Would Hitler really have invaded Britain?

Discussion in 'General' started by spidge, Nov 26, 2008.


Did Hitler really have the intention to invade Britain or was he bluffing?

  1. Yes

  2. No

  1. Paul Corrigan

    Paul Corrigan Junior Member

    Morning, Ron:

    Thanks for the welcome. I hope that if I get to 89 my brain will be in as good a shape as yours obviously is.


    - Paul
  2. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  3. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    Excellent link, ploughing my way through some of the recordings at this moment.

  4. arnhem44

    arnhem44 Member

    ..On paper FC Barcelona always wins from every other team on this planet... yet, they still lose some games B)

    To add another example of how there is a huge difference between capabilities on paper, and actual resistance:

    Churchill expected and believed that Singapore could hold out for many months at least IF all besiegants involved would commit themselves in streetfighting and defenses.
    Percival certainly had the troops, the (chinese) committed population, the (light) weaponry and munition was abundant... so what stopped him from doing it ?
    Running short on watersupply ? on a location when digging in the ground will give purified waterwells ? The jap air planes (no heavy bombers) ?
    Did the russians(-command) in Stalingrad worry about water or food supply ? German bombers ?

    There you see that no simulation is perfect enough to predict realistic events.
    (and yes, that it mostly comes down to the weak knees of the command that decides to give up, or fight on...).

    (it turned out that yamashita was extremely low on ammunition and having exhausted troops...had Percival set up streetfighting defenses...it would have lead to perhaps a month more of hostilities.. leading to the japs either temporarily moving forces and supplies away from elsewehere (Indonesia, PNG, GuadalCanal) and giving opportunity to the brits to send reinforcements from India...which in turn would have led to delays in Jap advance into Burma...... or how a butterfly wing flap could cause a storm miles away...).
  5. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Yale University | Search Results

    Nuremberg Trial:

    MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: You were one of the principal advocates of the plan to invade England, were you not?

    KESSELRING: Personally I am of the opinion that, if the war against England was to be brought to a successful end, this end could only be achieved for certain by invasion.

    MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And you had an adequate Air Force after having defeated Poland, defeated Holland, defeated Belgium, and defeated France, so that you advocated proceeding with an invasion of England, did you not?

    KESSELRING: I must give an explanation on that point.

    MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: First tell me if that is true.

    THE PRESIDENT: Witness, will you please understand that you must answer the question first, and give an explanation afterwards. Every question, or nearly every question, admits of either an affirmative or negative answer, and you will kindly give that answer and make your explanation afterwards.

    MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Did you not advocate the invasion of England, and was not the Air Force ready to invade England?

    KESSELRING: Subject to certain conditions, considering the existing air situation at that time the Air Force was ready to fulfill that task.

    MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And you recommended very strongly to the Reich Marshal that the invasion take place immediately after Dunkirk, did you not?

    KESSELRING: Yes, and I still advocated that view later on too.

    Raeder endeavoured to dissuade Hitler from embarking upon the invasion of the U.S.S.R. In September, 1940, he urged on Hitler an aggressive Mediterranean policy as an alternative to an attack on Russia. On 14th November, 1940, he urged the war against England " as our main enemy " and that submarine and naval air force construction be continued. He voiced " serious objections against the Russian campaign before the defeat of England

    A 'bluff?' It would appear there was intent - if things changed later that is a different answer to another question?
  6. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Years ago I saw in the press the plans fro the invasion of England , and what was to happen after they took control. Including those that were to be taken into custody immediately...... For God know what horrors to come.

    I don't know about the other Vets that experienced the days when we were alone in this country, with no help coming from anywhere. I thought that was the Countries greatest moment. I am proud to have experienced those times......We worked for many long hours to rearm, and to build aircraft long into the nights sometimes. Aircraft were built in nonstop conditions, one man left his machine, and another took over, so that production never stopped ...It was....Work And Home Guard and bombing....

    What a terrible mistake that Hitler made. He should have come at Dunkirk, we were helpless with even MPs saying we should sue for peace. Just imagine Hitlers strength with the UKs industrial strength and its army ready to be drafted into the wehrmacht ...
  7. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    .... Just imagine Hitlers strength with the UKs industrial strength and its army ready to be drafted into the wehrmacht ...

    I don't really do 'what-ifs' but can't resist on this occasion! Personally I doubt it but an intriguing what-if anyway?.....the House of Windsor Edward VIII factor could have been useful to Adolf but could also have been a threat to him...a 'reverse takeover'?....mind boggles....which is why I don't normally do 'what-ifs'! :unsure:
  8. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    With respect.. it is not a matter of what if. The plans were already in existence for the governance of Britain. I don't think that today's people realise the brutality and evil that was the Nazi regime. Millions would have been rounded up to be worked to death for the Fatherland. The Country would have been scourged for everything it had, all for the Good of the "fatherland" Millions would have died in an absolutely pitiless manner...Concentration, and death camps quickly set up to deal with those that had opposed the Reich... So the ifs do not come into the equation. What was shocking was the fact that some Tory MPs and Ministers wanted to make peace with Hitler.... And it was a close run thing. That is how I saw it at the time. With hindsight and the discovery of the plans for England..I am pretty sure that this land would have ceased to exist..... Quickly!

    Hitler had a score to settle with Britain. He had fought us through two world wars and would have taken a terrible revenge ......
  9. Blutto

    Blutto Plane Mad

    The thread asks Would Hitler really have invaded Britain. Not, "what would have happened if he did".

    Even Kesselring can't answer with any authority.

    Its evident from the sources I've read over the past forty or so years that Hitler was lukewarm to invasion and preferred a negotiated pact. However, the truth is that we will never now, regardless of the pontifications on internet forums.
  10. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Kesselring and Raeder amongst others answering in court or 'sources' ? I'll stick with the court transcripts and the documentary evidence that can easily be cross referenced to the evidence given.
  11. sandwichery

    sandwichery Junior Member

    Hitler's primary objective lay to the east. From what I've read, once he had driven the British off the continent he hoped and indeed expected them to negotiate for peace, and then he could move against his real target, the Soviet Union. When they refused to cooperate he was stuck. Up to this point, he had had things his own way. For the most part, everyone had cooperated. Now, the British weren't doing so. How dare they? He could chose to invade or ignore. He chose a third alternative. He decided to try and bluff his way out of his predicament in the hope that the British would finally come to their senses.
    His naval commanders realized that crossing the Channel was far different than crossing a river, something that the Germans were very adept at. Always felt that even in his warped mind the thought must have occured that they might be right. Seem to recall a quote attributed to him that he was a hero on land, but that on sea he was a coward.
    The composition of his "invasion fleet" is another strike against a serious attempt at invasion. Considering the German passion for so-called "miracle weapons", it has always seemed abit odd that they couldn't have come up with something more imaginative than a make-shift than a fleet of towed river barges and assorted steamers. I'm sure that time constraints were an issue, but if he was serious about conquering Britain adjustments could have been made.
    Dave55 likes this.
  12. red devil

    red devil Senior Member

    The question is Would Hitler Really Have Invaded? And it has been admirably answered by many members. Yes, he would have done. At the risk of repeating old comments, he would have, then installed a government replaced Edward the Nazi King back on the throne, and left us to our own devices. He liked England but once, conquered, would have left us under a puppet government. There were many many people in GB who were right wing themselves, his only concern would have been the reds who still infest our country even now. He would have did to us as he did on the continent, that is 'remove' those he found 'undesirable'.
  13. spidge


    Even Kesselring can't answer with any authority.

    Its evident from the sources I've read over the past forty or so years that Hitler was lukewarm to invasion and preferred a negotiated pact. However, the truth is that we will never now, regardless of the pontifications on internet forums.


    Hitler was "The Supreme Leader" and riding one of the biggest successes in history after his defeat of nearly every opponent in Western Europe except Britain. You have taken the decision to respect your "sources", which is your right, yet none knew positively what Hitler was thinking day by day or exactly when he became "lukewarm to invasion".

    He ordered that plans be drawn up for the real, or in your belief, theoretical invasion of England however drawn up they were (fact). Barges were drawn from all over Europe in preparation for invasion (fact).
    Bomber Command alone destroyed 20% of these barges in days that were being modified for open water duty(fact). This may have been "just a bluff" to scare the British government sh**less, or it may have been real however we will never know for certain one way or another.

    What we can be sure of is that if Hitler gave it the go ahead, it would have happened despite a negative response from the Army and Navy.

    The RAF was not defeated in the time frame set by Hitler (fact) so this may have been the straw that broke the camels back and led him to call off an invasion for a continued bombing campaign against cities. (my preference)

    Hitler would have been well aware that control of the landmass of Britain would virtually deny any future aggressor a suitable landmass for aircraft to bomb his war production in his cities or for staging an invasion of any of his assets in Western Europe.

    I am still of the opinion that all things going his way, he would have attempted an invasion of England.


  14. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    Hi Geoff,

    I agree with the facts you've stated but I can't determine from you post if you agree that Hitler was lukewarm to an invasion. I believe he was. I was rereading some of Townsend's Duel of Eagles last night and he said that the thought of invasion was not brought up by Hitler until July 1, 1940 in a directive to General Halder to begin a plan for possible invasion. Townsend said this:

    However, plans were subject to the proviso that 'invasion is still only a plan, and has yet to be decided upon'. Hitler firmly believed that the end of the war was at hand, that Britain had no chance of victory and that he could talk her into peace. He did not even trouble to put his signature to the directive. Keitel signed it instead.

    As usual, I like to end my posts of this subject with a reminder that the German army was mostly horse drawn, as you all know, and of what those terror stricken horses would have done to the bottom of those river barges and each other. Not good.

    Hitler might have invaded, but the Germans would have been defeated, in my opinion.
  15. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    and he said that the thought of invasion was not brought up by Hitler until July 1, 1940 in a directive to General Halder to begin a plan for possible invasion.

    Until that point - Hitler thought he could persuade/cajole/trick Britain into coming to terms without an actual military operation ;) See the two chapters in Fleming dealing with this period. There's also the strange episode of Hitler thinking there was a coup imminent in the UK mentioned in Fleming...which dovetails with UK material I've previously mentioned. This option vanished at the end of June/start of July...

    It was only when his various psi-war ops began to fade or become more obviously pointless did he start working up in his mind the miliarty option....although ALL the service branches had been working on it, the Kriegsmarine in particular for months...for some time.
  16. spidge


    Hi Geoff,

    I agree with the facts you've stated but I can't determine from you post if you agree that Hitler was lukewarm to an invasion. I believe he was. I was rereading some of Townsend's Duel of Eagles last night and he said that the thought of invasion was not brought up by Hitler until July 1, 1940 in a directive to General Halder to begin a plan for possible invasion. Townsend said this:

    However, plans were subject to the proviso that 'invasion is still only a plan, and has yet to be decided upon'. Hitler firmly believed that the end of the war was at hand, that Britain had no chance of victory and that he could talk her into peace. He did not even trouble to put his signature to the directive. Keitel signed it instead.

    As usual, I like to end my posts of this subject with a reminder that the German army was mostly horse drawn, as you all know, and of what those terror stricken horses would have done to the bottom of those river barges and each other. Not good.

    Hitler might have invaded, but the Germans would have been defeated, in my opinion.

    Hi Dave,

    I do believe if all being well he would have invaded. He may have gone lukewarm on invasion but only because of the RAF and the Germans inability to control the air.


  17. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    That is an interesting point Had the Germans invaded we would have won? With what???? We had nothing, absolutely nothing. At the time they scrambled round and rearmed the Third British infantry division to return to France. But in the mean time they gave in... I think there is a deep misunderstanding abroad here now, that we were stronger than we were..... We could not even arm those that returned from Dunkirk......All we had at that time..... was bloody awful disorganized mess certainly not able to repulse a determine airborne assault........

    That is how I saw it, having lived through that period of time, and worked me socks off, trying to get us back into contention....Anyone that lived through that time should be rightly proud that they brought the country back into shape and once again able to defend itself.I am sure someone will come up with units that were ready. But in many cases they were in name only........
  18. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    But you had the channel and the Royal Navy :)

    As I said earlier, I was rereading a bit of Townsend last night. He was talking about Rudolf Braun attacking Dunkirk in a Stuka . He said:

    Once in a dive with the dive-brakes out they were fairly safe from fighters, which overshot them. And never, if possible did they fly out to sea. The Naval AA was too hot.

    Again just going from what I've read from the comfort of my recliner, a huge portion the Germans would have drown during the invasion and resupplying the survivors would have been almost impossible.
  19. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  20. Dave55

    Dave55 Atlanta, USA

    I don't know anything about this author but I thought this might be of interest:

    Why Sealion is not an option for Hitler to win the war

    Why Sealion is Not an Option for Hitler to Win the War

    by Alison Brooks

    (Note: The late Alison Brooks was responsible for a number of fondly remembered posts and commentaries on various Usenet news groups, of which this essay was one. She subsequently placed it on her 'Web site, where it remained for some time -- but unfortunately, that site has now disappeared. However, as this essay is still quoted from time to time in discussions of its subject, I felt that it should be kept available to the public, for reference and a as a small memorial to Alison. So, with the permission of her husband, Dave Flin, I've tracked down a copy and I'm putting it here. I've done a little formatting and tidying up, but otherwise, I've left it alone to speak for itself. -- Phil Masters, April 2008.)
    One of the more common suggestions that crop up at all-too regular intervals goes along the lines of: "If Hitler hadn't switched from bombing airfields to bombing cities, then Operation Sealion would have worked."
    Unfortunately for these suggestions, the plan for Sealion was perhaps the most flawed plan in the history of modern warfare. Getting it to a workable state requires so many changes that an author's artistic license would be revoked.
    What follows is an analysis of Sealion in OTL.
    The Background
    The Plan
    The Crossing
    The Obstacles
    The Air
    The One Exercise
    The July Option
    The End
    Operation Sealion - The Background

    When France collapsed, in mid-June 1940, the German staff had not even considered, never mind studied, the possibility of an invasion of Britain. Troops had received precisely zero training for seaborne and landing operations, and nothing had been done to gather the means of getting troops across the Channel.
    At the time, the balance of naval forces in the region were as follows:
    RN Kriegsmarine 5 capital ships 1 capital ship 11 cruisers 1 cruiser 53 destroyers 10 destroyers 23 destroyers on convoy duty 20-30 submarines In addition, the RN had countless smaller craft, including sloops, minesweepers, converted trawlers etc. These would have been of marginal value against warships. However, against the Rhine barges forming the main invasion transport force, they would have been effective.
    Thus, any Sealion which takes as its Point of Departure the premise that German forces attempted to cross in the immediate aftermath of Dunkirk has to answer the following questions:
    How are troops transported?
    How will the Germans cope with contested air?
    What is going to prevent the RN from interfering?
    Once ashore, how will the German forces be resupplied?
    If we turn our attention to point 3 for a while, the standard response is to say that the Luftwaffe could sink the RN ships. However, the Luftwaffe of the period had a pathetic record against warships. 39 RN destroyers took part in the Dunkirk evacuation. This operation required manoeuvring in a small harbour, with periods stationary while embarking troops. The Luftwaffe had command of the air for long periods. In these ideal conditions, the Luftwaffe managed to put out of commission a grand total of 4 destroyers. 4 out of 39 does not bode well for the Luftwaffe's chances.
    However, the most typical AH suggests that if the Luftwaffe had continued to attack the airfields of 11 Fighter Group, Sealion would have worked.
    Operation Sealion - The Plan

    We turn to the formal plan for Operation Sealion. The first instruction to begin planning was issued 2 July, giving 84 days before the invasion. (D-Day had been planned for 2 years). The Germans planned to lift 9 divisions (D-Day had 5).
    In Normandy, the Allies had total naval and air superiority, a host of special equipment, considerable hard-won experience, and a considerable level of support and assistance from the local population. Despite facing defenders that can be most charitably described as second-line, the Allied forces did not have an easy time on D-Day.
    Amphibious combined operations require close co-operation between the various branches. The Germans did not have this.
    The Wehrmacht wanted a broad-front landing (it proposed Ramsgate to Portand - 275 miles). The Wehrmacht expected the Kriegsmarine to carry out a landing on this massive front in the face of an overwhelming superior navy, with no transport fleet yet assembled. The Wehrmacht document stated:
    "The Luftwaffe will do the work of artillery, while the Kriegsmarine will do the work of engineers."
    Meanwhile, the Kriegsmarine were displaying a similar level of understanding of the needs of the Wehrmacht. It stated that the time between first landing and the second wave of reinforcements and supplies would be 8-10 days. Thus 9 Wehrmacht divisions, without any heavy equipment or resupply, would be expected to hold out against the 28 divisions in Britain, which had unlimited access to supplies and the available equipment.
    Hitler called a meeting on 31 July to decide among the various options. The Luftwaffe did not attend this meeting, although it was recognised that the Luftwaffe was essential to win air supremacy and to keep the RN out of the way. The Kriegsmarine proposed landing 10 infantry regiments at Folkestone, because a broad front would be impossible to protect. The Wehrmacht did not like this. The discussion moved on to purely army matters, so Raeder left the meeting. In Raeder's absence, Hitler announced that he favoured a broad front approach.
    It was not made clear what the Luftwaffe was expected to do. On 1 August, Hitler told the Wehrmacht and the Kriegsmarine that an essential prerequisite was that the Luftwaffe gain "Total domination of the air." The Luftwaffe, however, was told by Hitler on the same day that it had to achieve "Temporary or local air superiority."
    Examples of such total lack of co-operation abound.
    Operation Sealion - The Crossing

    Ignoring for the time being the air battle, we will look at the mechanism proposed for getting 9 divisions across the Channel. This was the responsibility of the Kriegsmarine. The plan was:
    Block the west end of the Channel with U-Boats (operating in shallow, confined waters and required to stop, with 100% effectiveness, fast-moving warships rather than slow-moving merchantmen).
    Block the east end of the Channel with mines and 14 torpedo boats (with 20 enemy destroyers immediately to face).
    The main surface fleet of the Kriegsmarine was to "Break out into the Atlantic and draw the Home Fleet into following it."
    Even if this exercise in wishful thinking worked perfectly, there was a problem. The RN had, based within the limits proposed, 3 light cruisers and 17 destroyers. However, the Kriegsmarine had thought of this, and decided that the barges would be adequately protected if the soldiers on the barges (travelling at night) "Fired at unidentified ships".
    Less adequately considered by the Kriegsmarine was how to capture an intact port. The chosen port was Dover. The operational plan was to sail the barges in and capture it. This was the detailed plan. The defences of Dover included a considerable amount of equipment "Surplus to establishment" (courtesy of HMS Sabre, which had passed on abandoned equipment from Dunkirk). This equipment included:
    3 Boys Anti-Tank Rifles
    19 Bren Guns
    4 Mortars
    3 21" Torpedo Tubes
    8 6" Guns
    2 12-pounder Guns
    2 14" Guns, called Winnie and Pooh. There were two limiting factors. Firstly, lack of ammunition (the anti-tank rifles had only 19 rounds each) and lack of personnel. (The CO complained to his diary that he didn't have enough troops to use all the weapons he had, and he couldn't request more troops because he shouldn't have all this equipment in the first place.)
    Overall, the plan to capture Dover was far less well thought out than the Dieppe fiasco.
    The German logistical plan to get troops and supplies across the Channel were not as professional and thorough as that for the initial crossing described above.
    To get the first wave across, the Germans gathered barges and tugs, totally disrupting their trade in the Baltic. Eventually, 170 cargo ships, 1277 barges, and 471 tugs were gathered. These were, inevitably, bombed by the RAF (about 10% being sunk before they dispersed again). The barges were mainly those designed for use on the Rhine, with a shallow freeboard. They sink in anything above Sea State 2. The wash from a fast-moving destroyer would swamp and sink the barge. (Correct: the RN could sink the lot without firing a shot).
    The situation with regard to mariners for the barges with experience of the sea was even worse. When used as a landing craft, the barges, tugs and motorboats required extra crew. In total, the Kriegsmarine estimated that a minimum of 20,000 extra crew would be needed. That's 20,000 extra crew at least knowledgable of matters maritime. By stripping its ships to the minimum (which doesn't bode well for the Kriegsmarine if it is required to fight a fleet action), the Kriegsmarine was able to supply 4,000 men. The Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe transferred 3,000 men who had been sailors in civilian life, and an in-depth trawl of the reserves and the factories and the drafts brought forward another 9,000 men. After digging through the entire manpower cupboard, the barges were still 4,000 men short of the minimum required.
    Nothing could alter this, and the Kriegsmarine came to the reluctant conclusion that the barges would have to sail in an undermanned condition.
    Finally, the barges were under-powered for open water operations, and required towing. The basic unit was a tug towing two barges, and travelling at 2-3 knots, in the Channel, which has tides of 5 knots. Given that the distance that the far left of the invasion had to cross, a minimum of 85 miles, the poor bloody soldiers would be wallowing for a minimum of 30 hours in an open boat, and expected to carry out an opposed amphibious landing at the end of it.
    The most comical element of the plan, however, was that for manoeuvring the flotilla. The plan was that this huge mass of towed barges would proceed in column until reaching a point ten miles from the landing beach, then wheel and steer parallel to the coast. When this was complete, the vessels would make a 90 degree turn at the same time, and advance in line towards the coast. This was to be carried out at night, and controlled and co-ordinated by loud hailers. There had been no chance to practise the operation, and there was less than one skilled sailor per vessel.
    If this seems to be a nightmare scenario, and a recipe for disaster, it is as nothing compared to other elements.
    Operation Sealion - Improvisations

    Given the shortage of transports, it was inevitable that the Germans would look to improvisations. These proved to be decidedly imperfect.
    The Engineer Battalion 47 of VII Army Corps was designated as having responsibility for the "construction of seaworthy ferries out of auxiliary equipment, local supply and bridging equipment". What was unusual in this was that this task, requiring a good knowledge of matters maritime, was tasked to this particular battalion, which had its home base in Bavaria.
    The engineers were nothing if not enthusiastic. They built rafts from pontoons, and were undismayed when half of these rafts sank while in harbour. Attempts to provide these rafts with power failed, because they broke up under the strain. Nonetheless, the Wehrmacht announced that these rafts would be towed behind the barges being towed by the tugs, and that the horses would thus be transported across the Channel on these rafts, saving the difficulties of loading the horses into the barges. One wonders what the horses would have made of this concept.
    The engineers turned their attention to pontoons used for crossing rivers. Even the most optimistic observer had to regard this as a failure. The open pontoons filled with water and sank. The iron beams holding the pontoons together snapped in waves, and the exercise was discontinued.
    Operation Sealion - Resupply

    The next phase of this analysis is resupply of those troops that make it ashore.
    It was recognised that it was essential to capture an intact port. Dover was the port chosen. The Kriegsmarine were told to put the Wehrmacht ashore in Dover, but nothing in the Wehrmacht plans indicates that they were required to capture Dover.
    It was planned to drop all the paratroopers on the heights north of Dover to help 16 Army. However, 9 Army had been told that all the paratroopers would be dropped near Portsmouth. The Luftwaffe had been told to support the seaborne landings, but no escort was intended for the paratroop drop, wherever it might end up taking place.
    In a stroke of tactical genius, the Dover drop zone was about the worst possible for human ingenuity to select. It was intended to drop the paratroopers 10-15 miles from the target (shades of Arnhem) in a landing zone that was a mixture of hills and hop fields. No resupply was planned.
    As for beachheads, there was literally no plan for tactical development. The plan states:
    "Once local beachheads have been won, junior commanders will set about co-ordinating small units in their vicinity and use them to seize objectives on their front. Weak but continuous fronts will be formed. These will be extended and deepened by a continuous flow of reinforcements. After daylight, but not before, the Luftwaffe will support the main effort of the assault troops, acting as artillery."
    It goes on later:
    "Premature crossing by higher staff will be valueless, as it would interfere with the flow of reinforcements. It will be the duty of regimental and battalion commanders to direct operations. The restricted area of the bridgehead will not be able to accommodate vehicles, supply columns and staffs."
    The Kriegsmarine's responsibility for supply ended with dumping the stuff on the bridgehead. The Wehrmacht had given the responsibility of ensuring that supplies were moved from the beach to the front to, well, to whoever happened to be on the spot and felt like getting involved in this operation.
    Can you say chaos?
    Operation Sealion - The Obstacles

    Just to make matters worse, no engineers were included in the first wave, and no equipment to deal with obstacles.
    The bulk of 9 Army was to be landed on the Romney Marshes, and would have to first of all deal with the Martello Towers - which against modern artillery, would be useless, but the Germans had no modern artillery with them. They would have to be dealt with by rifles and grenades.
    Then 9 Army has to cross the Royal Military Canal. Now again, this is an antiquated defence, but would actually prove to be a problem. It is 60 feet wide - and the Germans have brought no means of getting across it. Within 30 minutes of the Romney Marshes, the British had no less than 100 pieces of artillery.
    In the immediate vicinity of 9 Army, the British had the following:
    2 Territorial Divisions
    1 Brigade from India
    1 Brigade from New Zealand
    1 Armoured Division
    1 Canadian Division
    1 Army Tank Brigade
    Then there is the example of the question of life jackets. Thousands of life jackets had been provided. However, despite all the best efforts of the planners, there were only sufficient for the first wave. The intention was, according to the plan, that these life jackets would be brought back again by the boats for the second wave. The problem was that these life jackets were worn beneath the combat pack. Those involved would be expected, on landing on an open beach while under fire, to first take off their pack, then their life jacket, and then don combat pack, and only then start doing something about those inconsiderate British soldiers shooting at them. One wonders what the veterans of Omaha beach would say about the viability of this.
    Not that it would have been of the slightest use. While the Wehrmacht had been given strict instructions to do this, no-one had been made responsible for collecting the life jackets and return them to the boats. The boats, however, did have strict instructions not to wait once they had unloaded their troops. The life jackets would have piled up uselessly on the beach.
    Then there was the matter of artificial fog. A serious conflict of opinion arose between the Wehrmacht and the Kriegsmarine regarding the use of artificial fog. The Wehrmacht wanted it, for the quite reasonable reason that it would be the only form of protection available on the open beaches. The Kriegsmarine was opposed to its use for the also quite reasonable reason that the landings were quite difficult enough without making it impossible to see anything.
    Inevitably, a compromise solution was found; it was ruled that the Wehrmacht would get to decide whether or not to deploy artificial fog, but that it was the responsibility of the Kriegsmarine to actually deploy it, if practicable. This compromise would have very quickly resulted in the pantomime discussion of "Oh yes it is!" "Oh no it isn't!".
    Still, the Germans would have had one thing in plentiful supply. In a decision that is difficult to understand, given that there was no heavy equipment for them to pull, the Germans decided to include over 4,000 horses in the first wave.
    Operation Sealion - The Air

    So far, we have looked at an exercise in wishful thinking. We now turn to the Luftwaffe in order to gain an appreciation of the inability to count.
    The strength of the Luftwaffe at the point of Sealion was about 750 bombers and 600 Me109 fighters. The Germans estimated the strength of Fighter Command at 300 planes, of which 100 were not available to the RAF.
    In fact, 11 Fighter Group had 672 planes, of which 570 were Spitfires and Hurricanes.
    The Luftwaffe, with its resources, was expected to do all of the following:
    Act as artillery for the landing forces
    Keep the RN out of the Channel
    Win total air superiority
    Prevent British Army reinforcements from getting to the zone by bombing railway lines
    Make a mass attack on London to force the population to flee the city and choke the surrounding roads.
    One presumes that, in their copious free time, the Luftwaffe pilots would eat three Shredded Wheat for breakfast.
    Now, we actually have a pretty fair idea of how the RAF would have reacted if the southern airfields had been made untenable. Dowding had made preparations to pull 11 Fighter Group back to the Midlands in order to preserve an effective fighter opposition to an invasion proper.
    This would have placed the RAF fighters out of the range of the German fighters. Given the disasters that the Luftwaffe bombers suffered when they undertook unescorted daylight missions, we can see that while Kent and Sussex could have had a lot of bombs dropped on them, the industrial heartlands and the RAF and the RN ports and the British Army concentrations would have been pretty much untouched.
    So what happens if the Luftwaffe go after the airfields more effectively? 11 Group pulls back to the Midlands. The Luftwaffe pounds Kent and Sussex for a while, achieving diminishing returns (although the hop fields, and hence the output of beer, will be reduced noticeably).
    When Sealion starts, 11 Group has had chance to rest and recover and build up its strength, while the Luftwaffe have had to carry out a lot of sorties. On Sealion, 11 Group, in addition to 10 and 12 Group can re-enter the fray. They won't have so long over the area of operations, but against that, they have a huge number of potential targets - barges and landing beaches and transport aircraft. The Luftwaffe fighters have equally limited time over target, and they have a huge number of things they have to protect. If any target is damaged severely, Sealion is made unworkable. Thus the RAF need to succeed only once, while the Luftwaffe need to succeed everywhere and every time.
    Meanwhile, RAF's bomber command has just been presented with a massive, unmissable target in the form of the barge fleet. If the Germans are flying fighter cover over the barges, then these fighters are not flying as escort for the German bombers. If they are not escorting the bombers, then the bombers are unprotected against RAF fighters. In this case, the Luftwaffe will be ineffective at keeping the RN Home Fleet at bay. In essence, if the RAF doesn't get the barges, then the RN does.
    It is worth reiterating the key figures, that of fighters. At the time in question, the fighters available were 600 for the Luftwaffe, and 670 for the RAF.
    Britain was outproducing Germany in planes, so the proportions are steadily moving in Britain's favour.
    Another key element was the number of trained pilots. Again, Britain has a massive tactical advantage. A British pilot who survived being shot down could quickly be returned to operational status. A German pilot who survived being shot down became a prisoner of war, and removed from the battle.
    Operation Sealion - The One Exercise

    One single main exercise was carried out, just off Boulogne. Fifty vessels were used, and to enable the observers to actually observe, the exercise was carried out in broad daylight. (The real thing was due to take place at night/dawn, remember).
    The vessels marshalled about a mile out to sea, and cruised parallel to the coast. The armada turned towards the coast (one barge capsizing, and another losing its tow) and approached and landed. The barges opened, and soldiers swarmed ashore.
    However, it was noted that the masters of the boats let the intervals between the vessels become wider and wider, because they were scared of collisions. Half the barges failed to get their troops ashore within an hour of the first troops, and over 10% failed to reach the shore at all.
    The troops in the barges managed to impede the sailors in a remarkable manner - in one case, a barge overturned because the troops rushed to one side when another barge "came too close".
    Several barges grounded broadside on, preventing the ramp from being lowered.
    In this exercise, carried out in good visibility, with no enemy, in good weather, after travelling only a short distance, with no navigation hazards or beach defences, less than half the troops were got ashore where they could have done what they were supposed to do.
    The exercise was officially judged to have been a "great success".
    Operation Sealion - The July Option

    Some have suggested that an immediate invasion in July would have produced success. This claim derives, ultimately, from Guderian's claim that it would have been easy at this time. This, of course, is the same Guderian who claimed to have been the first German to reach the Atlantic coast during the Battle of France. This claim was made on reaching Noyettes, on the Channel coast.
    It is perfectly true that the British Army was less able to resist in July than it was by September. That, however, misses the point in a fairly dramatic fashion. The difficulty facing the Germans was not beating the British Army, but it was getting across the Channel in the face of the RN and the RAF.
    The German capacity for doing this is lower in July, and the odds are more heavily stacked against them.
    Firstly, the Kriegsmarine is weaker, as a result of unrepaired battle damage from the Norway campaign.
    Secondly, the German forces haven't had chance to gather transports. Without the efforts of bringing up the Rhine barges and scavenging and scrounging to the extent that took place, the Germans have the capacity to lift less than one infantry division.
    Thirdly, according to the precise timing, the Germans are either turning their backs on the French army before the Armistice with France, and allowing the French army to recover and reorganise; or the Germans beat France and immediately turn towards Britain, without taking time to rest their pilots and Panzer crews, and without taking time to repair battle damage to their planes and tanks.
    Fourthly, the Luftwaffe is not being allowed any time to inflict attrition on the RAF. Much to the disgust of the French, Britain had retained 24 fighter squadrons as Home Reserve. These squadrons were rested, maintained and ready. The Luftwaffe, on the other hand, have been flying a lot of sorties. The British Radar chain is undamaged, as is the command and control; in short, one is re-running the Battle of Britain, but giving the Luftwaffe tired crews and machines in need of repair, giving the RAF peak efficiency, while ensuring that the Luftwaffe have even more essential tasks to carry out than in a September Sealion.
    Operation Sealion - The End

    We can choose to wave a magic wand, and wipe out the RN and the RAF, and examine how successful the invasion was likely to be in their absence. Sandhurst has done this on four occasions to my knowledge. Both sides were given the historical starting positions, with an invasion date of 24 September.
    In each case, the details of the fighting varied, but by each analysis resulted in 27 September dawning with the Wehrmacht holding two isolated beachheads, one at roughly 2 divisions strength on Romney March, and one of 1 division at Pevensey. Each were opposed by more numerous forces, with growing numbers of tanks and artillery. German resupply was still across open beaches.
    Operation Sealion can only be described as a blueprint for a German disaster.
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