Discussion in 'World War 2' started by P5, Jan 20, 2007.
Why did the Germans let the Allies escape at dunkirk?
In a nutshell, they didn't.
Goering assured Hitler that the Luftwaffe could complete the destruction of the BEF, confident in the recent successess of the Luftwaffe Hitler believed him.
Thanks to the efforts of the Royal Navy, the small ships and the largely over-looked efforts of the British Army and the RAF much of the Army personel were able to escape, although most if not all of the heavy equipment was lost.
Perhaps a better answer would be "over-confidence". :wink:
I thought there were also issues with the mechianised units being too far ahead of the foot infantry, leaving them somewhat exposed?
There are two versions. One is the Goering version (The Luftwaffe can take them on). The other one is that Hitler wanted peace with Britain. By not detroying the BEF he wanted to give a signal to Britain that he never wanted to fight against them.
That last theory doesn't make much sense, though, since the Germans kept attacking the British on the beach, just not with ground troops.
Nobody is quite sure exactly why the Panzers were ordered to halt.
However, I do seem to remember reading* that in the early years (Poland, France, etc) the armoured spearheads were stopped relatively frequently because the German OKW (High Command) simply had not expected to be so successful and had no idea what they were doing.
It could simply be an extension of that, plus the old adage that acornered enemy figths hardest. Why not surround them, let the air force pound them, then graciously accept their surrender?
They got away in boats? Bugger! :angry:
*"Steel Fist" by Nigel Cawthorne. See here for my review of it. Hmmm, I didn't like it much... :grin:
I have another version: http://www.panzerworld.net/dunkirk.html
The stop order only lasted two days, then the attack recommenced, but the French and British had formed a defensive perimeter by then, and they were able to hold their positions.
It should be noted that despite the claim that Hitler halted the panzers to 'allow' the British to escape, the British didn't start to evacuate their troops until the 27th, the same day the Germans resumed their attack. :wink:
if the panzers had driven onto the beaches at dunkirk wouldnt the guns of the royal navy have blasted them to bits or would the rn be prevented from shooting by the masses of british troops milling about...mabey hitler didnt want to have to feed and house all the pows that would have fallen in his lap...it seems to me a few companys of panzers could have turned the jam packed beaches into a blood soaked nightmare...did the bef even have any useful anti tank guns at the dunkirk perimeter , it doesnt appear that they had any that worked very well in the previous weeks while further inland..
Right now, I can't recall where I read it, but one school of thought was that the Panzers had so outdistanced the infantry that higher commanders were worried about their safety. Thus, they were told to hold up until the infantry caught up, and stabilized the line. Of course, by the time the German infantry caught up, and stabilized the situation, the British/French infantry had time to dig in and prepare defenses!
It is interesting to speculate as to what might have happened had the Panzers kept rolling right onto the beach, into a mass of Allied infantry unprepared to defend. On a beach. Out of supply. Morale slipping. Ouch.
As far as naval gunfire support, I'm sure the gunnery officers would have been rather hesitant. I'm sure it's hard to justify a salvo wiping out a platoon of PzIIs, when that same salvo takes out a friendly rifle company!
Do we know if anyone's ever tried to wargame a scenario like that? I wonder if I could create that with Steel Panthers III? What a mess!
It's an interesting question...
The BEF in France had 3 main AT guns
The 2pdr, the Hotchkiss 25mm and the Bofors 37mm.
All were capable of knocking out the German tanks they were up against. They had worked fine previously, but the German tactics had outmatched the Anglo-French tactics, and so look what happened.
I have no idea how many AT guns were on the perimeter at Dunkirk - I would guess that most of them were abandoned somewhere in France, but I would not say for sure either way. It is important to remember that there was a stongly-held perimeter at Dunkirk, and that the Germans would have to break through that in order to get to the beaches (and the moles).
If the Germans hadn't stopped there would have been no perimeter to stop them.
On the 24th the majority of the British and French forces were still trying to fall back to the port. The 2 day delay in the German advance gave them just enough time to set up a defensive perimeter.
The panzers were at the end of a long supply line, with tired men and machines.
They were also probably overextended and if counterattacked would have been highly vulnerable. A sane military commander had to take this into account.
The RAF was able to focus it's efforts on one area of the battlefield, they knew exactly where to go find the Luftwaffe and were able to take advantage of the fine point defense capabilites of the Spitfires from Britain. Goering's vainglory was a major contributor.
The Germans were also heavily engaged with the French at Lille, who were able to buy some time and wear down the Germans a little.
The Germans completely underestimated the ability of the RN to take the men, if not equipment, off the mole, quais and even beaches. Most men were not lifted from the beaches by small boats, however their heroic contributions cannot be overlooked.