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Could Operation Sealion really have succeeded?

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by GunSlinger86, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    It's interesting that to see the person who says this
    Immediately follow up with:
    I guess for some definitions of the term Narvik might be considered within "easy reach from Scapa Flow" but the control of Denmark and southern Norway has huge import on operations in northern Norway and to even use the term "sweeping south" from a lodgment in Narvik brings to question the military understanding of the person stating it.
    A couple of successful raids vs convoys and a host of failures hardly make a case for the KM being much of a player in WWII. Indeed Norway was in many ways their claim to fame except of course they got trounced.
    Since it was essentially meaningless I didn't see any point to it.
    Well you are the proponent here so you are the one that is suppose to be supporting your position when it is called to question. However in this case I'll respond although it shouldn't really be necessary if you had any reasonable understanding of what was involved in an operation like this. Disrupting the convoy has a number of effects. At the very least it introduces both "friction" and delay. For operations that require some precision this is generally considered bad. Look at what happened in the one test run the Germans made. In very benign conditions at least one barge was swamped and that was without any opposition at all in daylight and good weather and with only a few barges in the test. Now imagine the impact at night where the coordination is being conducted with bull horns. The impact is going to be damaged and possibly lost vessels even without direct damage. It's also going to result in lost time which means that the convoys will be at sea longer and subject to even greater attrition and of course the tide doesn't care that they are delayed. Compound this with multiple engagements and the result a much more confused landing if it actually occurs. Look at what happened at Omaha with a force that was better trained for the operation, had a huge numerical and logistics edge, and much better communications as well as the benefit of a much better plan.
    Source please. Not sure it's better for moral either. Defeating the Germans on the ground would have some really significant advantages moral wise.
    Six knots to cover how long a trip? The shortest distance is Calais to Dover about 20 miles. If six knots is the average speed of the barges then the convoys will be going a bit slower as they will have to proceed at a bit less than the speed of the slowest vessel in the convoy. Then there's the currents which have a considerable impact. A quick google shows current speeds of 2.5 to almost 3 knots around Dover. Those of course are peaks but the impact on a convoy going something less than 6 knots of a 3 knot cross current is considerable. The net result is to reduce the speed to something under 5 knots and possibly less than 4 knots. Then I've seen considerable discussions which put the convoy speeds at around 4 knots.. Then you have to take into account forming up the convoys and getting them moving. You also don't want to arrive early but late is even worse and then there's the problem with navigating at night. All told the convoy from Calais to the Dover area might make it at night. Of course then it's parked in day light in sight of coastal defense guns. Cherburg to Lyme on the other hand is almost 100 miles even at 6 knots that's hard to do in a single night. The LeHarve convoys are facing a similar run. In the latter cases the currents won't be as strong but they'll be exposed to them for longer compounding the navigational issues.
    Are you reading what I wrote? The above certainly brings it to question. I never claimed it was a plan or suggested that the RN would deliberately try it. However it is pretty clear that to at least some extent that's what would happen. Small groups of everything from armed trawlers up to possibly CLs would have attacked the invasion convoys as they found them. The convoys by the way wouldn't have been all that hard to find. You are talking about hundreds of barges as well as other vessels. The barges were 25-50m long and in chains of three from what I recall reading so each chain is going to be around 250m or so long a line of 90 barges is going to be over 7 km long. Start laying smoke and not only are you saying "here's something of interest" you are adding to the confusion which with the marginally trained crew of the barges could easily be lethal and is certainly going to result in confusion. Would single DDs engage the convoys? I doubt it but small groups of DDs and small groups of other boats and ships almost certainly. Note that the Germans also have issues with mine fields, coordination, and travel times.
    They were behind schedule in clearing mines along the French coast that were in areas the invasion convoys needed to go! Again they may have been stockpiling the mines but the evidence presented in another thread (on the axis history forum I believe) indicated that they didn't have enough mines for the planned fields. Furthermore laying what they did have in the time needed would have strained their resources if they didn't loose any mine layers and with the fields requiring multiple days and passes to lay that was almost guaranteed.
    Of course there's a huge difference. The convoy was near the French coast so the British would want to be clear by daylight. The convoy was also close to friendly ports and not on a time schedule so it could scatter. DDs were sent out "unsupported" many times during WWII. What kind of support did you have in mind though?
    That's what is often called a "shotgun reference" and not really considered acceptable on most history discussion boards. The preference is to actually quote the relevant part although page numbers are adequate.
    I see arguments you don't want to address are "nitpicking" and reasonable assessment of things is fantasy. In the mean time considering all the problems one side faces while ignoring those on the other is acceptable..
     
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    Flat-bottomed Rhine barges towed in chains, carrying horse-drawn artillery, little specialist beaching gear, almost no specialist amphibious troops, a thin screen of paras etc etc etc.
    They treated planning for the channel as if for a river. It is no river.
    No air superiority.
    No naval superiority.
    A turkey-shoot of swamped barges and drowning men would ensue almost immediately.
    Shame they never tried it, as it would certainly have put the decades of speculation about it to rest, while dumping a great deal of Nazi military potential at the bottom of the sea, or bleeding out on beaches.

    The 1974 Sandhurst/Telegraph Sealion wargame (with Galland as an umpire, no less, among others) took things a stage further. Even when Germany gained a foothold, the resupply and support of that bridgehead proved utterly impossible, leading to a 'Dunkirk' situation, but with no willing little ships and a consolidating RN blocking the escape.

    Adolf made some interfering & hubristic cock-ups.
    Finally agreeing not to launch Sealion was not one of them.
     
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  3. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    Why are we even talking about this again? No matter how you wrap it, the KM was incapable of carrying out Sealion without massive casualties. See Adam's post (von Poop) for some of the reasons.
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Depends on your definition of "massive casualties". By USN or RN standards the Germans could have lost all the operational ships the KM had and it would have been significant but hardly massive losses. :)

    The Germans started the planning with the requirement to gain air and naval supremacy in the area. They had no real hope of achieving either. My interpretation of the KM Sea lion effort was they were going through the motions and looking for any possible way to convince Hitler not to order the invasion. The Heer figured they were safe because they could see that the KM and Luftwaffe weren't going to be able to achieve their pre invasion requirements and when Goering stepped up and said in essence "we can do it" the KM in particular said fine and then pointed out on every possible occasion why they were having problems achieving their goals due to lack of Luftwaffe support.

    Looks like our proponent has bailed. I was looking forward to some of the rest of you punching holes in his theories. ...

    I note we have another new poster making aggressive posts based on reading a single book ... makes one wonder.
     
  5. Roderick Hutchinson

    Roderick Hutchinson Member

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    Yes I read a report on the Sandhurst Games,, so what, it proved nothing, the fundemental failure of a legitimate games was that the British were able to fight a game with all of their war materiel left behind in France. The British left behind two years worth of war production in France and now in the Sandhurst game they get it all back.
    The British were that desperate that Roosevelt had to pension off 50 pre ww1 destroyers and transfer them into the RN and 500,000 rifles including 5,000,000 to 7,500,000 rounds of ammunition, interesting is the fact at the time Britain only had 3 fully equipped divions, without mobility.

    Then there is the issue of the LDV the Germans would have executed any member of the LDV because the Germans under German military law considered the LDV as an illegal militia and so not covered under the Geneva Convention thus not given POW status.
     
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  6. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Convenient decision on the LDV.
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    The oldest of the transferred destroyers - Caldwell class - were laid down in 1916 as part of a massive naval expansion and completed in 1917-18. The majority were not completed until after WWI, many as late as 1922.
     
  8. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    No they did not "get it al back". The British forces were deployed and equipped as they were as of 19 September 1940, which was when the game was set. By that time British production and American imports had re-equipped most of the British forces to something close to their WE, albeit with an interesting assortment of substitutes. For example, 1 Canadian Division was overstrength, with four complete Field Regiments RA (24 25-pdr or 18/25-pdr each), one Medium Regiment RA with 6-inch howitzers, 42 2-pdr AT, and all other equipment and vehicles except for Light AA (the 40mm Bofors was still in limited supply so were concentrated at Corps). 21st Army Tank Brigade had only two regiments under command, but they were fully equipped with Matilda II and III and Light Tanks Mk VI as per WE, while 1st Army Tank Brigade had three fully-equipped regiments.

    Perhaps more importantly, 1st London and 45 (Wessex) Infantry Divisions on the coast where the Germans planned to land were heavily reinforced. Each had an additional infantry brigade - in the case of 45 Division it was 31 Independent Infantry Brigade Group, which was fully-equipped to standard with a full 25-pdr Field Regiment, and was fully motorized. They also had a large number of separate and emergency artillery available and, because of the proximity of so many 11 Group stations, quite a bit of AA, both light and heavy.

    Of course, the real issue was that the German preparations were wholly improvisational and based on some curious assumptions. One of my favorites is the proposed coup de main on Dover Harbour, which was perfectly designed to turn Btandenburgers and Pioniere into mincemeat via the good offices of the the twin-six. Perhaps even better is the grandiose German "plan" for the employment of 7. Flieger-Division, which blithely ignored the actual strength of the division and the Luftwaffe air transport capability as of mid-September.

    They were not "pre ww1 destroyers". Most were laid up in reserve after completion (1916-1922) and then many were periodically rotated into the fleet during the 1920s and 1930s. As of 1940 they averaged 20 years old. Compare that the CVN 68 Nimitz, which when she is retired in 2025, will be 50 years old.

    The 500,000 "surplus" rifles and 250 rounds each (125-million rounds) were sent, but they turned out to be relatively unimportant and were mostly issued to the LDV. Much more important were the 895 M1917 and M1897 75mm guns, each with 1,200 rounds of ammunition, 300 3-inch mortars, each with 325 rounds of ammunition (enough for 150 battalions under current WE), 1,157 Lewis, 7,071 Vickers, 10,000 M1917 MG, and 25,000 BAR delivered between June and September.

    BTW, that "interesting fact" is accurate for 1 June 1940 and was a very different situation three months later. In addition to the American imports, in terms of newly produced artillery, not counting guns evacuated from France (a total of 322 of all types or roughly one-in-eight had been brought back), there were about 140 2-pdr AT guns, 568 40mm Bofors AA guns, 294 25-pdr guns, 728 3.7-inch AA, and 118 other miscellaneous guns delivered to the Army from 1 April to 30 September.

    Nor were they "without mobility", in June or September (the three division sets in Britain equipping 3 Division and parts of others included vehicles). In terms of ‘B’ Echelon vehicles, 63,879 had been lost in France, but 54,057 new ones had been produced. Including what was left in Britain and what was requisitioned, most of the Army by 19 September was more or less mobile, and was certainly much more mobile than the average German division - especially those that were proposed to land on the beaches of England.

    That would only have been an issue if the Germans managed to get inland and engage the LDV.
     
  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Interesting that they would pick that date. I'm skeptical of Sealion at any time, but if they were determined to try, earlier might have been better. As you say, the British were getting continually stronger, better organized, and more confident.

    The Germans would have to have made the decision to invade much earlier than they did. Kenneth Macksey's novel Invasion has Hitler ordering Sealion at the May 21 conference and the landing in July. I wonder if anyone ever wargamed that scenario?
     
  10. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    That was the earliest date they could expect to have sufficient transport capacity available...and even then it was shorting the requirements stated in the planning.

    They had nothing to get the forces to Britain in July. Macksey's novel is fantasy. It bears no relationship to the actual German planning and capabilities.
     
  11. Roderick Hutchinson

    Roderick Hutchinson Member

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    There is many aspects that hasn't been covered and why the Germans would have failed.
    1, surrounding the port of Dover was a series of oil pipelines, any attempt of the Germans landing at or taking Dover would the pipelines release the oil and it would be set on fire, this also includes Folkstone.

    2, Churchill had a scorched earth policy as you might call it, if the Germans had invaded, Churchill would have ordered the release of thousands of tonnes of anthrax throughout Britain, killing everything in its path.
     
  12. Roderick Hutchinson

    Roderick Hutchinson Member

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    As far as Macksey is concerned his book invasion the Luftwaffe defeats the RAF and now the Luftwaffe is learning on how to cripple the RN home fleet, which it does, this is in conjunction with having a strong u-boat presence at both ends of the English Channel.
     
  13. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, the work of the Petroleum Warfare Department, but it was only tested in August 1940 in the Solent, and was not actually installed until 1941 when 18 systems were installed along the coast.

    I think you are referring to Operation BANQUET, which included the delivery of mustard and other war gases by primary trainers in an all-out effort by the RAF? I have never run across any plans to deploy anthrax on the British Isles as part of a scorched earth program, but there was Operation VEGETARIAN, which was the 1942 plan for retaliation in case of German NBC attack that would have seeded German cities with anthrax spores.
     
  14. Roderick Hutchinson

    Roderick Hutchinson Member

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    Thanks Rich for the information.
     
  15. Roderick Hutchinson

    Roderick Hutchinson Member

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    Thank you for the correction, regards.
     
  16. Ricky

    Ricky Well-Known Member

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    One of my favourite stories highlighting the German army's lack of understanding about crossing a sea was the units ordered to the beaches for training etc. They were sent at the same time every day, and were amazed to discover that the sea was in different places each time. Tides, what are those?


    Obviously the KM would be aware, before anyone objects, but they did seem to be rather sidelined in Seelowe
     
  17. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Good story, but probably apocryphal. :D

    Well, they did have a major say on developing the planning, so saying they were sidelined is probably not accurate. I would more describe them as hesitant and verging on being aghast at the notion of such a thing. :D

    The more serious issue was that the three services did not work or play well together. The shear number of various missteps in planning, where one service developed plans on assumptions it had about another services' capabilities rather than by actually coordinating with them is astonishing. Sometimes even different branches of the same service had trouble coordinating...my favorite is the grandiose planning for 7. Flieger-Division airborne assault, which failed to take into account the actual strength of the division, of the Transport Geschwadern, the number of gliders available, and the likely scale of the British opposition. It was like they were writing a what if scenario. :rolleyes:
     
  18. Ricky

    Ricky Well-Known Member

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    This was largely what I meant. KM objections were effectively ignored by pretty much everyone in an orgy of wishful thinking
     
  19. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Yep, but then the Kriegsmarine had its own orgy as well... :D
     
  20. Ricky

    Ricky Well-Known Member

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    This saddened me, so I dug out the book I saw it in ("Operation Sealion" by Peter Fleming)
    He is pretty good at providing sources, but this story involved an un-named 'mountain division in Army Group A', anonymous officers and no source. A footnote intended to corroborate gives an anecdote from von Manstein where he went swimming and got caught by the tide. This is fully sourced (von Manstein's memoires) but irrelevant!

    Aww...
     
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