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"Germans could have won, study says..." Topic

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian14 Jan 2020 5:42 p.m. PST

A startling new study suggests that Germany could have won a key battle in World War II and perhaps changed the outcome of the war if they had made a few small strategic changes…


Personal logo ochoin Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2020 6:44 p.m. PST

Woulda, coulda, shoulda…..but interesting if not necessarily news.
It also re-enforces the view that Britain's (& Churchill's) resolve were Nazi Germany's ultimate stumbling block & everything that followed (Stalingrad, El Alamein, D Day etc) only happened as a consequence.

StarCruiser14 Jan 2020 9:40 p.m. PST

The whole idea of Germany beating the RAF during the Battle of Britain was common knowledge – I thought.

It's generally accepted that changing the focus to attacking cities after the British bombed Berlin (which was in revenge for a probably accidental bombing) doomed the whole effort of the Luftwaffe but – Goering had too – he promised Hitler he'd avenge the Berlin raid…oops…

David Manley14 Jan 2020 10:38 p.m. PST

Its also faitly well accepted that a successful German air campaign was unlikely to have led to a successful invasion and edutainment of forces ashore because of the RN (that and any "defeat" of the RAG in the South would be short lived due to continued aircraftnproduction and basing of fighters in the Midlands and the North

advocate15 Jan 2020 2:56 a.m. PST

I agree with all of the above. I'd add that the Germans probably needed three weeks to re-organise and plan and set up airfields for an extended campaign – they had lost 1400 aircraft in the Battle for France.

kevin Major15 Jan 2020 4:38 a.m. PST

I agree with David, Germany lacked the naval strength to support an army landed across the Channel, if it could even get there. The decisive action can be seen as Churchills order to destroy the French fleet in July 1940. If by some slight of hand those French ships had become available to Germany then an invasion would have come closer to a reality. Though Hitler would still have needed to wait while the necessary barges were gathered.

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2020 7:49 a.m. PST

I do not say, my Lords, that they will not come. I say only they will not come by sea.

Slight misquote but the gist is the same.

Yellow Admiral15 Jan 2020 7:05 p.m. PST

If only we knew of some way to test these theories. A simulation of some sort. Or, may I dare suggest, a game of some sort, so the re-enactors have some means of testing the results of various decisions. A "war" game, to coin a term. I've heard students in military academies sometimes run such interactive simulations. Maybe somebody here knows someone who has played a "war" game and could tell us how it's done. I'm sure it's fascinating.

- Ix

korsun0 Supporting Member of TMP16 Jan 2020 5:33 a.m. PST

What about damaging the RAF to such an extent it could not protect the RN, thereby inhibiting an ability to stop a seaborne invasion (coupled with airborne landings)?

Warspite118 Jan 2020 5:21 a.m. PST

I am not convinced.
The Germans made several mistakes, not just the one.
1) bombing the radar stations but then ceasing that effective bombing and allowing them to be repaired or replaced by mobile radar stations was a huge mistake.

2) bombing the RAF fighter airfields but then switching to bombing London and allowing the nearest fighter airfields to be repaired plus the RAF learned from the first round of air attacks and de-centralised airfield command and moved it off site. In the case of North Weald, for example, the command centre was moved to a stately home a few miles away.

3) inadequate landing craft. The Germans were converting deep-load Rhine barges into landing craft and envisaged landing at or near a high tide, allowing the tide to fall and then driving the vehicles off on the dry beach. Each craft could probably only make one or two runs (two tides) per day. This is the reverse of D-Day where Allied landing craft were shallow draft, landed at low water on a rising tide and made many runs for the small and medium craft. The craft floated off on the rising tide and went back for more.
[As a side bar to this, the Germans sited their D-Day Normandy defences with these 1940 experiences in mind. The mines and other obstacles were at the high tide line which many Allied landing craft never even got near]

4) under estimating the British defences. While many British defences were risible (the steel Alan Williams turret pillbox was a death trap) the RAF and Royal Navy were determined, professional and highly motivated. If pushed, RN battleships would have been committed to The Channel in scenes reminiscent of HMS Thunderchild versus the Martians in War of the Worlds taking on the landing craft and their escorts at short range.
RAF fighter defences were well co-ordinated and tactics evolved during the fight better use of radar information and changing fighter tactics from tight vics of three to loose 'finger fours'. Plus Bomber Command were hitting the Channel ports and damaging the very Rhine barges the Germans had already assembled but had failed to conceal or protect.

5) Britain was fighting on home ground it had the home ground advantage. A damaged RAF fighter could belly flop in a field or at the nearest airstrip and an unwounded pilot could walk home; the Germans had to cross 20 to 50 miles of water to get home if damaged. Britain recovered its air crew and often the aircraft, the Germans had losses all the way plus many of the German aircraft were multi-crewed. Lose a Spitfire and we lose one man, lose a bomber and the Germans lost as many as six or even seven men. A bullet in the radiator and leaking coolant meant a possible glide home for a Hurricane with a seized engine, the same on the 109 and it means a swim in the English Channel and loss of aeroplane and probably the pilot. It is noticeable that when Fighter Command went over to offensive operations over France (and lost home ground advantage) that its loss rate went up.
On the British side of the Channel we were 2:1 victors, better one some days. On the German side of The Channel things were even OR favoured the Germans, and this is before the arrival of the FW 190.

No one issue decides a battle.
I seem to recall that back in the 1980s a wargame was staged with input from many ex-service people of WW2 (even Adolf Galland took part). The wargame followed Operation Sealion but tested whether it was possible. The result was a heavily contested three to four days of fighting but with Britain winning by a fair margin. Even the Germans agreed and added: "And that was why we didn't do it".


Dynaman878918 Jan 2020 11:53 a.m. PST

> Even the Germans agreed and added: "And that was why we didn't do it".

I hate to say they were wrong (err, no I don't). The only reason they didn't do it was Hitler got bored with the whole thing and decided to attack Russia instead.

Warspite118 Jan 2020 5:27 p.m. PST

I would not agree. German history in WW2 is that they shied away from naval landing operations.
The impracticality and high risk of Operation Sealion were the chief reasons Sealion was called off. They were 'on a roll' having ripped through Europe. Hitler was a gambler but even he realised the cross-channel risk was too high.

It should be noted that the Germans also later cancelled Operation Herkules, the proposed invasion of Malta. Herkules could/might have worked and would have removed the 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' of Malta from their supply lines to North Africa, stopping the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force from sinking Rommel's supply vessels.



Royston Papworth19 Jan 2020 10:33 a.m. PST

The wargame was played in 1974.

In the mid eighties I met Admiral Gueritz at my cousin's wedding. Unfortunately i didn't know at the time of his participation. What a missed opportunity…

Warspite122 Jan 2020 6:38 a.m. PST

Thank you for the correction. I seem to recall it was covered in depth in one of the Sunday magazines.


R Leonard14 Feb 2020 1:00 a.m. PST

Churchill once said:

"We are waiting for the long promised invasion . . . so are the fish."

Mark 127 Feb 2020 5:50 p.m. PST

What about damaging the RAF to such an extent it could not protect the RN, thereby inhibiting an ability to stop a seaborne invasion (coupled with airborne landings)?

There was no realistic scenario by which the Luftwaffe could have protected an invasion fleet from the RN in the fall of 1940.

There were no Luftwaffe anti-shipping squadrons in service on the Atlantic coast. The Stukas couldn't even stop merchant shipping along the channel coast.

The Sealowe invasion plan relied upon river and canal barges that were not at all suited to sailing on the ocean. Most of the canal barges, a significant portion of the total, did not even have motors, as they were typically towed by horse/mule teams. These were to be towed or pushed across the channel by tugboats. But there were nothing like enough tugboats, so they were to be towed in sea-trains of 3 to 5 barges per tug. The Germans never came up with a practical method of managing the sea trains once they got to the beach area. Anything beyond calm flat seas was a significant flooding risk. Anything more than 2 or 3 kt of current or wind would make it very hard to manage the barges (hello? Have you ever been on the English Channel?). There were not enough barges to land the total intended force in one lift, so the same barges were needed not only for the initial landings, but to land the multiple waves of reinforcements, and to land a continuous flow of supplies.

That means that the barges would be crossing the channel every day for 2 or 3 weeks if any useful results were to be achieved. Any and every barge lost meant fewer reinforcements, and fewer supplies. Here there was a devil to pay, because attrition in the barges over time would mean more troops ashore (more barges early on), which would require more supplies to be landed, from a fleet of barges that gets smaller as time goes on.

Somewhere late in the planning they came up with the interesting idea of blowing the bows off of the barges that carried vehicles (the all critical Panzers, but also armored cars and trucks) to allow the vehicles to drive directly off onto the beach. This idea was put into the plan before anyone explained how a barge with no bow was expected to continue to serve in the fleet, or even how it was expected to clear the beach to allow others to land in its place.

Oh, and it took 2 days to cross the channel. Which means it was an overnight trip.

Even if there had been a fully-scaled fully trained Luftwaffe sea-strike capability, it would not have been effective at night. Two or three destroyers getting in among the tug-towed river barges of the invasion fleet were all it would have taken to shut down Sealowe. They wouldn't even have had to shoot their guns. Just running past (and even over?) the barges at speed would have swamped many, disorganized and disbursed others, and put the kabosh on whole thing.

A realistic planning expectation would be 20 or 30 destroyers and cruisers sailing to intercept the barges. So now the Luftwaffe would have the job of stopping ALL of those ships from getting among the barges (I don't think the Luftwaffe didn't manage to sink that many warships in any full year of the war, even after they had fully developed and operational maritime strike squadrons), without damaging or panicking the barges, while they were at the same time providing tactical air support to the forces that did manage to get ashore (who would not initially have artillery support ashore), as well as fighting off any RAF attacks from airbases that were outside of the range of the German attacks (but not out of range of the invasion area). And they would have to do this every hour of every day and night, because you need to defend every barge at all times against an opponent who only needs to sink each barge once.

If the Germans had somehow managed to get ashore (surprise, British bungling, whatever scenario you want) the most likely result would have been a limited beach head filled with an immobile Wehrmacht with few vehicles, starved for ammunition, distracted by the need to scrounge for food, fuel and medications. After a few days ashore the fighting would just taper off to nothing. It would have been Germany's first major loss of a multi-division force. And it would have been a very complete loss, because there wasn't going to be any retreat across the beaches, since it would have been the loss of shipping and/or control of the seas that had put them in that predicament in the first place.

Of course this is all based on a correlation of forces. Odd or unforeseen events do happen in military (or any) operations. But planning on the unforeseen is beyond "wishful thinking" and into the realm of "magical thinking" (ie: we'll win because luck will be on our side).

The balance was just too greatly weighted to the Britain's advantage on the water. The Sealowe plan was non-sense.

(aka: Mk 1)

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