British Expeditionary Force Defeat, 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by Drew5233, Oct 30, 2009.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Who do you blame for their defeat?

    Montgomery believed they lost the battle of France many years before the war started in Whitehall. Even if the increasing cut backs in the 20's and 30's had a detrimental effect on the British Forces....It seems to me they held they own often against a far numerically superior enemy.

    From what I have read of late I'd be more inclined to point the finger at the lack of fighting spirit coming from the Belgian Army on the BEF's left flank and what appears to be the senior French commanders lack of ability to command troops I noted that quite a few broke down in tears when things didn't go to plan - Hardly the behaviour expected of man who leads thousands of men.
  2. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

    Depends Drew...can we really consider the BEF as a defeat in simplistic terms such as the Belgians. If they had held would that not just be denying the inevitable..The reasons over the years given for the early loss have been contested by many..Not all that Iagree with..from those pesky french commies of the thirtees..weak leadership...superior german giants of the new military thinking..etc.etc.. My view is the same for any battle or theatre..It matters not technical..quality of troops...numbers of troops..but rather the initial DEPLOYMENT of forces. To this end the BEF were on a loser from day one.
  3. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I don't think that there is one simple answer to this. If the pre-invasion Belgian government had been prepared to let the British and French forces help garrison the Maas then an attack may have been a non-starter.

    The Dyle line was being held but once the breakthrough came at Sedan then it didn't matter how well things went in Belgium, the BEF was going to be out-flanked if it didn't withdraw.

    I know that the moderators here hate 'What ifs' (well, the grumpy one especially !):) but at this early stage of the war, it was less clear-cut. The two big ones here as far as I'm concerned are 'What if Britain and France hadn't advanced into Belgium' and 'What if the German advance had been brought to a halt as in 1914 ?'

    I tend to the view that the enforced evacuation of the BEF may have been a blessing in disguise. It allowed the forces to be rebuilt without the drain of a continuing european campaign.

    If the British had remained stationed along the Belgian border behind the fortifications that they had built during the winter of 1939-40, facing a dummy thrust while the real advance was behind them, I think that there is a real chance they would not have been able to pull out to the coast in time and would have been captured in their entirety. The French commanders had ensured that the BEF had no quick way out when they allocated the sectors in 1939.

    The alternative of a new trench war doesn't bear thinking about. Although the armies were more mobile than in 1914 and a breakthrough more likely, later experience at Anzio for example shows that a heavily defended coastal pocket can produce a very similar bloody stalemate to that of thirty years earlier.

Share This Page