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Questions about France in 1940

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1939 - 1942' started by brndirt1, Aug 6, 2009.

  1. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    The British armoured attack, was hardly an armoured attack that we would later see in European battles...The infantry support was minimal..but the best numbers that could be put together...Achieving what they did with so little was nothing but amazing. Lost ground of course...nothing to hold it with. This attack was no more than an appeasement to the politicians. Gort well knew what his job was at that stage of the battle..and it was not to force a gap in the German Coridoor. His job in his own head by then was to save the British army.
     
    lwd likes this.
  2. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    While the battle was raging RAF's bomber command chose to concentrate on city bombing in the hope of diverting some Lufwaffe units to retaliation attacks rather than go for the troop cocentrations (they were not trained for ground support but railheads were a viable target).
    .
    I think the RAF had enough problems trying to keep the Germans back by way of fighter command after the Force in France ceased to be effective...Bomber command at the time would have taken a salutary lesson from the earlier bomber attacks on the bridges which lead to a massive loss on the British force in France in planes and crews. Bigger bombers of the time would not have had the accuracy as we know to do pinpoint bombing and never really did in the whole war. So hitting railheads at that stage of the war with something like a Wellington force would be a major ask, the bombers we had stupidly chosen for this type of mission had already been decimated...few Fairey battles remained...I suppose they too could have been sent out on a suicide mission, and the crews would have volunteered at that stage...But I did not see the French air force in any hurry to do this either.
    Any mission against the railheads or troop concentrations at this stage of the RAF in ww2 would have needed specialist aircraft and the crews trained to do so. Neither existed. As with husbanding fighter command, the RAF were later to need those bombers for bombing French harbours in the Battle of Britain.
     
  3. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Absolutely true - and it was the Cinderella of the Services. Funding was very limited but starting in 1935 (and Chamberlain should take the credit), spending on the RAF rocketed. The Navy had already been brought up to scratch and in the final year of peace, I believe the spending on the RAF was four times that of the Army - limited by the production capacity of British Industry. Money, re-organisation and equipment for the Army was only starting happen as the War commenced. Conscription of all male 21year olds had taken place in July 1939 (which I think was the first time that there was compulsory military service outside of war time in Britain). Spending on the Army would have increased and caught up with the other two Services given time.

    But look at the contribution of the RAF in France - I don't have the figures to hand but the RAF lost more planes in the Battle of France than the French.

    Guderian's pontoon bridge at Gaulier was his thin lifeline for 3 Panzer Divisions - his only one at that stage on 14 May.

    109 British Bombers attacked it - 47 shot down
    43 French Bombers - 5 shot down

    250 fighter sorties with the French losing 30 and the British 20 - and its the same story at every engagement - the British more than pulled their weight in the Air.

    No need to discuss the Royal Navy but the French navy was equally as professional and determined and should be a source of pride.
     
  4. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    We are talking about two different "1st armoured" the Arras attack included 1st Army tank brigade that was part of the original BEF while the unit commited at Abbeville was the freshly arrived British 1st armoured division.


    According to Horne, a secondary source but usually well researched, the initial Frankforce was to be made up by 5th and 50th divisions, 1st armoured brigade had a TOE of around 100 tanks but on that day only 74 were able to participate 58 Matilda I and 16 Matilda II. four of the six infantry brigades from the two units were allocated to other tasks while the attack was in preparation, Franklyn was the commander of 5th division and decided not to commit his 17th brigade so in the end the infantry element was two batallions from the 151 brigade of 50th division. That Franklyn was in command is proof enough 5th was scheduled for the attack.


    AFAIK Weigand's plan was for a pincer attack that included the whole of the BEF as the northern pincer and was scheduled for the 23rd, it was basically unrealistic but both Gort and Blanchard that could have told him that were not there to advise him. The French attack from the North on the 22nd, was a mirror of the British one the previous day, two divisions earmarked but finally only an infantry regiment and some armour crossed the starting line, made some progress against the German 32nd division that showed the same symptoms of "tank fright" of the SS the previous day penetrating to the outskirks of Cambrai, and finally was beaten back by lack of backup and air strikes.


    Rommel had 7th Panzer and possibly one of the two panzer regiments of 5th Panzer attached, the Panzer divisions were fully motorized (there were 10 of them not 9, thought I'm not sure the one initally commited in Holland (IIRC 4th Panzer) ever made it to the corridor), as where the handful of motorized infantry units (don't recall the exact number but definetly less than 10 even including the SS encountered by Martel). But that was as far as motorization went in the German army barring another handful of sub-division sized units like GD regiment and the Flak units, everybody else, so over 70% of the divisions, relied on horses.
    By contrast most allied units had trucks for at least the artillery component and there were a number of fully motorized unitls like the DCR, DLM, and DIM, parly motorized cavalry like the DLC and independent tank units. So it's not wrong to state that "on average" the Germans were less motorized. The British "carriers" were probably more than a match for the Pz I that made up a good 20% if the German tank force.
    The French attack on the 22 faced a foot division that had literally walked all the way from Germany, by contrast some allied units claimed they needed a couple of days to prepare for an attack after moving a much shorter distance.
     
  5. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    The Arras attack was a combined French-British attack,not a British only attack
     
  6. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    About the battle of Arras (a British-French operation): British :60 Matilda 1 and 16 M 2 :losses 47

    :French :45 Hotchkiss 35 and 15 H 39 and Samua 35 :losses 20

    German losses : 20 tanks and some 400 men
     
  7. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The French contribution varies according to sources, adding multilanguage problems to a relatively small force that was already "tank heavy" and had limited objectives made little sense. Horne doesn't mention a French attack but other sources state 3DLM (Division Legelre Mecanique/Light mechanized division) and 13th BCC (Bataillon Chars de Combat/Tank batallion) with some 60 assorted tanks did attack later in the day and some French tanks covered the British withdrawal.
    One source mentions 7 MkVI light tanks in the British force, possibly from a recon element of one of the infantry divisions, any confirmation? It also seems likely the British had some "carriers" and those would class as tanks by 1940 standards.
    400 is the number of German's captured according to most sources I've seen, they were probably mostly from the SS and the number probably includes prisoners taken by both British and French as the SS reported some 200 losses and Rommel 89KIA 137 WIA but I'm missing the nubers for MIA, IIRC Rommel reported the loss of a Pz III which made it likely some unit's from the "lent" regiment was involved as 7th Panzer didn't have any.

    The following map found on the net is pretty interesting, note the position of Pz regiment 25 that is ideally placed to cut off the Allied penetration, what looks like a supporting attack by 150 Brigade East of Arras and the divisional boundary betwerer 7th and 5th Panzer.
    [​IMG]

    An Internet search reveals very different versions, according to the French language Wikipedia the French did all the fighting :XD:, another site mentions the LSAH SS Panzer division in the Gernan OOB!
    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bataille_d'Arras_(1940)
     
  8. green slime

    green slime Member

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    I may be misremembering, but wasn't LSSAH, only a motorized infantry regiment in May 1940?
     
  9. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Yes, it was upgraded to a brigade for the 1941 Balkans campaign LSSAH and to a full division in 1942. My comment was about the low quality of a lot of internet info (the French wiki page is also terrible). You are right Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler is either LAH or LSSAH not LSAH.
     
  10. Ira7

    Ira7 New Member

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    Huh?

    The French navy wouldn't even sail their ships away from Nazi control.

    That's a source of pride—if you're an aspiring Nazi, I guess.

    Teaking and rewriting history is one thing, but let's call a spade a spade. The French don't have a whole lot to be proud of during the war.
     
  11. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Incorrect. He does -see pages P575 etc and Chapter 18. Prioux's much deplete force was a useful addition and did cover perform well in protectign the right wing of the British withdrawl.

    He also explains that 150th brigade East of Arras made a harassing raid as did 13th Brigade even further East. Franklyn called these off when it was obvious that 25th panzer regiment was threatening his flank.


    Freiser's map
    I have Freisler's book and am sorry to say that he lets his pride in the German Army to which he belonged tinge his comments at times - especially where British Forces are concerned.

    He takes great pains to tell us that ONLY the SS was routed - none of the Wehrmacht (which is quite incorrect) - very understandably the German Anti-tank gunners (34mm - a poor gun with significantly less penetration than the British 2 pounder) fled when their shells bounced of the heavily armoured British Tanks. You will find time and time again that the German claim significantly lower loss figures than they actually were.

    Yes German reports rarely distinguish between British tanks and carriers (eg at Wormout they calimed 9 tanks shot up - but the British had no tanks only the infantry's bren gun carriers) - although as you know there was world of difference between the bren gun carrier and a tank.
     
  12. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Prioux performed admirably as did many French at the time. The French have much to be proud of. The allied disaster of 1940 was a result of many things in previous years not just a French debacle..Of which we have to admit, but the French soldier went on to display great fighting abilities equal to any allied soldier from there on. Especially in the North African Deserts.
     
  13. arminiuss

    arminiuss New Member

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    I would say there is also a world of difference between a tank and a PzKpfw I. And yet most sources count the Panzer I as the 2nd most numerous "tank" the Germans used in Fall Gelb.

    Also the German door knocker was 37mm not 34mm.
     
  14. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I don't have Freiser's book, but it looks like a worthy read, I think I've read enough on the battle from multiple sides to manage some bias, and that map, if accurate and nothing has yet come up to contradict it, is a lot clearer than anything I've seen elsewhere.
    As far as the Heer not "routing" it depends on what you mean by routing, pulling out of an impossible position even if abandoning guns that had proved totally ineffective against enemy armour for me is a tactical withdrawal, it only becomes a rout when panic sets in and a unit as a whole starts pulling back including previously uncommitted elements. AFAIK nothing like that happened with 7th Panzer though quite possibly Rommel's "from the front" leadership style had something to do with it.

    One interesting thing that comes out this thread is that Rommel's often quoted "5 Divisionen" estimation turns out to be a lot more correct than many accounts (including Horne) give it credit for, the may 21 Attack included units from two British divisions (23 and 5) a French one (3 DLM) and the whole of 1st Army tank brigade, and the British 50th was in the area as well. That the whole of the units were not engaged is due to Allied command decisions/failures, Rommel had no way of knowing they only intended a "raid".

    I agree there is a lot of difference between a carrier and what we now would call a tank, but I don't see much difference in capabilities between carriers, the British Mk VI light, the PzKpfw I, the Italian L3, the soviet Komsomolets tractors or even the French Chenillette Lorraine, they all were somewhat impervious to small arms fire and had no chance against any AT weapon worthy of the name even by 1940 standards. Propaganda often counted them as tanks when on the enemy side and didn't count them at all when friendly.

    One of the interesting things in research is how often propaganda has become "undisputable fact", there was a very amusing recent article on a French magazine about Waterloo being a "British" victory given the percentage of truly British troops in Wellington's command (besides the non trivial contribution of Blucher) or Bir Hakeim being a "French" victory when the bulk of the troops were foreign legionaries (assuming what was basically a short lived holding action in a heavily fortified position whose ultimate failure opened the way for greatest German success in NA can be called a victory).
     
  15. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    You might be interested in this : During European Theater of Operations between 1944-1945 , 1st French Army was also under SHEAF and Eisenhower's command. This army under Free French colors was formed after Operation Anvil landing on Southern France on August 1944 commanded by General Jean Lattre Tassigny and fighting at 6th US Army Group at Upper Rhine region a less strategic important area considering weight of Allied / German operation were up to north.

    But 1st French Army was not entirely consisted of French. It had just eight divisions and five of these divisions were French Colonial Divisions from French North Africa. Consisted of mainly Algerian , Morrocian , Tunisian Goum troops.
     
  16. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    more details are needed here.

    1) Algeria was a French departement during WW2 . It hab been French since 1830 (longer than Savoya , Nice and Mulhouse for instance) there were over a million Europena immigrants in Algeria, mainly French Alsacians, Lorrains, but also many spaniards and Italians for example. Their natioanlity was French .
    It is often said that officers were French and privates colonials. This is not true. while officers were French , privates were recruits from the mentionned countries and included whoever joined Europeans or North Africans were mixed.
    2) The Goums were Moroccan local recruits with French officers (see picture) . Morocco was not a French departement , but a Protectorate.

    [​IMG]

    3) The Tirailleurs north Africa were ethnically mixed units with French officers . Note the Senagelse and goums were not mixed with other groups .
    4) the Zouaves were European only colonial troops , including the privates.
    5) the First army had many regular European units (see Tunis, Monte Casino, Anvil etc...)

    On the whole all these troops were French , simply because the colonies did not have their own command those days . They fought for France and the French flag and France owes a lot to them ,no mater where they came from .
     
  17. arminiuss

    arminiuss New Member

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    Italy has fond memories of some French North African troops. The allied part of Italy was just a giant black market and brothel.
     
  18. efestos

    efestos Member

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    Not sure it's the correct place to ask: DID Germany REALLY NEED o invade the Neeetherlands in may 1940? As the plan "Manstein's sickle cup" was to get the main allied forces caught in Belgium ... Just get them trapped in a narrower front. My guess, as the map was what it was is that the answer is yes it had to be done... but I keep my own doubts ... There was the posibility to menace the Neetherlands for oil "on credit" ... a get it via USSR or other neutral countries as Turkia , Italy ... that the GB would't disturb very hard in 1940-41
     
  19. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    The essence of the Germ,an plan was misdirection, convince the Anglo-French they were moving in one direction, while actually going in another, and like all conceived plans, it took into consideration the enemies preconceptions. The allies knew Germany would not attack along the heavily defended Franco-German frontier, so it had to be north of there. The farther north the better.

    Another way of looking at this is if Germany had respected Dutch neutrality, how would the allies react? Likely the allies would be happy with this, a attack trough Belgium only offers a much smaller front they would need to defend, and as 'safe' frontier like Switzerland as a shield. The best allied troops would move east-southeast to meet the German attack head on, rather than east-northeast, exposing their flank.
     
  20. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    The fortress of Eben Emael in Belgium was the Key. That is why the fallschirmjäger and gliders practised for months and the new bombs that would open up the bunkers on the roof were used.
     

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