshakeable will behind plans for a cross-channel attack. A third of the German army in France is set aside to participate.

The aerial Battle of Britain begins slightly earlier than in reality, in June, and for the most part follows the course it took historically. Although it does not culminate in complete German success, the Germans nonetheless launch Operation Sealion on July 14. The invasion begins with a predawn airborne attack that isolates the meager British defenses between the coastal towns of Hythe and Dover, paving the way for a cross-channel assault. By day’s end the Germans are firmly ashore. A British counterattack, with their limited armored force, fails the Germans expand their beachhead and then break out. By month’s end they have closed in on London and the British government agrees to make peace. The book closes with a puppet government ascending to power on August 2, 1940.

Macksey’s scenario for a cross-channel attack is highly plausible, and he plays fair with available facts and the difficulty of mounting such an operation. As he imagines Sealion, it is a near-run thing, based on historical data on the relative strength of British and German forces at the time. The main rewrite is that German preparations for the invasion begin sooner, are vigorously pursued, and the invasion itself is launched even though it remains a risky proposition.

The main weakness of Macksey’s scenario is that it assumes a prompt British collapse. The demands of a book-length alternate history require him to pursue the story to resolution, and a swift political collapse allows him to avoid one of the main pitfalls of counterfactual history: that of piling one speculation atop another. But a single shift in the historical narrative does not mean that one can predict a single outcome. The alternate world the initial shift creates would logically have “nodes of uncertainty,” critical points at which events could follow more than one path, from which the counterfactual analyst must select the most probable outcome. Even if each choice has a 90 percent probability of being correct, after 10 such choices the probability of arriving at any particular outcome is less than 1 percent.

Thus Macksey wisely, in one sense, keeps the nodes of uncertainty to a minimum. But this narrative strategy means that he cannot take seriously Winston Churchill’s eloquent insistence that the British would “defend our island whatever the cost may be we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God’s good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.”

As Stephen Budiansky makes clear elsewhere in this issue, the British had plans to conduct a guerrilla campaign even if conventional defense became impossible (see “Churchill’s Secret Army,” page 28). A scenario in which the British continue to resist greatly complicates the ability to predict a plausible ultimate outcome. The Germans might, for instance, have been pinned down in a protracted guerrilla campaign—as they were in Yugoslavia from April 1941 onward. If that occurred, it might have taken as many as a million troops to maintain a sure grip on Great Britain. (It took several hundred thousand troops just to garrison Norway.)

As a consequence, while a successful Operation Sealion would have better positioned Germany for an invasion of the Soviet Union, it would not necessarily have made victory over the Soviet Union inevitable. The specter of a Europe dominated by Hitler would, furthermore, surely have had implications for American foreign policy. And the vicious German occupation of a nation with which the United States possessed close ties almost certainly would have accomplished exactly what Churchill hoped, with the New World set ting forth to rescue the Old.

Originally published in the November 2008 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.


Preparing for an Invasion of Britain… In Writing

Ronald I. Cohen MBE is author of A Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill, 3 vols.(2006).

An Ottawa Churchill Society member and good friend referred me to an online article he had spotted by Colin Marshall entitled “Winston Churchill’s List of Tips for Surviving a German Invasion: See the Never-Distributed Document (1940).” Given the apparent obscurity of the leaflet to which it refers (to judge by the title of Marshall’s article), my Churchillian friend wondered if I was aware of the document. I was indeed.

I should note straightaway that, while it is designated by Marshall as “Churchill’s” list of tips, they were not initially drafted by him, although he certainly did comment on them and ultimately approved their substance—more on that following the issue of distribution.

Far from “never-distributed,” the leaflet, boldly entitled Beating the Invader, was printed in huge numbers: 14,050,800 copies in English and 160,400 copies in Welsh, the latter under the title Trechu’r GORESGYNNYDD. Duff Cooper, then Minister of Information, sent a draft of the document to Churchill on 7 March 1941, asking the Prime Minister, “Would you consider writing…an introduction yourself? It would of course give the leaflet far greater authority and would induce many people to read and to keep it who might otherwise neglect to do so.”

I should note here that about nine months before (in June 1940), the Ministry of Information had published a leaflet with, I expect, the same intended purpose and audience. Entitled If the Invader Comes, it listed seven rules, each lengthier in exposition than the fourteen in Beating the Invader, and without headings any more appealing than the Roman numerals I–VII. More important, there were no accompanying words from Churchill. Still the Ministry published 14,300,000 copies. One can readily appreciate that the astute Minister of Information foresaw a more effective way of communicating the defensive advice to the British people by making the text more appealing and getting their inspiring Prime Minister to introduce it.

It had been initially contemplated by the War Cabinet that the new Beating the Invader text would be released in the Sunday newspapers on 16 March, but that never occurred. Churchill dictated his introduction on 25 March, and the proofs of the document went back and forth while everyone contemplated how it should be issued.

The final recommendation to distribute the leaflet to all British householders did not occur until the War Cabinet meeting of 24 April, which resulted in the printing of the millions of copies noted above. The huge print run might leave one with the impression that the leaflet would be commonly found today. It is not. Its relative scarcity is understandable it was, after all, only a leaflet anticipating an event, which never came to pass. In the result, although it was very widely distributed, relatively few copies have survived.

The list of “tips” covers a range of potential actions and reactions of the brave Britons, then essentially alone in their resistance to the Axis (with the obvious exception of Britain’s Commonwealth partners). The two-sided leaflet is characterized by all-caps subject headings such as “STAND FIRM” and “CARRY ON” and a series of fourteen questions and answers drafted by the Ministry of Information and issued under the combined authority of the War Office and the Ministry of Home Security.

While the document was prepared as a how-to or what-to-do document by Duff Cooper’s Ministry of Information, it opens with Churchill’s powerful and inspirational introduction, in which he begins with the bravery-invoking assumption, “If invasion comes, everyone—young or old, men and women—will be eager to play their part worthily.” Noting that the greater part of the country will be unaffected by any invading force, he assures his readers that the British forces will do their part, inflicting “very heavy British counter-attacks” on the enemy as they land by means of bomber attacks on their lodgments.

He goes on: “The fewer civilians or non-combatants in these areas, the better—apart from essential workers who must remain. So if you are advised by the authorities to leave the place where you live, it is your duty to go elsewhere when you are told to leave. When the attack begins, it will be too late to go and unless you receive definite instructions to move, your duty then will be to stay where you are. You will then have to get into the safest place you can find, and stay there until the battle is over. For all of you then the order and the duty will be: ‘STAND FIRM.’”

Even where there is not substantial fighting, presumably away from the coasts, Churchill advises that everyone must be bound by the second great order and duty, namely, “CARRY ON….It may easily be some weeks before the invader has been totally destroyed, that is to say, killed or captured to the last man who has landed on our shores. Meanwhile, all work must be continued to the utmost, and no time lost.”

Encouraging all to assume their part in the defence of their island home, he concludes his introduction by writing: “The following notes have been prepared to tell everyone in rather more detail what to do, and they should be carefully studied. Each man and woman should think out a clear plan of personal action in accordance with the general scheme.” And the document is influentially signed in facsimile: “Winston S. Churchill.”


Churchill's Greatest Fear: Why Didn't Hitler Invade Great Britain?

Churchill's Greatest Fear: Why Didn't Hitler Invade Great Britain?

For the British, the invasion threat remained well into October, but Hitler’s mind was no longer on England, if it had ever really been firmly fixed in that direction. Rather, it was turned east toward Russia.

Major Graf Von Kielmansegg, an officer in Germany’s 1st Armored Division based near Orleans, France, was dragged from a cinema on the night of August 28, 1940, and told to report to his chief of staff. “As I entered his office I was sure that we were finally going to be told that Sea Lion had been given the green light. I asked, ‘Are we on our way?’ He said, ‘Yes, we’re on our way but not to England, to East Prussia.’ So then we knew Sea Lion was a dead duck.”

Von Kielmansegg was right. German Führer Adolf Hitler had decided instead to proceed with Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia, which had killed Sea Lion.

Summer 1940 has obtained something of a mythical quality among the British. Many felt at the time that the Germans merely had to turn up on the shores of Britain to defeat the nation. The average citizen knew little, only what he saw, for example, the antics of members of the home guard parading with broom handles or newsreels depicting a defeated army—having lost all its heavy equipment—being rescued from the beaches by little ships off Dunkirk.

However, on the other side of the hill at Dunkirk, the Germans were as confused in victory as Britain was in defeat.

On July 16, Adolf Hitler, in his role as dictator of Germany and supreme commander of its armed forces, issued his Directive No. 16, in which he stated, “As England, in spite of the hopelessness of her military position, has so far shown herself unwilling to come to any compromise, I have decided to begin to prepare for, and if necessary to carry out, an invasion of England.”

A Confident Nazi Germany

It was nearly six weeks since the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’ when 338,226 Allied troops were evacuated to Britain, some indeed in small boats and ships, but the majority in destroyers and transports, under continuous aerial attack in heavily mined waters.

The Germans were jubilant that summer. France and the Low Countries had fallen in one of the most brilliant campaigns of military history between protagonists of roughly equal strength. On June 22, the French had capitulated, signing the surrender in the Compiegne Forest using the same railway carriage where the Kaiser’s generals had surrendered to the Allies in 1918. Hitler went sightseeing the following day in Paris and visited Napoleon’s tomb.

A month before, on May 21, Hitler had a meeting with Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, commander of the German Navy, or Kriegsmarine, in which a proposed invasion of Britain was discussed. The admiral asked beforehand how the war was going, but all Hitler could tell him was that “the big battle is in full swing.” Case Yellow, the plan for the attack on France and the Low Countries, was not expected to bring a rapid collapse. Col. Gen. Franz Halder, chief of the General Staff, said before the attack, “If we reach Boulogne after six months’ heavy fighting we’ll be lucky.” They had done that in as many weeks.

But even after the defeat of France, Hitler did not exploit the advantage and attack Britain. Luftwaffe aircraft were told not to infiltrate British airspace. The mood in Berlin, as well as within the German Army, was that the war was virtually over. Most felt the British could be induced to make peace.

The Need For Air and Naval Superiority

When the British rejected Hitler’s peace offer speech in the Reichstag on July 19, the practical problems of an invasion began to loom.

For starters, there were no plans in the High Command of the Armed forces (OKW) for an invasion of Britain. The naval staff had produced a study in November 1939 of the problems such an operation might pose. It identified two preconditions, air and naval superiority, and the Germans in 1940 had neither. The German Army produced a staff memorandum a few weeks after the Navy recommended a landing in East Anglia. Both these were far from plans.

The Kriegsmarine was poorly equipped for such an undertaking. It had no landing craft purposely built for such an operation. The Kriegsmarine had suffered heavily in the Norway Campaign. All it had available was one heavy cruiser, the Hipper, three light cruisers, and nine destroyers. All other major warships had been damaged or were not yet commissioned.

The British fleet was overwhelmingly powerful. The Kriegsmarine might be able to flank the invasion sea lanes across the English Channel with mines and attack the Royal Navy from the air, but German naval commanders were not confident.

Everything would depend on the Luftwaffe being able to deal with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force (RAF) and still support its land forces. At that stage, the landing was codenamed Operation Lion, but the Germans soon changed it to Operation Sea Lion.

Landing 260,000 Soldiers in Three Days

General Alfred Jodl, chief of operations of the Armed Forces High Command, admitted that the operation would be difficult but felt it was possible to carry it out successfully if the landings were made on the south coast of England.

“We can substitute command of the air for the naval supremacy we do not possess, and the sea crossing is short there,” he said.

The German Wehrmacht wanted to land on a broad front stretching from Ramsgate to the west of the Isle of Wight. The first wave would be some 90,000 men landing in three main areas. By the third day it wanted 260,000 men ashore.

Heavy fighting was expected in southern England. Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch, nominal commander of the German Army, felt the operation would be relatively easy and concluded in a month.

However, the German naval staff had grave misgivings, favoring an invasion in spring 1941. They argued that the Kriegsmarine was far too weak. The weather in the English Channel was unpredictable and presented great hazards for the invasion fleet, which was not designed for such a task. What’s more, the Luftwaffe would be affected by bad weather.

With the Wehrmacht wanting to land at dawn, the periods of August 20 to August 26 or September 19 to September 26 had the most suitable tide tables. The Kriegsmarine would not be ready by August, and in September it was approaching the time of year for bad weather. Even in the best of conditions, the motley invasion fleet would cross the English Channel slower than Caesar’s legions 2,000 years before. The Kriegsmarine expected to lose 10 percent of its lift capacity due to accidents and breakdowns before the Royal Navy and RAF put in an appearance.

Operation Sea Lion on Hold

At the beginning of August, Hitler directed the Luftwaffe to defeat the RAF. The German air fleets failed to gain air superiority over the sea lanes and landing areas and could not prevent the RAF bombing the assembling invasion barges. However, in September they did come close to winning some measure of air superiority over Kent and Sussex. But then Reich Marshal Hermann Göring relaxed the pressure on the RAF Fighter Command by switching his offensive to bombing London.

About the same time, the Kriegsmarine had assembled 2,000 barges from the Rhine River and Holland, all of which, although modified, still had poor seagoing characteristics. Nearly all tugs of more than 250 tons were withdrawn from German harbors to tow barges. The Kriegsmarine also assembled 1,600 motor boats and 168 transport ships. By September 21, British air and naval attacks had sunk 67 craft and damaged 173 in harbor.

By mid-September the Luftwaffe had still failed to attack units of the British fleet. Sea Lion was put off from September 15 to September 21. But on the September 17, Hitler postponed Sea Lion indefinitely.

Britain’s Recovery From Early Losses

In April 1940, Britain’s position inviolate behind the Royal Navy received a severe jolt with the loss of Norway, which sea power had seemed unable to influence. What went unrecognized at the time was that this had more to do with a failure of combined operations. And the German Kriegsmarine had been decimated by the Royal Navy in that campaign.

The success of the German blitzkrieg against the French Army in May and June 1940 brought Britain to face the possibility of a German invasion. The chiefs of staff met to address the possibility. With Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk evacuation, beginning there was little they could do other than recommending the Home Army should be brought to a high state of alert and beach defenses should be given priority.

In the face of German air power, evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force was successful. In the United Kingdom there were only 80 heavy tanks, and they were obsolete. There were 180 light tanks armed only with machine guns. There were only 100,000 rifles to equip the 470,000 men of the Home Guard, although 75,000 Ross rifles were on their way from Canada.

The British Army had little chance of stopping the Germans if they had managed to get a large force ashore in June or July 1940.

However, as in previous invasion threats the main defense would devolve onto the Royal Navy and now the RAF. Britain’s Fighter Command had lost many aircraft and pilots in the Battle of France and could muster only 331 Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes. But German indecision and a need to redeploy and refit the Luftwaffe gave Britain a decisive respite.

By September Britain had built up its armored forces to nearly 350 medium and cruiser tanks. Coast defenses were much improved. Strong reinforcements had arrived from Canada. However, General Sir Alan Brooke, Commander in Chief (C-in-C) Home Forces, on September 13 confided pessimistically to his diary that of his 22 divisions “only about half can be looked upon as in any way fit for any form of mobile operations.”

On August 11, the eve of Eagle Day when the Luftwaffe was to launch its offensive to gain air superiority over southern England, RAF fighter command had 620 Spitfires and Hurricanes and aircraft production was exceeding totals called for.

The Defense of Britain: Air, Land, and Sea

For the Royal Navy the advent of airpower posed several problems. No longer could the Navy alone deny the sea to an invader as in 1588 when Catholic Spain attempted to invade England by sea and in 1804 and 1805 when Napoleonic France attempted the same thing. The Royal Navy hoped by the use of bombardment and mines to attack the invasion fleet before it even left its ports. If such attacks were not decisive, it would attack the invasion flotillas as it arrived off the English coast. The Luftwaffe would be stretched to the limit.

As the invasion beaches were not known, the Royal Navy needed to cover an area from the Wash to Newhaven. It had the strength to carry out that mission. The British Admiralty contemplated “the happy possibility that our reconnaissance might enable us to intercept the expedition on passage.” Given the speed of the invasion barges, taking 12 hours to cross the Channel was a near certainty. The main forces to be used were destroyers and light craft, with close support of cruisers. It was agreed that the battleships should only come south if German invasion transports were escorted by heavier German ships.

Admiral Sir Charles Forbes, C-in-C for the British Home Fleet, argued that so many ships should not be pulled away from the very real German threat to the convoy routes. Forbes kept his battleships, but many of his cruisers and destroyers were dispersed in ports around the southern and eastern coasts. Forbes was proved right with so many ships committed to static roles. Losses among the convoys began to mount.

The RAF also had a vital role in defeating an invasion. Bomber Command would attack shipping as soon as it began to assemble. Once the invasion began, Fighter Command would move to the offensive against troop-carrying aircraft and supply air cover to the Royal Navy attacks on enemy shipping. Coastal Command would support the Navy as well and join Bomber Command in attacking shipping.

Gradually the emphasis and reserves shifted toward southeastern England. Here the sea crossing was the shortest and the beaches would be within German fighter protection. On September 4, a memo warned that if the Germans “could get possession of the Dover defile and capture its gun defenses from us, then, holding these points on both sides of the straights they would be in a position largely to deny those waters to our naval forces.” With this warning the chiefs of staff moved more ground troops into this vital sector.

The End of Operation Sea Lion: Hitler’s Attention Turns East

On September 7, intelligence warned that a German invasion was near. Tide and light conditions would favor the enemy between September 8 and 10. The Royal Navy put all its small craft and cruisers on immediate notice and stopped all boiler cleaning. The RAF moved from Alert 2 invasion in three days, to Alert 1 invasion imminent within 12 hours. It was decided to issue the code word “Cromwell” as a warning to take up battle stations. Unfortunately, a lot of recipients did not know its meaning. Some Home Guard units assumed it meant the invasion had started and rang church bells, which was an agreed warning of invasion, and blocked roads.

The chiefs of staff met in London under Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s chairmanship on September 7, while London was subjected to a massive air raid.

Soon, however, the crisis began to wane. The Germans, stung by an RAF raid on Berlin, switched their attack from RAF fighter bases to London allowing the RAF to make good its losses. The prize of air superiority rapidly slipped away. On September 14, Hitler postponed the invasion until September 17 due to Luftwaffe losses. Then, on September 17, it was postponed again. On September 20, the Germans began to disperse the invasion barges, of which some 10 percent had already been sunk or damaged by the RAF and the Royal Navy.

For the British, the invasion threat remained well into October, but Hitler’s mind was no longer on England, if it had ever really been firmly fixed in that direction. Rather, it was turned east toward Russia.

In the 1970s, the Department of War Studies at the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst made Sea Lion into a war game based on the plans of both sides. A panel of generals, admirals, and air marshals umpired the war game. Any disputes over exact losses were settled by cutting cards. Admiralty weather records were made available, which proved the situation would have been favorable to an invasion between September 19 and September 30. Such findings validate Sea Lion as one of the great “what ifs” of modern military history.

This article by Mark Simmons originally appeared on Warfare History Network.


Winston Churchill's Greatest Fear: Why Didn't Hitler Invade Great Britain?

Winston Churchill's Greatest Fear: Why Didn't Hitler Invade Great Britain?

Major Graf Von Kielmansegg, an officer in Germany’s 1st Armored Division based near Orleans, France, was dragged from a cinema on the night of August 28, 1940, and told to report to his chief of staff. “As I entered his office I was sure that we were finally going to be told that Sea Lion had been given the green light. I asked, ‘Are we on our way?’ He said, ‘Yes, we’re on our way but not to England, to East Prussia.’ So then we knew Sea Lion was a dead duck.”

Von Kielmansegg was right. German Führer Adolf Hitler had decided instead to proceed with Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia, which had killed Sea Lion.

Summer 1940 has obtained something of a mythical quality among the British. Many felt at the time that the Germans merely had to turn up on the shores of Britain to defeat the nation. The average citizen knew little, only what he saw, for example, the antics of members of the home guard parading with broom handles or newsreels depicting a defeated army—having lost all its heavy equipment—being rescued from the beaches by little ships off Dunkirk.

However, on the other side of the hill at Dunkirk, the Germans were as confused in victory as Britain was in defeat.

On July 16, Adolf Hitler, in his role as dictator of Germany and supreme commander of its armed forces, issued his Directive No. 16, in which he stated, “As England, in spite of the hopelessness of her military position, has so far shown herself unwilling to come to any compromise, I have decided to begin to prepare for, and if necessary to carry out, an invasion of England.”

A Confident Nazi Germany

It was nearly six weeks since the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’ when 338,226 Allied troops were evacuated to Britain, some indeed in small boats and ships, but the majority in destroyers and transports, under continuous aerial attack in heavily mined waters.

The Germans were jubilant that summer. France and the Low Countries had fallen in one of the most brilliant campaigns of military history between protagonists of roughly equal strength. On June 22, the French had capitulated, signing the surrender in the Compiegne Forest using the same railway carriage where the Kaiser’s generals had surrendered to the Allies in 1918. Hitler went sightseeing the following day in Paris and visited Napoleon’s tomb.

A month before, on May 21, Hitler had a meeting with Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, commander of the German Navy, or Kriegsmarine, in which a proposed invasion of Britain was discussed. The admiral asked beforehand how the war was going, but all Hitler could tell him was that “the big battle is in full swing.” Case Yellow, the plan for the attack on France and the Low Countries, was not expected to bring a rapid collapse. Col. Gen. Franz Halder, chief of the General Staff, said before the attack, “If we reach Boulogne after six months’ heavy fighting we’ll be lucky.” They had done that in as many weeks.

But even after the defeat of France, Hitler did not exploit the advantage and attack Britain. Luftwaffe aircraft were told not to infiltrate British airspace. The mood in Berlin, as well as within the German Army, was that the war was virtually over. Most felt the British could be induced to make peace.

The Need For Air and Naval Superiority

When the British rejected Hitler’s peace offer speech in the Reichstag on July 19, the practical problems of an invasion began to loom.

For starters, there were no plans in the High Command of the Armed forces (OKW) for an invasion of Britain. The naval staff had produced a study in November 1939 of the problems such an operation might pose. It identified two preconditions, air and naval superiority, and the Germans in 1940 had neither. The German Army produced a staff memorandum a few weeks after the Navy recommended a landing in East Anglia. Both these were far from plans.

The Kriegsmarine was poorly equipped for such an undertaking. It had no landing craft purposely built for such an operation. The Kriegsmarine had suffered heavily in the Norway Campaign. All it had available was one heavy cruiser, the Hipper, three light cruisers, and nine destroyers. All other major warships had been damaged or were not yet commissioned.

The British fleet was overwhelmingly powerful. The Kriegsmarine might be able to flank the invasion sea lanes across the English Channel with mines and attack the Royal Navy from the air, but German naval commanders were not confident.

Everything would depend on the Luftwaffe being able to deal with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force (RAF) and still support its land forces. At that stage, the landing was codenamed Operation Lion, but the Germans soon changed it to Operation Sea Lion.

Landing 260,000 Soldiers in Three Days

General Alfred Jodl, chief of operations of the Armed Forces High Command, admitted that the operation would be difficult but felt it was possible to carry it out successfully if the landings were made on the south coast of England.

“We can substitute command of the air for the naval supremacy we do not possess, and the sea crossing is short there,” he said.

The German Wehrmacht wanted to land on a broad front stretching from Ramsgate to the west of the Isle of Wight. The first wave would be some 90,000 men landing in three main areas. By the third day it wanted 260,000 men ashore.

Heavy fighting was expected in southern England. Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch, nominal commander of the German Army, felt the operation would be relatively easy and concluded in a month.

However, the German naval staff had grave misgivings, favoring an invasion in spring 1941. They argued that the Kriegsmarine was far too weak. The weather in the English Channel was unpredictable and presented great hazards for the invasion fleet, which was not designed for such a task. What’s more, the Luftwaffe would be affected by bad weather.

With the Wehrmacht wanting to land at dawn, the periods of August 20 to August 26 or September 19 to September 26 had the most suitable tide tables. The Kriegsmarine would not be ready by August, and in September it was approaching the time of year for bad weather. Even in the best of conditions, the motley invasion fleet would cross the English Channel slower than Caesar’s legions 2,000 years before. The Kriegsmarine expected to lose 10 percent of its lift capacity due to accidents and breakdowns before the Royal Navy and RAF put in an appearance.

Operation Sea Lion on Hold

At the beginning of August, Hitler directed the Luftwaffe to defeat the RAF. The German air fleets failed to gain air superiority over the sea lanes and landing areas and could not prevent the RAF bombing the assembling invasion barges. However, in September they did come close to winning some measure of air superiority over Kent and Sussex. But then Reich Marshal Hermann Göring relaxed the pressure on the RAF Fighter Command by switching his offensive to bombing London.

About the same time, the Kriegsmarine had assembled 2,000 barges from the Rhine River and Holland, all of which, although modified, still had poor seagoing characteristics. Nearly all tugs of more than 250 tons were withdrawn from German harbors to tow barges. The Kriegsmarine also assembled 1,600 motor boats and 168 transport ships. By September 21, British air and naval attacks had sunk 67 craft and damaged 173 in harbor.

By mid-September the Luftwaffe had still failed to attack units of the British fleet. Sea Lion was put off from September 15 to September 21. But on the September 17, Hitler postponed Sea Lion indefinitely.

Britain’s Recovery From Early Losses

In April 1940, Britain’s position inviolate behind the Royal Navy received a severe jolt with the loss of Norway, which sea power had seemed unable to influence. What went unrecognized at the time was that this had more to do with a failure of combined operations. And the German Kriegsmarine had been decimated by the Royal Navy in that campaign.

The success of the German blitzkrieg against the French Army in May and June 1940 brought Britain to face the possibility of a German invasion. The chiefs of staff met to address the possibility. With Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk evacuation, beginning there was little they could do other than recommending the Home Army should be brought to a high state of alert and beach defenses should be given priority.

In the face of German air power, evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force was successful. In the United Kingdom there were only 80 heavy tanks, and they were obsolete. There were 180 light tanks armed only with machine guns. There were only 100,000 rifles to equip the 470,000 men of the Home Guard, although 75,000 Ross rifles were on their way from Canada.

The British Army had little chance of stopping the Germans if they had managed to get a large force ashore in June or July 1940.

However, as in previous invasion threats the main defense would devolve onto the Royal Navy and now the RAF. Britain’s Fighter Command had lost many aircraft and pilots in the Battle of France and could muster only 331 Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes. But German indecision and a need to redeploy and refit the Luftwaffe gave Britain a decisive respite.

By September Britain had built up its armored forces to nearly 350 medium and cruiser tanks. Coast defenses were much improved. Strong reinforcements had arrived from Canada. However, General Sir Alan Brooke, Commander in Chief (C-in-C) Home Forces, on September 13 confided pessimistically to his diary that of his 22 divisions “only about half can be looked upon as in any way fit for any form of mobile operations.”

On August 11, the eve of Eagle Day when the Luftwaffe was to launch its offensive to gain air superiority over southern England, RAF fighter command had 620 Spitfires and Hurricanes and aircraft production was exceeding totals called for.

The Defense of Britain: Air, Land, and Sea

For the Royal Navy the advent of airpower posed several problems. No longer could the Navy alone deny the sea to an invader as in 1588 when Catholic Spain attempted to invade England by sea and in 1804 and 1805 when Napoleonic France attempted the same thing. The Royal Navy hoped by the use of bombardment and mines to attack the invasion fleet before it even left its ports. If such attacks were not decisive, it would attack the invasion flotillas as it arrived off the English coast. The Luftwaffe would be stretched to the limit.

As the invasion beaches were not known, the Royal Navy needed to cover an area from the Wash to Newhaven. It had the strength to carry out that mission. The British Admiralty contemplated “the happy possibility that our reconnaissance might enable us to intercept the expedition on passage.” Given the speed of the invasion barges, taking 12 hours to cross the Channel was a near certainty. The main forces to be used were destroyers and light craft, with close support of cruisers. It was agreed that the battleships should only come south if German invasion transports were escorted by heavier German ships.

Admiral Sir Charles Forbes, C-in-C for the British Home Fleet, argued that so many ships should not be pulled away from the very real German threat to the convoy routes. Forbes kept his battleships, but many of his cruisers and destroyers were dispersed in ports around the southern and eastern coasts. Forbes was proved right with so many ships committed to static roles. Losses among the convoys began to mount.

The RAF also had a vital role in defeating an invasion. Bomber Command would attack shipping as soon as it began to assemble. Once the invasion began, Fighter Command would move to the offensive against troop-carrying aircraft and supply air cover to the Royal Navy attacks on enemy shipping. Coastal Command would support the Navy as well and join Bomber Command in attacking shipping.

Gradually the emphasis and reserves shifted toward southeastern England. Here the sea crossing was the shortest and the beaches would be within German fighter protection. On September 4, a memo warned that if the Germans “could get possession of the Dover defile and capture its gun defenses from us, then, holding these points on both sides of the straights they would be in a position largely to deny those waters to our naval forces.” With this warning the chiefs of staff moved more ground troops into this vital sector.

The End of Operation Sea Lion: Hitler’s Attention Turns East

On September 7, intelligence warned that a German invasion was near. Tide and light conditions would favor the enemy between September 8 and 10. The Royal Navy put all its small craft and cruisers on immediate notice and stopped all boiler cleaning. The RAF moved from Alert 2 invasion in three days, to Alert 1 invasion imminent within 12 hours. It was decided to issue the code word “Cromwell” as a warning to take up battle stations. Unfortunately, a lot of recipients did not know its meaning. Some Home Guard units assumed it meant the invasion had started and rang church bells, which was an agreed warning of invasion, and blocked roads.

The chiefs of staff met in London under Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s chairmanship on September 7, while London was subjected to a massive air raid.

Soon, however, the crisis began to wane. The Germans, stung by an RAF raid on Berlin, switched their attack from RAF fighter bases to London allowing the RAF to make good its losses. The prize of air superiority rapidly slipped away. On September 14, Hitler postponed the invasion until September 17 due to Luftwaffe losses. Then, on September 17, it was postponed again. On September 20, the Germans began to disperse the invasion barges, of which some 10 percent had already been sunk or damaged by the RAF and the Royal Navy.

For the British, the invasion threat remained well into October, but Hitler’s mind was no longer on England, if it had ever really been firmly fixed in that direction. Rather, it was turned east toward Russia.

In the 1970s, the Department of War Studies at the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst made Sea Lion into a war game based on the plans of both sides. A panel of generals, admirals, and air marshals umpired the war game. Any disputes over exact losses were settled by cutting cards. Admiralty weather records were made available, which proved the situation would have been favorable to an invasion between September 19 and September 30. Such findings validate Sea Lion as one of the great “what ifs” of modern military history.

This article by Mark Simmons originally appeared on Warfare History Network.


Operation Unthinkable: Churchill’s plan to start World War III

On May 8, 1945, as people everywhere celebrated the end of World War II, one gloomy figure was planning to start World War III. The ink had barely dried on Germany&rsquos surrender document when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill asked his War Cabinet to draw up a plan to invade the Soviet Union.

The gobsmacked generals were asked to devise means to &ldquoimpose upon Russia the will of the United States and the British Empire&rdquo. Churchill assured them the invasion would be led by the United States and supported by the defeated German Army.

Churchill&rsquos belligerence was due to several factors. In Winston&rsquos War, Max Hastings writes Churchill&rsquos satisfaction at seeing the downfall of the Nazis was &ldquoalmost entirely overshadowed&rdquo by Russian victories in Eastern Europe.

By 1945, the USSR was vastly stronger and Britain a lot weaker than Churchill had anticipated. As he remarked at the Yalta Conference in February 1945: &ldquoOn one hand the big Russian bear, on the other the great American elephant, and between them the poor little British donkey.&rdquo

Secondly, Churchill&rsquos stance against the Soviets hardened after he came to know about the success of the American atomic bomb programme. According to Alan Brooke, Britain&rsquos Chief of Army Staff, Churchill told him at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945: &ldquoWe can tell the Russians if they insist on doing this or that, well we can just blot out Moscow, then Stalingrad, then Kiev, then Sevastopol.&rdquo

Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josef Stalin at the Yalta Conference in 1945. Source: US Library of Congress/wikipedia.org

Finally, following Moscow&rsquos barring of British representatives from Prague, Vienna and Berlin, as well as Stalin&rsquos decision to paint Poland red, the British leader&rsquos misery magnified.

Thinking the Unthinkable

Asked to prepare for war just days after the end of the bloodiest conflict in history, the British generals thought the Prime Minister had really lost it. Brooke wrote in his diary: &ldquoWinston gives me the feeling of already longing for another war.&rdquo

The generals drew up a plan, appropriately codenamed Operation Unthinkable, which proposed Western forces attack the Soviets on a front extending from Hamburg in the north to Trieste in the south.

The War Cabinet listed out the total allied strength in Europe on July 1, 1945: 64 American divisions, 35 British and Dominion divisions, 4 Polish divisions, and 10 German divisions. The German divisions were purely imaginary because after the mauling they received from the Russians, the surviving soldiers were in no hurry to fight. At most, the allies would have mustered 103 divisions, including 23 armoured ones.

Against this force were arrayed 264 Soviet divisions, including 36 armoured. Moscow commanded 6.5 million troops &ndash a 2:1 advantage &ndash on the German border alone. Overall, it had 11 million men and women in uniform.

In aircraft, the Allied Tactical Air Forces in North West Europe and the Mediterranean consisted of 6,714 fighter planes and 2464 bombers. The Soviets had 9380 fighter aircraft and 3380 bombers.

Sizing up Russia

As the Germans had discovered, war against Russia was certainly not a walk in the park. The War Cabinet stated: &ldquoThe Russian Army has developed a capable and experienced High Command. The army is exceedingly tough, lives and moves on a lighter scale of maintenance than any Western army, and employs bold tactics based largely on disregard for losses in attaining its objective.

&ldquoEquipment has improved rapidly throughout the war and is now good. Enough is known of its development to say that it is certainly not inferior to that of the great powers.

&ldquoThe facility the Russian have shown in the development and improvement of existing weapons and equipment and in their mass production has been very striking. There are known instances of the Germans copying basic features of Russian armament.&rdquo

The assessment, signed by the Chief of Army Staff on June 9, 1945, concluded: &ldquoIt would be beyond our power to win a quick but limited success and we would be committed to a protracted war against heavy odds. These odds, moreover, would become fanciful if the Americans grew weary and indifferent and began to be drawn away by the magnet of the Pacific war.&rdquo

Worse than the V-2

On June 10, 1945 Churchill replied: &ldquoIf the Americans withdraw to their zone and move the bulk of their forces back to the United States and to the Pacific, the Russians have the power to advance to the North Sea and Atlantic. Pray have a study made of how then we could defend our island.&rdquo

V-2 rocket. Source: Imperial War Museum/wikipedia.org

To this, the generals said the Russians might attempt to attack the British Isles after they had reached the Atlantic, by cutting sea communications, invasion, air attack, and rocket or other new methods.

While the Channel would check an invasion for the time being, the British were worried about other threat scenarios. &ldquoIt is possible the Russian Air Force would attempt to attack all types of important targets in the UK with its existing aircraft.&rdquo

Rockets posed the gravest threat. &ldquoThe Russians are likely to make full use of new weapons, such as the rocket and pilotless aircraft&hellip.We must expect a far heavier scale of attack than the Germans were able to develop (such as the V-2 rocket),&rdquo the chief said.

Forget it, chaps!

The War Cabinet said it was beyond the capabilities of the 103 divisions of Allied troops in Europe to do what Napoleon and Hitler had failed to do. As Brooke noted in his diary, &ldquoThe idea is of course fantastic and the chances of success quite impossible. There is no doubt from now onwards Russia is all-powerful in Europe.&rdquo

The British generals were finally able to make their holiday plans when a cable arrived from US President Harry Truman, saying there was no chance the Americans would offer help &ndash let alone lead an attempt &ndash to drive the Russians from Eastern Europe.

The Unthinkable file was closed.

Sparking the Cold War

Very early into the game, Stalin had got wind of what Churchill was up to. The Soviet dictator told his chief commander General Zhukov, &ldquoThat man is capable of anything.&rdquo One of his spies in London had also passed on British plans for meddling in post-war Germany. Together with Truman&rsquos nuclear-fuelled cockiness, Operation Unthinkable created suspicion and bitterness among the former allies. Operation Unthinkable was thus a catalyst of the Cold War.

Warped mind

Churchill&rsquos patina of statesmanship is at long last coming off. The fact is he possessed an extraordinary range of prejudices. According to Hastings, in a memorandum to the war cabinet in November 1942 about policy towards Italy, he wrote: &ldquoAll the industrial centres should be attacked in intense fashion, every effort being made to terrorise the population.&rdquo

Around the same time, he pushed for the firebombing of German population centres such as Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz which killed 200,000 civilians in 1945. It was the only way the British were able to announce they were in the war.

In 1944, Churchill okayed a &ldquocataclysmic plan&rdquo to convert Germany into a &ldquocountry primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character.&rdquo The Morgenthau Plan if implemented would have starved 10 million Germans to death in the first year alone. US President Franklin Roosevelt said Churchill was &ldquobought off&rdquo after the Americans agreed to offer Britain $6.5 billion in Lend Lease. (After Churchill lost the election, the new Labour government rejected the plan.)

Such thinking was not new to a man who had knowingly and enthusiastically caused the Great Bengal Famine in 1942-43. By transferring vast quantities of foodgrain from India to Britain, he starved over four million Indians to death. Churchill was also keen on allowing Gandhi to die in prison. He once said: &ldquoI hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.&rdquo

In 1898 while mourning the death of a soldier friend, Churchill had remarked: &ldquoWar is but dirty, shoddy business which only a fool would undertake.&rdquo Little did he realise he was describing a future British Prime Minister.


Did Churchill Ever Admire Hitler?

One of the most controversial chapters in Great Contemporaries (And in the opinion scholars the one least like the rest) is “Hitler and his choice.” Some critics maintain that the essay implies approval of Hitler, rendering Churchill a hypocrite. Others ask if the Great Contemporaries version was a milder form of an earlier article—Andifso, whether Churchill pulled his punches. (Paintings: National Archives and Wikimedia Commons.)

The Hitler chapter in Great Contemporaries, like the rest of the book, was derived from a previous article. In this case the original was “The Truth about Hitler,” in The Strand Magazine of November 1935 (Cohen C481). Ronald Cohen notes that Strand editor Reeves Shaw, who paid him £250 for the article, wanted Churchill to make it “as outspoken as you possibly can… absolutely frank in your judgment of [Hitler’s] methods.” It was.

Two years later, when Churchill was preparing his Hitler essay for Great Contemporaries, he characteristically submitted it to the Foreign Office, which asked that he tone it down. Preferring that he not publish it at all, they were somewhat mollified by the result. (See Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life, London: Heinemann, 1991, 580-81). Nonetheless, the belief has persisted that Churchill wrote approvingly of Hitler, in either his book or his article—or in other writings for the British press.

“Government by Dictators”

On 10 October 1937, six days after publication of Great Contemporaries, Churchill published an article, “This Age of Government by Great Dictators,” his seventh installment in the series “Great Events of Our Time” for News of the World (Cohen C535.7). Here he traced the evolution of British democracy from the feudal ages, the destruction of continental monarchies during the Great War, and the rise of the Bolsheviks, Fascists and Nazis. His Hitler paragraphs in this piece are mainly—but not wholly—from his Great Contemporaries text.

In his opening about Hitler, Churchill retained the language from his 1935 Strand article which he had combed out of Great Contemporaries, speaking of Hitler’s “guilt of blood” and “wicked” methods. He then inserts two sentences from the Strand which are omitted from his book. (This article is available from the editor by email):

It is on this mystery of the future that history will pronounce Hitler either a monster or a hero. It is this which will determine whether he will rank in Valhalla with Pericles, with Augustus and with Washington, or welter in the inferno of human scorn with Attila and Tamerlane.

Were those words from his Strand piece retained in defiance of the Foreign Office’s wishes? Or were they there because Churchill was too good a writer not to re-use good words carefully composed two years earlier? Whatever the reason, they do not materially change Churchill’s view of Hitler—and his considerable doubt that history would come to regard Hitler in a positive light.

“Friendship with Germany”

Churchill’s critics sometimes quote sentences which they think came from these articles or Great Contemporaries:

One may dislike Hitler’s system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations.

In fact this passage is from Churchill’s foreign affairs article in the Evening Standard, 17 September 1937: “Friendship with Germany” (Cohen C548), subsequently reprinted in Step by Step (London: Thornton Butterworth, 1939, Cohen A111).

Churchill wrote: “I find myself pilloried by Dr. Goebbels’ Press as an enemy of Germany. That description is quite untrue.” He had made many efforts on Germany’s behalf in recent years, Churchill continued, but it was his duty to warn against German rearmament: “I can quite understand that this action of mine would not be popular in Germany. Indeed, it was not popular anywhere. I was told I was making ill-will between the two countries.”

Then Churchill adds something that is perhaps relevant to present-day situations:

I drew attention to a serious danger to Anglo-German relations which arises out of the organisation of German residents in Britain into a closely-knit, strictly disciplined body. We could never allow foreign visitors to pursue their national feuds in the bosom of our country, still less to be organised in such a way as to effect our military security. The Germans would not tolerate it for a moment in their country, nor should they take it amiss because we do not like it in ours.

Pleasing No One

Churchill was right to declare that his writings about Hitler satisfied neither the Nazis’ defenders nor their critics. One of the defenders was Lord Londonderry, an appeaser who complained that Churchill’s Evening Standard piece would prevent a decent understanding with Germany. On 23 October 1937, Churchill replied to Lord Londonderry (Gilbert, Churchill: A Life, 581):

You cannot expect English people to be attracted by the brutal intolerances of Nazidom, though these may fade with time. On the other hand, we all wish to live on friendly terms with Germany. We know that the best Germans are ashamed of the Nazi excesses, and recoil from the paganism on which they are based. We certainly do not wish to pursue a policy inimical to the legitimate interests of Germany, but you must surely be aware that when the German Government speaks of friendship with England, what they mean is that we shall give them back their former Colonies, and also agree to their having a free hand so far as we are concerned in Central and Southern Europe. This means that they would devour Austria and Czechoslovakia as a preliminary to making a gigantic middle-Europe bloc. It would certainly not be in our interest to connive at such policies of aggression. It would be wrong and cynical in the last degree to buy immunity for ourselves at the expense of the smaller countries of Central Europe. It would be contrary to the whole tide of British and United States opinion for us to facilitate the spread of Nazi tyranny over countries which now have a considerable measure of democratic freedom.

It is possible now, with hindsight knowledge of what Hitler really was, to scoff at Churchill for failing to go all out against him in his writings of 1935-37. In fact, he had told the truth about Hitler from the beginning, but tempered his later writing in an effort to meet the wishes of the Foreign Office—which was certain that Hitler could be handled, if only they didn’t upset him. Nevertheless, as Sir Martin Gilbert wrote: “neither the toned-down essay [in Great Contemporaries] nor the conciliatory article in the Evening Standard marked any change in Churchill’s attitude….”

When Churchill writes about buying immunity from a “gigantic bloc” marked by brutal intolerance, one is reminded of certain parallels with the policies of Western democracies toward similar fanatics in our own time.


Churchill calls Britons to their duty against likely invasion

LONDON, Sept. 11, 1940 (UP) Asserting that the next week will be of vital importance to the British Empire citing Germany's active preparations to invade the British Isles, Winston Churchill today called on every Englishman "to do his duty."

While thus repeating the words of the famous battle order of Lord Nelson, the prime minister asserted that Britain's land, air and sea forces are fully prepared for battle.

He promised Britain victory. In a fighting speech directed to the British people during a momentary lull in mass Nazi air attacks, the prime minister said that their bravery and courage had aroused world-wide admiration and that British war strength was greater now than it was in July.

German airplanes are being shot down at a ration of three to one and pilots at a ratio of six to one, which if the conflict continues at the present pace will "ruin" a vital part of Adolf Hitler's great air armada, he said.

But, the prime minister, warned, the Germans are making huge preparations for invasion and the people must expect a thrust from France, from the Low Countries from Norway, or by way of Ireland -- or by all ways at once -- at any time.

Churchill called Nazi bombardment of London and other cities an "indiscriminate slaughter," but said it had and would fail to break the British spirit of resistance.

"The next week we must regard as a very important week for us -- the most important in our history," the prime minister said. "If this invasion is going to be tried at all it does not seem that it can be long delayed."

That he said, is the reason for the German mass air attacks directed largely at the R.A.F. bases, in an effort to win mastery of the skies before launching an attempted invasion.

"We are much stronger than when the hard fighting began in July," Churchill said. If the air war goes on at the present rate, he said, it will "wear down and ruin" a vital part of the German air force.

It would be very hazardous" for the Germans to attempt to invade Britain without first knocking out the British air force, he said. Churchill cited German preparations for invasion of England.

German barges are moving along the coasts of the Low Countries and France, he said. Some of these, he pointed out, move under the protection of German batteries on the French shore.

There are many concentrations of troops from Hamburg to Brest and also in Norway.

Large numbers of German troops are ready to set out when ordered "on their very uncertain voyage," he said.

"We cannot tell when they will come or if they will come," he said.

But he warned that the invasion "may be launched at any time on England, Scotland or Ireland -- or on all three."

The weather may break at any time, he pointed out, and thus it must be expected that some blow may be made soon.

The next week, he continued, must be regarded as of vast importance in British history.

Churchill recalled the destruction of the Spanish Armada and other great battles of the past and said the operations today were on a much greater scale.

Everyone, he said, must be prepared to do his duty

He expressed full confidence in the ability of Britain to withstand any attack, due to a far greater and better and equipped mobile army and excellent coastal defenses.

He said there were 1,500,000 in the home guard "prepared to fight for every inch of ground in every village and in every street."

"Let God defend the right," he exclaimed.

Churchill charged that Adolf Hitler, by "killing" thousand of women and children, is trying to terrorize London and other cities and prepare for the invasion.

"Little did he know the spirit of the British nation," he added.

He charged the Germans -- specifically Hitler -- with "indiscriminate slaughter" but said that long after "the traces of conflagration in London have been removed" the fire of opposition to Nazism would burn on until the last traces of Hitlerism have been wiped out in Europe.

Churchill said that the flame would burn until "the old world and the new" united to build a better future.

"All the world that is still free marvels at the fortitude with which the citizens of London are surmounting the great ordeal to which they have been subjected," he said.

The prime minister said that it was encouraging to British armed forces throughout the world that word could be sent to them of London's courage.

He said that Britons must draw upon their own courage and endurance for survival and victory and "for better days that are to come"


Contents

Adolf Hitler hoped for a negotiated peace with the UK and made no preparations for amphibious assault on Britain until the Fall of France. At the time, the only forces with experience and modern equipment for such landings were the Japanese, at the Battle of Wuhan in 1938. [5]

Outbreak of war and fall of Poland Edit

In September 1939, the successful [6] German invasion of Poland infringed on both a French and a British alliance with Poland and both countries declared war on Germany. On 9 October, Hitler's "Directive No. 6 for the Conduct of the War" planned an offensive to defeat these allies and "win as much territory as possible in Holland, Belgium, and northern France to serve as a base for the successful prosecution of the air and sea war against England". [7]

With the prospect of the Channel ports falling under Kriegsmarine (German Navy) control, Grand Admiral (Großadmiral) Erich Raeder (head of the Kriegsmarine) attempted to anticipate the obvious next step that might entail and instructed his operations officer, Kapitän Hansjürgen Reinicke, to draw up a document examining "the possibility of troop landings in England should the future progress of the war make the problem arise". Reinicke spent five days on this study and set forth the following prerequisites:

  • Eliminating or sealing off Royal Navy forces from the landing and approach areas.
  • Eliminating the Royal Air Force.
  • Destroying all Royal Navy units in the coastal zone.
  • Preventing British submarine action against the landing fleet. [8]

On 22 November 1939, the Head of Luftwaffe (German Air Force) intelligence Joseph "Beppo" Schmid presented his "Proposal for the Conduct of Air Warfare", which argued for a counter to the British blockade and said "Key is to paralyse the British trade" by blocking imports to Britain and attacking seaports. The OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht or "High Command of the Armed Forces") considered the options and Hitler's 29 November "Directive No. 9 – Instructions For Warfare Against The Economy of the Enemy" stated that once the coast had been secured, the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine were to blockade UK ports with sea mines, attack shipping and warships, and make air attacks on shore installations and industrial production. This directive remained in force in the first phase of the Battle of Britain. [9]

In December 1939, the German Army issued its own study paper (designated Nordwest) and solicited opinions and input from both Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe. The paper outlined an assault on England's eastern coast between The Wash and the River Thames by troops crossing the North Sea from ports in the Low Countries. It suggested airborne troops as well as seaborne landings of 100,000 infantry in East Anglia, transported by the Kriegsmarine, which was also to prevent Royal Navy ships from getting through the Channel, while the Luftwaffe had to control airspace over the landings. The Kriegsmarine response was focused on pointing out the many difficulties to be surmounted if invading England was to be a viable option. It could not envisage taking on the Royal Navy Home Fleet and said it would take a year to organise shipping for the troops. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, responded with a single-page letter in which he stated, "[A] combined operation having the objective of landing in England must be rejected. It could only be the final act of an already victorious war against Britain as otherwise the preconditions for success of a combined operation would not be met". [10] [11]

The fall of France Edit

Germany's swift and successful occupation of France and the Low Countries gained control of the Channel coast, facing what Schmid's 1939 report called their "most dangerous enemy". Raeder met Hitler on 21 May 1940 and raised the topic of invasion, but warned of the risks and expressed a preference for blockade by air, submarines and raiders. [12] [13]

By the end of May, the Kriegsmarine had become even more opposed to invading Britain following its costly victory in Norway after Operation Weserübung, the Kriegsmarine had only one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers, and four destroyers available for operations. [14] Raeder was strongly opposed to Sea Lion, for over half of the Kriegsmarine surface fleet had been either sunk or badly damaged in Weserübung, and his service was hopelessly outnumbered by the ships of the Royal Navy. [15] British parliamentarians still arguing for peace negotiations were defeated in the May 1940 War Cabinet Crisis, but throughout July the Germans continued with attempts to find a diplomatic solution. [16]

Invasion planning Edit

In a report presented on 30 June, OKW Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl reviewed options to increase pressure on Britain to agree to a negotiated peace. The first priority was to eliminate the Royal Air Force and gain air supremacy. Intensified air attacks against shipping and the economy could affect food supplies and civilian morale in the long term. Reprisal attacks of terror bombing had the potential to cause quicker capitulation but the effect on morale was uncertain. Once the Luftwaffe had control of the air and the British economy had been weakened, an invasion would be a last resort or a final strike ("Todesstoss") after the UK had already been practically defeated, but could have a quick result. [12] [17] At a meeting that day, OKH Chief of General Staff Franz Halder heard from Secretary of State Ernst von Weizsäcker that Hitler had turned his attention to Russia. Halder met Admiral Otto Schniewind on 1 July, and they shared views without understanding each other's position. Both thought that air superiority was needed first, and could make the invasion unnecessary. They agreed that minefields and U-boats could limit the threat posed by the Royal Navy Schniewind emphasised the significance of weather conditions. [18]

On 2 July, the OKW asked the services to start preliminary planning for an invasion, as Hitler had concluded that invasion would be achievable in certain conditions, the first of which was command of the air, and specifically asked the Luftwaffe when this would be achieved. On 4 July, after asking General Erich Marcks to begin planning an attack on Russia, Halder heard from the Luftwaffe that they planned to eliminate the RAF, destroying its aircraft manufacturing and supply systems, with damage to naval forces as a secondary aim. A Luftwaffe report presented to the OKW at a meeting on 11 July said that it would take 14 to 28 days to achieve air superiority. The meeting also heard that England was discussing an agreement with Russia. On the same day, Grand Admiral Raeder visited Hitler at the Berghof to persuade him that the best way to pressure the British into a peace agreement would be a siege combining air and submarine attacks. Hitler agreed with him that invasion would be a last resort. [19]

Jodl set out the OKW proposals for the proposed invasion in a memorandum issued on 12 July, which described operation Löwe (Lion) as "a river crossing on a broad front", irritating the Kriegsmarine. On 13 July, Hitler met Field Marshal von Brauchitsch and Halder at Berchtesgaden and they presented detailed plans prepared by the army on the assumption that the navy would provide safe transport. [20] To the surprise of Von Brauchitsch and Halder, and completely at odds with his normal practice, Hitler did not ask any questions about specific operations, had no interest in details, and made no recommendations to improve the plans instead he simply told OKW to start preparations. [21]

Directive No. 16: Operation Sea Lion Edit

On 16 July 1940 Hitler issued Führer Directive No. 16, setting in motion preparations for a landing in Britain. He prefaced the order by stating: "As England, in spite of her hopeless military situation, still shows no signs of willingness to come to terms, I have decided to prepare, and if necessary to carry out, a landing operation against her. The aim of this operation is to eliminate the English Motherland as a base from which the war against Germany can be continued, and, if necessary, to occupy the country completely." The code name for the invasion was Seelöwe, "Sea Lion". [22] [23]

Hitler's directive set four conditions for the invasion to occur: [24]

  • The RAF was to be "beaten down in its morale and in fact, that it can no longer display any appreciable aggressive force in opposition to the German crossing".
  • The English Channel was to be swept of British mines at the crossing points, and the Strait of Dover must be blocked at both ends by German mines.
  • The coastal zone between occupied France and England must be dominated by heavy artillery.
  • The Royal Navy must be sufficiently engaged in the North Sea and the Mediterranean so that it could not intervene in the crossing. British home squadrons must be damaged or destroyed by air and torpedo attacks.

This ultimately placed responsibility for Sea Lion ' s success squarely on the shoulders of Raeder and Göring, neither of whom had the slightest enthusiasm for the venture and, in fact, did little to hide their opposition to it. [25] Nor did Directive 16 provide for a combined operational headquarters, similar to the Allies' creation of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) for the later Normandy landings, under which all three service branches (Army, Navy, and Air Force) could work together to plan, co-ordinate, and execute such a complex undertaking. [26]

The invasion was to be on a broad front, from around Ramsgate to beyond the Isle of Wight. Preparations, including overcoming the RAF, were to be in place by mid August. [22] [19]

Discussion Edit

Grand Admiral Raeder sent a memorandum to OKW on 19 July, complaining about the onus placed on the navy in relation to the army and air force, and stating that the navy would be unable to achieve its objectives. [20]

The first joint services conference on the proposed invasion was held by Hitler in Berlin on 21 July, with Raeder, Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, and Luftwaffe Chief of Staff Hans Jeschonnek. Hitler told them that the British had no hope of survival, and ought to negotiate, but were hoping to get Russia to intervene and halt German oil supplies. Invasion was very risky, and he asked them if direct attacks by air and submarine could take effect by mid September. Jeschonnek proposed large bombing attacks so that responding RAF fighters could be shot down. The idea that invasion could be a surprise "river crossing" was dismissed by Raeder, and the navy could not complete its preparations by mid August. Hitler wanted the air attack to commence early in August and, if it succeeded, the invasion was to start around 25 August before weather deteriorated. Hitler's main interest was the question of countering potential Russian intervention. Halder outlined his first thoughts on defeating Russian forces. Detailed plans were to be made to attack the Soviet Union. [27]

Raeder met Hitler on 25 July to report on navy progress: they were not sure if preparations could be completed during August: he was to present plans at a conference on 31 July. On 28 July he told OKW that ten days would be needed to get the first wave of troops across the Channel, even on a much narrower front. Planning was to resume. In his diary, Halder noted that if what Raeder had said was true, "all previous statements by the navy were so much rubbish and we can throw away the whole plan of invasion". On the next day, Halder dismissed the navy's claims and required a new plan. [28] [29]

The Luftwaffe announced on 29 July that they could begin a major air attack at the start of August, and their intelligence reports gave them confidence of a decisive result. Half of their bombers were to be kept in reserve to support the invasion. At a meeting with the army, the navy proposed delay until May 1941, when the new battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz would be ready. A navy memorandum issued on 30 July said invasion would be vulnerable to the Royal Navy, and autumn weather could prevent necessary maintenance of supplies. The OKW assessed alternatives, including attacking the British in the Mediterranean, and favoured extended operations against England while remaining on good terms with Russia. [28]

At the Berghof conference on 31 July, the Luftwaffe were not represented. Raeder said barge conversions would take until 15 September, leaving the only possible 1940 invasion dates as 22–26 September, when weather was likely to be unsuitable. Landings would have to be on a narrow front, and would be better in spring 1941. Hitler wanted the invasion in September as the British army was increasing in strength. After Raeder left, Hitler told von Brauchitsch and Halder that the air attack was to start around 5 August eight to fourteen days after that, he would decide on the landing operation. London was showing new-found optimism, and he attributed this to their hopes of intervention by Russia, which Germany was to attack in the spring of 1941. [30]

Directive No. 17: air and sea warfare against England Edit

On 1 August 1940, Hitler instructed intensified air and sea warfare to "establish the necessary conditions for the final conquest of England". From 5 August, subject to weather delays, the Luftwaffe was "to overpower the English Air Force with all the forces at its command, in the shortest possible time." Attacks were then to be made on ports and food stocks, while leaving alone ports to be used in the invasion, and "air attacks on enemy warships and merchant ships may be reduced except where some particularly favourable target happens to present itself." The Luftwaffe was to keep sufficient forces in reserve for the proposed invasion, and was not to target civilians without a direct order from Hitler in response to RAF terror bombing. No decision had been reached on the choice between immediate decisive action and a siege. The Germans hoped the air action would force the British to negotiate, and make invasion unnecessary. [31] [32]

In the Army plan of 25 July 1940, the invasion force was to be organised into two army groups drawn from the 6th Army, the 9th Army and the 16th Army. The first wave of the landing would have consisted of eleven infantry and mountain divisions, the second wave of eight panzer and motorised infantry divisions and finally, the third wave was formed of six further infantry divisions. The initial assault would have also included two airborne divisions and the special forces of the Brandenburg Regiment. [ citation needed ]

This initial plan was vetoed by opposition from both the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe, who successfully argued that an amphibious force could only be assured air and naval protection if confined to a narrow front, and that the landing areas should be as far from Royal Navy bases as possible. The definitive order of battle adopted on 30 August 1940 envisaged a first wave of nine divisions from the 9th and 16th armies landing along four stretches of beach – two infantry divisions on beach 'B' between Folkestone and New Romney supported by a special forces company of the Brandenburg Regiment, two infantry divisions on beach 'C' between Rye and Hastings supported by three battalions of submersible/floating tanks, two infantry divisions on beach 'D' between Bexhill and Eastbourne supported by one battalion of submersible/floating tanks and a second company of the Brandenburg Regiment, and three infantry divisions on beach 'E' between Beachy Head and Brighton. [33] A single airborne division would land in Kent north of Hythe with the objective of seizing the aerodrome at Lympne and bridge-crossings over the Royal Military Canal, and in assisting the ground forces in capturing Folkestone. Folkestone (to the east) and Newhaven (to the west) were the only cross-channel port facilities that would have been accessible to the invasion forces and much depended on these being captured substantially intact or with the capability of rapid repair in which case the second wave of eight divisions (including all the motorised and armoured divisions) might be unloaded directly onto their respective quaysides. A further six infantry divisions were allocated to the third wave. [34]

The order of battle defined on 30 August remained as the agreed overall plan, but was always considered as potentially subject to change if circumstances demanded it. [35] The Army High Command continued to press for a wider landing area if possible, against the opposition of the Kriegsmarine in August they had won the concession that, if the opportunity arose, a force might be landed directly from ships onto the seafront at Brighton, perhaps supported by a second airborne force landing on the South Downs. Contrariwise, the Kriegsmarine (fearful of possible fleet action against the invasion forces from Royal Navy ships in Portsmouth) insisted that the divisions enshipped from Cherbourg and Le Havre for landing on beach 'E', might be diverted to any one of the other beaches where sufficient space allowed. [36]

Each of the first wave landing forces was divided into three echelons. The first echelon, carried across the Channel on barges, coasters and small motor launches, would consist of the main infantry assault force. The second echelon, carried across the Channel in larger transport vessels, would consist predominantly of artillery, armoured vehicles and other heavy equipment. The third echelon, carried across the channel on barges, would consist of the vehicles, horses, stores and personnel of the division-level support services. Loading of barges and transports with heavy equipment, vehicles and stores would start on S-tag minus nine (in Antwerp) and S minus eight in Dunkirk, with horses not loaded till S minus two. All troops would be loaded onto their barges from French or Belgian ports on S minus two or S minus one. The first echelon would land on the beaches on S-tag itself, preferably at daybreak around two hours after high tide. The barges used for the first echelon would be retrieved by tugs on the afternoon of S-tag, and those still in working order would be drawn up alongside the transport vessels to trans-ship the second echelon overnight, so that much of the second echelon and third echelon could land on S plus one, with the remainder on S plus two. The Navy intended that all four invasion fleets would return across the Channel on the night of S plus two, having been moored for three full days off the South coast of England. The Army had sought to have the third echelon cross in later separate convoys to avoid men and horses having to wait for as long as four days and nights in their barges, but the Kriegsmarine were insistent that they could only protect the four fleets from Royal Navy attack if all vessels crossed the Channel together. [37]

In the summer of 1940, UK Home Forces Command tended to consider East Anglia and the East coast to be the most likely landing sites for a German invasion force, as this would have offered much greater opportunities to seize ports and natural harbours, and would be further from naval forces at Portsmouth. But then the accumulation of invasion barges in French ports from late August 1940 rather indicated a landing on the South coast. Consequently, the main Home Forces mobile reserve force was held back around London, so as to be able to move forwards to protect the capital, either into Kent or Essex. Hence, Sea Lion landings in Kent and Sussex would have been initially opposed by XII Corps of Eastern Command with three infantry divisions and two independent brigades and V Corps of Southern Command with three infantry divisions. In reserve were two more Corps under GHQ Home Forces located south of London was the VII Corps with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, an armoured division and an independent armoured brigade, while north of London was IV Corps with an armoured division, infantry division and independent infantry brigade. [38] See British army anti invasion preparations.

Airborne forces Edit

The success of the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, on 9 April 1940, had relied extensively on the use of paratroop and glider-borne formations (Fallschirmjäger) to capture key defensive points in advance of the main invasion forces. The same airborne tactics had also been used in support of the invasions of Belgium and the Netherlands on 10 May 1940. However, although spectacular success had been achieved in the airborne assault on Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium, German airborne forces had come close to disaster in their attempt to seize the Dutch government and capital of The Hague. Around 1,300 of the 22nd Air Landing Division had been captured (subsequently shipped to Britain as prisoners of war), around 250 Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft had been lost, and several hundred elite paratroops and air-landing infantry had been killed or injured. Consequently, even in September 1940 the Luftwaffe had the capacity to provide only around 3,000 airborne troops to participate in the first wave of Operation Sea Lion.

Battle of Britain Edit

The Battle of Britain began in early July 1940, with attacks on shipping and ports in the Kanalkampf which forced RAF Fighter Command into defensive action. In addition, wider raids gave aircrew experience of day and night navigation, and tested the defences. [39] [ citation needed ] On 13 August, the German Luftwaffe began a series of concentrated aerial attacks (designated Unternehmen Adlerangriff or Operation Eagle Attack) on targets throughout the United Kingdom in an attempt to destroy the RAF and establish air superiority over Great Britain. The change in emphasis of the bombing from RAF bases to bombing London, however, turned Adlerangriff into a short-range strategic bombing operation.

The effect of the switch in strategy is disputed. Some historians argue the change in strategy lost the Luftwaffe the opportunity of winning the air battle or air superiority. [40] Others argue the Luftwaffe achieved little in the air battle and the RAF was not on the verge of collapse, as often claimed. [41] Another perspective has also been put forward, which suggests the Germans could not have gained air superiority before the weather window closed. [42] Others have said that it was unlikely the Luftwaffe would ever have been able to destroy RAF Fighter Command. If British losses became severe, the RAF could simply have withdrawn northward and regrouped. It could then deploy if the Germans launched an invasion. Most historians agree Sea Lion would have failed regardless because of the weakness of the German Kriegsmarine compared to the Royal Navy. [43]

Limitations of the Luftwaffe Edit

The record of the Luftwaffe against naval combat vessels up to that point in the war was poor. In the Norwegian campaign, despite eight weeks of continuous air supremacy, the Luftwaffe sank only two British warships [ citation needed ] . The German aircrews were not trained or equipped to attack fast-moving naval targets, particularly agile naval destroyers or Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB). The Luftwaffe also lacked armour-piercing bombs [44] and their only aerial torpedo capability, essential for defeating larger warships, consisted of a small number of slow and vulnerable Heinkel He 115 floatplanes. The Luftwaffe made 21 deliberate attacks on small torpedo boats during the Battle of Britain, sinking none. The British had between 700 and 800 small coastal craft (MTBs, Motor Gun Boats and smaller vessels), making them a critical threat if the Luftwaffe could not deal with the force. Only nine MTBs were lost to air attack out of 115 sunk by various means throughout the Second World War. Only nine destroyers were sunk by air attack in 1940, out of a force of over 100 operating in British waters at the time. Only five were sunk while evacuating Dunkirk, despite large periods of German air superiority, thousands of sorties flown, and hundreds of tons of bombs dropped. The Luftwaffe's record against merchant shipping was also unimpressive: it sank only one in every 100 British vessels passing through British waters in 1940, and most of this total was achieved using mines. [45]

Luftwaffe special equipment Edit

Had an invasion taken place, the Bf 110 equipped Erprobungsgruppe 210 would have dropped Seilbomben just prior to the landings. This was a secret weapon which would have been used to blackout the electricity network in south-east England. The equipment for dropping the wires was fitted to the Bf 110 aeroplanes and tested. It involved dropping wires across high voltage wires, and was probably as dangerous to the aircraft crews as to the British. [46] However, there was no national electricity network in the UK at this time, only the local generation of electricity for each city/town and surrounding area. [ citation needed ]

Italian air force Edit

Upon hearing of Hitler's intentions, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, through his Foreign Minister Count Galeazzo Ciano, quickly offered up to ten divisions and thirty squadrons of Italian aircraft for the proposed invasion. [47] Hitler initially declined any such aid but eventually allowed a small contingent of Italian fighters and bombers, the Italian Air Corps (Corpo Aereo Italiano or CAI), to assist in the Luftwaffe ' s aerial campaign over Britain in October and November 1940. [48]

The most daunting problem for Germany in protecting an invasion fleet was the small size of its navy. The Kriegsmarine, already numerically far inferior to Britain's Royal Navy, had lost a sizeable portion of its large modern surface units in April 1940 during the Norwegian campaign, either as complete losses or due to battle damage. In particular, the loss of two light cruisers and ten destroyers was crippling, as these were the very warships most suited to operating in the Channel narrows where the invasion would likely take place. [49] Most U-boats, the most powerful arm of the Kriegsmarine, were meant for destroying ships, not supporting an invasion.

Although the Royal Navy could not bring the whole of its naval superiority to bear – as most of the fleet was engaged in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and a substantial proportion had been detached to support Operation Menace against Dakar – the British Home Fleet still had a very large advantage in numbers. It was debatable whether British ships were as vulnerable to enemy air attack as the Germans hoped. During the Dunkirk evacuation, few warships were actually sunk, despite being stationary targets. The overall disparity between the opposing naval forces made the amphibious invasion plan extremely risky, regardless of the outcome in the air. In addition, the Kriegsmarine had allocated its few remaining larger and more modern ships to diversionary operations in the North Sea.

The fleet of defeated France, one of the most powerful and modern in the world, might have tipped the balance against Britain if it had been captured by the Germans. However, the pre-emptive destruction of a large part of the French fleet by the British at Mers-el-Kébir, and the scuttling of the remainder by the French themselves at Toulon two years later, ensured that this could not happen.

The view of those who believed, regardless of a potential German victory in the air battle, that Sea Lion was still not going to succeed included a number of German General Staff members. After the war, Admiral Karl Dönitz said he believed air superiority was "not enough". Dönitz stated, "[W]e possessed neither control of the air or the sea nor were we in any position to gain it". [50] In his memoirs, Erich Raeder, commander-in-chief of the Kriegsmarine in 1940, argued:

. the emphatic reminder that up until now the British had never thrown the full power of their fleet into action. However, a German invasion of England would be a matter of life and death for the British, and they would unhesitatingly commit their naval forces, to the last ship and the last man, into an all-out fight for survival. Our Air Force could not be counted on to guard our transports from the British Fleets, because their operations would depend on the weather, if for no other reason. It could not be expected that even for a brief period our Air Force could make up for our lack of naval supremacy. [51]

On 13 August 1940, Alfred Jodl, Chief of Operations in the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) wrote his "Assessment of the situation arising from the views of the Army and Navy on a landing in England." His first point was that "The landing operation must under no circumstances fail. A failure could leave political consequences, which would go far beyond the military ones." He believed that the Luftwaffe could meet its essential objectives, but if the Kriegsmarine could not meet the operational requirements of the Army for an attack on a broad front with two divisions landed within four days, followed promptly by three further divisions irrespective of weather, "then I consider the landing to be an act of desperation, which would have to be risked in a desperate situation, but which we have no reason whatsoever to undertake at this moment." [52]

Deception Edit

The Kriegsmarine invested considerable energy in planning and assembling the forces for an elaborate deception plan called Operation Herbstreise or "Autumn Journey". The idea was first mooted by Generaladmiral Rolf Carls on 1 August proposing a feint expedition into the North Sea resembling a troop convoy heading for Scotland, with the aim of drawing the British Home Fleet away from the intended invasion routes. Initially, the convoy was to consist of about ten small cargo ships fitted with false funnels to make them appear larger, and two small hospital ships. As the plan gathered momentum, the large ocean liners Europa, Bremen, Gneisenau and Potsdam were added to the list. These were organised into four separate convoys, escorted by light cruisers, torpedo boats and minesweepers, some of which were obsolete vessels being used by naval training bases. The plan was that three days before the actual invasion, the troopships would load the men and equipment of four divisions in major Norwegian and German ports and put to sea, before unloading them again on the same day in quieter locations. Returning to sea, the convoys would head west towards Scotland before turning around at about 21:00 on the following day. In addition, the only heavy warships available to the Kriegsmarine, the heavy cruisers Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper, would attack the British armed merchant cruisers of the Northern Patrol and convoys inbound from Canada however, the Scheer's repairs overran and if the invasion had taken place in September, would have left the Hipper to operate alone. [53]

Minefields Edit

Lacking surface naval forces capable of meeting the Home Fleet of the Royal Navy in open battle, the main seaborne defence for the first wave invasion fleets would be four massive minefields, which were intended to be laid from S minus nine onwards. The ANTON minefield (off Selsey Bill) and the BRUNO minefield (off Beachy Head), each totalling over 3,000 mines in four rows, would block off the invasion beaches against naval forces from Portsmouth, while the counterpart CAESAR minefield would block off beach 'B' from Dover. A fourth minefield, DORA, was to be laid off Lyme Bay to inhibit naval forces from Plymouth. By the autumn of 1940, the Kriegsmarine had achieved considerable success in laying minefields in support of active operations, notably in the night of 31 August 1940 when the 20th Destroyer flotilla suffered heavy losses when running into a newly laid German minefield near the Dutch coast off Texel however no plans were made to prevent the mines being cleared by the large force of British minesweepers which were based in the area. Vizeadmiral Friedrich Ruge, who was in charge of the mining operation, wrote after the war that if the minefields had been relatively complete, they would have been a "strong obstacle" but that "even a strong obstacle is not an absolute barrier." [54]

Landing craft Edit

In 1940 the German Navy was ill-prepared for mounting an amphibious assault the size of Operation Sea Lion. Lacking purpose-built landing craft and both doctrinal and practical experience with amphibious warfare, the Kriegsmarine was largely starting from scratch. Some efforts had been made during the inter-war years to investigate landing military forces by sea, but inadequate funding severely limited any useful progress. [55]

For the successful German invasion of Norway, German naval forces (assisted in places by thick fog) had simply forced an entry into key Norwegian harbours with motor launches and E-boats against stiff resistance from the outgunned Norwegian army and navy, and then unloaded troops from destroyers and troop transports directly onto the dockfronts at Bergen, Egersund, Trondheim, Kristiansand, Arendal and Horten. [56] At Stavanger and Oslo capture of the port was preceded by landing airborne forces. No beach landings were attempted.

The Kriegsmarine had taken some small steps in remedying the landing craft situation with construction of the Pionierlandungsboot 39 (Engineer Landing Boat 39), a self-propelled shallow-draft vessel which could carry 45 infantrymen, two light vehicles or 20 tons of cargo and land on an open beach, unloading via a pair of clamshell doors at the bow. But by late September 1940 only two prototypes had been delivered. [57]

Recognising the need for an even larger craft capable of landing both tanks and infantry onto a hostile shore, the Kriegsmarine began development of the 220-ton Marinefährprahm (MFP) but these too were unavailable in time for a landing on British soil in 1940, the first of them not being commissioned until April 1941.

Given barely two months to assemble a large seagoing invasion fleet, the Kriegsmarine opted to convert inland river barges into makeshift landing craft. Approximately 2,400 barges were collected from throughout Europe (860 from Germany, 1,200 from the Netherlands and Belgium and 350 from France). Of these, only about 800 were powered albeit insufficiently to cross the Channel under their own power. All barges would be towed across by tugs, with two barges to a tug in line abreast, preferably one being powered and one unpowered. On reaching the English coast, the powered barges would be cast-off, to beach themselves under their own power the unpowered barges would be taken inshore as far as possible by the tugs and anchored, so as to settle on the falling tide, their troops unloading some hours later than those on the powered barges. [58] Accordingly, the Sea Lion plans were prepared on the basis that the landings would take place shortly after high tide and on a date when this coincided with sunrise. Towards evening, on the following rising tide, the empty barges would have been retrieved by their tugs to receive the second echelon forces, stores and heavy equipment in the awaiting transport vessels. These transport vessels would have remained moored off the beach throughout the day. By contrast, the Allied D day landings in 1944 were timed to happen at low tide with all troops and equipment transhipped from their transport vessels to landing craft off-shore overnight.

All the troops intended to land at beach 'E', the westernmost of the four beaches, would cross the channel in larger transport vessels – the barges being towed loaded with equipment but empty of troops – and would then be transferred onto their barges a short distance from the beach. For the landings on the other three beaches, the first echelon of the invasion forces (and their equipment) would be loaded onto their barges in French or Belgian ports, while the second echelon force crossed the channel in associated transport vessels. Once the first echelon had been unloaded onto the beach, the barges would return to the transport vessels to transport the second echelon. The same procedure was envisaged for the second wave (unless the first wave had captured a usable port). Trials showed that this process of trans-shipment in open sea, in any circumstances other than flat calm, would likely take at least 14 hours, [59] such that the disembarkation of the first wave might extend over several tides and several days, with barges and invasion fleet subsequently needing to be escorted together back across the Channel for repairs and reloading. Since loading of the tanks, vehicles and stores of the second wave onto the returned barges and transport ships would take at least a week, the second wave could not be expected to land much less than ten days after the first wave, and more likely longer still. [60]

Barge types Edit

Two types of inland river barge were generally available in Europe for use in Sea Lion: the peniche, which was 38.5 meters long and carried 360 tons of cargo, and the Kampine, which was 50 meters long and carried 620 tons of cargo. Of the barges collected for the invasion, 1,336 were classified as peniches and 982 as Kampinen. For simplicity's sake, the Germans designated any barge up to the size of a standard peniche as Type A1 and anything larger as Type A2. [61]

Type A Edit

Converting the assembled barges into landing craft involved cutting an opening in the bow for off-loading troops and vehicles, welding longitudinal I-beams and transverse braces to the hull to improve seaworthiness, adding a wooden internal ramp and pouring a concrete floor in the hold to allow for tank transport. As modified, the Type A1 barge could accommodate three medium tanks while the Type A2 could carry four. [62] Tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery were envisaged as crossing the Channel in one of around 170 transport ships, which would be anchored off the landing beaches while the barges disembarked the first echelon of assault troops those in powered barges disembarking soonest. The empty barges would then have been retrieved by tugs on the following rising tide, so as to have the second echelon (including tanks and other heavy equipment) loaded onto them using ship's derricks. Barges would consequently have shuttled between ships and beaches over at least two days before being assembled together for the escorted night-time return voyage across the Channel.

Type B Edit

This barge was a Type A altered to carry and rapidly off-load the submersible tanks (Tauchpanzer) developed for use in Sea Lion. They had the advantage of being able to unload their tanks directly into water up to 15 metres (49 ft) in depth, several hundred yards from shore, whereas the unmodified Type A had to be firmly grounded on the beach, making it more vulnerable to enemy fire. The Type B required a longer external ramp (11 meters) with a float attached to the front of it. Once the barge anchored, the crew would extend the internally stowed ramp using block and tackle sets until it was resting on the water's surface. As the first tank rolled forward onto the ramp, its weight would tilt the forward end of the ramp into the water and push it down onto the seabed. Once the tank rolled off, the ramp would bob back up to a horizontal position, ready for the next one to exit. If a barge was securely grounded along its full length, the longer ramp could also be used to discharge submersible tanks directly onto the beach, and beachmasters were given the option of landing tanks by this method, if the risk of loss in submersible running appeared to be too high. The Navy High Command increased its initial order for 60 of these vessels to 70 in order to compensate for expected losses. A further five were ordered on 30 September as a reserve. [63]

Type C Edit

The Type C barge was specifically converted to carry the Panzer II amphibious tank (Schwimmpanzer). Because of the extra width of the floats attached to this tank, cutting a broad exit ramp into the bow of the barge was not considered advisable as it would have compromised the vessel's seaworthiness to an unacceptable degree. Instead, a large hatch was cut into the stern, thereby allowing the tanks to drive directly into deep water before turning under their own motive power and heading towards shore. The Type C barge could accommodate up to four Schwimmpanzern in its hold. Approximately 14 of these craft were available by the end of September. [64]

Type AS Edit

During the planning stages of Sea Lion, it was deemed desirable to provide the advanced infantry detachments (making the initial landings) with greater protection from small-arms and light artillery fire by lining the sides of a powered Type A barge with concrete. Wooden slides were also installed along the barge's hull to accommodate ten assault boats (Sturmboote), each capable of carrying six infantrymen and powered by a 30 hp outboard motor. The extra weight of this additional armour and equipment reduced the barge's load capacity to 40 tons. By mid-August, 18 of these craft, designated Type AS, had been converted, and another five were ordered on 30 September. [62]

Type AF Edit

The Luftwaffe had formed its own special command (Sonderkommando) under Major Fritz Siebel to investigate the production of landing craft for Sea Lion. Major Siebel proposed giving the unpowered Type A barges their own motive power by installing a pair of surplus 600 hp (610 PS 450 kW) BMW aircraft engines, driving propellers. The Kriegsmarine was highly sceptical of this venture, but the Heer (Army) high command enthusiastically embraced the concept and Siebel proceeded with the conversions. [65]

The aircraft engines were mounted on a platform supported by iron scaffolding at the aft end of the vessel. Cooling water was stored in tanks mounted above-deck. As completed, the Type AF had a speed of six knots, and a range of 60 nautical miles unless auxiliary fuel tanks were fitted. Disadvantages of this set-up included an inability to back the vessel astern, limited manoeuvrability and the deafening noise of the engines which would have made voice commands problematic. [65]

By 1 October 128 Type A barges had been converted to airscrew propulsion and, by the end of the month, this figure had risen to over 200. [66]

The Kriegsmarine later used some of the motorised Sea Lion barges for landings on the Russian-held Baltic islands in 1941 and, though most of them were eventually returned to the inland rivers they originally plied, a reserve was kept for military transport duties and for filling out amphibious flotillas. [67]

Escort Edit

As a consequence of employing all of their available cruisers in the North Sea deception operation, there would have been only light forces available to protect the vulnerable transport fleets. The plan revised on 14 September 1940 by Admiral Günther Lütjens called for three groups of five U-boats, all seven destroyers, and seventeen torpedo boats to operate to the west of the mine barrier in the Channel, while two groups of three U-boats and all the available E-boats to operate north of it. [68] Lütjens suggested the inclusion of the old battleships SMS Schlesien and SMS Schleswig-Holstein which were used for training. They were considered too vulnerable to send into action without improvement, especially considering the fate of their sister ship, SMS Pommern, which had blown up at the Battle of Jutland. The Blohm und Voss shipyard considered that it would take six weeks for a minimal upgrade of armour and armament and the idea was dropped, as was a suggestion that they be used as troopships. [69] Four coasters were converted to auxiliary gunboats by the addition of a single 15 cm naval gun and another was fitted with two 10.5 cm guns, while a further twenty-seven smaller vessels were converted into light gunboats by attaching a single ex-French 75 mm field gun to an improvised platform these were expected to provide naval gunfire support as well as fleet defence against modern British cruisers and destroyers. [70]

Panzers ashore Edit

Providing armour support for the initial wave of assault troops was a critical concern for Sea Lion planners, and much effort was devoted to finding practical ways of rapidly getting tanks onto the invasion beaches in support of the first echelon. Though the Type A barges could disembark several medium tanks onto an open beach, this could be accomplished only once the tide had fallen further and the barges were firmly grounded along their full length otherwise a leading tank might topple off an unsteady ramp and block those behind from deployment. The time needed for assembling the external ramps also meant that both the tanks and the ramp assembly crews would be exposed to close-quarter enemy fire for a considerable time. A safer and faster method was needed and the Germans eventually settled on providing some tanks with floats and making others fully submersible. It was nevertheless recognised that a high proportion of these specialised tanks might be expected not to make it off the beach.

Schwimmpanzer Edit

The Schwimmpanzer II Panzer II, at 8.9 tons, was light enough to float with the attachment of long rectangular buoyancy boxes on each side of the tank's hull. The boxes were machined from aluminium stock and filled with Kapok sacks for added buoyancy. Motive power came from the tank's own tracks which were connected by rods to a propeller shaft running through each float. The Schwimmpanzer II could make 5.7 km/h in the water. An inflatable rubber hose around the turret ring created a waterproof seal between the hull and turret. The tank's 2 cm gun and coaxial machinegun were kept operational and could be fired while the tank was still making its way ashore. Because of the great width of the pontoons, Schwimmpanzer IIs were to be deployed from specially-modified Type C landing barges, from which they could be launched directly into open water from a large hatch cut into the stern. The Germans converted 52 of these tanks to amphibious use prior to Sea Lion's cancellation. [71]

Tauchpanzer Edit

The Tauchpanzer or deep-wading tank (also referred to as the U-Panzer or Unterwasser Panzer) was a standard Panzer III or Panzer IV medium tank with its hull made completely waterproof by sealing all sighting ports, hatches and air intakes with tape or caulk. The gap between the turret and hull was sealed with an inflatable hose while the main gun mantlet, commander's cupola and radio operator's machine gun were given special rubber coverings. Once the tank reached the shore, all covers and seals could be blown off via explosive cables, enabling normal combat operation. [72]

Fresh air for both the crew and engine was drawn into the tank via an 18 m long rubber hose to which a float was attached to keep one end above the water's surface. A radio antenna was also attached to the float to provide communication between the tank crew and the transport barge. The tank's engine was converted to be cooled with seawater, and the exhaust pipes were fitted with overpressure valves. Any water seeping into the tank's hull could be expelled by an internal bilge pump. Navigation underwater was accomplished using a directional gyrocompass or by following instructions radioed from the transport barge. [72]

Experiments conducted at the end of June and early July at Schilling, near Wilhelmshaven, showed that the submersible tanks functioned best when they were kept moving along the seabed as, if halted for any reason, they tended to sink into the seabed and remain stuck there. Obstacles such as underwater trenches or large rocks tended to stop the tanks in their tracks, and it was decided for this reason that they should be landed at high tide so that any mired tanks could be retrieved at low tide. Submersible tanks could operate in water up to a depth of 15 metres (49 ft). [73]

The Kriegsmarine initially expected to use 50 specially-converted motor coasters to transport the submersible tanks, but testing with the coaster Germania showed this to be impractical. This was due to the ballast needed to offset the weight of the tanks, and the requirement that the coasters be grounded to prevent them from capsizing as the tanks were transferred by crane onto the vessel's wooden side ramps. These difficulties led to development of the Type B barge. [73]

By the end of August the Germans had converted 160 Panzer IIIs, 42 Panzer IVs, and 52 Panzer IIs to amphibious use. This gave them a paper strength of 254 machines, about an equivalent number to those that would otherwise have been allocated to an armoured division. The tanks were divided into four battalions or detachments labelled Panzer-Abteilung A, B, C and D. They were to carry sufficient fuel and ammunition for a combat radius of 200 km. [74]

Specialised landing equipment Edit

As part of a Kriegsmarine competition, prototypes for a prefabricated "heavy landing bridge" or jetty (similar in function to later Allied Mulberry Harbours) were designed and built by Krupp Stahlbau and Dortmunder Union and successfully overwintered in the North Sea in 1941–42. [75] Krupp's design won out, as it only required one day to install, as opposed to twenty-eight days for the Dortmunder Union bridge. The Krupp bridge consisted of a series of 32m-long connecting platforms, each supported on the seabed by four steel columns. The platforms could be raised or lowered by heavy-duty winches in order to accommodate the tide. The German Navy initially ordered eight complete Krupp units composed of six platforms each. This was reduced to six units by the autumn of 1941, and eventually cancelled altogether when it became apparent that Sea Lion would never take place. [76]

In mid-1942, both the Krupp and Dortmunder prototypes were shipped to the Channel Islands and installed together off Alderney, where they were used for unloading materials needed to fortify the island. Referred to as the "German jetty" by local inhabitants, they remained standing for the next thirty-six years until demolition crews finally removed them in 1978–79, a testament to their durability. [76]

The German Army developed a portable landing bridge of its own nicknamed Seeschlange (Sea Snake). This "floating roadway" was formed from a series of joined modules that could be towed into place to act as a temporary jetty. Moored ships could then either unload their cargo directly onto the roadbed or lower it down onto waiting vehicles via their heavy-duty booms. The Seeschlange was successfully tested by the Army Training Unit at Le Havre in France in the autumn of 1941 and later chosen for use in Operation Herkules, the proposed Italo-German invasion of Malta. It was easily transportable by rail. [76]

A specialised vehicle intended for Sea Lion was the Landwasserschlepper (LWS), an amphibious tractor under development since 1935. It was originally intended for use by Army engineers to assist with river crossings. Three of them were assigned to Tank Detachment 100 as part of the invasion it was intended to use them for pulling ashore unpowered assault barges and towing vehicles across the beaches. They would also have been used to carry supplies directly ashore during the six hours of falling tide when the barges were grounded. This involved towing a Kässbohrer amphibious trailer capable of transporting 10–20 tons of freight behind the LWS. [77] The LWS was demonstrated to General Halder on 2 August 1940 by the Reinhardt Trials Staff on the island of Sylt and, though he was critical of its high silhouette on land, he recognised the overall usefulness of the design. It was proposed to build enough tractors that one or two could be assigned to each invasion barge, but the late date and difficulties in mass-producing the vehicle prevented this. [77]

Other equipment to be used for the first time Edit

Operation Sea Lion would have been the first ever amphibious invasion by a mechanised army, and the largest amphibious invasion since Gallipoli. The Germans had to invent and improvise a lot of equipment. They also proposed to use some new weapons and use upgrades of their existing equipment for the first time. These included:

  1. New antitank guns and ammunition. The standard German antitank gun, the 37 mm Pak 36, was capable of penetrating the armour of all 1940 British tanks except the Matilda and Valentine. Armour-piercing ballistic capped (tungsten-cored) ammunition (Pzgr. 40) for 37 mm Pak 36 had become available in time for the invasion. [78] [citation needed] [original research?] [unreliable source?] The 37 mm Pzgr.40 would still have had trouble penetrating the Matilda II's armour [79] so the first echelon units replaced theirs with French or Czechoslovak 47 mm guns (which weren't much better). [80] The Pak 36 began to be replaced by the 50 mm Pak 38 in mid-1940. The Pak 38, which could penetrate a Matilda's armour, would probably have seen action first with Sea Lion as it would have been issued initially to the Waffen-SS and the Heer's elite units, and all those units were in the Sea Lion force. [citation needed] These included the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler regiment, the Großdeutschland regiment, 2 mountain, 2 Jäger, 2 Fallschirmjäger, 4 panzer, and 2 motorised divisions. In addition, the 7th Infantry division was considered one of the best in the Heer, and the 35th almost as good. [citation needed]
  2. Captured French armoured tractors. [81] The use of these tractors by the first wave units was intended to reduce their dependence upon horses and probably would have reduced the problems of getting supplies off the beaches. In addition to their proposed use on the beaches, the Germans later used them as tractors for antitank guns and munitions carriers, as self-propelled guns, and as armoured personnel carriers. There were two main types. The Renault UE Chenillette (German name: Infanterie Schlepper UE 630 (f)) was a light tracked armoured carrier and prime mover produced by France between 1932 and 1940. Five to six thousand were built, and about 3,000 were captured and overhauled by the Germans. [82] They had a storage compartment that could carry 350 kg, pull a trailer weighing 775 kg for a total of about 1000 kg, and could climb a 50% slope. The armour was 5–9 mm, enough to stop shell fragments and bullets. There was also the Lorraine 37L, which was larger, of which 360 fell into German hands. In that vehicle a load of 810 kilograms could be carried, plus a 690 kg trailer pulled for a total of 1.5 tonnes. The use of such captured equipment meant that the first wave divisions were largely motorised, [80] with the first wave using 9.3% (4,200) of the 45,000 horses normally required. [83]
  3. 48× Stug III Ausf B Assault Guns – 7.5 cm StuK 37 L/24, 50 mm armour and improved suspension. Some were to be landed with the first wave. [84] F/G upgraded with more armour on the mantlet and progressively from 3.7 cm KwK 36 L/46.5 to 5 cm KwK 38 L/42. [citation needed]
  4. 72 Nebelwerfer, to be landed with the second and third waves. [85]
  5. 36× Flammpanzer IIflamethrower tanks, 20 to land with the first wave. [85]
  6. 4 or more 75 mm Leichtgeschütz 40 recoilless guns, for use by paratroopers. The LG 40 could be split into four parts with each part being dropped on a single parachute. [86]

The German Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) originally planned an invasion on a vast scale by landing over forty divisions from Dorset to Kent. This was far in excess of what the Kriegsmarine could supply, and final plans were more modest, calling for nine divisions to make an amphibious assault on Sussex and Kent with around 67,000 men in the first echelon and a single airborne division of 3,000 men to support them. [87] The chosen invasion sites ran from Rottingdean in the west to Hythe in the east.

The Kriegsmarine wanted a front as short as possible, as it regarded this as more defensible. Admiral Raeder wanted a front stretching from Dover to Eastbourne and stressed that shipping between Cherbourg/Le Havre and Dorset would be exposed to attacks from the Royal Navy based in Portsmouth and Plymouth. General Halder rejected this: "From the army's point of view I regard it as complete suicide, I might just as well put the troops that have landed straight through the sausage machine". [88]

One complication was the tidal flow in the English Channel, where high water moves from west to east, with high water at Lyme Regis occurring around six hours before it reaches Dover. If all the landings were to be made at high water across a broad front, they would have to be made at different times along different parts of the coast, with the landings in Dover being made six hours after any landings in Dorset and thus losing the element of surprise. If the landings were to be made at the same time, methods would have to be devised to disembark men, vehicles and supplies at all states of the tide. That was another reason to favour landing craft.

With Germany's occupation of the Pas-de-Calais region in northern France, the possibility of closing the Strait of Dover to Royal Navy warships and merchant convoys by the use of land-based heavy artillery became readily apparent, both to the German High Command and to Hitler. Even the Kriegsmarine's Naval Operations Office deemed this a plausible and desirable goal, especially given the relatively short distance, 34 km (21 mi), between the French and English coasts. Orders were therefore issued to assemble and begin emplacing every Army and Navy heavy artillery piece available along the French coast, primarily at Pas-de-Calais. This work was assigned to the Organisation Todt and commenced on 22 July 1940. [89]

By early August, four 28 cm (11 in) traversing turrets were fully operational as were all of the Army's railway guns. Seven of these weapons, six 28 cm K5 pieces and a single 21 cm (8.3 in) K12 gun with a range of 115 km (71 mi), could only be used against land targets. The remainder, thirteen 28 cm and five 24 cm (9.4 in) pieces, plus additional motorised batteries comprising twelve 24 cm guns and ten 21 cm weapons, could be fired at shipping but were of limited effectiveness due to their slow traverse speed, long loading time and ammunition types. [90]

Better suited for use against naval targets were the four heavy naval batteries installed by mid-September: Friedrich August with three 30.5 cm (12.0 in) barrels Prinz Heinrich with two 28 cm guns Oldenburg with two 24 cm weapons and, largest of all, Siegfried (later renamed Batterie Todt) with a pair of 38 cm (15 in) guns. Fire control for these weapons was provided by both spotter aircraft and by DeTeGerät radar sets installed at Blanc Nez and Cap d’Alprech. These units were capable of detecting targets out to a range of 40 km (25 mi), including small British patrol craft inshore of the English coast. Two additional radar sites were added by mid-September: a DeTeGerät at Cap de la Hague and a FernDeTeGerät long-range radar at Cap d’Antifer near Le Havre. [91]

To strengthen German control of the Channel narrows, the Army planned to quickly establish mobile artillery batteries along the English shoreline once a beachhead had been firmly established. Towards that end, 16th Army's Artillerie Kommand 106 was slated to land with the second wave to provide fire protection for the transport fleet as early as possible. This unit consisted of twenty-four 15 cm (5.9 in) and seventy-two 10 cm (3.9 in) guns. About one third of them were to be deployed on English soil by the end of Sea Lion's first week. [92]

The presence of these batteries was expected to greatly reduce the threat posed by British destroyers and smaller craft along the eastern approaches as the guns would be sited to cover the main transport routes from Dover to Calais and Hastings to Boulogne. They could not entirely protect the western approaches, but a large area of those invasion zones would still be within effective range. [92]

The British military was well aware of the dangers posed by German artillery dominating the Dover Strait and on 4 September 1940 the Chief of Naval Staff issued a memo stating that if the Germans "…could get possession of the Dover defile and capture its gun defences from us, then, holding these points on both sides of the Straits, they would be in a position largely to deny those waters to our naval forces". Should the Dover defile be lost, he concluded, the Royal Navy could do little to interrupt the flow of German supplies and reinforcements across the Channel, at least by day, and he further warned that "…there might really be a chance that they (the Germans) might be able to bring a serious weight of attack to bear on this country". The very next day the Chiefs of Staff, after discussing the importance of the defile, decided to reinforce the Dover coast with more ground troops. [93]

The guns started to fire in the second week of August 1940 and were not silenced until 1944, when the batteries were overrun by Allied ground forces. They caused 3,059 alerts, 216 civilian deaths, and damage to 10,056 premises in the Dover area. However, despite firing on frequent slow moving coastal convoys, often in broad daylight, for almost the whole of that period (there was an interlude in 1943), there is no record of any vessel being hit by them, although one seaman was killed and others were injured by shell splinters from near misses. [94] Whatever the perceived risk, this lack of ability to hit any moving ship does not support the contention that the German coastal batteries would have been a serious threat to fast destroyers or smaller warships. [95]

During the summer of 1940, both the British public and the Americans believed that a German invasion was imminent, and they studied the forthcoming high tides of 5–9 August, 2–7 September, 1–6 October, and 30 October – 4 November as likely dates. [96] The British prepared extensive defences, and, in Churchill's view, "the great invasion scare" was "serving a most useful purpose" by "keeping every man and woman tuned to a high pitch of readiness". [97] [98] He did not think the threat credible. On 10 July, he advised the War Cabinet that the possibility of invasion could be ignored, as it "would be a most hazardous and suicidal operation" and on 13 August that "now that we were so much stronger", he thought "we could spare an armoured brigade from this country". Over-riding General Dill, Churchill initiated Operation Apology by which a series of troop convoys, including three tank regiments and eventually the entire 2nd Armoured Division, were sent around the Cape of Good Hope to reinforce General Wavell in the Middle East in support of operations against Italian colonial forces (Italy had declared war on 10 June). [99] Furthermore, on Churchill's urging, on 5 August the War Cabinet approved Operation Menace, in which a substantial proportion of the Home Fleet – two battleships, an aircraft carrier, five cruisers, and twelve destroyers, together with five out of six battalions of Royal Marines, were dispatched to Dakar on 30 August in an attempt to neutralise the battleship Richelieu and detach French West Africa from Vichy France to the control of the Free French. Overall, these actions in the summer of 1940 demonstrated Churchill's confidence in August 1940 that the immediate danger of a German invasion was now over, that the Home Forces were fully adequate to defend Great Britain if the Germans did come, and that the interests of the British Empire were, for the present, better served by attacking the colonial forces of Germany's allies, rather than by confronting the German Army directly. [100]

The Germans were confident enough to film a simulation of the intended invasion in advance. A crew turned up at the Belgian port of Antwerp in early September 1940 and, for two days, they filmed tanks and troops landing from barges on a nearby beach under simulated fire. It was explained that, as the invasion would happen at night, Hitler wanted the German people to see all the details. [101]

In early August, the German command had agreed that the invasion should begin on 15 September, but the Navy's revisions to its schedule set the date back to 20 September. At a conference on 14 September, Hitler praised the various preparations, but told his service chiefs that, as air superiority had still not been achieved, he would review whether to proceed with the invasion. At this conference, he gave the Luftwaffe the opportunity to act independently of the other services, with intensified continuous air attacks to overcome British resistance on 16 September, Göring issued orders for this new phase of the air attack. [102] On 17 September 1940, Hitler held a meeting with Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring and Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt during which he became convinced the operation was not viable. Control of the skies was still lacking, and co-ordination among three branches of the armed forces was out of the question. Later that day, Hitler ordered the postponement of the operation. He ordered the dispersal of the invasion fleet in order to avert further damage by British air and naval attacks. [103]

The postponement coincided with rumours that there had been an attempt to land on British shores on or about 7 September, which had been repulsed with large German casualties. The story was later expanded to include false reports that the British had set the sea on fire using flaming oil. Both versions were widely reported in the American press and in William L. Shirer's Berlin Diary, but both were officially denied by Britain and Germany. Author James Hayward has suggested that the whispering campaign around the "failed invasion" was a successful example of British black propaganda to bolster morale at home and in occupied Europe, and convince America that Britain was not a lost cause. [104]

On 12 October 1940, Hitler issued a directive releasing forces for other fronts. The appearance of preparations for Sea Lion was to be continued to keep political pressure on Britain, and a fresh directive would be issued if it was decided that invasion was to be reconsidered in the spring of 1941. [105] [106] On 12 November 1940, Hitler issued Directive No. 18 demanding further refinement to the invasion plan. On 1 May 1941, fresh invasion orders were issued under the codename Haifische (shark), accompanied by additional landings on the southwest and northeast coasts of England codenamed Harpune Nord and Harpune Süd (harpoon north and south), although commanders of naval stations were informed that these were deception plans. Work continued on the various amphibious warfare developments such as purpose-built landing craft, which were later employed in operations in the Baltic. [107]

While the bombing of Britain intensified during the Blitz, Hitler issued his Directive No. 21 on 18 December 1940 instructing the Wehrmacht to be ready for a quick attack to commence his long planned invasion of the Soviet Union. [108] Seelöwe lapsed, never to be resumed. [109] On 23 September 1941, Hitler ordered all Sea Lion preparations to cease, but it was 1942 before the last of the barges at Antwerp were returned to trade. Hitler's last recorded order with reference to Sea Lion was on 24 January 1944, reusing equipment that was still stockpiled for the invasion and stating that twelve months' notice would be given of its resumption. [110]

Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, believed the invasion could not succeed and doubted whether the German air force would be able to win unchallenged control of the skies nevertheless he hoped that an early victory in the Battle of Britain would force the UK government to negotiate, without any need for an invasion. [111] Adolf Galland, commander of Luftwaffe fighters at the time, claimed invasion plans were not serious and that there was a palpable sense of relief in the Wehrmacht when it was finally called off. [112] Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt also took this view and thought that Hitler never seriously intended to invade Britain he was convinced that the whole thing was a bluff to put pressure on the British government to come to terms following the Fall of France. [113] He observed that Napoleon had failed to invade and the difficulties that confounded him did not appear to have been solved by the Sea Lion planners. In fact, in November 1939, the German naval staff produced a study on the possibility of an invasion of Britain and concluded that it required two preconditions, air and naval superiority, neither of which Germany ever had. [114] Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz believed air superiority was not enough and admitted, "We possessed neither control of the air or the sea nor were we in any position to gain it." [115] Grand Admiral Erich Raeder thought it would be impossible for Germany to attempt an invasion until the spring of 1941 [116] he instead called for Malta and the Suez Canal to be overrun so German forces could link up with Japanese forces in the Indian Ocean to bring about the collapse of the British Empire in the Far East, and prevent the Americans from being able to use British bases if the United States entered the war. [117]

As early as 14 August 1940, Hitler had told his generals that he would not attempt to invade Britain if the task seemed too dangerous, before adding that there were other ways of defeating the UK than invading. [118]

In Memoirs of WWII, Churchill stated, "Had the Germans possessed in 1940 well trained [and equipped] amphibious forces their task would still have been a forlorn hope in the face of our sea and air power. In fact they had neither the tools or the training". [119] He added, "There were indeed some who on purely technical grounds, and for the sake of the effect the total defeat of his expedition would have on the general war, were quite content to see him try." [120]

Although Operation Sea Lion was never attempted, there has been much speculation about its hypothetical outcome. The great majority of military historians, including Peter Fleming, Derek Robinson and Stephen Bungay, have expressed the opinion that it had little chance of success and would have most likely resulted in a disaster for the Germans. Fleming states it is doubtful whether history offers any better example of a victor so nearly offering his vanquished foe an opportunity of inflicting on him a resounding defeat. [121] Len Deighton and some other writers have called the German amphibious plans a "Dunkirk in reverse". [122] Robinson argues the massive superiority of the Royal Navy over the Kriegsmarine would have made Sea Lion a disaster. Dr Andrew Gordon, in an article for the Royal United Services Institute Journal [123] agrees with this and is clear in his conclusion the German Navy was never in a position to mount Sealion, regardless of any realistic outcome of the Battle of Britain. In his fictional alternate history Invasion: the German invasion of England, July 1940, Kenneth Macksey proposes that the Germans might have succeeded if they had swiftly and decisively begun preparations even before the Dunkirk evacuations, and the Royal Navy for some reason had held back from large-scale intervention, [124] though in practice the Germans were unprepared for such a speedy commencement of their assault. [125] The German official naval war historian, Vice Admiral Kurt Assmann, wrote in 1958: "Had the German Air Force defeated the Royal Air Force as decisively as it had defeated the French Air Force a few months earlier, I am sure Hitler would have given the order for the invasion to be launched – and the invasion would in all probability been smashed". [126]

An alternative, and very much a minority, perspective was advanced in 2016 by Robert Forczyk in We march against England. Forczyk claims to apply a much more realistic assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of both German and British forces, and challenges the views advanced by previous writers that the Royal Navy might easily have overwhelmed the German naval units protecting the first wave invasion fleet. His assessment concurs with that emerging from the 1974 Sandhurst Sea Lion wargame (see below) that the first wave would likely have crossed the Channel and established a lodgement around the landing beaches in Kent and East Sussex without major loss, and that the defending British forces would have been unlikely to have dislodged them once ashore. He proposes though, that the westernmost German landing at beach 'E' could not have been sustained for long against counterattacking British ground, naval and air forces, and that accordingly these German units would have had to fight their way eastwards, abandoning any aspiration to hold Newhaven. In the absence of access to a major port and with continued losses of German troop transport vessels from submarine attack, Forczyk argues that proposed arrangements for landing the second wave onto the beaches would have been wholly impractical once autumn and winter weather set into the Channel, so the first wave would be stranded in Kent as a 'beached whale' without substantial armour, transport or heavy artillery – unable to break out and threaten London. Nevertheless, Forczyk does not accept that they would necessarily have surrendered, pointing to the determined resistance of surrounded German forces at Stalingrad and Demyansk. He suggests they could possibly have held on into 1941, sustained by a small-ship fast night-time resupply operation into Folkestone (and maybe Dover), holding the possibility of negotiating their withdrawal in Spring 1941 under a truce agreed with the British government. [127]

Logistics Edit

Four years later, the Allied D-Day landings showed just how much materiel had to be landed continuously to maintain an amphibious invasion. The problem for the Germans was worse, as the German Army was mostly horse-drawn. One of its prime headaches would have been transporting thousands of horses across the Channel. [128] British intelligence calculated that the first wave of 10 divisions (including the airborne division) would require a daily average of 3,300 tons of supplies. [129] In fact, in Russia in 1941, when engaged in heavy fighting (at the end of a very long supply line), a single German infantry division required up to 1,100 tons of supplies a day, [130] though a more usual figure would be 212-425 tons per day. [131] The smaller figure is more likely due to the very short distances the supplies would have to travel. Rations for two weeks were to be provided to the German troops of the first wave because the armies had been instructed to live off the land as far as possible in order to minimise supply across the Channel during the initial phase of the battle. [132] British intelligence further calculated that Folkestone, the largest harbour falling within the planned German landing zones, could handle 150 tons per day in the first week of the invasion (assuming all dockside equipment was successfully demolished and regular RAF bombing raids reduced capacity by 50%). Within seven days, maximum capacity was expected to rise to 600 tons per day, once German shore parties had made repairs to the quays and cleared the harbour of any blockships and other obstacles. This meant that, at best, the nine German infantry and one airborne division landed in the first wave would receive less than 20% of the 3,300 tons of supplies they required each day through a port, and would have to rely heavily on whatever could be brought in directly over the beaches or air-lifted into captured airstrips. [133]

The successful capture of Dover and its harbour facilities might have been expected to add another 800 tons per day, raising to 40% the amount of supplies brought in through ports. However, this rested on the rather unrealistic assumption of little or no interference from the Royal Navy and RAF with the German supply convoys which would have been made up of underpowered (or unpowered, i.e. towed) inland waterways vessels as they shuttled slowly between the Continent to the invasion beaches and any captured harbours. [133]

Weather Edit

From 19 to 26 September 1940, sea and wind conditions on and over the Channel where the invasion was to take place were good overall, and a crossing, even using converted river barges, was feasible provided the sea state remained at less than 4, which for the most part it did. Winds for the remainder of the month were rated as "moderate" and would not have prevented the German invasion fleet from successfully depositing the first wave troops ashore during the ten days needed to accomplish this. [134] From the night of 27 September, strong northerly winds prevailed, making passage more hazardous, but calm conditions returned on 11–12 October and again on 16–20 October. After that, light easterly winds prevailed which would have assisted any invasion craft travelling from the Continent towards the invasion beaches. But by the end of October, according to British Air Ministry records, very strong south-west winds (force 8) would have prohibited any non-seagoing craft from risking a Channel crossing. [135]

German intelligence Edit

At least 20 spies were sent to Britain by boat or parachute to gather information on the British coastal defences under the codename "Operation Lena" many of the agents spoke limited English. All agents were quickly captured and many were convinced to defect by MI5's Double-Cross System, providing disinformation to their German superiors. It has been suggested that the "amateurish" espionage efforts were a result of deliberate sabotage by the head of the army intelligence bureau in Hamburg, Herbert Wichmann, in an effort to prevent a disastrous and costly amphibious invasion Wichmann was critical of the Nazi regime and had close ties to Wilhelm Canaris, the head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence agency. [136]

While some errors might not have caused problems, others, such as the inclusion of bridges that no longer existed [137] and misunderstanding the usefulness of minor British roads, [137] would have been detrimental to German operations, and would have added to the confusion caused by the layout of Britain's cities (with their maze of narrow roads and alleys) [ clarification needed ] and the removal of road signs. [138]

Post-war wargaming of the plan Edit

A 1974 wargame was conducted at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. [139] The controllers of the game assumed that the Luftwaffe had not diverted its daytime operations into bombing London on 7 September 1940, but had continued its assault against RAF airbases in the South East. Consequently, the German High Command, relying on grossly overstated claims of RAF fighters shot down, were under the erroneous impression that by 19 September RAF front-line fighter strength had fallen to 140 (as against a true figure of over 700) and hence that effective German air superiority might shortly be achieved. [140] In the Game, the Germans were able to land almost all their first echelon forces on 22 September 1940, and established a beachhead in south-east England, capturing Folkestone, and Newhaven, albeit that the British had demolished the facilities of both ports. The British army forces, delayed in moving units from East Anglia to the South East by bomb damage to the rail network south of London, were nevertheless able to hold onto positions in and around Newhaven and Dover, sufficient to deny their use by German forces. Both the RAF and the Luftwaffe lost nearly a quarter of their available forces on the first day, after which it finally became apparent to the German command that British airpower was not, after all, on the point of collapse. On the night of 23/24 September a Royal Navy force of cruisers and destroyers was able to reach the Channel from Rosyth, in time to intercept and destroy most of the barges carrying the second and third echelon of German amphibious landings with the crucial tanks and heavy artillery (for the game, these follow-up echelons had been held back from crossing the Channel on S minus one with the first echelon, instead sailing across on the night of S plus one). Without the second and third echelons, the forces ashore were cut off from reserves of artillery, vehicles, fuel and ammunition supplies and blocked from further reinforcements. Isolated and facing fresh regular troops with armour and artillery, the invasion force was forced to surrender after six days. [141]

Future role of Britain Edit

One of the primary German foreign policy aims throughout the 1930s had been to establish a military alliance with the United Kingdom, and despite anti-British policies having been adopted as this proved impossible, hope remained that the UK would in time yet become a reliable German ally. [142] Hitler professed an admiration for the British Empire and preferred to see it preserved as a world power, mostly because its break-up would benefit other countries far more than it would Germany, particularly the United States and Japan. [142] [143] Britain's situation was likened to the historical situation of the Austrian Empire after its defeat by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866, after which Austria was formally excluded from German affairs but would prove to become a loyal ally of the German Empire in the pre-World War I power alignments in Europe. It was hoped that a defeated Britain would fulfill a similar role, being excluded from continental affairs, but maintaining its Empire and becoming an allied seafaring partner of the Germans. [142] [144]

The continued military actions against the UK after the fall of France had the strategic goal of making Britain 'see the light' and conduct an armistice with the Axis powers, with 1 July 1940 being named the "probable date" for the cessation of hostilities. [145] On 21 May 1940, Chief of Army Staff Franz Halder, after a consultation with Hitler on the war aims regarding Britain, wrote in his diary: "We are seeking contact with Britain on the basis of partitioning the world". [146] Even as the war went on Hitler hoped in August 1941 for the eventual day when "England and Germany [march] together against America", and in January 1942 he still daydreamed that it was "not impossible" for Britain to quit the war and join the Axis side. [147] Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg hoped that after the victorious conclusion of the war against the USSR, Englishmen would be among the Germanic nationalities who would join the Germanic settlers in colonising the conquered eastern territories. [148]

William L. Shirer, however, claims that the British male population between 17 and 45 would have been forcibly transferred to the continent to be used as industrial slave labour, although possibly with better treatment than similar forced labour from Eastern Europe. [149] The remaining population would have been terrorised, including civilian hostages being taken and the death penalty immediately imposed for even the most trivial acts of resistance, with the UK being plundered for anything of financial, military, industrial or cultural value. [150]

Administration Edit

According to the most detailed plans created for the immediate post-invasion administration, Great Britain and Ireland were to be divided into six military-economic commands, with headquarters in London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Glasgow and Dublin. [151] Hitler decreed that Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of Winston Churchill, was to serve as the overall headquarters of the German occupation military government. [152] The OKW, RSHA, and Foreign Ministry compiled lists of those they thought could be trusted to form a new German-friendly government along the lines of the one in occupied Norway. The list was headed by British fascist leader Oswald Mosley. The RSHA also felt that Harold Nicolson might prove useful in this role. [153] It appears, based on the German police plans, that the occupation was to be only temporary, as detailed provisions for the post-occupation period are mentioned. [154]

Some sources indicated that the Germans only intended to occupy Southern England, and that draft documents existed on the regulation of the passage of British civilians back and forth between the occupied and unoccupied territories. [155] Others state that Nazi planners envisaged the institution of a nationalities policy in Western Europe to secure German hegemony there, which entailed the granting of independence to various regions. This involved detaching Scotland from the United Kingdom, the creation of a United Ireland, and an autonomous status for Western England. [156]

After the war rumours also emerged about the selection either Joachim von Ribbentrop or Ernst Wilhelm Bohle, for the "viceregal" office of Reichskommissar für Großbritannien ("Imperial Commissioner for Great Britain"). [157] However, no establishment by this name was ever approved by either Hitler or the Nazi government during the war, and was also denied by Bohle when he was interrogated by the victorious Allies (von Ribbentrop not having been questioned on the matter). After the Second Armistice at Compiègne with France, when he expected an imminent British capitulation, Hitler did however assure Bohle that he would be the next German ambassador to the Court of St. James's "if the British behave[d] sensibly". [157]

The German Government used 90% of James Vincent Murphy's rough draft translation of Mein Kampf to form the body of an edition to be distributed in the UK once Operation Sea Lion was completed. This 'Operation Sea Lion Edition' was finalised and printed in the summer of 1940. Once the invasion was called off by Adolf Hitler most copies were distributed to English speaking POW camps. Original copies are very rare and highly sought after by serious book collectors interested in military history.

British monarchy Edit

A Channel 5 documentary broadcast on 16 July 2009 repeated the claim that the Germans intended to restore Edward VIII to the throne in the event of a German occupation. [158] [159] Many senior German officials believed the Duke of Windsor to be highly sympathetic to the Nazi government, a feeling that was reinforced by his and Wallis Simpson's 1937 visit to Germany. However, the Foreign Office maintains that despite German approaches "The Duke never wavered in his loyalty to Great Britain during the war". [160]

The Black Book Edit

Had Operation Sea Lion succeeded, Franz Six was intended to become the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) Commander in the country, with his headquarters to be located in London, and with regional task forces in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and Edinburgh. [151] His immediate mission would have been to hunt down and arrest the 2,820 people on the Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. ("Special Search List Great Britain"). This document, which post-war became known as "The Black Book", was a secret list compiled by Walter Schellenberg containing the names of prominent British residents to be arrested immediately after a successful invasion. [161] Six would also have been responsible for handling the over 300,000 large population of British Jews. [161]

Six had also been entrusted with the task of securing "aero-technological research result and important equipment" as well as "Germanic works of art". There is also a suggestion that he toyed with the idea of moving Nelson's Column to Berlin. [162] The RSHA planned to take over the Ministry of Information, to close the major news agencies and to take control of all of the newspapers. Anti-German newspapers were to be closed down. [163]

There is a large corpus of works set in an alternate history where the Nazi invasion of Great Britain is attempted or successfully carried out.


Contents

Buchanan cites many historians including George F. Kennan, Andreas Hillgruber, Simon K. Newman, Niall Ferguson, Charles Tansill, Paul W. Schroeder, Alan Clark, Michael Stürmer, Norman Davies, John Lukacs, Frederick P. Veagle, Correlli Barnett, John Charmley, William Henry Chamberlin, David P. Calleo, Maurice Cowling, A. J. P. Taylor and Alfred-Maurice de Zayas. Buchanan argues that it was a great mistake for Britain to fight Germany in both world wars, which he believes was a disaster for the whole world.

World War I Edit

Buchanan accuses Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, of having a "lust for war" in 1914. [2] Buchanan follows the conclusions of Kennan, an American realist diplomat, who wrote in his 1984 book The Fateful Alliance that the 1894 Franco-Russian Alliance was an act of "encirclement" of Germany and that German foreign policy after 1894 was defensive rather than aggressive. [3] Buchanan describes Germany as a "satiated power" that sought only peace and prosperity but was threatened by a revanchist France obsessed with regaining Alsace-Lorraine. He calls Russia an "imperialist" power that was carrying out an aggressive policy in Eastern Europe against Germany. [3]

Buchanan argues that Britain had no quarrel with Germany before 1914, but the great rise of the Imperial German Navy, spearheaded by Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, was a "threat to Britain" [4] that forced the British to bring back to European waters the bulk of its Royal Navy and to make alliances with Russia and France. Buchanan asserts that a disastrous policy that "tied England to Europe" and created the conditions that led the British to involvement in the war. [5]

On the other hand, Buchanan asserts that the greatest responsibility for the breakdown in Anglo-German relations was the "Germanophobia" and zeal for the Entente Cordiale with France of the British Foreign Secretary, Edward Grey. [6] In assessing responsibility for the course of events, Buchanan asserts that the British could have easily ended the Anglo-German naval arms race in 1912 by promising to remain neutral in a war between Germany and France. [7]

Buchanan calls "Prussian militarism" an anti-German myth invented by British statesmen and that the record of Germany supports his belief that it was the least militaristic of the European Powers. He writes that in the century between the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and World War I (1914), Britain had fought ten wars and Germany three. [8] Buchanan points out that until 1914, German Kaiser Wilhelm II had not fought a war but Churchill had served in three wars: [9] "Churchill had himself seen more war than almost any soldier in the German army." [9]

Buchanan claims that Wilhelm was desperate to avoid a war in 1914 and accepts the German claim that it was the Russian mobilization of July 31 that forced war on Germany. [10] Buchanan accuses Churchill and Grey of getting Britain to enter the war in 1914 by making promises that Britain would defend France without the knowledge of Cabinet or Parliament. [11] Buchanan argues that the United States should never have fought in World War I, and that it was "deceived and dragged" into war in 1917: "Americans blamed the 'Merchants of Death' – the war profiteers – and the British propagandists" who created the myth of the Rape of Belgium. [12]

Buchanan calls the British "hunger blockade" of Germany in World War I "criminal" and accepts the argument of British economist John Maynard Keynes, who wrote in his 1919 The Economic Consequences of the Peace that the reparations that were imposed on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles were "impossible" to pay. [13]

World War II Edit

Buchanan argues that World War II could have been avoided if the Treaty of Versailles had not been so harsh toward Germany. Buchanan views the treaty as unjust toward Germany and argues that German efforts to revise Versailles were both moral and just. Buchanan calls those historians who blame Germany for the two world wars "court historians" who he argues have created a myth of sole German guilt for the world wars. In contrast to his opposition to Versailles, Buchanan wrote that by means of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Germany had merely applied to that "prison house of nations," Russia, the principle of self-determination, [14] releasing from Russian rule Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Caucasus (largely modern Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) (despite the Septemberprogramm). Buchanan says that Hungary, which lost two thirds of its territory by the Treaty of Trianon, considered it a "national crucifixion" [15] and was embittered toward the Allies by it.

Buchanan thinks that Czechoslovakia should never have been created it was "a living contradiction of the principle" of self-determination, [16] with the Czechs ruling "Germans, Hungarians, Slovaks, Poles, and Ruthenians" in a "multi-ethnic, multilingual, multicultural, Catholic-Protestant conglomeration that had never before existed." [16] Buchanan accuses Czech leaders Edvard Beneš and Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk of deceiving the Allies, particularly US President Woodrow Wilson, on the ethnicity of the regions that became Czechoslovakia. "Asked why he had consigned three million Germans to Czech rule, Wilson blurted, 'Why, Masaryk never told me that!'". [17] The alleged Wilson quote seems unlikely given the fact Wilson was well aware of demographic situation in the Bohemian crown lands in his 1889 book The State: Elements of Historical and Practical Politics. [18] Furthermore Wilson only spoke with Masaryk on one occasion and wasn't interested in discussing Czechoslovak independence. [19]

As a result of their humiliation at Versailles, the Germans became more nationalistic and ultimately put their confidence in Adolf Hitler. Buchanan writes that there was a "Great Civil War of the West" in both world wars and in which Buchanan contends that Britain should have stayed neutral in rather than upholding an unfair Treaty of Versailles. [20] Buchanan damns successive British and French leaders for not offering to revise Versailles in Germany's favor in the 1920s while the Weimar Republic was still in existence and stopped the rise of Hitler. [21]

Buchanan agrees with quotations of historians Richard Lamb and Alan Bullock that the attempt by German Chancellor Heinrich Brüning to found an Austro-German customs union in March 1931 could have prevented Hitler from coming to power. [22] Buchanan criticizes the Allies for opposing it and quotes Bullock regarding their veto as not only helping "to precipitate the failure of the Austrian Kreditanstalt and the German financial crisis of the summer but forced the German Foreign Office to announce on September 3 that the project would be abandoned. The result was to inflict a sharp humiliation on the Bruning government and to inflame national resentment in Germany." [22] Buchanan argues that Britain, France, Italy, and Czechoslovakia all indirectly assisted Hitler's rise to power in 1933.

Weimar-era German leaders like Gustav Stresemann, Heinrich Brüning, and Friedrich Ebert were all responsible German statesmen, according to Buchanan, and were working to revise Versailles in a manner that would not threaten the peace of Europe, but they were undermined by the inability and unwillingness of Britain and France to co-operate. [21] Buchanan follows the distinction made by German historian Andreas Hillgruber between a Weimar foreign policy to restore Germany to its pre-1918 position for some territorial expansionism in Eastern Europe and a Nazi foreign policy for which that was only the first step toward a larger programme of seeking Lebensraum by war and genocide in Eastern Europe. Since Buchanan argues that there was a moral equivalence between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, he maintains that Britain should have just allowed Germany and the Soviet Union to destroy each other and that Britain should have meanwhile awaited the course of events and rearmed fast enough to be able to fight if necessary. [ citation needed ] Buchanan argues that the "guarantee" of Poland in 1939 was impossible to fulfill but made the war inevitable. Buchanan calls Hitler's foreign policy programme more moderate than the war aims sought by German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg's Septemberprogramm in World War I. Buchanan contends that Hitler was interested in expanding into only Eastern Europe and did not seek territory in Western Europe and Africa. [23] Moreover, Buchanan argues that once Hitler came to power in 1933, his foreign policy was not governed strictly by Nazi ideology but was modified ad hoc by pragmatism. [24]

Buchanan writes that Benito Mussolini was committed to the Stresa Front of 1935 and that it was an act of folly on the part of Britain to vote for League of Nations sanctions on Italy for invading Ethiopia, as that only drove Fascist Italy into an alliance with Nazi Germany (despite the intervention in the Spanish Civil War). [25] He writes that British opposition to the Second Italo-Ethiopian war was unnecessary, as the small territory Italy controlled were countered by the much larger British territories in Africa, meaning Italy could have never posed a threat to its colonies. [26] Buchanan notes that France, under Pierre Laval, agreed to Italy's right to conquer Ethiopia as the price of maintaining the Stresa Front, but Britain had what Buchanan calls a "sanctimonious" [ citation needed ] attitude for sanctions in defense of what Churchill, quoted by Buchanan, described as "a wild land of tyranny, slavery, and tribal war." Buchanan also quotes Churchill as arguing, "No one can keep up the pretence that Abyssinia is a fit, worthy, and equal member of the league of civilised nations." [27] In early 1936, when the crisis over Ethiopia had pushed Britain and Italy to the brink of war, there occurred the remilitarization of the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

Buchanan points out that Hitler regarded the Franco-Soviet Pact as an aggressive move directed at Germany and that it violated the Locarno Treaties, and he adds that Hitler had a strong case. [28] Hitler utilized the claim of the violation of Locarno as a diplomatic weapon against which the French and the British had no answer.

Buchanan argues that Hitler's public demands on Poland in 1938 and 1939, namely the return of the Free City of Danzig to the Reich, "extra-territorial" roads across the Polish Corridor, and Poland's adhesion to the Anti-Comintern Pact were a genuine attempt to build an anti-Soviet German-Polish alliance, especially since Buchanan argues that Germany and Poland shared a common enemy, the Soviet Union. [29] Buchanan claims that Hitler wanted Poland as an ally against the Soviet Union, not an enemy. [30] Citing March 1939 by the British historian Simon K. Newman and Andrew Roberts, in his "The Holy Fox: The Life of Lord Halifax", Buchanan argues that the British "guarantee" of Polish independence in March 1939 was a deliberate ploy on the part of its Foreign Minister, Lord Halifax, to cause a war with Germany in 1939. [31] Buchanan calls Chamberlain's "guarantee" of Poland "rash" and the "fatal blunder" that caused the end of the British Empire. [32] Buchanan argues that Halifax and Neville Chamberlain had different motives for the guarantee. Without deciding between the various theories regarding Chamberlain's motivation, Buchanan recites several, including those of Liddell Hart, Newman, and Roberts. [33]

Buchanan agrees with British historian E. H. Carr, who said in April 1939 about the Polish "guarantee": "The use or threatened use of force to maintain the status quo may be morally more culpable than the use or threatened use of force to alter it." [34] Buchanan maintains that Hitler did not want a war with Britain and that Britain should not have declared war in 1939 on an Anglophile Hitler who wanted to ally the Reich with Britain against their common enemy the Soviet Union. [35]

Buchanan accepts the picture drawn by British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who, in his 1961 The Origins of the Second World War, considered Polish Foreign Minister Colonel Józef Beck a frivolous and irresponsible man who was incapable of understanding the magnitude of the crisis that was facing his country in 1939. [36] Buchanan argues that rather than offering a "guarantee" of Poland that Britain could not fulfill, Chamberlain should have accepted that it was impossible to save Eastern Europe from German aggression [ contradictory ] and instead set about re-arming Britain in order to be prepared for any future war with Germany, should it be necessary. [37] Instead, Buchanan claims that the acceptance of Eastern Europe as Germany's sphere of influence as a quid pro quo for Germany staying out of Western Europe would have been better than World War II.

Buchanan argues that it was a great blunder on the part of Chamberlain to declare war on Germany in 1939 and that it was an even greater blunder on the part of Churchill to refuse Hitler's peace offer of 1940, thus making World War II in Buchanan's opinion the "unnecessary war" of the title. [38] The title of course was borrowed from Churchill, who stated in his memoirs, "One day President Roosevelt told me that he was asking publicly for suggestions about what the war should be called. I said at once, 'The Unnecessary War.' There never was a war more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world from the previous struggle." [39] Buchanan writes, "For that war one man bears full moral responsibility: Hitler. But this was not only Hitler's war. It was Chamberlain's war and Churchill's war. " [40] In Buchanan's view, the "final offer" made by the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to the British Ambassador Sir Nevile Henderson on the night of August 30, 1939 was not a ploy, as many historians argued, but a genuine German offer to avoid the war. [41] Likewise, Buchanan argues by citing F.H. Hinsley, John Lukacs, and Alan Clark that Hitler's peace offers to Britain in the summer of 1940 were real and so Churchill was wrong to refuse them. [42]

Buchanan calls the Morgenthau Plan of 1944 a genocidal plan for the destruction of Germany that was promoted by the vengeful Henry Morgenthau and his deputy, Soviet agent Harry Dexter White, a way of ensuring Soviet domination of Europe, with Churchill being amoral for accepting it. [43]

Buchanan even claims a moral equivalence between Churchill and Hitler. Buchanan suggests that there was no moral difference between Churchill's support for the compulsory sterilization and segregation of the mentally-unfit before 1914 and the German Action T4 program. [44] Likewise, Buchanan argues that the views that Churchill expressed about Judeo-Bolshevism in his 1920 article "Zionism and Bolshevism" seem not very different from Hitler's views about "Judeo-Bolshevism" in Mein Kampf. [45] Buchanan attacks Churchill as the man who brought in the Ten Year Rule in 1919, which based British defense spending on the assumption that there would be no major war for the next ten years, and claims that made Churchill the man who disarmed Britain in the 1920s. [46] Buchanan attacks Churchill as a inept military leader who caused successive military debacles such as the Siege of Antwerp, the Dardanelles campaign, the Norwegian Campaign, the Battle of Singapore, and the Dieppe Raid. [47]

Buchanan claims that Hitler's ambitions were confined only to Eastern Europe and cites such historians as Ian Kershaw, Andreas Hillgruber and Richard J. Evans that Hitler wanted an anti-Soviet alliance with Britain. [48] Buchanan maintains that British leaders of the 1930s were again influenced by Germanophobia, which led them to suspect that Germany was out to conquer the world. [49] Citing John Lukacs, Buchanan maintains that Operation Barbarossa was not part of any long-range master plan on the part of Hitler, but it was instead an attempt by Hitler to force Britain to make peace by eliminating Britain's last hope of victory by bringing the Soviet Union into the war on the Allied side. [50]

Buchanan argues that the Holocaust would not have developed the scale that it did without Hitler's invasion of Poland and then the Soviet Union, as he would not otherwise have been in control of most European Jews. Buchanan argues that if Churchill had accepted Hitler's peace offer of 1940, the severity of the Holocaust would have been greatly reduced. [51]

With respect to the debate about German foreign policy, Buchanan countenances historians, such as Gerhard Weinberg, who argue that Germany wanted to conquer the entire world, and he instead contends that Nazi Germany was never a danger to the United States and that it was not a danger to Britain after the Battle of Britain. [52] Buchanan points out that the "master plan to conquer South and Central America" that Franklin Roosevelt publicly endorsed was actually produced by British intelligence and that German sources reveal no evidence for its veracity. [53]

Buchanan calls the British "area bombing" of German cities in World War II a policy of "barbarism" and quotes Churchill stating that its purpose was "simply for the sake of terror." [54] In particular, Buchanan argues that the bombing of Dresden in 1945 was barbaric and that Churchill personally ordered it by quoting Churchill himself and Air Marshall Arthur Harris as evidence. [54]

Buchanan believes that Churchill was largely responsible for "Western man's reversion to barbarism" in World War II and notes that generals like Curtis LeMay, when they bombed Japan, had followed the example set by British Air Marshal Harris in using "terror bombing" as a method of war against Germany. Buchanan quotes LeMay himself "We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo that night of March 9–10 than went up in the vapor of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined."

Buchanan concludes, "We and the British fought for moral ends. We did not always use moral means by any Christian definition." [55]

Endorsing the concept of Western betrayal, Buchanan accuses Churchill and Roosevelt of turning over Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union at the Tehran Conference and the Yalta Conference. [56] Citing the Cuban-American lawyer Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, Buchanan calls the expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe, in which 2 million died, a crime against humanity "of historic dimensions" and contrasts the British prosecution of German leaders at the Nuremberg Trials for crimes against humanity while Churchill and other British leaders were approving the expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe. [57]

Buchanan also writes that the United States should have stayed out of the events of World War II. [12] However, because the United States insisted for the United Kingdom to sever the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1921, Japan ultimately aligned itself with the Axis and later attacked Pearl Harbor. [58] Buchanan blames Churchill for insisting to the British Cabinet in 1921 to give in to pressure to end its alliance with Japan. [59]

Buchanan concludes that if World War II had not taken place, the British Empire would have continued through the 20th century. Buchanan favorably cites the 1993 assessment of Alan Clark that World War II "went on far too long, and when Britain emerged the country was bust. Nothing remained of assets overseas. Without immense and punitive borrowings from the US we would have starved. The old social order had gone forever. The empire was terminally damaged. The Commonwealth countries had seen their trust betrayed and their soldiers wasted." [60] Likewise, Buchanan blames British statesmen for bringing Britain into the war against Germany, which caused the economic ruin of Britain but also brought Communists to power in Eastern Europe and China in 1949, all of which would have been avoided if Britain had not "guaranteed" Poland in 1939. [61]

Buchanan claims that for the most part, American leaders in the Cold War followed the wise advice of Kennan, who understood that a strong Germany was needed as an American ally to keep the Soviet Union out of Central Europe. The United States did not rush into unnecessary wars with the Soviet Union but instead waited patiently for the Soviet Union to fall apart. [62]

Buchanan ends his book with an attack on George W. Bush and argues that just as Churchill led the British Empire to ruin by causing unnecessary wars with Germany twice, Bush led the United States to ruin by following Churchill's example in involving the United States in an unnecessary war in Iraq, and he passed out guarantees to scores of nations in which the United States has no vital interests, which placed his country in a position with insufficient resources to fulfil its promises. [63] Buchanan expresses the view that just as Chamberlain's "guarantee" of Poland in March 1939 caused an "unnecessary war" with Germany in September, the current guarantees of Eastern European nations by the United States are equally unwise and require a declaration of war with Russia if a hostile regime ascended to power in the latter country and attacked Eastern Europe. However, the United States has no vital interests in Eastern Europe. [64] Finally, Buchanan highlights the symbolism of Bush placing a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office as evidence that Bush's neoconservative foreign policy was influenced and inspired by Churchill. [65]

The book was 16th on its first week on The New York Times bestseller list. [66] MSNBC notes that Buchanan joins historians who are more critical of British involvement in World War II. [67]

The book has received mostly negative reviews. [68] [69] Canadian journalist Eric Margolis in the Toronto Sun endorsed Buchanan's study as a "powerful new book." [70] Margolis wrote that neither Britain nor the United States should have fought in World War II and that it was simply wrong and stupid that millions of people died to stop the 90% German Free City of Danzig from rejoining Germany. [70] Margolis accepts Buchanan's conclusion that the British "guarantee" of Poland in March 1939 was the greatest geopolitical blunder of the 20th century. [70] Margolis wrote:

. Pat Buchanan challenges many historic taboos by claiming that Winston Churchill plunged Britain and its empire, including Canada, into wars whose outcome was disastrous for all concerned…. Churchill made the fatal error in World War II of backing Poland's hold on Danzig even though Britain could do nothing to defend Poland, Yugoslavia, or Czechoslovakia from Hitler's attempts to reunite million of Germans stranded in these new nations by the dreadful Versailles Treaty. Britain's declaration of war on Germany over Poland led to a general European war. After suffering 5.6 million dead, Poland ended up occupied by the Soviet Union…. Buchanan's heretical view, and mine, is that the Western democracies should have let Hitler expand his Reich eastward until it inevitably went to war with the even more dangerous Soviet Union. Once these despotisms had exhausted themselves, the Western democracies would have been left dominating Europe. The lives of millions of Western civilians and soldiers would have been spared." [70]

Jonathan S. Tobin in The Jerusalem Post gave Buchanan's book a negative review and suggested the author is anti-Semitic and representative of a "malevolent" form of appeasement. [71] American writer Adam Kirsch, in The New York Sun, attacked Buchanan for using no primary sources, and for saying there was a conspiracy by historians to hide the truth about the two world wars. [72] Kirsch acidly remarked if that was the case, Buchanan did not need only secondary sources to support his arguments. [72] Kirsch accused Buchanan of hypocrisy for denouncing Churchill as a racist who was opposed to non-white immigration to Britain but demanding the same in the United States. [72] Kirsch wrote that Buchanan's apocalyptic language about the West in decline owed more to Oswald Spengler than to American conservatives. [72] Kirsch argued that Buchanan's heavy reliance on Correlli Barnett's 1972 book The Collapse of British Power as a source reflects the fact that both Buchanan and Barnett are two embittered conservatives unhappy with the way history worked out and they prefer to talk about how much nicer history would have been if Britain had not fought in the two world wars or the United States and Britain in Iraq. [72]

American classicist Victor Davis Hanson criticized Buchanan for what he sees as a pro-German bias and instead contends that the Treaty of Versailles was too lenient rather than too harsh toward Germany. [73] In his blog, Hanson called Buchanan a "pseudo-historian". [74] In another entry on his blog to respond to criticism from Buchanan's admirers, Hanson stated that he loathed communism but argued that Churchill and Roosevelt had no choice but to ally themselves with the Soviet Union. [75]

In a hostile review, the American journalist David Bahnsen called Buchanan's book an "anti-semitic piece of garbage" [76] and accused Buchanan of being unique in that he posited the Holocaust as an understandable, if excessive, response to the British "guarantee" of Poland in 1939. [76]

British journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft, in a review in The New York Review of Books, complained that Buchanan had grossly exaggerated the harshness of the Treaty of Versailles by noting that most historians think that Germany started World War I and that Buchanan's criticism of the British "area bombing" of cities in the war pays no attention to how limited Britain's options seemed to Churchill in 1940. [77] Wheatcroft wrote that Buchanan cited right-wing British historians like Clark, Cowling, and John Charmley when they stated that Britain should never have fought Germany or at least should have made peace in 1940, but he ignored the wider point that Clark, Cowling and Charmley were making: they viewed the United States rather than Germany as the British Empire's main rival. [77]

Hungarian-American historian John Lukacs, in a review in The American Conservative, compared Buchanan to David Irving and argued that the only difference between the two was that Irving uses lies to support his arguments while Buchanan uses half-truths. [78] Lukacs commented that Buchanan cites the left-wing British historian A. J. P. Taylor only when it suits him when Taylor's conclusions are at variance with Buchanan's views, Buchanan does not cite him. [78] Lukacs objected to Buchanan's argument that Britain should have stood aside and allowed Germany to conquer Eastern Europe as Buchanan ignores just how barbaric and cruel Nazi rule was in Eastern Europe in World War II. [78] Finally, Lukacs claimed that Buchanan has often been accused of Anglophobia. Lukacs felt that Buchanan's lament for the British Empire was a case of crocodile tears. [78] Lukacs concluded that Buchanan's book was not a work of history but was a thinly-veiled admonitory allegory for the modern United States with Britain standing in for the United States and Germany, Japan, and Italy standing in at various points for modern Islam, China, and Russia. [78]

Conservative American journalist Christopher Jones attacked Buchanan in a review for saying that Hitler's aims in 1939 were limited to allowing Danzig to rejoin Germany when Hitler wanted to destroy Poland. [79] Likewise, Jones criticized Buchanan for writing that the Czech people were better off as part of the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, ruled over by Reinhard Heydrich, than as part of independent and democratic Czechoslovakia. [79] Buchanan claims that Hitler did not want a world war over Danzig and uses the lack of readiness of the Kriegsmarine for a war with Britain in 1939 as proof of that. Jones notes the German navy was in the middle of a major expansion, codenamed Plan Z, intended to prepare it to take on the British navy by the mid-1940s. [79]

British journalist Christopher Hitchens, in a review in Newsweek, claimed that ignorance by Buchanan on the aggression of Imperial Germany and notes that Wilhelm openly encouraged Muslims to wage jihad against the Western colonial powers during World War I, conducted the Herero and Namaqua Genocide in German South-West Africa, and supported the Young Turks government while it committed the Armenian genocide. [80] Hitchens argued that Imperial Germany was dominated by a "militaristic ruling caste" of officers and Junkers who recklessly sought conflict at every chance, and that it was simply nonsense for Buchanan to write of Germany being "encircled" by enemies on all sides before World War I. [80]