Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Impossibility of Sea Lion - Part Two

In this second part of my look at Operation Sea Lion I will try to address some the political issues raised in the essay under discussion. 

1)     Political

a)     The planning of Operation Sea Lion was left too late

The following extracts are taken from a document produced by the British Naval Intelligence Unit shortly after the war entitled “German Plans for the Invasion of England in 1940 – Operation Sea Lion”.  This research document was authored using captured German naval documents and gives a detailed account of the German navy’s preparations for the invasion of Britain but also an outline of the overall plan.

“The initiation of a plan for a landing in England came from the C. in C. (Commander in Chief; Grand Admiral Raeder) of the navy.  As soon as he knew in the autumn of 1939 of the Fuhrer’s intention to launch an offensive in the west, he ordered the naval staff to investigate the possibilities of an invasion of England.”

“As a result of these preliminary reflections of the naval staff the C. in C. of the navy first spoke to the Fuhrer on 25th May 1940 on the possibility of an invasion of England.”

“On 20th June the C. in C. of the navy again reported to the Fuhrer on this question and he emphasised that absolute air superiority was an essential prerequisite for carrying out the operation.
It is important to affirm that the Grand Admiral Raeder did not make these two reports to Hitler with the intention of proposing the invasion or propagating the idea.  His wish was mainly to discuss the whole question in good time, so as to avoid the consequences which might result from a hasty decision by Hitler, which might lead to the navy being confronted by an insoluble problem as regards material preparations.”

“However, in the last few days of June – after the termination of the campaign in France, and rather late in the season – the suggestion of the C. in C. of the navy was taken up by the supreme command, who, on the 2nd July, issued the first directive for the operation.”

Therefore the German navy had been considering the resources required and the likely defence strategy for the invasion and resupply fleets for an invasion of Britain.  This initial planning began a year or so before the most likely invasion date in September 1940.   The directive issued on the 2nd July allowed ten weeks for the final planning of the operation, which with cancellations stretched to just over twelve weeks.
In comparison and despite some people’s views, whilst it was known that an invasion of France by the allied powers was inevitable, the actual outline planning was not begun until May 1943 at a meeting in Quebec, Canada.  This outline planning was to determine the most likely landing sites, the strength of forces required and to set a date for D-Day of 1st May 1944.  The detailed planning did not begin until mid-January 1944, just 14 weeks before the expected landing date.  This was subsequently set back by just over a month due to the expansion of the plans to encompass five landing beaches rather than the three included in the outline plan.  This in turn led to the added requirement for two additional divisions to fulfil the expansion in the number of landing sites. (Source: The Invasion of Normandy: Operation NEPTUNE; United States Naval Administration in World War II - Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe: Volume V)

b)     Adolf Hitler never intended to go to war with Britain

The following extracts are taken from a document entitled “Fuehrer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 1939” which is a collection of minutes from meetings between Hitler and the various heads of his armed forces.  These were collated and annotated after their capture by allied forces from the German Naval Archives.

“In deciding what ships to build Raeder was guided by Hitler’s early contentions that war would not take place with England until at least 1944 or 1945, though trouble with France, Poland, or Russia might be expected sooner.”

“In spite of much that has been said to the contrary Hitler undoubtedly anticipated interference from the western democracies.  On May 10, 1939, he issued another directive to the Armed Forces:”

“The enclosure to this directive stated that the German Navy and Luftwaffe in particular were to make preparations for the immediate opening of economic warfare against Britain, and, as a second priority, against France.  These operations were to be started as soon as ‘Granzsicharung’ was ordered.”  (Granzsicharung or Frontier defence in English, was the plan to defend the borders of Germany and its territories from interference or aggression from other nations.)

These extracts clearly show that Hitler always expected war with Britain, initially he anticipated full scale conflict in 1944-45.  However Hitler recognised that this may occur sooner following Britain’s pledge on 31st March 1939 to offer the support of itself and France to guarantee Polish independence.  This pledge was formalised on 25th August by the signing of a mutual assistance agreement should either Britain or Poland be attacked by a foreign power.  The signing of the agreement obviously gave Hitler some food for thought as he delayed his invasion of Poland from the planned date of 26th August to 1st September.

c)     Hitler did not expect Britain to declare war over the Polish issue

“Hitler’s speech at the Obersalzberg (August 22nd 1939) has been variously reported.  Some said that he asserted definitely that England and France would not go to war, while others said that Hitler’s opinion was that there was no reason for England to defend Poland, that therefore it was probable she would not go to war, but that it was a possibility to be borne in mind.
But whatever Hitler’s opinion, the danger was all too clear to Raeder and his staff.  On August 21 and 24 respectively the pocket battleships Graf Spee and Deutschland with their attendant supply ships Altmark and Westerwald were sent to waiting positions in the Atlantic.  Between August 19 and 21, twenty-one U-boats were also despatched to offensive positions round the British Isles.
These may have been precautionary dispositions, but they were also positive indications of the expected war with England.  No such dispositions were made during the Munich crisis in September, 1938.”  (Source:  Fuehrer Conferences)

The evidence suggests that Hitler may have declared publicly that he believed that the British and French would not and should not go to war over the invasion of Poland however he knew there was a good possibility they would.  In issuing a clear directive regarding the preparations for economic war against the western powers it can be seen that Hitler was willing to take the risk of reprisals from Britain and France.  Hitler did have one card up his sleeve at this point which he hoped might make the western powers see sense, the day after his Obersalzberg speech Germany and Russia unexpectedly signed a non-aggression pact.  But as history shows even this did not prevent the British and French from declaring war.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Impossibility of Sea Lion - Part One

Earlier this month I posted on here a blog entitled “Sperrle, the Man Who Changed the World” stating what might have been if the Germans had gained air superiority in the Battle of Britain.  As a consequence I theorised that it may lead to a successful invasion of Britain something the Germans had planned in reality and known as Operation Sea Lion.  One reader of my post pointed me in the direction of a website called and said that my views might not be acceptable there.  Being the curious type I visited the site only to discover that one of the biggest sins on the site is talking about Operation Sea Lion (or the Furry Marine Mammal as some like to call it for fear of mentioning its real name).
I have included the following quote from one of the forum threads on as it seems to be representative of the collective thinking of most of the members of the site.
“Sea Lion, as planned by Nazi Germany in 1940, is a physical impossibility. Having it occur, let alone succeed, is ASB.”  By the way ASB stands for Alien Space Bats apparently which I’m guessing is some other way of saying B*ll Sh*t.
I even discovered that one of the site administrators had written an extensive “essay” outlining exactly why Sea Lion was impossible which can be found here for those that are interested.
The essay begins with the following statement:
“The Second World War has always been a favourite stomping ground of alternate historians, especially the writers of alternate history novels. Probably the most popular single alternate history in the western world is one where the Nazis win the war. In order to accomplish this, the creators of many timelines utilize Operation Sea lion, a German plan in 1940 for the invasion of Britain. Unfortunately, what most don't realize is that Sea lion was nothing more than a pipe dream - utterly unworkable in any alternate history at all similar to the history we are familiar with.”
In brief the author makes the points listed below as being the crucial elements of the plan that would have made it impossible for Operation Sea Lion to have been a success.
1)    Political
a)    The planning of Operation Sea Lion was left too late
b)    Adolf Hitler never intended to go to war with Britain
c)    Hitler did not expect Britain to declare war over the Polish issue
2)    Air Supremacy
a)    There is a false assumption that a German victory of the Battle of Britain is all that is needed for a successful invasion
b)    Britain’s rate of aircraft production was higher than Germanys
c)    The RAF had the advantage of air crew recovery
d)    The RAF planned to withdraw the fighter squadrons north if it looked like the Battle of Britain was being lost saving the planes to deny the Germans air superiority over the landing beaches
e)    The structure of the RAF allowed for redundant squadrons to be based in the north of England where they were used for resting tired pilots, training and refitting
f)     The RAF had ample reserves of planes in its northern squadrons to allow replacement of those lost in the south, the primary location of the Battle of Britain
g)    The bombing of fighter plane production facilities and air fields by the Germans was an annoyance not a serious threat to the RAF’s ability to continue the fight
3)    Initial Invasion
a)    Germany had few if any landing craft and would have had to rely on river barges
i)     The barges designed for inland waterways would swamp in heavy seas
ii)   There was not many available
iii) They were not suitable for transporting heavy equipment such as artillery or vehicles including tanks
iv)  At best a barge would be able to transport one tank at a time
b)    Britain’s land forces would have been too numerous for any invasion force the German’s could have transported
i)     The German’s could only have landed 10 infantry divisions at most
ii)   Britain’s armoured forces would have outnumbered those of the Germans
iii) Not only did Britain have a large army including those evacuated from France via Dunkirk but they also had a large part time army, the Home Guard
iv)  After the initial invasion it would be possible for the Canadians to reinforce the British by sending large numbers troops across the Atlantic
c)    Britain had a number of secret plans for defeating the Germans on the invasion beaches
i)     The use of chemical warfare (poisoned gas)
ii)   Setting the sea on fire
d)    German paratroopers could not hope to succeed
i)     The transport planes were slow and vulnerable to fighter attack
ii)   The Germans had few paratroopers available after the invasion of Crete
iii) Paratroopers are good at attacking small targets not large land masses like mainland Britain
4)    Control of  the Seas
a)    Germany did not have a strong enough merchant navy to be able to carry reinforcements and resupply the invading forces
i)     Germany did not have many freighters
ii)   The freighters do not have the capacity to transport the heavy equipment needed to reinforce the initial landings
iii) Resupply would have to be conducted using barges
b)    The Royal Navy Home Fleet would have been more than capable of destroying most of the invasion fleet and any subsequent supply convoys attempting to enter the English Channel
i)     The major warships of the Home Fleet were stationed at Scapa Flow, a naval base in the Orkneys in the far north of the British Isles.  A such they were safe from German attack out of range of the Luftwaffe
ii)   Smaller vessels of the Royal Navy stationed on the south coast of England would be used to disrupt the invasion fleet
iii) The major warships of the Home Fleet would be within the English Channel within 24 hours to disrupt reinforcement and resupply
iv)  The German submarines would be no defence against the larger warships of the Royal Navy and would be vulnerable in the confines of the English Channel
v)    The German navy was inadequate to defend the resupply ships being small in number and having lost a large majority of its forces in the invasion of Norway in April 1940
c)    Even with air superiority the German air force would not be capable of dealing with the Royal Navy
i)     The German aircraft did not have the range to attack the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow
ii)   The Germans had no dedicated torpedo bombers
iii) The invasion of Norway proved how poor the Germans were at attacking even unguarded ships with very few British vessels sunk
iv)  Battleship task forces have a vast screen of anti-aircraft fire from escorting cruisers and destroyers as demonstrated in the Pacific campaigns between the American and Japanese navies
v)    The majority of German bombers were level bombers rather than dive bombers meaning that targeting manoeuvrable ships would be near impossible
vi)  The Germans only dive bomber was the JU 87 Stuka which was outdated, slow and vulnerable with a short range that would mean limited attacks would be possible before the Home Fleet engaged the German resupply convoys in the English Channel
I’m not saying that the invasion of Britain in September 1940 was possible or impossible but after a bit of research I believe some clarification should be made regarding a number of the points the author of the essay has raised.  That way people can make up their own minds about whether there was even a slim chance of success rather than being ridiculed by a collective of Alternative History Timeline Elites as one contributor to a thread on Operation Sea Lion called himself and those who shared his views.
There is not enough room in a single blog entry to devote to this subject so I will be spreading it across many parts of which this is the first.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Has this world always been crazy?

The year 1940, the place Dunkirk in North Western France ...

Very briefly ...

As it becomes more and more obvious that the German army is about to invade Western Europe the British government sends hundreds of thousands of troops across the English Channel to support those of their French Allies.  The Germans attack the Netherlands and Belgium drawing the British and French northwards across the borders to stop the German advance ... those sneaky Germans do the unthinkable and launch a second attack behind the allied armies cutting them off and driving hard to the Channel ports of Calais and Dunkirk.  Amazingly almost 350,000 British, French and Belgian troops are rescued from Dunkirk and transported to England in just about any ship that is available.  To make sure that the evacuation goes ahead the British continue to send fresh reinforcements right up to the last minute including tank and other armoured units.  And what do the French do ... call a Dock Workers strike!!!

Now I know this happened, I have documented evidence of how utterly fed up the tank men were that they had to unload their own vehicles and equipment after arguments with the french workers.  But I just can't find out why they were doing it ...

To that end I have come to my own conclusions and have come up with the following grievances that they may have had:
  1. Immigration ... they were worried that with the large influx of British and Belgians and Germans that their jobs might not be secure any more.
  2. They were annoyed that the evacuation of the troops was being carried out by non-union members ... a definite no-no!!
  3. They were concerned at the levels of noise that the constant bombing and shelling was producing as it broke the unions rules.
  4. Or ... and this is probably the most likely ... they hadn't had a strike for a while and thought it was about time they had one.
I would love to know more about what was going on, I really would, but this just seems to be one of those things that has been lost amongst much more important events of the day.  If anyone has more information or knows where I can find it PLEASE let me know.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Sperrle, the Man Who Changed the World (A work of fictitious fact)

The Kremlin on Fire
“Some say that Joseph Stalin, the mastermind behind some of the greatest atrocities to beset mankind, never died.  They believe that somehow the evil former leader of the Soviet people, the man who murdered millions of his own, managed to survive the siege of Moscow and the purging fires of the Kremlin to escape justice somewhere in the vast expanses of Siberia. 
My father was there, at the gates of Moscow, fighting alongside his fellow Englishmen, part of the Britannia regiment of the 32nd ϞϞ Division.  He told me of the pride they felt as they marched towards St. Peters Square, part of that first victory parade on 6th June 1942.  Seeing the smoke still rising from the ruins of the building where the one time dictator had issued the orders that led to the starvation and deaths of so many, he sensed that in some small way he had been a part of freeing Europe from the tyranny of communism and the overbearing yolk of American financial dependence.”
The above passage is the opening statement of a news report given in 1952 by a young British journalist following the trail of rumours that the ex-soviet leader, Stalin, was still alive.  The report was set to coincide with the 10th anniversary celebrations marking the end of the Great War of Unification.  This was a big opportunity for the journalist to make a name for himself after the relaxation of laws surrounding the freedom of the press were instituted by the then Chancellor of Europe, Adolf Hitler.  The leader of the Thousand Year Reich had seemed to mellow a little in recent years, maybe it was because his vision for a better world for the more civilised states of Europe was finally taking shape or maybe it was just old age.
Although all that has been written so far is mainly fictional it really isn’t hard to see what might have been if, on the 3rd September 1940, a single decision had gone the other way.  The 3rd September was the 56th day of the Battle of Britain, the German attempt to gain air supremacy over the skies of Britain and the English Channel.  The concept was simple, a pure battle of attrition for the Germans, attack the airfields, attack the factories and keep shooting down the fighters of the Royal Air Force.  Despite the claims of Herman Goering, head of the Luftwaffe (the German air force) the RAF was coping quite well with the pressure.  Britain’s aircraft production was just about keeping pace with RAF losses; of the 300 or so aircraft destroyed in the last month the RAF managed to replace 260.  However the battle was coming to a critical point, losses of trained pilots was rising within the RAF and the constant attacks were causing growing fatigue amongst those that remained.  
On the 3rd September a meeting of the German high command took place to decide the best way forward.  A heated discussion broke out between Kesselring and Sperrle the commanders of the two main air fleets involved in the battle over the British countryside regarding the strength of the RAF.  Kesselring believed that the RAF was on its knees and advised that one last big battle would be enough to draw the remaining British planes into the sky, Sperrle was more realistic and recognised that the RAF was not a spent force.  Call it arrogance, overconfidence or a chance for Goering to show off his prowess yet again, but he agreed with Kesselring’s view of the situation and a plan was devised to switch targets from the airfields to London.  The first raid on the British capital would be set for just a few days later on the 7th.  All that was needed was the final approval for the change in policy from Adolf Hitler, just a formality surely considering Hitler’s growing irritation with the air raids that the RAF’s bomber command were conducting over Berlin.  In an unusual moment of caution Hitler didn’t agree immediately, he picked up the phone and talked directly to Sperrle, listening to his concerns and overruling the policy change.  This turned out to be the biggest decision of Hitler’s life without him knowing it, if he’d agreed to the change in policy he would have given the RAF breathing room to recover.
So on the 7th September 1940 the attacks on the airfields and factories continued as they had done for the last eight and a half weeks.  At that point the RAF had just 700 fighters left with the Luftwaffe able to put almost 1900 fighters and bombers into the air.  By the 10th September the toll was starting to tell on the RAF and the losses of planes and, more importantly, experienced pilots were accelerating almost out of control.  As a precaution, to ensure certain victory Hitler postponed the invasion of Britain, Operation Sea Lion, from the 15th to the 24th September. 
Operation Sea Lion - The Early Stages
On the 24th the invasion began. Without the protection offered by the fighters of the RAF the Royal Navy found itself powerless to stop the German armada, losing ship after ship to aerial attack from the Luftwaffe.  On land things didn’t go any better with little resistance offered in the first few days by the British until the German forces reached the Thames Line where they were delayed for almost two months.  This allowed the British parliament time to relocate to the northern city of York.  The King and his family decided to stay in London to show support to the millions of ordinary people who had no choice but to stay and endure the constant German attacks.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S. presidential election campaign takes a sudden swing after the invasion of Britain and on the 5th November 1940 the Republican Party candidate Wendell Willkie becomes the 33rd President of the U.S.A.  Despite his own personal beliefs that America should continue the provision of aid to Britain his party stands for isolationism.  The very next day the decision was made that all supplies to Britain, both military and non-military should be suspended until further notice.  The Selective Training and Service Act calling for military conscription of all men between 21 and 35 in force from mid-September is quietly forgotten about and eventually overturned.  Looking for other sources of revenue to replace those gained from Britain the Americans reopen negotiations with Imperial Japan to supply the resources it needs to continue Japan’s war against China.  This results in an uneasy but relatively stable peace between the two countries that had previously appeared to be drifting inevitably towards open conflict.
Despite valiant resistance the Thames Line is bypassed in late October and London falls into enemy hands just a few days later.  The final surrender of the British government takes place on 4th February 1941, the prime minister, Winston Churchill, is not present as he is drifting between life and death in a hospital bed after an assassination attempt almost two weeks earlier.  As part of the peace terms the Italian government is forced to return all British territories in Africa including those in Egypt and British Somaliland in return for Britain’s support in nullifying Britain’s Commonwealth allies.  The unfortunate Churchill died just a few days later never knowing of his countries final downfall and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Germans choose The Viscount Halifax to head up the new government under occupation in Britain.  Halifax was the natural choice as he was already a senior political figure within the British government and in the past had shown some sympathy towards the Nazi regime.  In 1937 he had visited Germany and had written a letter to one of his colleagues about the German nation in which he stated "Nationalism and Racialism is a powerful force but I can't feel that it's either unnatural or immoral.  I cannot myself doubt that these fellows are genuine haters of Communism, etc. and I daresay if we were in their position we might feel the same”. 
Following Italy’s invasion of Greece in October 1940 things were not going well for Germany’s Axis partners.  The Greeks had pushed Mussolini’s troops back over the border.  Fortunately as a result of the repatriation of the British African territories the Italian forces in North Africa were now free to reinforce those in Greece.  Slowly the Italians began to overcome their Greek foes.  This came as a relief to Hitler as any intervention may have resulted in a delay to the planned invasion and conquest of the Soviet Union.
The Heroes of Barbarossa
(Top Left to Bottom Right)
Von Leeb, Von Bock, Von Rundstedt and Rommel
The Germans launched their assault on the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, on 15th May 1941.   Following the military coup in Iraq that left the country governed by the pro-German leader Rashid Ali the detailed plan was not finalised until April.  Originally a three pronged invasion, it was now possible to add a fourth smaller battle group to attack the soft underbelly of the Soviet Union.  Army Group North under Von Leeb had the objective of Leningrad, Army Group Centre Under Von Bock was to drive on to Moscow, Army Group South under Von Rundstedt was tasked with capturing the resource rich areas of the Ukraine and Caucasus and the Middle Eastern Expeditionary force commanded by Rommel was to invade Northern Iran, cutting the vital oil supplies and then push northwards into Georgia.  Within a matter of weeks the Germans had laid siege to Leningrad and reached the suburbs of Moscow.  Large parts of the Ukraine were captured and the advance on the Caucasus continued.  In the extreme south Rommel achieved his objectives and using his own initiative continued northwards causing major disruption to the Soviet lines of supply and communication.  Hitler determined to put an end to the fight before the harsh Russian winter set in diverted troops from both Army Groups North and South to assist in the encirclement of the Russian capital.  The fighting ground to a near halt through the winter until finally the spring thaws began.  The Soviet forces in Moscow were trapped and fighting for their very existence, many ordinary citizens urged to take up arms.  The Russians fought for every house, every street, every factory and warehouse until the Germans finally broke the backbone of the Soviet defense and, following reports of Joseph Stalin’s death in an air raid on the Kremlin, the battle was finally over.  On the 6th June 1942 the remaining Soviet commanders met with the German High Command, Hitler sitting silently at the head of the table and the unconditional surrender of all Soviet states was signed. 
While this sequence of events is purely fictitious it doesn’t take a lot to imagine what might have been.   Who is to say that if this had happened the world would be a worse place than it is now?  Just imagine what might have been once Hitler’s objective had been achieved, all he called for was extra living space for the German nation.  Who knows whether Hitler’s plan for the “undesirable” peoples of Europe would have ended in death or simply deportation to Siberia and other former Soviet eastern provinces?  There would certainly have been no need for the development of the Atom bomb, no Cold War and the escalation of arms that followed.  The deaths of millions and the destruction of property in Europe would have been averted through an early end to the war.  The war funding could have been used for construction not destruction.  The isolationist Americans may have felt less need to act as the world police in the following decades and trade between a German dominated Europe, a Japanese/Chinese empire and the U.S.A. may have benefitted all.  But then we will never know …