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 (1939-1945) WWII
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Brian W
Atlanta GA USA
Posts: 1083
Joined: 2004
Dunkirk "What if"
1/26/2021 7:25:48 PM
Reading about Operation Dynamo today and went down a "what if" train of thought. Over 300K soldiers/personnel were saved.
Let's say the evacuation was a total bust. What position would the UK be in after such a catastrophic loss?
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"Take it easy. But take it" - Tom Morello's mom.
Brian Grafton
Victoria BC Canada
Posts: 3882
Joined: 2004
Dunkirk "What if"
1/26/2021 9:32:36 PM
Damned good question. Depends on whether you read WSC or look at facts, IMHO.

Saving 300,000 personnel did not mean saving an effective force of 300,000. It meant saving 300,000 largely unarmed, still untested troops who had just been routed, and probably shamed. Losing a rapid series of battles without even challenging the enemy must always be shameful to professional troops.

Even WSC noted that Dunkirk was not a victory. It was a miracle that saved a percentage of UK fighting forces. It did not save equipment. Or ordinance. And Im not at all convinced that saving 300,000 troops provided more to GB than 300,000 shamed, fragmented, unarmed and untested mouths with no means of reacting should Germany attempt an invasion.

I think it important to at least consider the issue you raise, because IMHO there has been for decades misrepresentation of the reality of the post-Dunkirk period.

I keep hearing, e.g., that the RN would have destroyed any German invasion. That may be true. I may even want that to be true. But British forces (by GB choice, largely RAF) lost the Kanalkampf. In effect, that ceded strategic control to Germany. From early July, 1940 to at least mid Feb 1942, the English Channel was German space.

I’m not convinced that Dunkirk meant anything except a failure that WSC sold as a win. I do believe that, had the German General Staff had a means of mounting an invasion, whether the 300,000 were in Britain or in a Stalag would make little difference.

Brian W, I do wish you would read an assessment of Britain’s situation from a different perspective. I’m talking about George G Blackburn’s Were the Hell Are the Guns?” It gives at least a suggestion of how frighteningly weak and misrepresentative UK defence was in the crucial time around Dunkirk.

Hosts more to explore, of course.

Cheers. And stay safe,
Brian G

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"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly. "The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
Joined: 2009
Dunkirk "What if"
1/26/2021 9:34:11 PM
It is interesting to speculate. Britain and the Commonwealth countries were fighting alone by the end of June, 1940.

Assuming that the will to fight was still evident, was the loss of 200,000 British soldiers and tons of equipment sufficient to bring her to its knees? I think that the biggest danger was that morale would have been diminished and that Britain would sue for peace.

Yes, they would have lost 200,000. But there were other rescue operations in June of 1940.

Operations Aeriel and Cycle involved the rescue of allied troops from French ports farther west along the coast. British forces had been split in two.

These two operations rescued 191,000 troops from ports like Cherbourg, St. Malo, Brest and St. Nazaire. 144,000 of these troops were British and included 21,000 men from the Canadian 1st Division. So even if Dynamo failed, there were other successful rescues that brought trained troops home.

If the British chose to fight on despite the loss of the troops at Dunkirk, how well equipped were they to continue? They still had the formidable RN and the RAF was becoming stronger. How many trained and equipped divisions were still available at home? How many guns?

I believe that the situation was desperate on the island. The Canadians, BTW, were one of the few divisions that were fairly well equipped and they assumed an important role in the defence against a possible invasion.

Operation Dynamo still represented a military defeat. It was a successful rescue. And yet the German forces still did not immediately try to invade. They did not have any way to get their forces across the channel without risking annihilation. The RN would have made it a sticky trip.

So I think that Britain could have continued the fight although immediately after Dunkirk that fight involved preparing to receive the German invasion.

Given that the Germans chose to attempt to destroy the RAF first, I wonder whether the capture of 200,000 British troops would have altered the German mindset and encouraged them to attempt an amphibious landing of troops?

Cheers,

George




Brian W
Atlanta GA USA
Posts: 1083
Joined: 2004
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 12:11:10 AM
Well, the idea of "Where the Hell Are the Guns?" is exactly what the Americans encountered when they arrived in England by the time we entered. I've read countless books where the Brits were bled dry and that's why the Americans took over. The Brits were in no position to go on offensive without the Americans and said so many times.

The question I'm really asking is if the Brits/Commonwealth/Allies lost the 300K+, would they have totally lost the political will to continue? Even afterwards, the UK was in a desperate predicament. Imagine if Hitler had given the go ahead to "seal the deal".

Could the UK have withstood such a disaster politically? I tend to think that the US would've immediately entered the war to save the UK and western Europe. I don't think Germany would've been able to invade, but I do think that British morale would be so devastated that it would keep Britain busy and Germany focused on even grander plans. Can you imagine if Britain waffled during this time, what Spain or Turkey would do? It's just fortunate that Operation Dynamo pulled through. But it leaves a lot to the "what if". Which easily could've happened.
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"Take it easy. But take it" - Tom Morello's mom.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5186
Joined: 2004
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 4:45:25 AM
The British people were up for a fight.

They were not only countenancing the worst : they expected it.

They didn't want to let down their fathers who had stepped up to the plate 1914-18.

Dad was nineteen years old and volunteered in June 1940. There must have been millions more who felt as he did.

What were the Germans thinking ? That, I reckon, is the main thing here.

My interpretation is that their aspirations lay to the East, and that , for them, a cross channel invasion was neither feasible, nor desirable.

Rommel felt differently, and subsequently lamented failure to pursue that option.

Regards, Phil


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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
Posts: 781
Joined: 2005
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 6:49:34 AM
Quote:
The British people were up for a fight.


And fight they would have, to the last pitchfork! I don't mean that in a derogatory way, but Britain's land defences were in a shocking state. The Canadian division (can't recall which, apologies) was only one of a handful of serviceable and sizeable units able to be deployed should the Germans have attempted a landing. Most of the heavy kit was left in France, including virtually all of the army's heavy artillery and anti-tank weaponry (such as it was). There's no doubt in my mind that had the Germans managed to blast their way through the Royal Navy (and I don't think they would have tbh), then once ashore their victory in any conventional conflict was assured (a prolonged guerrilla war is another matter).

The bulk of the Government and Royal Family may have been evacuated to Canada, but I can't imagine the King or Churchill leaving the UK behind. Hitler would have imprisoned (or executed) them both, set up some sort of Vichy-style government, perhaps lead by a useful aristocrat politician and/or a certain exiled member of the Royal Family. I expect the fight would have gone on from the surviving Dominions and Colonies, fuelled and funded in full by the US and whatever British capital reserves were able to be harvested abroad.

Cheers,

Colin
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"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
Joined: 2009
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 8:47:51 AM
Quote:
Well, the idea of "Where the Hell Are the Guns?" is exactly what the Americans encountered when they arrived in England by the time we entered. I've read countless books where the Brits were bled dry and that's why the Americans took over. The Brits were in no position to go on offensive without the Americans and said so many times.

The question I'm really asking is if the Brits/Commonwealth/Allies lost the 300K+, would they have totally lost the political will to continue? Even afterwards, the UK was in a desperate predicament. Imagine if Hitler had given the go ahead to "seal the deal".

Could the UK have withstood such a disaster politically? I tend to think that the US would've immediately entered the war to save the UK and western Europe. I don't think Germany would've been able to invade, but I do think that British morale would be so devastated that it would keep Britain busy and Germany focused on even grander plans. Can you imagine if Britain waffled during this time, what Spain or Turkey would do? It's just fortunate that Operation Dynamo pulled through. But it leaves a lot to the "what if". Which easily could've happened.


Hello Brian, I am not sure what you meant when you said the the Americans "took over". It is not as though the British and Commonwealth were not heavily invested in this war and continued to be so to the end. It was a co-operative effort and the US was not in any position to go on the offensive in 1940 even if they had entered the war. Certainly there were arguments between British and US high command and often the British point of view prevailed initially.

The military industrial complex of the US was impressive but it also needed time to gear up, didn't it? We have to be impressed with the ability of the US to raise a military force of millions in such a short period of time.

But Britain and the Commonwealth were also ramping up their military industrial complex. We cannot dismiss the critical importance of Lend-Lease but not all British equipment came from the US. And Britain, as did the US, needed time to rebuild its forces after Dunkirk.

I am also not sure that the US would have entered the European War in numbers had Hitler not declared war upon them on Dec. 11, 1941. The Pacific threat was real and I could understand if the US had determined to deal with that war rather than the European war. I am sure that the British appreciated the American decision to emphasize Europe over the Pacific. Churchill was delighted.

Other posters have explained that the US was not ready, militarily, to enter the European war in its earliest days and I have suggested that the moral imperative to do so was evident in 1939 and yet the US chose a quasi-neutrality. Militarily, the US was not ready and the people were not fully appreciative of the desperate situation that Britain was in. FDR in a way, defied the will of some of the people who wanted to maintain neutrality. FDR, quite heroically in my view, seemed to appreciate that by helping Britain, the US was ensuring its own security.

The invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch) took place in Nov. of 1942. I don't believe that the British could have undertaken that initiative without American support but we must acknowledge the brilliant victory by the British 8th army in El Alamein under Monty. So the Brits were on the offensive.

I think that the British convinced the Americans to opt for a North African initiative because they knew that an invasion of France by 1943, as the US wanted, would have been a dismal failure. So I would not say that the US had taken over. Even after D-day, it took some time before the numbers of US soldiers on the continent was greater than that of the British and Commonwealth. The role of the RAF and the RN and Commonwealth navies was critical to the success of D-day as well.

The US began to arrive in January of 1942 but I believe that Torch was their first action. Correct me on that one if I have it wrong, please. This was a learning experience for the US forces too. Mistakes were made and corrected.

I agree that the British and Commonwealth were in a difficult situation after Dunkirk. Brian G. has recommended vol. 1 of Blackburn's trilogy and his description of the state of readiness of Britain to repel invaders was alarming. The untested Canadians had a similar point of view as the US soldiers and yet I have read many accounts that suggest that they sensed that the Britons would make the Germans pay dearly for an attack on their island. They began to feel that this was their island to defend as well. A siege mentality developed for a few months until the threat abated.

Is it true that the US was being advised by people like Joe Kennedy that Britain was finished?

The Battle of Britain proved that they were not and I think that that changed the views of many Americans. Britain could and did fight.

Cheers,

George



Michigan Dave
Muskegon MI USA
Posts: 6651
Joined: 2006
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 10:36:14 AM
Guys,

It's not out of the rhelm of possibilities, that had the Germans captured all the British at Dunkirk, that they would have listened to Rommel, and attacked Great Britain, by a combination of Paratroopers, and a quick strike amphibious invasion!

Such a move may have worked?
Certainly a scary thought!?

Regards,
D
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5186
Joined: 2004
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 11:03:13 AM
Quote:
Guys,

It's not out of the rhelm of possibilities, that had the Germans captured all the British at Dunkirk, that they would have listened to Rommel, and attacked Great Britain, by a combination of Paratroopers, and a quick strike amphibious invasion!

Such a move may have worked?
Certainly a scary thought!?

Regards,
D


Yes...paratroopers : very " can do" fighters !

One year later they captured Crete, didn't they ? And that was when they were up against some first class New Zealand soldiers, along with Aussies and British....and with some ferocious Cretan fighters ; not to mention a very powerful Royal Naval deployment that inflicted some havoc on the German transports. If the Germans managed that feat , and were prepared to pay a stiff price ( which they did), then we have to countenance the possibility of such an onslaught being successful against the British homeland in the summer of 1940.

But did Hitler really want to do this ?

I don't think so.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
17thfabn
Ohio OH USA
Posts: 152
Joined: 2008
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 12:37:58 PM
Quote:


Saving 300,000 personnel did not mean saving an effective force of 300,000. It meant saving 300,000 largely unarmed, still untested troops who had just been routed, and probably shamed. Losing a rapid series of battles without even challenging the enemy must always be shameful to professional troops.

Even WSC noted that Dunkirk was not a victory. It was a miracle that saved a percentage of UK fighting forces. It did not save equipment. Or ordinance. And Im not at all convinced that saving 300,000 troops provided more to GB than 300,000 shamed, fragmented, unarmed and untested mouths with no means of reacting should Germany attempt an invasion.

Cheers. And stay safe,
Brian G



Those 300,000 personnel saved had an importance far beyond a potential German invasion of Britain. They were the core on which new British / Common Wealth / Allied units were built.

Those 300,000 personnel would be spread out and fight in campaigns world wide. From North Africa and the Mediterranean to France and Eastward. I would guess many of these service men fought against Imperial Japan.

For instance the 23rd Northumbrian Division. They were rushed over to the continent as the Allies situation deteriorated. After being evacuated at Dunkirk and arriving in Britain the division was broken up and its units were sent to other divisions. These units fought in North Africa, Sicily and France.

I'm sure there here are better examples than the 23 rd Division. Following British unit histories after Dunkirk is some what twisted.
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
Joined: 2009
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 1:46:52 PM
I believe that the 300,000 was in effect, less than 200,000 as the French soldiers who were evacuated nearly all returned to continue to fight the Germans within a week of evacuation.

The British made extraordinary efforts to return to France on June 3/4 to evacuate any British wounded that they could and as many of the French rear guard that had fought to allow the evacuation to continue. I believe that they were only able to retrieve another 25, 000 French soldiers before the Germans arrived at the entrance to Dunkirk.

The estimated total of French evacuated is just under 120,000 I believe and most of those headed right back to France to fight.

As mentioned, the British did evacuate about 200,000 troops from French ports to the west including St. Malo and Brest. If memory serves they too were ordered to spike their guns and to destroy transportation.

I take 17thfabn's point that the 200,000 or so British soldiers who were evacuated could have served as a cadre to train the rebuilt army.

However, I did a little digging on the 23rd Northumbrian Division and it was a territorial division that was formed at the outbreak of war and it took heavy casualties in France and indeed, was broken up after the evacuation.

How did the British reorganize their army after Dunkirk? Other divisions may have needed to have been rebuilt or the survivors dispersed among still functioning divisions.

Cheers,

George

George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
Joined: 2009
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 3:02:55 PM
With the BEF withdrawn from France at Dunkirk, the British did send a second BEF back to France.

On May 29, 1940, the Dunkirk evacuation was just beginning. Churchill had told the French government that he was intent on building a (second BEF) to return to France.

Every division available in England was to be sent to France under the command Lt. Gen. Sir Alan Brooke. I think that it speaks volumes that when the assets were assessed, the only available divisions were the 51st (Lowland) Division and the Canadian 1st Division.

The only other division that could have been deployed or rather redeployed was the British 3rd which was the most forward of the British divisions in France and commanded by Lt. Gen. Bernard Montgomery.

The 51st was informed that it was heading to France on June 7. The Canadians were informed that they would follow the 51st on the same day.
Monty was told to get ready to go back on June 8.

Monty couldn't be ready until June 20 and he said that he would have only one field regiment of artillery and an anti-tank regiment which was short two batteries. All of the other "Dunkirk" divisions were of little use because their equipment had been destroyed in France.

This information came from the Official History of the Canadian Army and it indicates to me that the British army was in tough shape. As it is, the two divisions landed in France near Brest and then almost immediately headed back to the French ports to go back to England. There was confusion as Gen. Brooke had not been informed of Fr. Gen. Weygand's plans which were different than anticipated.

With the order for the 2nd BEF to withdraw, soldiers and equipment headed back to Brest and other ports. They were ordered to destroy equipment and transport. I do know that the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery argued for two hours that they should not destroy their guns. They managed to load not only 24 field guns but in addition a dozen Bofors guns, seven predictors, three Bren carriers and several technical vehicles belonging to other units. Tractors and limbers were left behind. So were transportation vehicles. These weapons would be important as the defence of Britain was about to begin.

But that certainly isn't a lot of fire power. Consider what was left behind then. I am not sure that the destruction of equipment of the 2nd BEF was necessary as the Germans were quite far away from these more westerly ports I believe. But it was destroyed.

So what did the British have to fight with in the summer of 1940.

In the CDN official history, Nicholson states that:

1. The British Home Guard was activated
2. The British army only had small arms and there was a shortage of those including rifles
3. Only 500 field guns of all kinds were available in the whole country
4. Fewer than 200 medium and heavy tanks in the whole country
5. There were 28 field divisions and 15 independent brigades of various sorts. Most were ill equipped to fight.

6. The most advanced divisions were the Br. 3rd and the 43rd but even those two divisions could not have been in very good shape to fight.
Nicholson said the 3rd had reported that it had 4500 men available and the 43rd said that it was "rather backward" in training and equipment.

7. And so the 1st Canadian Division, still not completely trained, was one division that had a lot of equipment though one brigade sent as part of the 2nd BEF had lost all of its transport in France. So a rapid response force called, "Canadian Force" was established and it was supposed to be prepared to respond quickly to the anticipated invasion. It's first objective would be to respond to the area in which German paratroopers were landing.
Eventually, the Canadians and the Br. 1st armoured were constituted as a mobile reserve and training between the two divisions was co-ordinated.

If the figures quoted by Nicholson are incorrect, please weigh in. Perhaps the situation was not so desperate as he described.

Still the British did have a defence plan. And its industries were working around the clock to replace destroyed equipment. The US had a lot of reserve equipment and the British would need it once Lend-Lease was activated.


How long did it take for the British to replace their equipment and to create new divisions? The expansion was notable but how long until the new divisions were ready to fight?

cheers,

George
MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 511
Joined: 2012
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 3:51:41 PM
Quote:
With the BEF withdrawn from France at Dunkirk, the British did send a second BEF back to France.

On May 29, 1940, the Dunkirk evacuation was just beginning. Churchill had told the French government that he was intent on building a (second BEF) to return to France.

Every division available in England was to be sent to France under the command Lt. Gen. Sir Alan Brooke. I think that it speaks volumes that when the assets were assessed, the only available divisions were the 51st (Lowland) Division and the Canadian 1st Division.

The only other division that could have been deployed or rather redeployed was the British 3rd which was the most forward of the British divisions in France and commanded by Lt. Gen. Bernard Montgomery.

The 51st was informed that it was heading to France on June 7. The Canadians were informed that they would follow the 51st on the same day.
Monty was told to get ready to go back on June 8.

Monty couldn't be ready until June 20 and he said that he would have only one field regiment of artillery and an anti-tank regiment which was short two batteries. All of the other "Dunkirk" divisions were of little use because their equipment had been destroyed in France.

This information came from the Official History of the Canadian Army and it indicates to me that the British army was in tough shape. As it is, the two divisions landed in France near Brest and then almost immediately headed back to the French ports to go back to England. There was confusion as Gen. Brooke had not been informed of Fr. Gen. Weygand's plans which were different than anticipated.

With the order for the 2nd BEF to withdraw, soldiers and equipment headed back to Brest and other ports. They were ordered to destroy equipment and transport. I do know that the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery argued for two hours that they should not destroy their guns. They managed to load not only 24 field guns but in addition a dozen Bofors guns, seven predictors, three Bren carriers and several technical vehicles belonging to other units. Tractors and limbers were left behind. So were transportation vehicles. These weapons would be important as the defence of Britain was about to begin.

But that certainly isn't a lot of fire power. Consider what was left behind then. I am not sure that the destruction of equipment of the 2nd BEF was necessary as the Germans were quite far away from these more westerly ports I believe. But it was destroyed.

So what did the British have to fight with in the summer of 1940.

In the CDN official history, Nicholson states that:

1. The British Home Guard was activated
2. The British army only had small arms and there was a shortage of those including rifles
3. Only 500 field guns of all kinds were available in the whole country
4. Fewer than 200 medium and heavy tanks in the whole country
5. There were 28 field divisions and 15 independent brigades of various sorts. Most were ill equipped to fight.

6. The most advanced divisions were the Br. 3rd and the 43rd but even those two divisions could not have been in very good shape to fight.
Nicholson said the 3rd had reported that it had 4500 men available and the 43rd said that it was "rather backward" in training and equipment.

7. And so the 1st Canadian Division, still not completely trained, was one division that had a lot of equipment though one brigade sent as part of the 2nd BEF had lost all of its transport in France. So a rapid response force called, "Canadian Force" was established and it was supposed to be prepared to respond quickly to the anticipated invasion. It's first objective would be to respond to the area in which German paratroopers were landing.
Eventually, the Canadians and the Br. 1st armoured were constituted as a mobile reserve and training between the two divisions was co-ordinated.

If the figures quoted by Nicholson are incorrect, please weigh in. Perhaps the situation was not so desperate as he described.

Still the British did have a defence plan. And its industries were working around the clock to replace destroyed equipment. The US had a lot of reserve equipment and the British would need it once Lend-Lease was activated.


How long did it take for the British to replace their equipment and to create new divisions? The expansion was notable but how long until the new divisions were ready to fight?

cheers,

George


Hi

During 1940 the British manufactured 1,209 Medium Tanks compared with 235 built during 1939. During 1940 the Germans built 1,679 medium tanks. In August 1940 the British sent 52 Cruiser and 50 Infantry tanks to (all medium tanks) to Egypt for operations there.
Rifles were in short supply as there was only one factory at the time to produce them. Post WW1 the British had a huge supply of rifles left over son not much call for lots of factories to produce them, also there was not going to be a mass army again, machines were the way forward, it was only in 1939 that the British government decided there would be a large expeditionary force going to support the French. Britain bought 750,000 rifles from the US (these were WW1 pattern rifles of British design produced in the US), however, it should be said there were 1.5 million .303 rifles in Britain in 1940. Some rifles also came from Canada (mainly Ross) and Australia sent several thousand Lee Enfields IIRC.

I hope that is of use.

Mike
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
Joined: 2009
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 3:58:47 PM
Thank you Mike. Informative.

How many divisions did Britain create in 1940? Were they able to outfit them as they established a new division?

George
Brian W
Atlanta GA USA
Posts: 1083
Joined: 2004
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 5:48:38 PM
Quote:
I believe that the 300,000 was in effect, less than 200,000 as the French soldiers who were evacuated nearly all returned to continue to fight the Germans within a week of evacuation.

George,

The French soldiers returned to the fight the Germans where? France surrendered.
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"Take it easy. But take it" - Tom Morello's mom.
scoucer
Berlin  Germany
Posts: 2905
Joined: 2010
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 6:35:14 PM
Quote:
Quote:
I believe that the 300,000 was in effect, less than 200,000 as the French soldiers who were evacuated nearly all returned to continue to fight the Germans within a week of evacuation.

George,

The French soldiers returned to the fight the Germans where? France surrendered.


Alexander, Martin (2007). "After Dunkirk: The French Army's Performance Against 'Case Red', 25 May to 25 June 1940"

About 112,000 French soldiers from Dunkirk were repatriated via the Normandy and Brittany ports and took part in the defence of the Weygard Line. French resistance was fierce and the German move southwards was costly. The idea that the French just gave up is just not true and many French believed that the "untrustworthy" British had abandoned them.

Trevor
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`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.
Brian W
Atlanta GA USA
Posts: 1083
Joined: 2004
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 7:38:34 PM
I'm confused. The Weygand Line collapsed on June 4th. Dynamo was May 27, 1940 – Jun 4, 1940. So the 112,000 French were evacuated and then shuttled from Normandy/Brittany to the Weygand line or what remained of the Weygand line? Or did they actually go back to England for a few days?
If so, yes, they shouldn't be considered in the "Dunkirk" evacuation. They were shuttled from one area in France to another.

Am I understanding this correct?

The Weygand Line Collapses: Battle of France: June 4-14, 1940

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"Take it easy. But take it" - Tom Morello's mom.
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
Joined: 2009
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 9:17:55 PM
Yes over 100,000 French troops were taken off at Dunkirk and transported to England. 112,000 is the number often quoted but I have read 125 K and 135K. But indeed, they were part of the Dunkirk evacuation. They were rescued but quickly returned to another part of France to continue to defend the country.

Within a week, most were back in France as France did not capitulate until June 25.

The British transported them back to France and landed them at Cherbourg and Brest and some smaller ports in Normandy. Many would die in combat in the short weeks between Dunkirk and capitulation. Many did not actually get back into combat before capitulation.

A small number of French soldiers remained in Britain and they joined De Gaulle as part of the Free French forces. I think that that number was only a two or three thousand.

The fierce fighting by the French forces after the evacuation in Dunkirk is often ignored. We forget that until June 24, French soldiers were fighting and dying to stem the tide of German forces attacking their country.

There is a good article on jstor by historian Martin Alexander that describes the fighting after Dunkirk. The title is "After Dunkirk: The French Army's Performance against 'Case Red', 25 May to 25 June 1940".

[Read More]

Martin Alexander confirms in the article that the French evacuees were returned to France but he says that only about 25% of them got back into combat before the surrender.

It's worth a read if only to dispel the belief that the French actions post Dunkirk were cowardly and that the German forces were not opposed.

Cheers,

George



George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
Joined: 2009
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 9:21:37 PM
double
Brian W
Atlanta GA USA
Posts: 1083
Joined: 2004
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 9:27:29 PM
Quote:
double

George, when you double post (I'm not sure how that happens), you can just hit the "Delete" button next to your post (it's to the far right). You have the ability to delete any of your posts.
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"Take it easy. But take it" - Tom Morello's mom.
Brian W
Atlanta GA USA
Posts: 1083
Joined: 2004
Dunkirk "What if"
1/27/2021 9:34:19 PM
Quote:
Yes over 100,000 French troops were taken off at Dunkirk and transported to England. 112,000 is the number often quoted but I have read 125 K and 135K. But indeed, they were part of the Dunkirk evacuation. They were rescued but quickly returned to another part of France to continue to defend the country.

Within a week, most were back in France as France did not capitulate until June 25.

That's definitely not well known. I figured they went back to England and reconstituted into the next attempt. Hindsight suggests that once the BEF left, that sending the 100K+ back into the fray was a lost cause.
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Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5186
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1/28/2021 4:28:59 AM
There were also thousands of Belgian troops evacuated, and I wonder whether the varying numbers ascribed to the French might be attributable to the inclusion or otherwise of those Belgians.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
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1/28/2021 4:36:11 AM
I think it’s often misconstrued that because the Blitzkrieg against France was so wildly successful that it was also fairly easy for the Germans to roll over the allied forces. The French in particular exacted a heavy toll on the attacking German forces, all the way up to the armistice in late June 1940. Indeed, the German generals could not believe their luck when reviewing the campaign; a few better decisions by the Allies at the start of the campaign may well have seen the conflict settle down into something more static, which would have suited Britain and France to a tee. Germany didn’t really have time; the Allies would only get stronger as the months rolled on.

Trevor raises an interesting point about perceptions in France of the British withdrawal. It’s hard to argue that we didn’t abandon them, husbanding our resources for the final defence of the UK. Whether that’s shameful on the part of the UK or whether it was sensible is a matter for debate. Was the situation retrievable after the Germans smashed through the French frontlines? I’d suggest it was over and that the French should have come to terms a bit sooner than they did, in purely humanitarian terms of the casualties they then suffered for another fortnight or so. That they kept fighting so hard until it was painfully obvious that it was just causing bloodshed for no chance of victory says a lot about the dogged defence the Poilu put up for their home.

Cheers,

Colin
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"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5186
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1/28/2021 7:32:09 AM
To cite Mark Twain's trope that history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes......the Franco British forces faced dire peril in late August and early September 1914 ; the subsequent resurgence owed a lot to the decision of the British to stay in the battle, although evacuation was countenanced. It does haunt me : did the British make haste to abandon in May 1940, and deny the chance to make a more consolidated stand ?

The French fought well and effectively in the later stages of the campaign, and the British themselves gave Rommel a nasty surprise when they launched a counter attack near Arras.

The humiliating defeat and expulsion from the Continent meant that the static warfare of 1914-18 was avoided. In this sense, it was indeed a " deliverance"...... how many more names would there be on our war memorials for the second conflict if the Germans had failed to win that stunning, quick victory ?

Conscience pricks me : how many more jewish people, and millions of others, would have survived ?

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5186
Joined: 2004
Dunkirk "What if"
1/28/2021 7:42:50 AM
Quote:
a few better decisions by the Allies at the start of the campaign may well have seen the conflict settle down into something more static, which would have suited Britain and France to a tee

Colin


It certainly would have suited Stalin to a tee !

According to anecdote, when Uncle Joe got the news about the collapse of the Allies in the West, he was mortified : he had been banking on a repeat of 1914-18......... What a load of cowardly c---- ! he is supposed to have shouted.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
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1/28/2021 8:04:37 AM
Churchill did promise a second BEF which would re-enter France to support Fr. Gen. Weygand. Given that the first BEF had been withdrawn and had lost a lot of equipment, the 2nd BEF was quite small.

I wonder whether this second attempt was just a token or whether there was a legitimate interest on the part of the British to continue to fight the Germans farther south. The British could only commit elements of two divisions after Dunkirk. They began to arrive on June 7, 1940

It was a bit of a cock-up anyway with British and Canadians unsure of their duties. Gen. Brooke felt that the whole operation was a political statement rather than a sound military strategy.

The wonderful French rail system could move them about as needed but when Gen. Brooke decided that it was time to go home, the 2nd BEF was spread out all over the place. They had to take trains back to the ports to embark and in some cases, they got on the wrong train and wound up at the wrong port.

This second evacuation retrieved some 190,000 including British, Canadians, Poles and I believe, Czechs.

Cheers,

George
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
Posts: 781
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1/28/2021 8:05:14 AM
Hi Phil,

Perhaps he was right. France failed to push on in 1939 when it had the front door to Germany lying open, with only a token force in front of them and the bulk of the German army and airnforce away engaging against Poland. Similarly, Britain gave up on France too early for my liking. I sympathise with the opinion of some French commentators that Britain prematurely weighed up the odds and decided France was beyond further help. Was Churchill's offer of the Anglo-French union serious?

Of course, the crucial tactical factor was air superiority and the Allies singularly failed to effectively compete in the air until the Battle of Britain. Perhaps any stands would have ultimately been picked off by the Stukas, especially as the French air force withdrew to North Africa to avoid annihilation and the Royal Air Force was too far away in bases in Southern England to be of much use in the latter stages of the campaign.

I appreciate I've contradicted myself in a short space of time - there really are so many variables to discuss.

Cheers,

Colin

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"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
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Dunkirk "What if"
1/28/2021 8:32:32 AM
Colin, I believe that the RAF was very active in support of British and French operations. They provided cover for Operations Dynamo and Aerial.

As much as we talk about the "little boats" that effected rescue at Dunkirk, it was RN and British transport vessels that needed RAF protection. As it was I believe some damage to RN destroyers took place and rescues were covered by RAF planes.

I don't know how many aircraft were committed but there were RAF losses. I also recall that a Cunard liner was sunk with heavy loss of life and that Churchill kept it out of the press reports. RAF protected the ships that came to the rescue.

I confess that I do not know how successful the RAF was during the Battle of France but I think that they gave good service during the evacuations.

Cheers,

George
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
Posts: 781
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Dunkirk "What if"
1/28/2021 8:40:46 AM
Hi George,

Yes, I should have clarified the RAF performed well at Dunkirk. They undoubtedly saved many ships and boats from being sunk.

My point was more that the further south into France the fighting went, the less the RAF would have been able to do to defend the Allied armies, especially if they remained based in southern England. I believe Churchill wanted to further commit the RAF to the next phase of fighting, but Fighter Command put their foot down and began preparations for the inevitable fight for air supremacy over British skies. It's hard to argue against this decision, in light of how close the Battle of Britain was.

Cheers,

Colin
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"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
Joined: 2009
Dunkirk "What if"
1/28/2021 9:24:36 AM
Thanks Colin, I understand your point now. Destruction of the RAF over France could have altered the conduct of the war and so the withdrawal was probably wise. Weren't the French very critical of the lack of support for operations to the south?

I have read something about an RAF advance strike force that fought in the Battle of France. I don't know where they were based or what they were tasked to do. Does the name indicate that they were probably flying out of France and not crossing the channel to fight? Just blue skying here.

Cheers,

George
Michigan Dave
Muskegon MI USA
Posts: 6651
Joined: 2006
Dunkirk "What if"
1/28/2021 9:36:09 AM
Quote:
Colin, I believe that the RAF was very active in support of British and French operations. They provided cover for Operations Dynamo and Aerial.

As much as we talk about the "little boats" that effected rescue at Dunkirk, it was RN and British transport vessels that needed RAF protection. As it was I believe some damage to RN destroyers took place and rescues were covered by RAF planes.

I don't know how many aircraft were committed but there were RAF losses. I also recall that a Cunard liner was sunk with heavy loss of life and that Churchill kept it out of the press reports. RAF protected the ships that came to the rescue.

I confess that I do not know how successful the RAF was during the Battle of France but I think that they gave good service during the evacuations.

Cheers,

George



Hi George,

You don't know which Cunard Liner was sunk? & how many perished? You have to think the Luftwaffe was in a panic & tried to sink bigger targets, they certainly didn't lack for boats to sink? The RAF had to have done a repudible job, we don't hear of it being a catastrophe??

Thanks, & regards,
D
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Phil Andrade
London  UK
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1/28/2021 9:44:51 AM
Dave,

It was a liner, The Lancastria, and it remains Britain’s greatest maritime disaster, with at least three thousand victims.

Regards , Phil

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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
Posts: 781
Joined: 2005
Dunkirk "What if"
1/28/2021 9:53:01 AM
Quote:
Thanks Colin, I understand your point now. Destruction of the RAF over France could have altered the conduct of the war and so the withdrawal was probably wise. Weren't the French very critical of the lack of support for operations to the south?

I have read something about an RAF advance strike force that fought in the Battle of France. I don't know where they were based or what they were tasked to do. Does the name indicate that they were probably flying out of France and not crossing the channel to fight? Just blue skying here.

Cheers,

George


Hi George,

The RAF certainly had some bases (largely basic air strips or French bases given on loan) in France that very quickly became endangered by the German advance. Also, some of the planes flown were obsolete, even in 1940. For example, the fleet of Blenheims lost around 35-40 in one day, as I recall, and didn't get put up against the Luftwaffe fighters again. The Hurricane performed fairly well over French skies, but performed much better in the BoB as it was much closer to its supplies and bases, plus the pilots had learned a lot during missions over France, Belgium and the Netherlands. I believe the Spitfire squadrons were virtually all based in Britain for the duration of the Battle of France.

Cheers,

Colin

----------------------------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
Posts: 11876
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Dunkirk "What if"
1/28/2021 10:00:45 AM
Quote:
Dave,

It was a liner, The Lancastria, and it remains Britain’s greatest maritime disaster, with at least three thousand victims.

Regards , Phil




Thanks Phil, I had forgotten the name but I knew that the sinking resulted in very high losses.

George
MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 511
Joined: 2012
Dunkirk "What if"
1/28/2021 10:13:40 AM
Quote:
Thanks Colin, I understand your point now. Destruction of the RAF over France could have altered the conduct of the war and so the withdrawal was probably wise. Weren't the French very critical of the lack of support for operations to the south?

I have read something about an RAF advance strike force that fought in the Battle of France. I don't know where they were based or what they were tasked to do. Does the name indicate that they were probably flying out of France and not crossing the channel to fight? Just blue skying here.

Cheers,

George


Hi

The Advanced Air Striking Force was part of the British Air Forces in France alongside the Air Component of the original BEF deployment. The AASF had 10 squadrons of bombers (all Battles I think) and two squadrons of Hurricanes plus a PR squadron. The Air Component had 4 fighter squadrons, two squadron on bomber/reconnaissance duties and two on bomber duties, plus 5 army co-operation squadrons and a communications squadron, they were to supply direct support to the BEF. The AASF was more independent from the BEF as they were further east in France so they would be in range to attack German targets on the other side of the Maginot Line. When the Germans attacked they made attacks supporting the French army as the Germans pushed forward. ORBATs changed as the battle of France progressed. By the time of Dunkirk it was not a meaningful title.

Mike
George
Centre Hastings ON Canada
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1/28/2021 10:14:36 AM
Quote:
Quote:
Quote:
I believe that the 300,000 was in effect, less than 200,000 as the French soldiers who were evacuated nearly all returned to continue to fight the Germans within a week of evacuation.

George,

The French soldiers returned to the fight the Germans where? France surrendered.


Alexander, Martin (2007). "After Dunkirk: The French Army's Performance Against 'Case Red', 25 May to 25 June 1940"

About 112,000 French soldiers from Dunkirk were repatriated via the Normandy and Brittany ports and took part in the defence of the Weygard Line. French resistance was fierce and the German move southwards was costly. The idea that the French just gave up is just not true and many French believed that the "untrustworthy" British had abandoned them.

Trevor



Trevor, I just realized that you had recommended the Alex. Martin resource and then I went ahead and did the same thing. I need to pay attention.

Cheers,

George
MikeMeech
 UK
Posts: 511
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Dunkirk "What if"
1/28/2021 10:29:08 AM
Quote:
Dave,

It was a liner, The Lancastria, and it remains Britain’s greatest maritime disaster, with at least three thousand victims.

Regards , Phil



Hi

This was not at Dunkirk of course but at St. Nazaire on the 17th June 1940. The loss was reported in the Daily Mirror on the 26.7.40 stating 2,823 men lost. Lots of men were being evacuated from France after Dunkirk, not only the 2nd BEF but troops that had been in other parts of France plus Poles, Czechoslovakians, Belgians and French. I believe the first book on the loss of the ship was 'Lancastria' by Geoffrey Bond in 1956. There have been a number of books since, including 'The Loss of the Lancastria' compiled by John L. West in 1988, this consists mainly of survivor's accounts. Some more recent publications have stated in their hype that they have written the first account of the incident, but it is just hype. Also the statements that it was hidden from the public during the war was not strictly true as it was in the press less than two weeks later. Post war there was even a 'Lancastria Survivors Association'.

Mike
Wazza
Sydney  Australia
Posts: 643
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Dunkirk "What if"
1/28/2021 1:58:10 PM
And I raise my cup to sacrifice of the 51st Highland Div. They did their duty and over 10,000 went into the bag.
A political gesture by Churchill?
And what was the effect of this loss to the people of Scotland at the time? The impact must have been devastating to some communities.

Regards
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
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1/28/2021 2:55:39 PM
Hi Wazza,

At the time it obviously caused distress amongst the families, who learned of their capture and subsequent imprisonment into POW camps. They were, for the most part, treated fairly well in comparison to captured Allied troops in the Far East.

Obviously the families continued to receive the (meagre) army pay but I can only the imagine the worry as the war dragged on with concerns about potential reprisals.

Sad to say, the deployment and surrender of the 51st has been taken up by some in Scotland as an example of Scottish (and Commonwealth) troops being ‘sacrificed’ to prevent loss of English lives.

Of course, it just happened that the 51st was in reasonably good shape to go, and I’m sure if it had been an ‘English’ division the same situation they would have been sent too. The Establishment had no qualms in generations before or since in sending young men of every nationality and background to their possible deaths if it meant the war effort could be furthered. I don’t mean that they chose to slaughter anyone deliberately, but I doubt nationality came into it tbh. It’s a numbers game, war.

Cheers,

Colin
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"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
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