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Could France have survived?

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by UN Spacy, Jul 1, 2009.

  1. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Depends how quickly they move - remember, the embryonic Mareth Line, the much simpler set of defences Gen Barre had his Vichy French forces dig, were enough to hold the DAK/Italians in November 1942 ;) At least, for a day, honours even - until Barre decided to withdraw and link up with the Allies. The terrain just across the border permits quite small and poorly-equiped forces to hold up much larger forces for some time.

    Hardly, an Allied naval and air presence there controls the Western Med along with Bizerte/Oran/Gibraltar...Malta. if anything it's Sardinia that's cut off!

    I also wouldn't give good odds for the Axis deciding to defend Sardinia or carry out offensive operations from there; this is 1940....the recent succesful amphibious experience of landing from the sea directly onto hostile shores was Allied ;) The Italians are more likely to close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears and go la-la-la rather than attempt anything from Sardinia....

    And of course - the presence of Sardinia didn't do much to hinder the Armee De L'Air's flight (sic) to North Africa OTL in June 1940...
     
  2. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    It's only fair to note that the British AND the Germans were busy learning in the summer of 1940 (and after) that coastal batteries might conceivably defend said coast - but they didn't actually do much to prevent the passage of shipping laterally :) Unless you're aware of even a single warship hit by the coastal batteries of EITHER side in the Channel in that period...

    Bombcarrying b110s and later 109E-ausfrungen and after ;) THAT was the big change to the LW in the late autumn of 1940...and one responsible for more of the damage and losses off Crete than more..."conventional"...LW bomber types IIRC.

    Not very much against warships; even the normally partisan E.R. Hooton has to admit that in the Norway campaign it took a very high sortie rate to achieve even a single hit, this was confirmed at Calabira, and again off Crete; where the RN losses were due to being caught by the LW with depleted stocks of AA munitions on occasion so that vessels couldn't maintain their own defence for a protracted period, or couldn't handle nimbly enough ebcause they were untrimmed due to the many tons of extra human aboard in the shape of evacuating soldiers, or both :(

    Instead - if you look at Brian Lavery's "We Shall Fight On The Beaches" events off Norway are discussed in some detail due their proposed similarity with RN operations in the Channel in the event that Sealion was launched. And he has several examples of how well-trimmed RN vessels could manouver to avoid fall-of-shot.
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Early June is way too early, the Italian DOW was June 10, the British starting to pour troops in NA before that date would probably create a completely different storyline. And bad as the Italian war preparations were were their intelligence services were pretty decent, that sort of troop movement would get noticed.
    And such a decision would mean a French decision to abandon Metropolitan France for NA in May, any Frenchman suggesting it at that time would be shot as a defeatist traitor.

    IMO the British have close to nothing to react with, in terms of fully formed land forces, in mid 1940, anything they do send to French NA is going to be at the expense of something else, not sending the historical forces to France will mean the French will collapse sooner, allowing for an earlier move to NA, and feel even more "betrayed" than they did after Dunkirk, not a big ecouragement to "up the ante" by countinuing to fight under conditions were most nations would sue for peace. IMO they will also not weaken home defence below a certain point, not sending the fighters to France is proof enough of that.
     
  4. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    What has the Italian declaration of what got to do with British awareness of its weaknesses in the Med? IIRC as early as the spring of 1939 the Admiralty was planning to increase the defences of Malta, for instance, and drawing up plans to increase the numbers of heavy amd medium AA guns, searchlights etc..

    Likewise - what does the Italian position have to do with France wishing to strengthen its position once it withdraws to North Africa...and asking British assistance to do it? ;) BOTH recognised the dual threat of Germany and Italy.

    Apart from their share of the Dunkirk perimeter, and the failed counterattack at Arras - what exactly did the BEF contribute to preventing the collapse of France? Not a lot. They were "involved" in the fighting - Calais etc....but the major actions in the campaign - Gembloux Gap, the Meuse etc. - took place without much valuable British involvement at all on the ground.
     
  5. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    ...a feeling of betrayal that will simply not be there IF the French decide to fight on and do it from North Africa and ask for British assistance there. If British movements to North Africa are at French request, they can hardly feel betrayed if we do it!!! :D
     
  6. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The Bonifacio straits is 11Km wide at it's narrowest point, add defensive minefields, the Italian laid quite a lot of them, and you have something resembling more the WW1 Dardanelles than the Channel dash, with the difference that the Turks had no planes to finish off any ship that happened to get disabled, the LW certainly would.

    With Italy still neutral and the Germans on the Channel, but sill fighting heavily in France, they are going to give priority to French NA or worse Egypt that is under no immediate threat? Just as likely as sending them to Malaya to deter the Japanese.

    For the French the decision to divert forces to NA means abbandoning any hope of defending metropolitan France, simply unthinkable for them until the Germans are well beyond Paris so any such decision will be in June, Paris fell on the 14th of June, and it will take a few weeks after that to get the troops there even assuming they are ready to ship. AFAIK the only "ready" troops are those that historically went to Egypt. Belgium surrendered on May 28 but there were still some 50 divisions South if we include the 15 fortress divs in the Maginot, French forces, and the British 51st, were still attacking in in the hope of piercing the "Panzer corridor" on the 29th. So it's very difficult that anything combat ready will get to NA before mid July at best.

    The only fighter bomber victim I know of at Crete was HMS Fiji, and it still took Stukas to finish her off, the Jabos creation, and there were few of them, IIRC one Staffel per Jadgruppe but not in all units, is not that important, the first unit Erpobungs. Gr. 210, was raised in July 1940 .
     
  7. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    And the Channel was free of minefields??? Quite the reverse - the Narrows were entirely blocked with lines of minefelds except for the Swept War Channels for escorted shipping.

    And how wide was the navigable width of the Channel Narrows? Given the sandbanks and shallows....

    But this aside - there's no getting away from the fact that the emplaced coastal artillery of BOTH sides proved singularly ineffective against shipping in the Channel in WWII ;) So why on earth would it be any better anywhere else???

    If this action is what keep France in the war IF France requests it? Of course they would.

    You're still neglecting BEF II; as well as the divisions that WERE sent but withdrawn in good order just sans equipment, there were another two sitting on the docks that never shipped. THEY were available...

    It doesn't need to be "combat ready" - during July and August, only a very few were even in the UK - but were fine for static defence - which is what is needed along the Tunisian border at this point. Think of the divisions used in the UK OTL as static anti-invasion defence being used in North Africa for the same role.

    The difference between being basically trained, and equiped, and formated...and trained/experienced in modern mobile combat...is one that Kirke and Ironside and Brooke all struggled with for the defence of the UK (see Newbold); but "non-combat ready" as you put it was judged fine for static defence; as divisions were pulled one by one for advanced training, historically THEY were put into the C-in-C Home Defence's mobile Reserve for counterattacking an invasion - here...they get sent to North Africa. ;)

    As a P.S. - seriously, take a look at Newbold, and then at a description of the BEF as despatched from the UK in 1939 through early 1940, say in Montefiore; only the Guards Division could be described - in contemporary terms - as combat ready; the others were sent to France as they completed basic training, formating and equiping...or even before that in the case of the two "labour" divisions.
     
  8. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    Even if France did continue the war,and the Germans were occupying the Mediterranean coast,what would be the benefit ? They never could occupy French NA,the only thing they could do was to send a few divisions(the Germans had lost 30 % of their tanks in may/june .) with LW units to Lybia,in the autumn .NA would be a waste of resources :B ritain would not
    give up,if the Germans reached Morocco.
    And the chances for the Germans to reach Tanger were negligible,the distance Tanger-Tunis was some 2000 km.
     
  9. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The French will not ask for troops in NA before the fall of Paris, they will ask for troops in metropolitan France.

    I think distance from Tripoli to El Alamein is longer than to the Atlantic coast.

    Sending "non combat ready" units overseas where they are likely to be used as frontline troops is a pretty bold move, especially if they may be needed at home. The French logistics in NA are not great, and there's bound to be an awful lot of confusion so supporting realistic training is unlikely (no ammo to waste and the like), in the end they look like cannon fodder and the Germans would be very happy to fight them in NA instead that in England (or in France in 1944).

    The German objective is "breaking the French will", and they are likely to put a lot of effort into that, bagging a few thousand Commonwealth troops is "icing on the cake". In late 1940 the German army is unstoppable by anything the western allies have, if the Med gets high priority they are in BIG trouble and French resistance there is likely to bring about just that.

    Historically 90th PzGren hopped to Corsica/Sardinia and back in 1942/43 despite a much worse naval and air situation, and the RN (and the quite strong USN detachment) failed to interfere.

    11Km is field artillery range, the allies cannot guarantee a swept channel through it as any mine clearing operations would be under the guns of field artillery, like at the Dardanelles, big guns are not very effective against minesweeprs, barrel wear is a big constraint, but field arillery is and the axis can airdrop additional mines at will.

    IMO continued French resistance would provide more than enough motivation to go to NA "en force". The chance of bagging a strong CW force there, and those "static" units look very vulnerable, is "icing on the cake".

    The capability of the RN to survive massive LW attacks is hard to guess, Crete or Force Z like performance would doom it, while the combined allies would have lots of ships they didn't have that many to waste.
    And a major naval disaster, like the stukas getting lucky on a battleship, may actually bring the British to start negotiating if Hitler is smart enough, especially without the morale boosting effect of the BoB, after all his true objectives are East not West or South, he will want to hang to the Alsace-Lorrraine that had large numbers of German speakers but that's as far as his pre-war ambitions go. And sooner or later both the French and the CW will need to start moving forces to the Pacific if they want to deter the Japanese.
     
  10. Chi-Ri

    Chi-Ri Member

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    Force Z was attacked by the Japanese pilots who had quite an intensive training in attacking warships. The Germans in 1940 did not have such pilots. Secondly, while Stukas were a good tool of precision hits, they had serious problems with sinking ships bigger than the cruiser (IIRC, the only battleship Ju-87s managed to heavily damage was Soviet Marat). At the same time, Ju-88s as dive bombers did not have such precision in their strikes.
    So, in the match Royal Navy vs. Luftwaffe I would bet on the Brits - as experience shows they were able to fulfill their tasks, despite, sometimes heavy, losses.

    Regards
     
  11. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    What about HMS Warspite off Crete? IIRC there was also some damage to HMS Valiant.
    I agree it's difficult to sink a BB with 250Kg bombs but they are actually easier to hit than the more manouvrable cruisers.
    AFAIK the first success of Italian torpedo bombers was the damaging of HMS Liverpool in October 1940.
     
  12. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    That's by no means certain - all their various actions will be very different in this ATL.

    For instance - who's to say that they won't ask for help overseas BEFORE Paris falls - if the decision to attempt to fight on is made before Paris ;)

    Who's to say that if they make the decision early enough....they simply don't regard the REST of the Metropolitan campaign as one great delaying action to allow them to make a far more comprehensive withdrawal of mmanpower and materiel? ;)

    Well - about 85% of the BEF was in that state when they were sent to France OTL!

    ...apart, that is, from the data available from Norway as noted before?

    FAR more than the KM, at any rate! And don't forget this is BEFORE the high attrition rate in the Med in 1941.

    Well....THAT didn't work when we lost the Glorious, one of only five carriers we had by the spring of 1940!
     
  13. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Remember you noted how few vessels were sunk or damaged off Crete by bf109s?

    You forgot to add Warspite to your list...109s of III./JG 77 ;)
     
  14. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The "what if" action is mid way between historical Norway and Crete, the RN cannot afford Crete stile attrition over a period of months. The dates (August September 1940) , so the anti shipping training, is closer to Noway, but the basing, weather and general supply condition is coser to Crete, actually better as the LW will be operating from friendly territory.

    I believe the French deciding to create a "NA bastion" before mid June is highly unlikely, for what I kow of them they don't have a "commonwealth" mindset, for them "metropolitan France IS France", for a lot of them actually "Paris is France". So even if they do decide to fight on they will probably do it in Southern France rather than NA. What they did historically was move a lot of equipment to NA, especially the most modern stuff, to put it out of the German's reach, but relatively few troops.

    France attempting to prolong resistance opens some very bad scenarios for the British, they will ask for troops in Southern France and if refused, on top of the fighters and Dunkirk, British credibility is gone. If they do send them they will be much harder to get outwhen the time comes than at Dunkirk.

    All I had on Warspite was "bomb damage", IIRC Montbatten's desrtoyers were sunk by Stukas but I dont have details on the other Crete losses, could be interesting any source you can recomend or do I have to do the homework?.
     
  15. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    You should check out the RN's losses in the Med through 1941 ;) This is the sort of attrition rate the RN suffered historically...

    Actually - I'm not aware of them operating from UNfriendly territory during WWII... ;)

    It's worth noting however that the 1940 situation in Sicily and Southern Italy is less favourable for largescale air oprations than 1941 on; fewer developed airfields. Look at the difficulties the Germans had operating from scratch fields in the Pireaus and Salonika during MERKUR, for instance...

    Yes - historically; but we're not actually talking about the historical situation here. Historically, for instance - the thousands of French troops evacuated to the UK during DYNAMO were returned to France and wasted; if the decision is made within a few days of Dunkirk, these (or a significant portion of them) could be rerouted to North Africa for re-equiping/reformating there instead.

    If we're discussing a France Fights On ATL - then the French attitude to DYNAMO will have been considerably different anyway...with more emphasis placed on the successful withdrawal of many thousands of French troops.

    Really? Southern France and ther Atlantic littoral doesn't have ports? The RN doesn't control the Western Med and Biscay?

    "Crete 1941", the naval battle, can't remember offhand who wrote it, and I'm away from my bookshelves at the minute, but IIRC it was written relatively closely to events, early '50s.
     
  16. freebird

    freebird Member

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    The site "Cruiser Operations" is a superb reference. It has info on all WWII cruisers of all nations, plus info on all British battleships & battlecruisers.


    List of all WWII British cruisers
    - includes tons, guns, date built & ultimate fate
    Fleet Locater- Interactive map, shows location of all British ships of CL or larger, + German capital ships, for each month of the war

    Check out the "Actions" section for "Crete" and it gives the story of HMS Gloucester

    HMS Gloucester was lost on the same day as Fiji, and was the largest RN warship to be sunk by German air attack. Although listed as a light cruiser, the "Town" class were of similar tonnage to the County class CA's.
    HMS Gloucester & HMS Fiji survived 4 major Axis air attacks (Afternoon/evening of May 21, + May 22 06:30 - 08:00, 09:00 - 12:00, 12:25 - 14:13) before being sunk during the 5th attack after running out of AA ammo.

    HMS Gloucester - the story of her sinking and the Battle for Crete.

    In both the cases of Crete & Force Z the RN was far away from British air cover, which wouldn't be the case in the Straights of Sicily, with both Malta & Tunisian airbases.

    The Germans and Italians didn't have much success with air launched torpedo attacks (unlike the Japanese)
    And while the RN did lose some destroyers, the Axis were notvery successful sinking cruisers & battleships by air (until they ran out of ammo)
     
  17. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    By friendly I mean where the local population was axis, that does make difference to sustained operations and it does ease the supply process.
    1941 losses from Roskill (in bold attributed to air action, underlined Crete losses) IMO pretty high and the losses off Crete in the short time frame they were facing the full LW are clearly unsustainable. Add to it the two capital ships lost to U-Boats, the Germans are likely to send more of those if the Med is the main area of operations.
    ----- Battleships:
    Barham 25.11.41
    ----- Aircraft Carriers
    Ark Royal 13.11.41
    ----- Cruisers:
    Southampton 11.1.41
    York 26.3.41
    Bonaventure 31.3.41
    Fiji 22.5.41
    Glouchester 22.5.41
    Calcutta 1.6.41
    Galatea 14.12.41
    Neptune 19.12.41
    ---- Monitor
    Terror 24.2.41
    ---- Mine layers (actually "destroyers with cruiser machinery")
    Latona
    25.10.41
    ---- Destroyers
    Mohawk 16.4.41
    Wryneck 27.4.41
    Diamond 27.4.41
    Jersey 2.5.41
    Juno 21.5.41
    Greyhound 22.5.41
    Kashmir 23.5.41
    Kelly 23.5.41
    Imperial 29.5.41
    Hereward 29.5.41
    Waterhen (RAN) 29.6.41
    Defender 11.7.41
    Fearless 23.7.41
    Kandahar 19.12.41
    8 Submarines none officially attributed to aircraft (makes sense as axis had close to no ASW air assets in theater).

    Add to it bad damage to at least Illustrious and Warspite that had to be repaired off theater.
    While the 1941 airfields situation in Sicily was improved over 1940 the 1940 is better than Greece, they are in a friendly country and can rely on local costruction forces to improve the fields.
    The amount of air cover the RAF and Armee de l'Air remnants can provide is significantly worse than the pre BoB "battle of coastal convoys", apart from the longer ranges there is no radar chain, and we know how that went, the LW is most likely to achieve favourable attrition rates in that sort of battle.
     
  18. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    Have to correct the above, it's David Thomas' "Crete 1941" from 1972 - my copy is so battered and coverless (car boot sale) it just looks that old...

    Did the local population being conquered French in the Occupied Zone, rather than Axis, make any difference to sustained operations in the BoB?

    By far the more important factors are the number and condition of available airfields in range - and whether or not they're already crowded with Italian aircraft...

    Although it was not very successful a campaign (the majority flown by night IIRC - not Bomber Command's best time of the day for accuracy in the period...), BC flew quite a number of anti-airfield ops during the BoB.

    P.S. what eases the supply process in 1940 of having to ferry POL and munitions the length of Italy and across the straits of Messina? :eek:
     
  19. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    1/ that's still not a rapid activity, and

    2/ it's going to be noticed, and

    3/ still doesn't assist in the summer 1940 issue of congestion...

    And, of course - there's one major issue here regarding time...

    How must time is wasted to the Germans in bringing Mussolini onboard with all of this???

    Historically he refused Hitler's intervention in the Med in 1940 apart from an initial and very small LW involvement IIRC. In this ATL - the reversals of late 1940 and very early 1941 have not yet happened, either in North Africa OR in Greece ;) Il Duce is not backfooted because he has "not yet begun to fight"...apart from the abortive French campaign - which he may not actually venture here given that the Wehrmacht is barrelling down on Southern France!

    His weakness vs. the British and Commonwealth forces in-theatre is not yet demonstrated - it is entirely possible that he might refuse a full level of cooperation with the Germans, bar for instance air/armoured support for the Italian Army...under Italian overall command.

    Mussolini's unwillingnes to give the Germans a toehold in the Med, into HIS area of interest, has to be taken into account. Not only might it restrict the German capacity to prosecute the war fully against France - it would inevitably involve delay.
     
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  20. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    The situation is very different here; OTL, small Channel coastal convoys (Southern Railway's colliers etc.) were plying the Narrows daily, with larger convoys like the illfated "Peewhit" every three-four days. I.E. very regular traffic, and they sailed inside the Luftwaffe's combat radius for virtually the full length of their voyage.

    Here - the convoys to Oran and Algiers are more like the U.S.-origin convoys reaching the UK...and there's only going to be a small amount of coastal traffic forward along the Tunisian coast, or to Malta -

    1/ which can be timed so that the majority of it travels by night;

    2/ the threat of Axis air attack didn't stop the Allies supplying Tobruk etc. by sea when possible, did it? Or, let's face it, Malta...

    For the North African littoral it's not too different situation to the UK; for men and materiel travelling from Algeria to Tunisia, think more like materiel being moved from the UK's western Atlantic ports, or from training camps in Scotland, to the rest of the country for a comparison, 99.99999999% safe because that land journey is safe from air attack.

    Why???? Here, once again, it's the Luftwaffe flying large sea distances before combat, then attempting to return again on marginal fuel - "Mittelmeerkranken" rather than "Kanalkranken", then - with the Allies defending over land or just offcoast.

    And why no radar? How soon was radar operating in Malta? ;)

    And look how quickly, from a standing start, the Australians were able to put up a Chain Home-style line across the coast of North Australia in 1942...

    It's also worth remembering that in a way "all" that radar does is obviate the need to fly standing patrols ;) The RAF didn't not fly standing patrols in the Desert...
     

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