Maybe the German Navy, under Reader, were covering their backs and keeping in Hitler's favour by claiming they could handle the RN
in the Channel, as they must have known they could not.
Hitler's navy in 1940 was modern, but small, compared to the RN
They might have been able to hold off the RN
for enough time in the Channel, if not for the Norway campaign a few months earlier.
Though seen as a defeat for the Allies, and a blot on the copybook of the First Sea Lord, then a certain Winston Churchill, the seeds of the impracticality of Operation Sealion might have been planted there, for the German Navy took heavy losses in Norway, making them unable to even attempt to screen an invasion force in the Channel.
Norwegian coastal artillery sank a brand new Heavy Cruiser (a sister ship to Prinz Eugen), another was damaged badly by an attack by a Fleet Air Arm Skua dive bomber (first airborne attack on a ship by an aircraft in WW2), then in two battles off Narvik, a bunch of German Destroyers were either sunk or badly damaged, worse for the Germans, in the second battle, RN
Destroyers were joined by the modernized Battleship HMS Warspite, literally steaming in and dishing it out.
As a result, the marginal capability of the German surface fleet to fully mobilise to screen an invasion, was lost months before Sealion was even considered.
So even if the Luftwaffe had got enough of a command of the air to allow heavy sustained attacks on an approaching RN
fleet, the RN
would have kept coming in their most important battle since Trafalgar, or even the Spanish Armada of the 16th Century.
It would not have taken many units, even just some Light Cruisers and Destroyers, getting within range of the invasion fleet and utterly decimating the motley collection of converted barges, post the losses of the Norway campaign, the German Navy did not have the operational assets in sufficient numbers to protect the invasion, even some minor RN
units having survived air attacks, could have ended the invasion there and then, which the German Army High Command were well aware of, never mind Goering's boastful blustering and the defensiveness of a Naval Command anxious to keep in Hitler's favour, they were doubtless secretly elated that the invasion was never ordered.
Imagine how determined the RN
would have been in this situation, lose and those ships that survived would have to be scuttled or deployed across the Empire, to prevent them falling into Nazi hands if the UK had lost.
For the Royal Navy, in 1940 still the most powerful in the world, a battle of the English Channel would be a matter of life or death, this was a Navy who had a Destroyer, hopelessly outgunned by a German Pocket Battleship, blasted by gunfire damage, charge at and ram it's much larger aggressor, (this was in the Norway campaign, so another major German surface unit needing repair).
Or was ruthless enough to destroy the French Fleet, in port at a Mediterranean base, when they could not be sure these modern French units would not fall into German hands, which would provide a much needed boost to the credibility of a German Invasion of the UK, which is why the RN
, despite feeling terrible about turning their guns on people who had been just weeks before an ally, were resolute to do it, the stakes were just too high.
Churchill, who reluctantly ordered this action, was probably well aware on the signal this would send to Hitler.
Like 'don't expect an easy ride, or a capitulation', the rousing speeches Churchill gave in this desperate period, were not as the Germans claimed, the result of too much brandy, the RN
proved that in spades by neutralizing the fleet of an ally.