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Operation Sealion Figure 6: British plans to resist the invasion

Operation Sealion Figure 6: British plans to resist the invasion

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Operation Sealion Figure 6: British plans to resist the invasion

A brief overview of the British military plans to resist any succesful German landing in the autumn of 1940

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.


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.

The best martial arts for self defense, according to a SEAL

Posted On May 22, 2020 13:40:33

When it comes to self-defense, what do SEALs recommend? Well, Jocko Willink – a former Navy SEAL who served alongside Chris Kyle and Michael Monsoor in Task Unit Bruiser, earning the Silver Star and Bronze Star for heroism – has some answers. And they are surprising.

When it comes to self-defense, Willink’s top recommendation isn’t a martial art in the strictest sense. It’s a gun and concealed carry.

Willink discusses martial arts. (Youtube Screenshot)

“If you are in a situation where you need to protect yourself, that is how you protect yourself,” he said, noting that potential adversaries will have weapons, they will be on drugs or suffer from some psychotic condition. “If you want to protect yourself, that is how you do it.”

Okay, great. That works in the states that have “constitutional carry” or “shall issue” carry laws. But suppose you are in California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, or Delaware which the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action notes are “Rights Restricted – Very Limited Issue” states where obtaining a concealed carry permit is very difficult?

Willink then recommends Brazilian jujitsu, followed by Western boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling (the type you see in the Olympics, not the WWE – no disrespect to the WWE). Willinck is a proponent of jujitsu in particular – recounting how he used it to beat a fellow SEAL in a sparring match who had 20 years of experience in a different martial art.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blackbelt Andre Galvao demonstrating a full-mount grappling position at the 2008 World Jujitsu Championship. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

He noted that people should not buy into the notion of a “magical instructor” who can help them defeat multiple attackers. He said martial arts like Krav Maga can augment jujitsu and other arts.

He also noted that you have more time than you think. The attack isn’t likely to happen next week – it could be a lot longer, and one can learn a lot by training in a martial art two or three times a week for six months.

Willick notes, though, that martial arts have a purpose beyond self-defense. They can teach discipline and humility. He notes that few who start jujitsu get a black belt – because it takes discipline to go out there on the mat constantly, especially when you are a beginner.


Sea Lion, Battle of Britain and Barbarossa?

Amphibious operations were not so much a novelty but a complete unknown to Germany. They had never conducted one.

The British of course had done int he 1st World War.

There was the operation Albion in 1917 in the Baltics.

In opposite to Gallipoli or Tanga it was a complete success.

There was the operation Albion in 1917 in the Baltics.

In opposite to Gallipoli or Tanga it was a complete success.

Interesting, I wasn't aware of this.

[ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Albion]Operation Albion - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]


So the Blitz never happened? In any case, few German aircraft had thge range to attack shipping in the Atlantic and those that did were ineffectual.

Not necessarily. Your obsession with this presumed 'bluff' is very amusing.

Except that in this case the idea was of a bluff was to divert attention from the real attack. That doesn't really support your idea.

Only because I'm currently on a computer and books cost me a lot of money. In any case, you aren't aware that I log on at a public library well stocked with military history.As much as I'd like to print lots of erudite quotes and so forth, I don't have the computer time to do so. But as it happens your opinions are not better underlined.

That would have suited the Germans too.

The Germans misinterpreted intelligence data and were not aware of that.All they knew was that fighters kept coming. Sothey lost enthusiasm for the battle. You're making light of the situation I think because the RAF was under more pressure than you like to think, but this point does not support your idea of bluffing.

Who said the Blitz never happened?

Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to bomb London at the height of the Battle of Britain. yes it was a response to an RAF raid on Berlin but the Luftwaffe KEPT on bombing London into 1941.
Does that sound like preparation for an invasion?

By contrast (as you yourself readily admitted was "quite rightly) the allies bomber switched from strategic targets to tactical ones prior to D-Day.

Evidence that Sealion was a bluff. Had it been real the Germans would never have let up on RAF airfields and would also have started to bomb important tactical targets like bridges and rail hubs.

The Germans didn't have a plan to neutralize the RAF. Only No11 Group of FC was attacked because only SE England was within fighter range.

(There was an attack made from Norway IIRC but with no fighter escort it suffered high losses and wasn't repeated)

Well it you want to be technical yes, the Germans wanted air superiority over SE England. In order to achieve that you need to destroy the RAF (more correctly destroying FC and BC ability to operate aircraft in any numbers).
And no, the Luftwaffe didn't broaden the scope of the battle to support the other conditions of invasion. it moved from one type of attack to another.

It is studied at the British army staff college as how not to conduct a battle.

You're just putting forward an opinion - do you have any source for this?

They identified them at the start of the battle because they put a significant number out of commission.
RADAR was a vital element for the RAF. if the LW saw no practical reason to attack why do so at the beginning?

[/quote]. nor did the Germans want them to. Warships pack artillery and might seek urgent anchorage in the event of channel confrontations with the invasion underway. [/quote]

Again pure opinion and ridiculous at that. I seriously challenge you to provide a source on that one!

You don't bomb ports if you're going to invade.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that aircraft factories are STRATEGIC targets.
The RAF already had enough aircraft to fight for some period.

The Germans only had a matter of weeks to invade as no invasion could be launched after September because of weather condition in late autumn, in the English Channel.. This point is well made in Len Deighton's book "Fighter"

I know what the reason was - the blitz was as you say to try to force British resistance.
The Luftwaffe was no longer trying to gain air superiority and this wasn't after an invasion could no longer be launched but at the HEIGHT of the battle.

QED: Sealion was a bluff.

Except those unpowered, flat bottomed river barges were useless for any invasion. Yet they were still gathered and Germany made propaganda out of it.
It was just a bluff.

What is amusing is your denial of the evidence and the views of military writers and senior military commanders of the day.

You have no evidence of your own just your own entrenched, unsupported opinion. Please supply one source, one writer who agrees with you that Sealion was serious.

Not at all the fact that the allies had a real attack well hidden is irrelevant - the point is that when you are bluffing (as the Germans were) there is absolutely no point unless you let your enemy see.

Conversely you hide plans for real attacks - as the Germasn did with Barbarossa.

The allies switched from STRATEGIC targets to TACTICAL targets prior to their invasion.

The Germans did the opposite.

Now if you readily accept that the allied shift was "quite right" how can you NOT see how the German way was not wrong?

That is WRONG if they were serious about an invasion - which they weren't.

. yet your research fails to account for a need to mount an intense three month air battle that cost thousands of lives, mostly extremely valuable aircrew. As far as'most historians' are concerned,I don't believe you. Some might say that but the threat was real enough.
What? Any real invasion had to be mounted by October - you won't find anyone who will argue against this.

I don't care what you choose to believe or deny - the fact is I've given you evidence and sources.

You have given nothing except YOUR own opinion.

If you want to debate this, you will need more than that.

Fine, go take out those books I listed or take out some others dealing with the subject.

Give me anything other than your opinion that Sealion wasn't just a bluff.

Perhaps slightly but aircraft based North of London would be almost as effective in meeting an invasion, indeed Leigh-Mallory advocated this (after the BoB he became head of FC)

The Germans knew the RAF had a Bomber Command somewhere.

BC was the principal command of the RAF. FC was a backwater.

What is your source that BC pilots transferred to FC in any numbers?

You said Gallipoli wasn't an amphibious operation.

It was. Curiously enough I watched a TV show on the Military channel just after my last post that compared it with D-Day.

Various experts on the show made the point that lessons from Gallipoli were learned.

Gallipoli was planned in some 10 weeks. by contrast some troops trained for 2 years for D-Day.

Sealion was a bluff. I challenge you to show otherwise. Or better still put forward an opinion other than yours.


Who said the Blitz never happened?

Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to bomb London at the height of the Battle of Britain. yes it was a response to an RAF raid on Berlin but the Luftwaffe KEPT on bombing London into 1941.
Does that sound like preparation for an invasion?

The Luftwaffe started with tactical targets and only switched to strategic targets when the tactical campaign failed

It was evidence that the Luftwaffe was losing the air battle not that Sea Lion was a bluff.
They gave up attacking tactical targets because they were suffering losses they could not sustain, the attacks on London were a last attempt to land a knock out blow on Fighter Command.

The plan was to draw Fighter Command into battle and destroy enough of its capability to render it ineffective.

It didn't broaden its scope because it failed in it's attempt to defeat the RAF. Until it gained air supremacy over Southern England weakening its efforts against the RAF with attacks on other tactical targets was pointless.


Under such nice definition, IMHO it would be absurd to pretend that the military activities related with Unternehmen Seelöwe for the Summer of 1940 would have been any "bluff".

Storm CroMan

Reason? I can’t find stronger adjective for operation at Shingle Street.

What is that? Unsuccessful German landings, or British simulation of German landings, or …?

In both (or more) cases what was the purpose and in both “uncompromising standpoints” what is connection with Sea lion?
And generally can we develop any deeper discussion without access to hard facts, or with just few facts, about that operation?


Reason? I can’t find stronger adjective for operation at Shingle Street.

What is that? Unsuccessful German landings, or British simulation of German landings, or …?

In both (or more) cases what was the purpose and in both “uncompromising standpoints” what is connection with Sea lion?
And generally can we develop any deeper discussion without access to hard facts, or with just few facts, about that operation?

Actually this is attempt to broaden subject of next threads:
Did Hitler have a chance Against USSR? and
Why did “Barbarossa” fail?

Thesis, facts, assumption or just another one story:

“Fantomic operation Sea Lion was part of Hitler strategic deception directed in same time against Churchill and Stalin.
A) Against Churchill didn’t work. He didn’t accept (even didn’t think about) peace agreement. One of the results was partially attrition of German air power during Battle of Britain! (By the way: is it any impact of these losses on final result of Barbarossa and whole war against USSR?)
B) Against Stalin succeeded. Stalin was convinced that Germany will continue, and try to finish operations on West before starting war against USSR. So Barbarosa can started unexpected and so successfully.”

Which part of story is correct, if is any at all?

“There is no truth in history.
Only a reasonable approximation of what happened - at best.
T he story part of history is huge.”

Your main problem is chronology.

The strict Unternehmen Seelöwe of the Summer of 1940 was anything but "fantomic" or a "bluff" by any standard.
If it didn't progress, to a large extent that was exactly because Mr Churchill took this risk so seriously.

Göring's Conquests Pt.1: War Plan A

This is part 1 of a small map series I am making, depicting the conquests of Göring. Whether they go well or not is a different matter. Here is a write-up to get what is going on:

Operation Margarethe

The Reichsmarschall’s inevitable conquests began in 1966. The German Civil War had just ended, yet the mentally ill Führer felt ready to reclaim the German sphere, and perhaps go even further. His first target was an easy prey: the isolated Kingdom of Hungary. With no allies, at least ones nearby, Hungary would barely be able to stand up against the mighty Reich.

And so, on the 16th of September, 1966, Göring’s conquests started in the best way possible: a massive bombing campaign to reduce Hungary to rubble, combined with troop movements across the border. With the help of their “valuable ally”, Slovakia, Germany subjugated Hungary in a matter of weeks, Budapest falling less than a month after the undeclared war began. Despite the efforts of independent commanders to resist with their troops, there was nothing that could be done to stop the German onslaught. In 29 days, Hungary had fallen. In its place, a humiliating puppet regime led by a German noble. For Göring, none of this mattered: it was only the smallest step to German domination.

Operation Tepes

The Führer’s invasion of Hungary was just the start in fact, just over a month after Operation Margarethe ended in glorious success, the next, much more difficult plan for German expansion was carried out: Operation Tepes. German tanks, already having stopped at the Hungarian border, continued rolling forward in late October. It was supposed to be more than easy, especially with a friendly Bulgaria pushing over the Danube and the Serbian collaborationists helping as well. However, it would take time for the swastika to rise over Bucharest.

German units, as well as some Hungarian nazists who for some reason wanted to help reclaim land of theirs even though they themselves were under a tyranny, moved slowly through Transylvania and the Carpathians. Once winter set in, some Romanians believed they had a chance at negotiations. Of course, they were naive to believe the Reichsmarschall would ever choose peace over conquest. The snow began to thaw as winter ended, and immediately the Unity-Pakt went on the offensive. Additionally, Göring had an ace up his sleeve: in mid-February, in coordination with new German attacks, Romanian fascists rose up in Wallachia and Moldavia. It seems that for them, it was preferable to be ruling a Nazi puppet than to be oppressed by their country.

The two next months of fighting were bloody. Very bloody. Thousands of Romanians died fighting enemies on all sides, but in the end, they could do nothing about it. Fascists besieged and took Bucharest, immediately inviting the Germans in, and signing an armistice. Romania was carved like a pie by its neighbors, destroying the final competitor for Balkan domination. Finally, Göring could move on to more important business.

Operation Tannenbaum

The economy Göring had managed to build in only a couple of years was based on one thing: conquering neighbors, and taking their wealth. Switzerland’s banks and gold would make a fine addition to the loot already gathered, and would be a valuable boost to the economy. Göring knew the invasion of Switzerland would be an uphill battle, quite literally, and so threw everything Germany had in this invasion of a small, neutral nation on the mountains of the Alps. Even months later, barely any progress had been made. But Germany was dedicated.

The National Redoubt did wonders for the Swiss, but there was nothing they could do but fight on and on, against the hordes of German soldiers arriving. One year passed, and yet much of the Swiss territory was free. But, one and a half year later, organized Swiss resistance was almost over. On the 5th of March, 1969, almost 600 days after Operation Tannenbaum, the Führer declared victory. Still, that was far from the truth in reality, Swiss resistance would go on and on, even into the 70s. The truth was that the Swiss lion would never be tamed. Still, it was time for the next invasion Göring had planned: Operation Sealion II.

Operation Sea Lion II

Operation Sea Lion II was perhaps one of the most complex and well-planned operations of War Plan A for Göring’s Germany, involving risky strategies, bloody combat and backstabbing. It all started on

a bright cold day in April

12 April 1970, when German forces landed in large numbers in Britain, allegedly to help the collaborators restore control. Many arrived through Cornwall, where Halder’s garrison had made a deal with Germany and was reinforced

Of course, the soldiers of the Reich made no effort to distinguish between collaborators and the resistance. It didn’t matter they all had to be conquered. Soon, in a desperate move, the English government and the resistance made a deal for a united front against the German conquerors. Despite that, not much progress was made. London became a victim of the Second Blitz, much of the city being destroyed before the Wehrmacht entered the city. Soon, the English United Front was in ruins and could not hold back the Germans. Most left to Scotland and Wales, hoping for freedom, but it was not as if Göring cared for borders. Once Wales and Scotland was reached, the army kept pushing, eager to eliminate any resistance.

While the final remains of the Scottish and Welsh were being finished off, Case Cerdic was also launched: an invasion of the Emerald Isle, regardless of the fascist regime’s will to cooperate. Soon, the British Isles were all under direct German rule. The invasion officially finished on June 15, when in a surprise move Hermann Göring ordered all of Halder’s troops to be disarmed and for him to be executed. The same day, Reichskommissariat Britannia was founded, stretching across every corner of the Isles.

Operation Henry

Before moving on to bigger foes, Germany had one more matter to settle: the eastern Reichskommissariats. After the disastrous civil war, all four of them had turned against the Reich’s authority: Ostland had fallen under the control of some so-called “democratic” faction, Ukraine was led by anti-Nazi Theodor Oberländer, while the Reichskommissars of Moskowien and Kaukasia had gone rogue. Thankfully, none of them had the power to stand up to the Reich. The invasion was simple and straightforward: the army would not stop until they reached the Russian frontier. And so they did, as the militaries of the RKs were barebones and failed to protect them. By the start of August, even Kaukasia was under direct rule from Berlin.

Now, with the German sphere finally reclaimed, and no more suspicions of unexpected enemies of the Reich existing, it was time to make moves elsewhere. War Plan A had been completed, and it was time for War Plan B.


Play Public reaction to the imminent invasion of Britain

Public reaction to the imminent invasion of Britain

Frank Scrivener and Bill Pertwee remember how England's southern coast became like a fortress in preparation for the anticipated German invasion.

Play German scepticism about the planned invasion of Britain

German scepticism about the planned invasion of Britain

German naval officers describe their scepticism about the likely success of the planned invasion of Britain.

Play History was part of Churchill's life

History was part of Churchill's life

A.J.P. Taylor describes how Churchill often turned to historical precedents.

Play The credibility of Hitler's speeches

Simon Sebag Montefiore explains why Hitler's speeches were so convincing.

The historian Simon Sebag Montefiore assesses Hitler's oratorical skills and explains why his rhetoric could have convinced the German people he had 'good' intentions.

Play Ed Murrow Describes the Dunkirk Evacuation

Ed Murrow describes the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Ed Murrow, the American broadcast journalist, describes the evacuation of Dunkirk, the effect on the British population, and preparations to defend against a German invasion.

Inside Operation Sea Lion – the real-life plan for the Nazi invasion of Britain which inspired SS-GB

There really was a Nazi plan to occupy Britain. But would it have worked? Credit: M. McNeill/Fox Photos/Getty Images

I n September 1940, Belgian civilians visiting a beach near Antwerp were surprised to see what looked like an invasion in full swing. Platoons of German soldiers leaped from their landing craft and stormed up the sand under dummy fire, with light tanks close behind them. When the visitors asked what was going on, the German film crew explained that they were capturing simulated footage of the imminent invasion of Great Britain. Since the real landings would take place before dawn, Hitler wanted to make sure he had something to put in the newsreels.

This weekend marks the start of the BBC's new alternate history drama, SS-GB, depicting the United Kingdom occupied by and collaborating with the Third Reich. In the real world there really was a plan to invade Britain, to which the Nazis devoted significant time and resources. It was detailed, serious, and considered a real threat by the Allied commanders. Its name was Operation Seeloewe – or, in English, Sea Lion.

The prelude to invasion

G erman military planners had been mulling a potential invasion of Britain ever since our declaration of war in September 1939. But it was only in July 1940, after France had fallen without a British offer of surrender, that the idea became serious.

I t's easy to forget now how desperate Britain's position looked at that time. Nazi forces had stormed through Belgium and France with unprecedented speed. The British Army had suffered a near-catastrophe at Dunkirk, saving many men but losing much of its equipment.

Norway too had fallen to the Germans. Moreover, behind Churchill's thunderous rhetoric (such as his promise that Britain's resistance would end "only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood"), Britain's will to fight was shaky.

Only narrowly in May 1940, over three days of meetings, had he seen off his internal Cabinet opponents who believed that Britain should sue for peace. And many people outside his government either did not think the conflict was our business or did not want to repeat the horrors of the First World War.

B ut Hitler only had a very short window. There was no way he could be ready for an invasion before late August at the most optimistic. And after September the weather would start to turn. By 1941 Britain's army would have been rebuilt too strongly. Hence, Hitler issued Fuhrer Directive 16:

“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.”

Soon, a stream barges and motor boats began to creep along the French coast every night from German, the Netherlands and Belgium towards the French ports of Calais and Brest.

A llied aerial photographs showed soldiers assembling on land, trains shuttling back and forth, mountain divisions with mules an invasion force in the making.

The plan of attack

F rom the start Sea Lion was mired in disagreement between the fractious heads of the Nazi armed forces. The German Navy, the Kriegsmarine, wanted a narrow front, but the Army thought this was "complete suicide".

The Army in turn had angered the Navy by referring to the invasion as a "river crossing on a broad front" and underestimating the difficulty of the journey.

The final plan was that nine divisions (or 67,000 men) would cross the Channel on a broad front stretching from Lyme Regis in the West to Folkestone and Ramsgate in the east, while two divisions of paratroopers would fall on Brighton and Dover.

A second wave of landing craft would bring tanks and mechanised infantry. The first priority would be to capture ports so that supplies could be landed, and then the troops would drive on London to force a panicky surrender. Meanwhile the landing zones would be protected by French coastal guns, German U-boats, and curtains of mines.

T his was easier said than done. The Germans had no specialised amphibious landing force, and so thousands of river barges had to be pressed into service and modified. These flat-bottom craft were far from ideal: easy to capsize, vulnerable to bad weather, and in many cases with engines so weak they had to be towed into land by tug boats.

T he Germans also came up with a number of special weapons for use in the invasion – Teutonic precursors to Hobart's Funnies. There were the Seilbomben, designed to spread panic by knocking out Britain's power grids.

Bombers would fly as low as possible over electricity lines and drop bundles of weighted cables over them to short them out – a task almost as dangerous to the pilots as to the targets.

Krupp was commissioned to build a mobile jetty similar to the allied Mulberry Harbour. Around 50 light tanks were converted to Schwimmpanzers, which could float into shore from their landing craft.

A nd then there were 210 Tauchpanzers, or "deep wading" tanks, which would drop straight to the sea floor and crawl up the beach under 50 feet of water.

They had snorkels for their crew to breathe, a compass for underwater navigation, and bilge pumps to counter any leaks. But tests showed that if they stopped moving they often sank into the mud and got stuck there underwater – a terrifying prospect for those inside, who would then have to wait until low tide to be rescued.

After the invasion, there was also a detailed plan for occupied Britain. Briefly: the UK would be split into six military districts, while Churchill's ancestral home of Blenheim Palace would become Hitler's HQ (though Lord Haw-Haw claimed it would be Brighton Pavilion).

G erman authorities would take over the newspapers, export Germanic art, and potentially move Nelson's Column to Berlin. The abdicated Edward VIII and the famous British fascist Oswald Mosley were both considered for leadership. Around 25 per cent of British men would be deported to Europe as captive labour. And death squads were ready with a list of 2,820 names and a mandate to eliminate Britain's 300,000 Jews.

Had that happened, there was a very real possibility many Britons would have collaborated. Nigel Jones explains why here.

The Nazis' biggest problem

In a sentence: the Royal Navy. In a longer sentence: the Royal Navy and the RAF. Hitler's Directive 16 had laid out four preconditions for a successful invasion:

  • The RAF had to be "beaten down" into submission
  • The English Channel had to be cleared of British mines and blocked off by German ones
  • The coast had to be dominated by heavy artillery
  • The Royal Navy had to be prevented from intervening

But this was underestimating the problem. Indeed, the two people tasked with making these happen — fierce rivals Grand Admiral Erich Raeder and Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering — both thought the plan highly improbable.

T he RAF was a hard enough nut to crack. The British coastal fleet alone seriously outnumbered the Kriegsmarine at something like 60 destroyers to 7. The great battleships Bismark and Tirpitz, which would cause so much trouble later in the war, would not be ready until May 1941.

A nd waiting in Scapa Flow like some brawny moray eel there was the British Home Fleet, comprising some of Her Majesty's strongest ships. In normal circumstances it had to stay put to prevent the Germans from breaking out into the Atlantic Ocean and attacking merchant convoys.

But in the event of an invasion it (or parts of it) might well have been released to power down into the Channel, scattering everything before it.

Logistics would also have been a problem. Despite the stereotype of Blitzkrieg warfare, most of the German army was at this point still horse-powered. During the invasion of France there was a standing order to capture all horse farms and emphatically not to loot them.

British intelligence calculated that the first wave would have needed at least 3,300 tons of supplies everyday, yet even a successful capture of Folkestone and Dover – with minimal interference from the RAF – would only permit the landing of 1,400 tons per day.

Beyond all this, amphibious landings are just hard. In 1940 they had rarely been attempted before. The experience of D-Day (and the Allied invasion of North Africa which preceded it) showed that a large number of landing craft are lost merely from accidents, beachings, and mistakes, and the number increases with every successive wave.

T hat was with specialised boats, too, not the jerry-rigged Rosie and Jim armada the Germans had assembled.

Oh, and the high tide in the English Channel happens about six hours earlier at Lyme Regis than it does at Dover. So the invasion would either have had to unfold slowly over six hours, or land in a very wide range of different conditions.

As the British Admiral Pound wrote in the summer of 1940:

“It appears probable that a total of some hundred thousand men might reach these shores without being intercepted by naval forces. but the maintenance of their line of supply, unless the German Air Force had overcome both our Air Force and our Navy, seems practically impossible.”

Why did the invasion never happen?

On August 1, Hitler ordered an intensified air campaign to "establish the necessary conditions for the final conquest of England". That was the start of what we now call the Battle of Britain, which saw repeated Luftwaffe raids against RAF airfields. If they had been crushed – if the Nazis had achieved air superiority over the English channel – then it's just possible they could have held off the Royal Navy for long enough.

More likely, Goering thought, was that the destruction of the RAF would make an invasion threat credible enough to force Britain to sue for peace without any need for the cumbersome and dangerous Sea Lion mission. He was certainly confident.

"Goering boasted that his Luftwaffe would deal with anything that could fly or swim," one Kriesgmariner told the Telegraph much later. "We never believed him."

I ndeed, the RAF was not destroyed. Its pilots had the huge advantage of being able to stay in the air much longer than the Luftwaffe's, who had to come across the Channel and turn back with fuel to spare.

Britain also had a sophisticated system of air defences which allowed a huge amount of information to be centralised in one room – a precursor to the computer networks we now use to let commanders visualise the "battlespace". This system made it easy to identify and respond to each enemy raid, driving the success rate of each air patrol up from 30-50 per cent up to 80 or 90 per cent.

A t first the Nazis focused on airfields, and there was a point where they almost succeeded in knocking out some of them. But after the "hardest day" on August 18 they made the error of switching their efforts to civilian bombing.

S ea Lion had already been repeatedly delayed now it was postponed indefinitely. On September 17, Hitler ordered the dispersal of the invasion fleet and on October 12 he released much of the land force for other duties. After that it existed only in theory, as a cudgel to wave at the British in case we considered surrendering.

Could it ever have worked?

Probably not, but there's no way of knowing. Or is there?

In 1974 the Daily Telegraph organised a wargame at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, to simulate Operation Sea Lion. It was designed by Dr Paddy Griffith, a lecturer who is widely considered the father of British wargames, and umpired by actual German Second World War veterans flown in for the occasion. It gives us at least an idea of what might have happened if the Nazis had actually invaded.

Griffith made some adjustments to history. He assumed the Germans had not switched from airfields to civilian bombings as in real life, and that their raids had successfully torn up English railways. Extra troops were also made available.

The Telegraph's coverage at the time shows the landings were initially a success. The Germans bloodied the nose of the RAF and made beachheads at Hythe, Dungeness, Rye, Pevensey, and Seaford while the Home Guard desperately demolished the Dover and Folkestone docks.

T he invaders started to punch through the British defences, Folkestone was taken, and "Hitler" offered peace terms.

B ut at 1pm on the second day the Royal Navy steamed into the Channel. The Kriegsmarine took heavy losses, the weather turned, and resupply became impossible.

A wild idea to parachute assassins into Hyde Park and knock out Churchill was pooh-poohed by the umpires. And so on the third day the Germans withdrew, leaving thousands of troops trapped in England. Four days later, they surrendered.

Fine. Best of three? In 2015 another game was held in south London by Jim Wallman, an old friend of Griffith who once worked for the Ministry of Defence and now runs educational wargames for a variety of clients including his former employer (he is a font of knowledge on this topic and one of my sources for this article).

Since this version was for entertainment purposes, Wallman had to make a lot more adjustments: the Royal Navy's Channel fleet was massively reduced, the RAF was throttled back, and the British players received briefings which stressed the importance of conserving their forces.

Even then, the Germans struggled to make a foothold. Some of this was due to decisions taken by the players: the Germans attacked on too short a front, fluffed their logistics, and opportunities to push forward were missed. But other problems testified to the traditional difficulties.

D espite taking Brighton (the in-game New York Times reported Wehrmarcht troops enjoying candyfloss on the pier), German logistics quickly broke down, and soon, once again, the invaders were cut off in the Channel.

Within a week a German Army officer told the Times he had been "doomed" by the "backstabbing" of the Luftwaffe and Navy in petty response the Nazis in Paris arrested Martha Gellhorn.

A second game in Manchester went better for the invaders. A wider front and more mobility, plus a grand misdeployment by the British, led to Nazis seizing Folkestone and Dover. When the game ended there were regular supply ships and Panzers were driving down the road to London. Even then, Wallman is equanimous about their prospects.

"The premise of the war game was to see how far you got before things really fell over," he told me.

So two firm losses and one ambiguous potential win, in an environment where key historical barriers have been hobbled. It's not a stunning endorsement of Sea Lion.

Anything can happen

The games did, however, reveal two ways Sea Lion might have succeeded. Both are still unlikely, because either would have required the Germans to get repeatedly lucky – a series of fortunate events. But as Wallman points out, this is exactly what happened during the invasion of France.

T he first possibility is that serious and sufficiently rapid gains for the Germans would have forced a political collapse. This came close to happening in the Manchester game, which ended with not many British forces between London and the invaders.

"If you look at the parallels with France, political will is absolutely vital," says Wallman. "You can never know how unstable your system is until it collapses."

Churchill still had enemies, and their actions, and a general sense of panic, might have turned a militarily winnable situation into a surrender.

The second possibility was hinted at in the London game. Britain's "panic meter" reportedly spiked because a decision to move the Home Fleet from Scapa Flow to the invasion zone allowed the Germans to break out into the Atlantic.

"There was a genuine belief at the time that if that happened then Britain could be starved into surrender, quite quickly," says Wallman. "An attempted invasion resulting in the German surface fleet getting into the Atlantic would have been a win for the Germans for a completely different reason."

That might have led to Britain agreeing to drop out of the war, if not actually give up. Of course, in real life the British had so many ships there might have been little reason to make the decision the panicked players did.

I n truth, prospects for the Germans were grim. All the odds were stacked against a successful invasion. Sea Lion would in all probability have been an unholy mess, and the best hope for the Germans was that Britain, cowed by defeat in a different Battle of Britain, would concede before anyone had to put the plan into action.

Churchill later wrote in his memoirs that he "could not help being inwardly excited" at the prospect of an invasion, on the grounds that it would fail and embarrass the Germans profoundly. Indeed, he concluded:

Had the Germans possessed in 1940 well-trained amphibious forces equipped with all the apparatus of modern amphibious war 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 nor the training.

Not for no reason did paratroop major Heinz Trettner later recall: "Thank God it was never tried."

New – Spotter’s Guide to Pillboxes & other anti-invasion structures of WWII.By Mike Osborne.

Out now the Spotter’s guide to pillboxes, a 52 page booklet which attempts to “explain the presence of the thousands of pillboxes still to be seen across the countryside and along the coasts.”
Available only from the Pillbox Study Group.
Get your copy by sending a Cheque for £5 (made out to Pillbox Study Group) to Alistair Graham Kerr, ‘Casemate’ 7 Burgh Castle, Marine Butt Lane, Burgh Castle, Norfolk. NR31 9PZ

Moray Firth Type 24 Fly Round

The PSG does not encourage members to undertake the ad hoc clearance of vegetation from pillboxes and other defences, as it can expose them to physical damage and inappropriate use, it may also contravene a variety of statutory regulations including, listed buildings and SSSI designations. Vegetation clearance should only ever be undertaken as part of a formal arrangement, having sought and obtained permission from the land owner and other necessary authorities. Damaging a listed or scheduled monument can be considered as a Heritage Crime.

Operation Sea Lion: Dossier detailing Hitler’s plan to invade Britain unearthed

A cache of uncovered files has detailed Hitler’s strategy to use 600,000 troops to overcome the UK in World War Two and hoist the swastika on British soil.

Operation Sea Lion (The History Channel).

Operation Sea Lion (The History Channel)

The dossier included detailed maps of possible landing points and places to attack, such as Dover (above). Picture: BNPS Source:Supplied

Long forgotten secret plans by the Nazis to invade Britain during World War Two have been uncovered.

The dossier was complied by the British authorities based on a slew of documents found in the German naval archives after the Allies captured Berlin to end the war.

They showed Adolf Hitler planned to bombard Britain with artillery from the English Channel and land 600,000 troops on the coast.

It was intended that Operation Sea Lion, as Hitler called it, would have been launched from captured French ports in September 1940. The aim would have been to sweep around London, just 76 kms from the Channel, and enact a swift surrender from Winston Churchill’s government.

Adolf Hitler had captured France, Belgium and the Netherlands b mid- 1940. If Britain didn’t come to terms with Berlin, he wanted to invade that nation too. Source:news.com.au

A bound copy of the plans is to be sold off this weekend by auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Son of Devizes in southern England.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said he expected bids of up to $9000: “This is a fascinating account. This is the ‘what if’ scenario.”

Copies of the book, called German Plans for the Invasion of England in 1940 were given to limited number of senior officials in British intelligence after the war finished in 1947, reported the Mirror.

The book included detailed maps of the planned invasion routes as well as copies of documents produced by the Nazis.

By 1940, the Nazi swastika was a common sight in Europe, from Berlin to Brussels. Source:News Corp Australia

In July 1940, and after his success in conquering France, Belgium and the Netherlands, Hitler was becoming exasperated at Churchill’s refusal to come to terms.

“Since England, in spite of her hopeless military situation, shows no signs of being ready to come to a compromise, I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England, and, if necessary, to carry it out,” he said.

Hitler’s aim was to secure a swath of the English coast, from the headland of Selsey Bill in West Sussex, close to the British naval port of Portsmouth, to Ramsgate in Kent near the mouth of the River Thames that flows into London.

The French ports of Le Havre, Cherbourg, Boulogne and Ostend would have been the starting point.

By August of 1940 Hitler had moved huge amounts of machinery, weaponry and naval vessels to the French coast.

Hitler’s planned invasion points into England, from the dossier being auctioned off. Picture: BNPS Source:Supplied

The seaside resort city of Brighton would have been the main landing point for German troops. Photo: iStock Source:Supplied

Hitler would initially look to confuse the British forces by launching an attack on northern Britain, between Newcastle and the Scottish city of Aberdeen.

But with all eyes looking elsewhere, the real action would start several days later and far further south.

The Strait of Dover, where at just 33kms wide the Channel is at its narrowest, would have been a key battleground with German forces looking to sink British ships and devastate the strategically vital port of Dover.

But Dover wouldn’t have been the main landing point. Sea Lion would have seen the bustling English sea side city of Brighton at the centre of the invasion and used as the main point to deposit manpower and weapons into the UK.

It was chosen because it was not a major port and so was less heavily fortified than other options including Hastings and the Isle of Wight.

Dubbed by the British as 𠇎xceptionally bold and daring attack” the initial phase would have seen 100,000 troops, 650 tanks and 4500 horses make land fall in five separate stretches of coast. These would start at Ramsgate and would also include the port of Folkestone, Dungeness, Beachy Head and finally a section from Brighton to Selsey Bill.

Once the coast and Channel had been secured a further half a million troops would join the initial landing force in multiple subsequent waves.

The dossier included detailed maps of possible landing points and places to attack, such as Dover (above). Picture: BNPS Source:Supplied

A map in the book of Folkestone, one of five areas Germany would have focused invasion efforts on. Picture: BNPS Source:Supplied

Unexpected and lightning quick, the Germans were counting on the British “rapidly abandoning” their defensive positions south of London.

Within two weeks, Berlin was confident it could take control of a vast tract of England from the port of Southampton all the way up to the mouth of the Thames.

Once captured, the Nazis hoped the British would be so demoralised and outgunned that rolling on and taking the rest of the nation would be relative pushover.

London’s borders would initially not be breached. Rather the capital would be surrounded and when the rest of the UK had fallen the Nazis would enter the city.

Hitler believed Operation Sea Lion would lead to a “rapid conclusion” of the war.

But it wasn’t to be. He had demanded Britain’s formidable Royal Air Force be destroyed or at least heavily impaired by Germany before the invasion could begin.

The British uncovered German documents heavily annotated to pinpoint important areas of the UK. The industrial Thames estuary is above. Picture: BNPS Source:Supplied

From June of that year, the Luftwaffe pummelled UK cities and RAF bases to both destroy British morale and neutralise any threat of retaliation.

While devastating, the Battle of Britain was also a disaster for Hitler as the UK proved to be a far more testing opponent than expected.

The inability of Germany to destroy the RAF led to the invasion being postponed until, with winter approaching in October, the plans were postponed.

However, the aim to overrun England was never formally called off and Operation Sea Lion remained live throughout the war until the Nazis eventual defeat in 1945.

Watch the video: Operation Sealion (June 2022).