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Belgium does not remain neutral

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by T. A. Gardner, Jan 9, 2009.

  1. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Yep, its not as bad as I first thought, especially for the specific information on personel etc. Its his assumptions I have a problem with, but I would not admonish the book solely for that reason and put folk off it. Its worth a spot on anyones bookcase now I look at it with different eyes. He'd obviously have fun on this thread.

    The game is mentioned in first chapter, doesnt name the game, I found it out earlier on net through specifically searching for it when he got my attention. I wrote the name down in margin but not where I got it from. I'll find that out. But I do know I then downloaded the game down too. So he obviously spiked my attention.
     
  2. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Kemp addresses the question of how much the Maginot Fortresses cost. Mostly he cites French records. The estimate contrived in 1928 while Painleve was minister of defense was 3,760 million Francs. (3.7 billion in American English). In 1929 a sum of 3,140 million Francs was requested from the Chamber of Deputies for the 1930 budget. A intial sum of 2.900 million was approved, to be disbursed over four years.

    Because of several significant changes in the scope of construction, government accounting procedures, and a bout of severe inflation in the 1930s Kemp claims a precise estimate cannot be arrived at. He estimates 6,000 million expended by 1940. That included the cost of the 87 miles of CORF fortresses between Longwy & the Rhine, a series of smaller fortresses covering the prniciple crossings of the Rhine between Straussborg & Switzerland, some forts covering the Alpine passes on the Italian/French border, and the small bunkers extending from Longwy to the coast. I am guessing the sum includes the improvements to older fortresses still used on military installations such as at Mons.

    Although Painleve supervised the original conception and basic design work of the fortress system, he left the Ministry of Defense in 1929 & was replaced by his deputy Henri Maginot. The fortress construction was sold to the left wing partys as a massive public works project. Intiated in 1929 the construction drew crowds of unskilled & semiskilled labor off the streets and off to honest labor.

    Kemp gives nothing of the other military expendtures for comparison & a quick check of my shelves reveals nothing usefull there. Albert Nofi in his early 1970s magazine artical provides the following estimates. As sources he cites Horne ‘to Lose a Battle’, Chapman ‘Why France Fell’, Taylor ‘The March of Conquest’, Ellis ‘The War in France and Flanders’, Draper ‘the Six Weeks War’, Rowe ‘The Great Wall of France’. Exactly where the following numbers come from is not clear. He also includes the name John Young which is attached to these numbers as well.


    Nofi:
    Cost of “Maginot Line” 7,000,000,000 Francs. Length of Maginot Line 87 miles.

    Note this specification of 87 miles limits the comparison to the CORF fortresses between Longwy & Strassburg. Which is less in scope and more in cost than Kemp estimates from French records.

    Nofi:
    Cost to motorized in infantry divsion with trucks; 78,750,000 Fr.

    Cost for 80% trucks, 20% tracked vehicals, one div; 115,500.000 Fr.

    Note that approx. a dozen Infantry Divsions were completely motorized, with a large portion of tracked vehicals, including armored cars and a tank battalion.

    Nofi:
    Number of units available for expense of Maginot Line. Number of 100% truck: 1,02 divsions per mile of Maginot Line or 88.74 divsions. Or, 80/20% .7 per mile of ML or 60.9.

    Note: on the surface this is impressive. Reed/Young notes that production of that many trucks and tracked vehical was completely beyond the capacity of French industry. My rough counts shows that 40% of te French artillery was motorized by 1940 (the Wehrmacht was a bit over 20% that year) and above the dozen infantry divsions motorized trucks and tracked vehicals were provided for five armored cavalry divsions, four ‘light’ armored and four heavy armored divsions.

    Nofi
    Armored divsion cost 280,000,000 Fr. Or, .29 per mile of fortresses or 25.3 divsions

    Note: France did field four of the large DLM tank divsions, four of the half size DCR tank divsions, and five of the half size DLM armored cavalry divsions or the equivalent of 8-9 tank divsions, one third of what Reed/Young suggest could have been built. Again the ability of French industry to produce tanks for 25 divsions is problematic. At 200 medium tank each thats 5000 tanks. Not including spares and light tanks which if in the same proportion as historically will ammount to another 2000. After that there are the tracked ammo & fuel vehicals & trucks. I’ll leave aside the self propelled artillery designed as they were never built.

    Nofi
    Fighter aircraft: .7 million Fr. per plane, 115.1 per mile, 10,013 total

    Medium bombers: 2.187 per plane, 36.8 per mile, 3,201 total

    Heavy bombers: 3.937 per plane, 20.5 per mile, 1,783 total

    Note: This does not seem to include the cost of ground support, which in the US Army Air Force ran more than ten times the cost of the plane. Neither does it account for the rapid obsolecence and subsequent replacement costs inherent to aircraft. Similarly the maintinance of motorized or armored divisions have a additional overhead cost.

    And, all this assumes Nofi/Young have accurately identified the intial costs of these items.

    I really have no accurate idea of what a realistic production capacity of French industry of the 1930s might have been. Perhaps something usefull could be extrapolated from the production goals of 1940-1943? Of course I do not have those numbers. Judging from what was accomplished I’d guess that increasing the number of motorized infantry divsions to 20 or 25 is realistic. Those could include infantry support tanks, armored cars in the recon squadron, and some tracked carriers for weapons, ammo, and a few assualt infantry. After that maybe ten full sized tank divsions and a 20% increase in modern aircraft? Anything beyond that may require some sort of Stalinist Five Year Plan for industrial growth for the 1930s. That would require a large capitol outlay presumablly drawing off the ‘Maginot Line Cost’.

    So yes the French could have built a better army from strictly a mechanical standpoint. But, not anything overwhelming. Aside from probable production obstacles France had a shortage of military age males. That means the military support echelon and civilian support contractors are competing with the combat units for fit healthy men. That was exactly the problem the Germans ran into from 1941 as their efforts to expand their mechanzed forces and the traditional infantry directly contravined field support and industrial requirements for manpower.
     
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  3. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The problem here is that the French military would not build a better army and opted for the Maginot Line based on their prevailent doctrine of Methodical Battle. Doctrine crippled French military thinking to near paralysis. No amount of money could overcome that problem.
     
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  4. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Good post Thanks for all the info thats being provided.

    Stange victory, page 6 referes to the comp simulation and the title the Big 3 is where I found it in the notes section at rear of book. The game is not a simulation as such, its just a game.

    But his chapter on Gamelin is pretty good stuff.

    One quote I've picked up from his book brings our assumption of an Allied Belgium forgoing its neutrality and probably halts a what if...in its finality

    'The king was adamant in his view, as summarized by Capelle, Belgium had much to lose and nothing to gain: In effect it is in the interest of these states ...France and Britain...to come to our help if we are attacked...so it is not necessary for us to pay for this guarantee

    On May himself, although he provides little oft known facts, he directs the reader with his assumptions at times but without providing the full picture, sort of believe me because I know. One such item where he describes the RAF...By prearrangement, 10 squadrons of British bombers had deployed to French airfields. The western allies thus had formidable forces in position not only to defend France, but to launch an attack....

    Granted this is to be taken in conjunction with French materials also, but he declines to mention the type of British bomber...i.e. the Battle.
     
  5. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    Would you say that the great tragedy that stripped France of its youth in the great war had severe cultural consequences and forever altered their national viewpoint towards war?
     
  6. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    What "national viewpoint towards war" exactly?
     
  7. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I do figure this much about this scenario:

    If the French and British have units forward in Belgium, possibly to the German border the Ardennes scenario is going to be far harder for the Germans to pull off. The likely presence of 5 French DLCs along with the Chasseurs Ardennes of the Belgian Army alone would be sufficent to delay the German panzer divisions by several days on their own.
    Without a confused and withdrawing BEF and French left as happened in the original campaign the Germans would find that their finesse through the Ardennes was forming a very tenious salient rather than a maneuver to cut through the rear of the Allied armies.
    Just a few days delay in their advance would be sufficent to throw the German plan out of whack.
    What would then become the determiner of the outcome would be whether the French infantry divisions collapse under German assault (likely still) or, if they can hold long enough to devolve the campaign into a semi-static one. If the latter happens the Germans could find themselves facing another WW 1.
     
  8. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    The screen on the border, mobile units or otherwise, would just be the start. This web site has a overview of the fortifications the Belgians built in the 1930s. Not the best description, but it clearly illustrates the depth of the intended defenses in the Ardennes.

    http://niehorster.orbat.com/021_belgium/forts/_forts-part_01.htm

    As the Germans found in December 1944 every ridge & stream constituted another line to rally on & every patch of woods or village a strong point. Were Belgium a active Ally the French can swing the Second Army northeast from the Meuse to the Our River & beyond, so that its left flank is on Liege. That allows another defense zone to be placed further back but still in the Ardennes. I other words a multilayer zone can be created long before the Germans are likely to attack. This defense in depth is what the Belgians had planned & the French hoped for. Unfortunatly Kleists group of tanks corps blew through before the plans could be executed.
     
  9. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The problem is that the DLC is a very weak unit. It isn't really a division as its name implies. Instead, it is really a strong regiment or brigade sized unit. Its biggest component is horsed cavalry. This is backed by detachments of armored cars, light tanks and, motorized infantry.
    One of these against a panzer division is more like an SS panzer division taking on 14th Cavalry group in the Ardennes in 1944. The French could slow the Germans down but they and the Belgians present wouldn't be able to stop them.
    The question is could the French react to the situation fast enough to put sufficent troops on that front to hold the Germans? I think that might have been possible if they had several more days than they did historically.
     
  10. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Note that I barfed up the name of the author of the magazine artical I cited earlier. Al Nofi was the author, not Reed.

    Another set of statistics Nofi provided is the German casualties for the 1940 campaign. I've never been able to check these closely, tho a Brigadier MBE Bailey had a critique of the German infantry tactics published circa 1994 which cited some similar numbers. If anyone else has a source for more complete of accurate numbers on losses in this campaign please let us know.

    German Divsions......122

    German casualties....155,000

    Loss per Div............1,270

    Enemy Div..............140

    Casualties per
    Enemy Div .............1,107

    The bulk of these German losses occured on the intermittant occasions whe the French or other Allied Armys defenses were solid and a brief static battle flared up. Some examples are the fighting around Rotterdam and other points inside the Dutch core defense zone (fortress Holland), the twin Battles of Merdorp & the Gembloux Gap, the fighting around the evacuation site on the Channel. The largest and most relevant was the battle to break the French defense in early June, the attack on the Weygand line. In this case the French were outnumbered nearly 2-1, had suffered a severe and potientially Morale breaking defeat, lost most of their tanks and a fair part of their best soldiers. Neverthe less over 40% of the German losses for the campaign are susposed to have been suffered in the 4-5 days it took to break this defense zone and force the French army away from Paris.

    What this suggests is if the Germans encounter a solid multilayerd defense in Belgium, rather than a handfull of half moblized reservists and dislocated and suprised columns on the road, then significant casualties will start imeadiatly and across the front.
     
  11. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    I'd suspect the DLC would have done much better had the Belgians been able to delay the Germans a full 48 hours beyond the our river. They were rather nonplussed to find the German advanced guards arriving on their screening line before the DLC did. But, you are correct the 25,000 men of the DLC were insuffcient to deal with the 107,000+ men of Pz Grp Kleist.
    Thats why it is preferable for a entire army to be advanced at least to the Our River. Instead of the the five DLC.


    That really depends on what the Germans do and how well laid the joint French/Belgian plans are. If the German go for Poland first then there is a minumum of two months to move the mobilizing French and Belgian soldiers forward. By the end of October it appears there can be six Belgian & slightly more French divsions at full strength covering the frontier. Another six to eight Belgian and six French infantry could be in the main defence zone behind the frontier. If Holland also joins the Allies in early September then two or three of these French units might be advanced to Dutch territory. Or, the French might draw reinforcements for Holland from elsewhere.

    If as Asterix proposed the Germans moblize in the West, rather than atacking Poland, and instead rush Belgium first then no there will not be enough time to moblize the Belgian army or reinforce it with French soldiers. The downside would be that the Poles were a bit more aggresive than France. Leaving a small thrid rate defence like Leeb's Army group C facing Poland wont work. While the Poles would not have the abilty to supply a imeadiate sustained offensive into Germany they would be able to make all sorts of raids and pressure local areas.

    Given Hitlers objectives: to destroy Poland, and his judgement of Allied intentions: to sit passively while Poland is raped, my guess is a few more German infantry divsions will reinforce the West Front in Spetmber while the bulk of the German army does its thing in the East.
     
  12. Miguel B.

    Miguel B. Member

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    Actually, it's quite hard as the line was not homogenious. Plus, you have to take the miles and miles of tunels so, you have to calculate based on volume not area. Still, without very precise information on what was where, it is impossible to tell the quantity of materials required. I'm surprised there aren't the original construction plants in the web. they should have this kind of info...



    Cheers...
     
  13. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Try Tunnel quarry corsham search on the web...Take that as a starting point, and then multiply by I should think...999 and that should just about do it.

    While France built the Maginot...we built a hole...
     
  14. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    This place was bult by R.E with much assistance from French military engineer planners in 30's still in use in 80's and new sites opened in 90's to present day.

    Maginot lives but without the cupolas...

    Corsham Underground Depots
     
  15. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    You could even say, Maginot helped win the Battle of Britain....I remember well blundering into this place one night shift. Still there today.

    Sorry, off topic but interesting how things mould.....

    Rudloe Manor page 2
     
  16. tikilal

    tikilal Ace

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    No I think had Belgium joined up as this what-if states that Holland would not have sent its men to Belgium, I think the defensive zone at the frontier would have been developed after the Dyle region was prepared. I hope that I understood what you were saying. Feel free to correct me.

    As I posted in another thread. You didnt see the Germans go through the Maginot line did you? In the Blitzkrieg Myth, by John Mosier Amazon.com: The Blitzkrieg Myth: How Hitler and the Allies Misread the Strategic Realities of World War II: John Mosier: Books
    He establishes that rather than outdated or inept the defensive lines were all too effective. This is why the Germans opted to go through the weak side into France.

    To your point had the Maginot line not been built the German approach to the war might have been different. They might have gone through France to get to the French, thus leaving Belgium and Holland, or one or the other neutral through the entire conflict. Even with the Line that was built the French fielded better and more tanks. As also discusses above the organization of these forces and the leadership of the French proved the weakness of the Allies.
     
  17. Emperor

    Emperor Member

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    This would result in a bloodbath, with Allied victory certain. Units in the line, if actually prepared to fight, would hold out and slow the advance, and possibly restrict it to a narrower corridor. Then the Allies use elite mobile units to cut the spearheads off at the base. Rather than driving north for 20 hours only to realize they are in the wrong position, these units load up and go right at the Germans as they are attempting to bring up infantry to protect their flanks.

    The British, deployed further forward, don't even think of Dunkirk. Churchill goes all in with air power, leaving nothing back. The RAF will not abandon men on the ground.

    Even if the German advance is delayed by just a few days, the crappy reliability of their vehicles begins to show. Tanks break down, or run out of fuel as they are cut off and isolated beyond support.

    I bet Hitler wouldn't even attempt to attack a prepared Belgium.
     
  18. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    BTW,

    anyone have more detailed info on the equipment and military training of the BEF?

    When reading in "sands of Dunkirk" by Collier that only two divisions, led by Generals Alexander and Irwin, were well prepared for war when it started. For instance Divisions 46. and 23., led by General majors Harry Curtis and William Herbert (were very depressed to notice) that the men of their units had no military training, the divisions did not have any artillery units and no anti tank weapons. The men of the divisions were supposed to be building air fields and other field structures, return to England in August for military training and return back to France after that.

    The King´s Own Regiment´s 6. batallion had left for France with only one rifle per 100 men. One month later they were facing German tanks with hand grenades their only weapon.
     
  19. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I'm sire we've all visited this site.

    HyperWar: The War in France and Flanders, 1939-1940 (UK Military Series)

    But yes Kai, dont forget some of these divisions were not the fighting teeth, many territorials were used for preparing proposed defence lines. It was not uncommon to have a battalion of basically builders and navvies.

    Some are even referred to as the useless mouths in the retreat to Dunkirk.

    Many though such as the infamous bath unit, put up a defence that they really shouldnt have been put in the position to do so.
     
  20. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Kings own Regiment, 6 battalion...the 6 should tell you something about their active status.
    The British infantry regiment always being a pretty misunderstood unit to outsiders.

    They mostly never fought as a regiment, and I know I'm preaching to the converted here, but some may not know....The first and second battalions are the more likely to be fully fit and serviceable front line battalions, with 3 4 and 5 etc being territorials and depot units etc. Except where you then get a large regiment like the Queens or indeed Kings etc who number many battalions over the years. I would presume the 6th Kings were a lesser unit based on territorial standard and without consulting the bookshelf would have been a rear orginisation. No less a need for armaments though and I'd be very surprised if each man did not have a personal weapon?

    Not saying your wrong, just asking where you read that one?
     

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