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The Battle Of Dunkirk  
User currently offlineAR385 From Mexico, joined Nov 2003, 5946 posts, RR: 30
Posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 3407 times:
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One of my hobbies, aside from aviation, is the history of WWII. I have read many books, but recently, I bought and read one by Sebag Montefiore, about the early years of the war. It deals with the British Expeditionary Force in The Netherlands, Belgium and France, and ultimately the evacuation of the BEF through Dunkirk. This book has received many positive reviews. The issue I have with it, is that it portrays the French forces as lazy, unmotivated, demoralized and undisciplined. While it portrays the British as being incredible, tenacious and disciplined soldiers who fought for France and had to leave because of French incompetence.

Is this an accurate picture?


MGGS
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User currently offlineAndz From South Africa, joined Feb 2004, 8416 posts, RR: 11
Reply 1, posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 3404 times:
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Quoting AR385 (Thread starter):
The issue I have with it, is that it portrays the French forces as lazy, unmotivated, demoralized and undisciplined. While it portrays the British as being incredible, tenacious and disciplined soldiers who fought for France and had to leave because of French incompetence.

Sounds typical of my impression of the French. Oh, and one of them will soon point out that it is Dunkerque  Wink



After Monday and Tuesday even the calendar says WTF...
User currently onlineKC135TopBoom From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 12063 posts, RR: 52
Reply 2, posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 3391 times:



Quoting AR385 (Thread starter):
The issue I have with it, is that it portrays the French forces as lazy, unmotivated, demoralized and undisciplined.

Facts are facts. Does it also point out that to be assured to be on the winning side at the end of WWII, the French fought on both sides? The Free French fought with the Allies, while the Vichy French fought with the Axis.


User currently offlineMoo From Falkland Islands, joined May 2007, 3829 posts, RR: 5
Reply 3, posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 3371 times:



Quoting AR385 (Thread starter):
The issue I have with it, is that it portrays the French forces as lazy, unmotivated, demoralized and undisciplined. While it portrays the British as being incredible, tenacious and disciplined soldiers who fought for France and had to leave because of French incompetence.

Pretty much sums it up. We also got a lot of French forces off those beaches as well.

Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 2):
Facts are facts. Does it also point out that to be assured to be on the winning side at the end of WWII, the French fought on both sides? The Free French fought with the Allies, while the Vichy French fought with the Axis.

Now thats pushing it a little - Vichy France was created to end the destruction of France after it was blatantly obvious Germany was unstoppable. Do you expect them to fight to every last man, woman and child? Now, their actions during this period are highly questionable...

Also, British actions did much to strengthen Vichy feelings when we sank their fleet at anchor in Mers-el-Kébir - we were actually still an ally of Vichy France at the time (yes, the UK did maintain diplomatic contact with unoccupied France at this time, and closer ties than the British based Free French).


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 13805 posts, RR: 63
Reply 4, posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 3334 times:



Quoting AR385 (Thread starter):
One of my hobbies, aside from aviation, is the history of WWII. I have read many books, but recently, I bought and read one by Sebag Montefiore, about the early years of the war. It deals with the British Expeditionary Force in The Netherlands, Belgium and France, and ultimately the evacuation of the BEF through Dunkirk. This book has received many positive reviews. The issue I have with it, is that it portrays the French forces as lazy, unmotivated, demoralized and undisciplined. While it portrays the British as being incredible, tenacious and disciplined soldiers who fought for France and had to leave because of French incompetence.

Is this an accurate picture?

I just read the same book as well, but I recommend Len Deighton's "Blitzkrieg" to read as well.
France suffered from several problems:
1) France had extremely high losses in WW1, practically a whole generation of young men got killed, mainly through bad tactical decisions by French generals during the first years of the war. Most of these early war generals had started their careers in the 19th century military when it was still closed formations marching over open ground, armed with muzzle loading percussion rifles and flamboiant uniforms.
They never realised the changes which massive use of barbed wire, machine guns or indirectly fired artillery brought to warfare. As a result they again and again ordered suicidical frontal attacks against the German trenches, believing that the true French spirit would only show up in reckless attacks.
The later Mareshall Petain took over later and was liked by both the soldiers and the population for not throwing away his soldier's lives, but instead to thouroughly plan operations with proper preperation by artillery fire etc..
After WW1, military became a dirty word in France, with the general opinion that the the higher ranks used the masses of dead soldiers as stepping stones for their careers.

2) France's military leadership structure:
The (professional) officer's corps was quite detached from the normal conscript soldiers. This led to dissent among the ranks.
While France had on paper the biggest army in Europe, it was a bloated organism. mobilisation went through central depots and caused bottlenecks. Equipment was not stored with the respective units, but in central depots, leading to logistics nightmares.
Many of the higher ranking officers were extremely conservative in their thinking (see the Maginot line). tHey missed the technological advances in armour and aviation (which were recognised by middle ranking officers, like Colonel DeGaulle) and planned for a war to be fought again like WW1. Especially they thought that they would have ample warning of an impending attack by watching the Germans trundle up heavy artillery to the border.
Then, there existed a lack of wireless and telephone communications. Several French generals refused to use modern means of signals, being afraid of eavesdropping, and relied on, much slower, messengers and dispatch riders.

3) As I mentioed, France's army was big on paper, but it basically consisted of three different standards:
A-class units were made up out of physically fit young men and were fully equipped.
B-class units were made up out of older, less fit soldiers and received less equipment and ammunition.
Fortress units (those manning the Maginot line forts) were made up out of soldiers, who were not fit enough for field deployment.
Then, in September 1939 a general mobilisation was ordered, but after a few months of "phony war" it was seen that too many men had been conscripted, since it left the factories (especially the armament factories) without sufficient manpower. As a result soldiers, who were working in those industries were discharged, which led to grumbling from the other conscripts, who had to stay on.
The BEF and French general staffs at first assumed that the Germans would attack, like in WW1, through neutral Belgium. Now the Belgian government was so much afraid of provoking the Germans, that they refused any cooperation with the British and French before an actually German attack.
Now the coastal area in Northern France is due to geographical reasons virtually indefensible. It was noticed early that a possible line of resistance had to be set up in Belgium, where the land starts to become hilly.

Due to not knowing what to expect, the British and French made the following plan:
1) The Germans are highly unlikely to cross the German-French Rhine frontier due to the Maginot line, where the fortress troops are well dug in and able to shoot back.
2) The most likely attack is going to come from the north through Belgium, so let's move all of our best troops up there.
3) This still left a sector in the centre, facing the Ardennes mountains around Sedan. But the roads in the Ardennes are narrow and curvy. French doctrine said that, if you plan to attack, you'll need a massive amount of artillery and ammo. A build-up of artillery and ammo trucks on these narrow roads would be easily noted and A-class combat troops can be moved there fast enough. In meantime cover this are with B-class units.

Next problem was a strong interservice rivalty in the French forces: The airforce had the planes, but no way of bringing aerial reconnaisance information to the respective army units.

So now we have May 1940:
8 months of boredom for the soldiers, staring at the border, are suddenly over. The norway campaign proved a disaster, especially on the French side, not due to cowardly soldiers, but due to major f#ck-ups by the generals.

Against all expectations, the Germans invade the Netherlands first (in WW1 the Netherlands were in a German-friendly neutrality). The Dutch government asks for help. Units of the French army and the BEF are being sent north to assist.
Suddenly the Germans start a surprise attack on Belgium, using airborne units.
The Allies fall back to a defensive position and have to recall the units sent to the Netherlands to prevent them from getting cut off.
What nobody realised at this time is that the attack on Belgium on the Netherlands is just a big decoy.
The real attack comes through the Ardennes, the sector everybody thought to be reasonably safe. The Germans are using new tactics: the fully motorised armoured division with close in support by dive bombers. They do not wait for artillery to come up to soften up enemy centres of resistance, they bypass and outflank them, they move fast (unlike the French and British armoured doctrine, the Germans do not distiguish between slow moving heavily armoured infantry tanks and fast, lightly armoured cruiser tanks to fill the cavalry role). They have motorised engineering units with them to cross obstacles. Field artillery is standartised and towed by trucks or half-tracks.
If resistance becomes too pesky, they call in for an airstrike and bomb the sh#t out off them.
All motorised units in the German army have wireless communication, down to platoon level.
Support and logistics units are equally motorised and able to keep up with the armour and lorried infantry. German strikes could suddenly appear out of nothing.

See that in contrast with the French B-units in the central sector
Infantry is forced to march, accompanied by bumbling infantry tanks. The equipment is moved often by horse transport (ok, this is valid for rear area units in the German army too, but not for frontline attack units).
Very bad communication with the next higher level of command. Very poor intelligence. Officer corps detached from the men with aristocrat allures.
Logistics nightmare.
No wonder the ordinary soldiers in the French Army doubted their chain of command and rather relied on rumours and that the discipline was in many units very bad.
Many soldiers just saw a repeat of 1914-1918, with them being sacrificed for the career improvement of some superior.

Interestingly there were a few units, which fought to the end and later formed the core of the Free French. E.g. DeGaulle led a successfull armoured counterattack at Lille, which only petered out because he could not get the supplies to consolidate his victory.

Jan


User currently offlineNAV20 From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 9909 posts, RR: 36
Reply 5, posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 3316 times:



Quoting AR385 (Thread starter):
The issue I have with it, is that it portrays the French forces as lazy, unmotivated, demoralized and undisciplined. While it portrays the British as being incredible, tenacious and disciplined soldiers who fought for France and had to leave because of French incompetence.

There's no doubt that, as others have said, AR385, the French were disorganised and badly-led, while the British Expeditionary Force at least managed to 'hold together' and function as an effective military force.

But the main issue was one of numbers. The British never had any need for a vast continental army on the lines of those maintained by the French and Germans. In May 1940 the British Expeditionary Force consisted of only 9 divisions, say 120,000 fighting men; with virtually no armour and very little artillery. By contrast the Germans had about 70 divisions, many of them armoured 'Panzer' forces, and the French more than 100 divisions (though they, like the British, were very short of armour).

So once the Germans broke through in strength on a front of fifty miles, separating the BEF and the French First Army from the rest of the French forces to the south, there was no point in the British staying put - there simply weren't enough of them to make any difference to the outcome. Under French pressure they made one attempt to counter-attack southward, which failed because the opposing German forces were already far stronger; but after that there was no other choice but to withdraw to Dunkirk and be evacuated.

As others have said, they also evacuated most of the French First Army from Dunkirk. And it's worth mentioning that many of the evacuated British troops, plus fresh reinforcements, were sent back to France and fought alongside the French Army in the south until mid-June 1940. Some were again evacuated when the French finally surrendered, but a high proportion were captured.

Also worth mentioning that about 30% of the fighters and light bombers of the Royal Air Force were also committed to, and lost in, the 'Battle of France.' The French kept asking for yet more air support and Churchill very nearly agreed to send it. Luckily he was persuaded not to; otherwise Britain (and therefore the rest of the world) would have lost the 'Battle of Britain' as well.



"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
User currently offlineMoo From Falkland Islands, joined May 2007, 3829 posts, RR: 5
Reply 6, posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 3312 times:



Quoting NAV20 (Reply 5):
Luckily he was persuaded not to; otherwise Britain (and therefore the rest of the world) would have lost the 'Battle of Britain' as well.

He wasn't so much as persuaded not to, but rather Dowding and Newall pretty much point blank refused his requests to commit more squadrons to the Battle of France.


User currently offlineDL021 From United States of America, joined May 2004, 11445 posts, RR: 76
Reply 7, posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 3299 times:
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To be fair to the French forces, the entire Allied army in France was schnookered by the Germans and their own lack of imagination. When the retreat to Dunkirk happened the French fought an incredible rear guard action with an entire Corp of troops (30k men) that fended off German advances long enough to get the British off the beach along with a relatively small number of French troops who later returned under LeClerc.

If not for the action of the French army the BEF would have been captured and the war may have gone very differently.

Of course.....if the French had bothered to hold to their agreements with Czechoslovakia and Poland they would have invaded Germany from the west while the entire German Army was busy elsewhere and forced the Germans to sue for peace and the war would have ended differently. Of course the Jews would have been completely wiped out since no one would have stopped Hitler and WWIII would have happened in the 60s with nuclear weapons.

Hey...did I just channel Turtledove?  Wink

Quoting AR385 (Thread starter):
While it portrays the British as being incredible, tenacious and disciplined soldiers who fought for France and had to leave because of French incompetence.

Again...and I'm no apologist for the completely asinine French high command....and the French population wasn't exactly any more cohesive or less self-indulgent than now....but the incompetency went around and the British were hoping to have their "boys home by Christmas" as well.

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 4):
Most of these early war generals had started their careers in the 19th century military when it was still closed formations marching over open ground, armed with muzzle loading percussion rifles and flamboiant uniforms.

They never learned lessons from losing the Franco-Prussian war nor did they bother to learn the lessons of leadership from Tzu or Clausewitz or even Bobs. They repeated mistakes that caused their own troops to mutiny and refused to learn from their ownmistakes (mostly because they refused to accept they were making mistakes).



Is my Pan Am ticket to the moon still good?
User currently offlineMoo From Falkland Islands, joined May 2007, 3829 posts, RR: 5
Reply 8, posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 3290 times:



Quoting DL021 (Reply 7):
Of course.....if the French had bothered to hold to their agreements with Czechoslovakia and Poland they would have invaded Germany from the west while the entire German Army was busy elsewhere and forced the Germans to sue for peace and the war would have ended differently.

Don't just drop France in it like that - Britain was also a signatory of the France-Poland defence treaty, having signed an annex pledging support to maintain a full and independent Poland a week before the German invasion, so on that front please put the blame on us as well.


User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 13805 posts, RR: 63
Reply 9, posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 3288 times:



Quoting DL021 (Reply 7):
They never learned lessons from losing the Franco-Prussian war nor did they bother to learn the lessons of leadership from Tzu or Clausewitz or even Bobs. They repeated mistakes that caused their own troops to mutiny and refused to learn from their ownmistakes (mostly because they refused to accept they were making mistakes).

To be fair, the Prussian military reforms only started after the once allmighty Prussian army received a massive shoeing by the French at Jena and Auerstett during the Napoleonic wars. Up to then the Prussian generals have been basking in the glory of battles 60 years before. They never realised how some short@rse artillerist from Corsica and the introduction of a people's army (in contrast to the mix of mercenaries and against their will conscripts used by the traditional European rulers before) revolutionised warfare.

The Prussia king sacked all generals except for one as a result of this battle and made a whole new generation of young, idealistic offers take their place. For the first time purchase of commissions was abolished. To be come an officer, it was not anymore a requirement to be an aristocrat. Instead the applicant had to pass a tough exam at the new military academy and a wide level of education was required. National service for young men was introduced (opposed again by the aristocrats, who were afraid that giving the plebs military training would lead to a revolution).
A general staff was set up. It's only job was to make plans for about any contingency.
A military academy was opened, which studied the application of scientific and technological advances for warfare.
At the same time civilian reforms took place in Prussia, the country moving from being an agricultural state to an industrial powerhouse. Mandatory schooling and educational reforms increased the general level of education.
An administrative reform introduced a new generation of professional civil servants, promoted on their merits and not on their family lines.
When Bismarck suckered the Napoleon III into declaring war against Prussia in 1870, Prussia was ready. Using telegraph and railway, they had troops in France before the French had even started their mobilisation.

Jan


User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13046 posts, RR: 78
Reply 10, posted (6 years 1 month 4 weeks 5 hours ago) and read 3281 times:

Well MD-11 Engineer, NAV-20 and DL021 have really covered it.

To add though, we have to consider just how devastating WW1 was for France, it was bad enough for Britain and the Commonwealth in terms of a slaughter of a generation, but it had largely been fought on French territory too.
A desire to avoid anything like that again, may seem from out standpoint, pacifism in the face of the emergence of fascism, but for most people then, it was a reasonable way to think. Often informed by personal loss.

The Maginot Line was as much about avoiding a repeat of the trenches, as it was a defensive measure allowing French/Allied forces to mobilise behind it, for a hopefully knock out blow. Home by Christmas this time.

The politics of France in the 1930's was deeply poisoned too, with extremes at each political spectrum as well as a general nihilism.

I agree that a great opportunity was lost in not attacking Germany in late 1939, the bulk of Hitler's army was in Poland, including much of it's modern assets, the Siegfried Line not really then being any kind of real defensive network, largely manned by poorly equipped reservists.
But as stated, the French Army, even with more (and often then better) tanks than the Germans, was far from being a force able to quickly exploit this weakness.
The artillery was old, the what we now call command and control, hopeless.

The BEF had well trained professional troops, but by default this meant a small force.
They had some good kit, armour, artillery etc, but looking at the BEF in 1940 in general, you would not have thought that some British officers between the wars, had been great exponents of the aggressive use of armoured warfare.
When used in some concentration, at Arras, the BEF armour proved it could bite, but in general the shock of the German attack had the BEF as off balance as the French.

Ironically, the evacuation at Dunkirk, proved one attribute of the British Army, tenacious and often skilled defence, but the Highland Division who would provide this cover, paid an very high price for this.

We cannot look at France's defence in 1940, through today's eyes, WW1 had cast such a long shadow.
The numbers of French casualties in 1940, shows they often fought very hard, but the aging French High Command were just no match in any way, of their German counterparts.
The same was essentially true of the BEF too.


User currently onlinePyrex From Portugal, joined Aug 2005, 3816 posts, RR: 28
Reply 11, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 3223 times:



Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 2):
Facts are facts.

And opinions are opinions. And that is precisely what your point is, an uninformed and bigoted opinion.



Read this very carefully, I shall write this only once!
User currently offlineNAV20 From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 9909 posts, RR: 36
Reply 12, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 3205 times:



Quoting KC135TopBoom (Reply 2):
The Free French fought with the Allies, while the Vichy French fought with the Axis.



Quoting Pyrex (Reply 11):
And opinions are opinions. And that is precisely what your point is, an uninformed and bigoted opinion.

The point could undoubtedly have been made more tactfully, Pyrex; but the facts - not the opinions - are that the Vichy French DID:-

1. Allow the Germans full access through Syria in 1941 to attack Iraq and threaten the Suez Canal, and fight the British when they occupied Syria to throw the Germans out;

2. Give the Germans unlimited scope to bring supplies in through Tunisia and Algeria for use in the Western Desert, from 1940 on, and then fight the Allies when they carried out the 1942 Torch landings to stop THAT;

3. Give the Japanese land, naval, and air bases in French Indo-China (now Vietnam and Kampuchea) from which to mount the invasions of Burma, Malaya, India, and the Philippines.

The last one is probably the most important. Without those bases, there is no way that the Japanese could or would have entered WW2 and conducted their conquest of the Pacific. So one can say, with perfect justification, that if the Vichy French had had more guts, and stood up to Hitler a bit more, Pearl Harbor and all that followed in the Pacific simply wouldn't have happened.



"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
User currently offlineDL021 From United States of America, joined May 2004, 11445 posts, RR: 76
Reply 13, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 3194 times:
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Quoting Moo (Reply 8):
Don't just drop France in it like that - Britain was also a signatory of the France-Poland defence treaty, having signed an annex pledging support to maintain a full and independent Poland a week before the German invasion, so on that front please put the blame on us as well.

You are, of course, correct, and I meant to include the UK with them in the stupidity of the "Sitzkrieg"..... wishful thinking that allowed the Germans time to recover their forces from Poland and attack westwards.

THank you for pointing out my erroneous omission.



Is my Pan Am ticket to the moon still good?
User currently offlineNAV20 From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 9909 posts, RR: 36
Reply 14, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 3177 times:



Quoting DL021 (Reply 13):
I meant to include the UK with them in the stupidity of the "Sitzkrieg".....

I think it's easy to lose sight of what was practical at the time, DL021. As it happens, I had an 'uncle' (actually a cousin, but much older than me) who was a Territorial, a 'Saturday night soldier,' in a famous regiment (London Scottish). He told me about the utter chaos that ensued when they were called up; among other things, having to slap khaki paint on the wornout, requisitioned civilian trucks that were all they had to cart them about - and having to live in tents for most of the 1939/40 winter while the engineers built barracks for them to live in. While other engineers were also building airfields from which the RAF could provide the essential air support.......

There is no way in the world that either the British or the French armies could even have tried to cross the Rhine and invade Germany in September 1939 - they'd have been massacred, however few Germans they were facing. Worth remembering that even in 1944/5, with all the resources of the USA and the Commonwealth fully armed and trained and supplied, and the Germans fully-extended on the Eastern Front, it still took about four months to prepare and mount the Rhine crossing operation that finally ended the European war.

No two ways about it, except in terms of their respective navies, both the French AND the British were utterly unprepared for WW2. Germany itself wasn't all THAT much more prepared, but they were at least fully-trained and equipped, and led by a madman who was also a gambler.

Further, as a matter of historical fact, it wasn't even Hitler who made WW2 possible - it was Joe Stalin. He signed a Non-Aggression Pact with Germany on 23 August 1939. Ten days after that, confident that he would not face the dreaded 'war on two fronts,' Hitler invaded Poland from the west. Very soon afterwards, Stalin invaded Poland from the east, to grab his share of the spoils....

"Above -- Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov signs the Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression Pact while German Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop and Soviet leader Stalin look on under a portrait of Lenin, August 23, 1939. News of the Pact stunned the world and paved the way for the beginning of World War Two with Hitler assured the Germans would not have to fight a war on two fronts."

http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/pact.htm



"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
User currently offlineBanco From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 14752 posts, RR: 54
Reply 15, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 3149 times:



Quoting DL021 (Reply 13):


Quoting Moo (Reply 8):
Don't just drop France in it like that - Britain was also a signatory of the France-Poland defence treaty, having signed an annex pledging support to maintain a full and independent Poland a week before the German invasion, so on that front please put the blame on us as well.

You are, of course, correct, and I meant to include the UK with them in the stupidity of the "Sitzkrieg"..... wishful thinking that allowed the Germans time to recover their forces from Poland and attack westwards.

The British army could do precisely nothing because - and this is something that people so often forget - British power was predicated on the navy. It is often said that the sea saved Britain, but this is complete nonsense. The sea is not a barrier to any invading force, it is a highway - unless you control that sea.

Britain's command of the sea simply meant that they had no need for a large and powerful army. That British land forces should be outnumbered and outclassed by the Germans (and the French) should not come as the remotest surprise to anyone with historical understanding. The British guarantee to Poland was nothing more than a gesture of solidarity and deterrence. There was NOTHING the British could have done to enforce it.

If you want to comprehend the balance of British forces between naval and land power, then Dunkirk sums it up perfectly. A defeated British army escaped because the navy had complete command of the sea.



She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
User currently offlineVenus6971 From United States of America, joined Dec 2004, 1438 posts, RR: 1
Reply 16, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 3138 times:



Quoting Banco (Reply 15):
If you want to comprehend the balance of British forces between naval and land power, then Dunkirk sums it up perfectly. A defeated British army escaped because the navy had complete command of the sea.

This why the Germans were never able to project power other than on European continent, it also spelled the 3rd Reichs doom and also the Kaiser Wilhelm's. They were a frigate Navy with small force of Capital ships and U boats. Ships like the Prinze Eugen and Bismarck without a carrier task force to protect them is lunacy . It is also a point in history that an english speaking Navy has not lost a war in over 300 years. The Japanese Imperial Navy knew this, they were a British trained Navy when they formed or modernized in the 19th Century and only lost because of a overwelming industrial might of the U.S. plus having lost 4 irreplacable carriers and aircrews at Midway spelled their doom. In 1945 I don't believe the JIN had one carrier still afloat. Yamamoto knew he had only a small window to knock the US out of the war in under a year after Dec 7th. I bet he knew it was a lost cause after Pearl Harbor when he found out the U.S. carriers were at sea and the submarine pens and fuel depots were untouched.



I would help you but it is not in the contract
User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 17, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 3129 times:



Quoting GDB (Reply 10):
Well MD-11 Engineer, NAV-20 and DL021 have really covered it.

to which I can add GDB.

That lead in was most unfair to the French especially to those who in the later stages covered the British retreat from Dunkirk. If they were so hopeless, how did so many get to the Dunkirk bridgehead and escape to fight again?

Quoting NAV20 (Reply 14):
No two ways about it, except in terms of their respective navies, both the French AND the British were utterly unprepared for WW2. Germany itself wasn't all THAT much more prepared, but they were at least fully-trained and equipped, and led by a madman who was also a gambler.

I would just add that, in 1939, the French and Brits probably had an advantage in gun tanks which they had lost by 1940. The disparity in the airforces was probably greater in 1939 than it was in 1940, so arguably France and Britain would have been worse off on balance.

The Ardennes strategy of Hitler and the slowness of the French to understand how to fight blitzkeig doomed them to defeat. As someone pointed out, when too late at Arras, the British showed what could have been done, but the battle was lost by then, and Herr Schickelg thought he had won the war.

The Free French made quite a formidable fighting force later in the war. They had their defeats, but overall they had their victories. And without the help of many of the Vichy French, Torch would have been a lot more difficult, and maybe even a failure, although Monty's ghost will argue that no longer mattered as he was half way there by then.

Many of those I have known who were on active service in 1942, say that more than Alamein, the pressure went off as Stalingrad took its toll. So never forget the Russians.

Shock above all was what got the French in 1940, and it got the Russians in 1941, and the US and UK in late 41 and early 42. At Stalingrad in 1942, shock got the Germans too!


User currently offlineBanco From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 14752 posts, RR: 54
Reply 18, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 3125 times:



Quoting Baroque (Reply 17):
so arguably France and Britain would have been worse off on balance.

No, I would disagree there. The point remains that British naval prowess was the main defence of the country, not the army or the air force. The British advantage was so utterly huge here that it far outweighs the other elements. A German invasion was never going to be possible as long as Britain had that navy, with or without air supremacy. The losses would have been appalling to the RN if the Germans had control of the skies, but the Germans could never have hoped to land troops in Britain, they'd have been cut to pieces.

The naval side is often overlooked or downplayed. You even see chapters of history books covering "The War at Sea" as if it were some kind of sideline to the main event. Complete nonsense. The winning of the naval war was THE most critical strategic part of the entire war.



She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 19, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 3116 times:



Quoting Banco (Reply 18):
Quoting Baroque (Reply 17):
so arguably France and Britain would have been worse off on balance.

No, I would disagree there. The point remains that British naval prowess was the main defence of the country, not the army or the air force.

Happy to agree there is much room for differences there Banco. Agree about the Navy, but the problem with Sitzkreig was that the battle there would have minimal influence from the sea. Aside from the Graf Spee, 1939 was arguably about the worst the British Navy had in WW II. It too was not ready for a U-boat war. Its tactics were still poor.

Anyway, advancing across the Rhine plain was not going to be helped a great deal by the Navy. Indeed sitting still was arguably a strategy dictated by the greater strength of the Navy, but in the short run, it did not help a great deal.

The one thing the (British and French) generals thought they knew was that the defending side had an enormous advantage. Done their way, alas this was wrong.

Before selling me the Navy as the salvation (which it was to some degree) how about an explanation of continuing to send indefensible convoys mainly with coal through the straits of Dover in mid 1940. With that splendid example of a waste of all of, naval, merchant navy and fighter resources, I shudder at some of the other things the navy of 1940, let alone 1939, might have done.

One might also wonder why the Navy apparently did not push harder for resources to flow into Coastal Command. Half the Wellingtons lost in futile attacks in 1939 and 1940 on Germany (the leaflets went down particularly well I understand) could have made merchant ship losses a good deal smaller.


User currently offlineBanco From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 14752 posts, RR: 54
Reply 20, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 3111 times:



Quoting Baroque (Reply 19):
Agree about the Navy, but the problem with Sitzkreig was that the battle there would have minimal influence from the sea

Precisely. And nor was it ever going to. The British for 200 years had concentrated on maritime power, and it was the perfect decision for a nation who by happy accident of geography could control the European sea lanes. It never was a question of under-investment or under-concentration in the army, it was merely the necessary outcome of a strategy that suited British interests down to the ground. It would be pointless to lament a weak British army in 1939 when the truth is that the army was not then, nor ever had been, critical to British interests. The navy was. Countries with land-borders require powerful armies. Islands do not.

Quoting Baroque (Reply 19):
One might also wonder why the Navy apparently did not push harder for resources to flow into Coastal Command.

The navy pushed extremely hard for air resources, but they were hampered by the idiotic decision in 1918 to create the Royal Air Force at the expense of an independent naval aviation branch. The very different requirements of naval aviation were never remotely satisfied by an RAF intent on protecting their own position. The lack of co-operation from the RAF is one of the bitterest inter-service complaints of the period.



She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
User currently offlineBanco From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 14752 posts, RR: 54
Reply 21, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 3106 times:



Quoting Baroque (Reply 19):
Before selling me the Navy as the salvation (which it was to some degree) how about an explanation of continuing to send indefensible convoys mainly with coal through the straits of Dover in mid 1940. With that splendid example of a waste of all of, naval, merchant navy and fighter resources, I shudder at some of the other things the navy of 1940, let alone 1939, might have done.

That all elements of the services made mistakes is hardly breaking news. And the losses of those particular convoys didn't make the slightest strategic difference.

All parts of the war effort had to learn over the early years of the war, there's nothing new there. 1939 wasn't that bad a year for the navy. 1942 was by far the worst, as they strained to overcome the U Boat menace. Given the disaster upon disaster that straddled the early war years, the navy did a pretty outstanding job overall. And I repeat, it was the most important theatre of the war. Had the navy failed, Britain would have been defeated within days. No other service had such a responsibility. Had the navy failed, there would have been no American re-inforcement. Had the navy failed there would have been no D Day. Utterly and totally critical. WWII was the navy's finest hour.



She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.
User currently offlineBaroque From Australia, joined Apr 2006, 15380 posts, RR: 59
Reply 22, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 3095 times:



Quoting Banco (Reply 20):
Quoting Baroque (Reply 19):
Agree about the Navy, but the problem with Sitzkreig was that the battle there would have minimal influence from the sea

Precisely. And nor was it ever going to. The British for 200 years had concentrated on maritime power, and it was the perfect decision for a nation who by happy accident of geography could control the European sea lanes. It never was a question of under-investment or under-concentration in the army, it was merely the necessary outcome of a strategy that suited British interests down to the ground.

We are at cross purposes here I think. The point was that perhaps the French and Brits might have been in a better position attacking in late 1939 than defending in mid 1940. Especially in gun tanks, they should have had an advantage as the Mark III only came into widespread use during 1940. The Char and I tanks were available and arguably better than the Mark IIs forming the bulk of the German forces. By 1940 more Mark IIIs were available.


User currently offlineNAV20 From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 9909 posts, RR: 36
Reply 23, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 3089 times:



Quoting Banco (Reply 15):
British power was predicated on the navy. It is often said that the sea saved Britain, but this is complete nonsense. The sea is not a barrier to any invading force, it is a highway - unless you control that sea.

Further to that, the biggest mistake that Hitler made was not to develop any means of mounting a cross-Channel invasion, and instead to assume that the British would surrender once he had occupied the whole of mainland Europe. Even if he had 'won' the Battle of Britain he would very probably have come to grief if he'd tried an invasion - through his lack of any means to keep his armies supplied and reinforced during the winter of 1940-41.

By contrast, the biggest thing that Churchill did RIGHT, as soon as he came to power in 1940, was to give priority to the design and development of landing-craft and the all-important LSTs ("Landing Ships - Tank"). Despite that early start, though, the shortage of landing-craft was to bedevil Allied strategy right through the War. There were never enough of them. Right through 1944 priority had to be given to the Normandy invasion and the subsequent supply of the Allied armies in France. It was not until early 1945 that the port of Antwerp was captured and opened; until that time most of the supplies still had to come in across the Normandy beaches.

No landing-craft could be spared to allow the (mostly British) forces in Italy to carry out further landings to outflank the German defences there, so they had to push forward the hard way, mountain by river by mountain by river..... The shortage even affected strategy in the Far East, by causing the abandonment of plans to carry out a seaborne invasion of Burma across the Bay of Bengal. The British and Indian forces in that region had instead to undertake a very bloody land campaign to push the Japanese armies there all the way back from the frontiers of India to Rangoon.



"Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards.." - Leonardo da Vinci
User currently onlinePyrex From Portugal, joined Aug 2005, 3816 posts, RR: 28
Reply 24, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 3063 times:



Quoting NAV20 (Reply 12):
if the Vichy French had had more guts, and stood up to Hitler a bit more, Pearl Harbor and all that followed in the Pacific simply wouldn't have happened.

Doubtful. Japan was in a war path in that area since 1933, I don't think it would be a few semi-abandoned French troops in Southeast Asia cut off from their mainland that would stop them.

Quoting Banco (Reply 18):
A German invasion was never going to be possible as long as Britain had that navy, with or without air supremacy.

Perhaps, but a few german U-boats in the mid-Atlantic came very close to basically starving Britain out. It could be argued that if the U.S. hadn't entered the war when it did, with massive amounts of Liberty ships and naval escorts for them, there was bugger all the RN could do to stop the much inferior German navy from slowly defeating the country.

Quoting Banco (Reply 20):
for a nation who by happy accident of geography could control the European sea lanes

I wouldn't call occupying Gibraltar and the Suez Canal (at that time) a "happy accident of geography"...



Read this very carefully, I shall write this only once!
25 GDB : While losing the Battle Of The Atlantic would have impeded the UK's ability to prosecute the war, it still would have taken much more to force an outr
26 Fumanchewd : The same can be said of the British and Russians. The Russians thought the war would be over by winter because the sheer number of troops that they s
27 Post contains links NAV20 : No doubt about that, Pyrex - but military operations depend on bases from which to mount them. Vichy lost no time at all in granting bases and rights
28 Post contains links and images NAV20 : Sorry, had to smile at that, Fumanchewd - can't believe that they learned anything useful from the tactics employed in the Civil War! "Burnside launc
29 Fumanchewd : " target=_blank>http://www.civilwarhome.com/fredrick...e.htm And that is without machine guns or trenches! No worries! I read it in a history book an
30 Post contains links NAV20 : They had trenches all right, Fumanchewd - Lee's nickname among the ordinary soldiers was 'The King Of Spades', everywhere they stopped he set them di
31 Banco : That was down to the sheer incompetence of the USN's Admiral Ernest King, a man of whom it was said that the war effort would have gone much better "
32 NAV20 : About the French, Churchill (who, whatever else he was, was a gifted writer) provides a vivid impression of the confusion that followed the German att
33 Swatpamike : Hello All Take everything you read about History with a grain of salt. My point of view about something that happened 60 years ago could be very diffe
34 DL021 : I do believe that the German navy was preoccupied, but you will remember that the evacuation at Dunkirk involved more fishing boats than warships (no
35 GDB : The slaughter of the Somme cast a large shadow over the British, for many years to come. The original BEF of 1914, again small, professional, had badl
36 Pelican : Which in the end turned out as a very clever move. The Soviet Union became one of two superpowers after the war. And the victory gave new live to the
37 Fumanchewd : Sorry for the confusion, but my post was speaking of the Russians in WWI. (Samsonov committed suicide on the field in 1914 after his defeat) I was re
38 Post contains images Pelican : I see and I should have noted that before because you're clearly talking about Samsonov. pelican
39 MD11Engineer : The Russian losses were oner reason for the soldiers flocking to join the revolutionaries later. BTW, while the WW1 Western Front is quite well known
40 Post contains images DL021 : Thrown away by generals who refused to stop sending their boys over the lines instead of making use of newly available technology as it became availa
41 Post contains links NAV20 : One hears this so often - and one can't blame the A.netters concerned, because so many professional historians have 'second-guessed' the British and
42 Post contains links and images NAV20 : The Rhine was, of course, eventually crossed in WW2; by the British Second Army in 1945. The operation required 29 divisions, including two airborne d
43 Post contains images Baroque : Only when French (General Sir John, not the French nation) slipped up and let them face forward. See B Tuchman's account of the great Sir John during
44 MD11Engineer : Like for example proper timing. The concept of walking fire (the artillery barrage moving slowly forward, keeping the enemy's heads down, which the i
45 Baroque : Yes, Jan, except you cannot really say there was a "typical" mode of attack because they changed so much over the 4 years. The last up and walk in da
46 Fumanchewd : Not to mention that the British and French weren't even using howitzer's at the beginning of the war. The 75s would, for the most part, just fly over
47 MD11Engineer : One more reason was that the German troops were usually better dug in than their Alllied counterparts. Especially the British command wanted the fron
48 Arrow : It's my understanding that those words came from none other than Eisenhower. You have to wonder how much more quickly the US Navy would have become a
49 Post contains links NAV20 : The basic problem the Allied commanders faced in WW1 was the same one faced by Union generals in the American Civil War; that the enemy was content to
50 Banco : Ah, but that's not the issue at hand. Any nation can cobble together a flotilla of fishing boats, but the navy must be in command of the seas in orde
51 Arrow : We never get much credit for punching well above our weight. Canadians had a beach and a half at Normandy, but if you get your history by watching mo
52 Baroque : Do not forget the Canadian airforce and the U-boats. And it was what you got to do after the longest day that was really not so good!!
53 GDB : That's what I meant by how the professional British Army, in 1914, gave the Germans some nasty surprises. But for all that, when WW1 broke out they w
54 Arrow : Yes, there were some nasty set-tos in the weeks and months after -- also forgotten by most. The Falaise Gap and the Scheldt come to mind. The Dutch h
55 Post contains links and images NAV20 : People who were involved in the Normandy landings told me that the battle for the city of Caen was the worst fighting of the war for the British and C
56 AR385 : I would like to learn more about this. I have never heard of it before. Can someone expand on this? I'd appreciate it.
57 Post contains links Baroque : Perhaps Arrow should reply but first the Canadians got a high proportion of the job of winkling out the fortified ports where garrisons were left beh
58 Post contains links NAV20 : As far as the 'Falaise Gap' is concerned, this was the last act of the Normandy campaign. Once Caen was captured the Canadians, the British, and the P
59 Baroque : Also Liddel Hart, "History of the Second World War", A map of the campaign from Operation Goodwood on Jul18 to Arnhem Sept 19 (pages 554 to 555 but n
60 Banco : No, you don't. In the early years of the war the Lend-Lease contribution of the US in providing 50 WWI vintage destroyers is well known (though they
61 Baroque : There would probably have had to have been a change in the Ambassador first.
62 Arrow : Baroque, Nav20, Banco You're bringing tears to my eyes. I don't think I can add much at all (well, I could go do some research I guess) to what you've
63 MD11Engineer : Concerning Canadian involvement, don't forget the Reichswald and Operation Veritable. Many Canadians fell in these battles. I have been up there mysel
64 Banco : Next time you're across the other side of the country in Halifax, be sure to visit the maritime museum there, where there is much material concerning
65 GDB : The Canadians were brilliant in WW2, since many of their regiments are affiliated to British Army counterparts, the military at least knows this. At s
66 Arrow : I've been through that museum -- you're right it has an amazing amount of memorabilia and info on all of that. Halifax also has the fully-restored HM
67 MD11Engineer : AFAIK, she is the only surviving Flower class corvette. Years ago I got sent to a 737NG type rating course. the instructor and myself were living in
68 Post contains links and images NAV20 : The Flower Class corvette almost deserves a thread of its own! It was the smallest warship that operated in the Atlantic in all weathers (they were on
69 Arrow : Yes -- or as a U-Boat skipper, try to explain to Berlin that you just got mauled by HMS Rhododendron (and that was a real name). I agree about the Cr
70 Baroque : Ed Murrow seemed important, but Wild Bill Donovan was even more important. I think Jan has a point that reporting to Doenitz you had been savaged by
71 Banco : In the same vein, another of the outstanding novels of the war was HMS Ulysses, by Alistair MacLean. He served in destroyers, and thus the book was a
72 Baroque : Sorry, that was Arrow.
73 Post contains links NAV20 : Thanks to the internet it's now possible instantly to re-visit things like the film version of 'The Cruel Sea.' This scene - still one of the most pow
74 MD11Engineer : " target=_blank>http://www.naval-history.net/WW2Camp...h.htm It's design was based on a whaler used in the arctic waters, so not really an un-seawort
75 Post contains images WrenchBender : I know, I'm nitpicking. Ulysses was a Cruiser. It was probably the best tribute to the RN and the Murmansk convoys. As was the Cruel Sea to the Battl
76 Baroque : Fictional one only (Dido class presumably as Royalist was), the real one was indeed a destroyer.
77 Post contains images Arrow : Gawd; this is what happens when you get old. I mixed up two books, both of which I read. Maybe there's joy in the fact that I can now go read them ag
78 WrenchBender : HMS Ulysses was the first 'Adult' book I ever read. I haven't read it in some time, maybe it's time to dig through my library and find it again. That
79 Post contains images Fiatstilojtd : A few years ago in here we had the battle of GKirk....for the Scottish etc. flag - in the end he was successful
80 AR385 : I thought all the Poles were either incarcerated or eliminated. Was their contribution to the Allied effort important?
81 Pelican : Sure. They fought on the Western and Eastern front togheter with the allies. On the Eastern front they had two fully equipped armies to fight along t
82 VC10 : Well I do not know whether you could call it important, but every little bit helped, and the Polish forces that fought in WW2 are to this day still h
83 GDB : AR385, as kids, both my parents were well aware of the Free Polish contribution. Since as a boy, my Dad lived right near RAF Northolt, where Free Poli
84 Post contains links NAV20 : AR385, there was a 'world coalition' against Nazi Germany. As far as British formations were concerned, it would almost be easier to list the countrie
85 Post contains links Baroque : Following on Navs comments, one of the stories Peter Ustinov used to tell (which does not appear to be referenced in Google) was that he was sitting i
86 MD11Engineer : There even existed a German-Austrian commando unit in the British forces: No.3 Troop, 10 Interallied Commando, which consisted of refugees from German
87 Post contains links Baroque : Had clean forgotten them. But Wiki has not: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popski's_Private_Army Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Peniakoff DSO MC
88 Post contains links NAV20 : Not quite, MD11Engineer. The RAF did have a squadron (101 Squadron Bomber Command) equipped with 'counter-measures' to confuse German controllers and
89 Post contains images LOT767-300ER : To start out with... Who do you think cracked the Enigma?
90 AR385 : I don't know. That's why I asked about them, and started this thead...
91 Banco : The army one they did. The naval one was infinitely more complex with the addition of extra rotors, and that was the work of Bletchley Park. Neverthe
92 MD11Engineer : Not to forget the mine detector, an invention by a Polish signals officer while being based in the UK. Jan
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