Guest Author J. Gunnar Grey
Why didn’t the German Army invade England during World War II?
It’s one of those nagging questions from history, the ones that make me scratch my hairline and dig into the Internet’s deepest recesses for answers. But unlike the question of what happened to the Princes in the Tower of London in 1483, this one was conclusively solved. Which was a great comfort to me during the research prior to writing my historical mystery, Deal with the Devil, because otherwise, I’d have had to make something up.
Traditionally, credit for forestalling the mighty Wehrmacht is given to “their finest hour,” the RAF fighter jockeys who bloodied the Luftwaffe to a standstill during the Battle of Britain in the late summer of 1940. (Deal takes place in August.) But while control of the invasion skies was important, it wasn’t the only consideration, according to captured war diaries. In fact, Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine (German Navy) commanders give a nod to the RAF, but admit they stayed home from fear of the Royal Navy.
And their own lousy plan.
Did you know this? I didn’t. But during wartime analyses, it became obvious to both sides that the Kriegsmarine never commanded sufficient numbers of surface ships nor U-boats to clear the Home Fleet from the English Channel. Worse, the LST hadn’t been invented yet, so the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (general staff) faced the dilemma of how to transport their 9th and 16th Armies across the Channel from occupied France. Sure, they could airlift infantry, but what about tanks and artillery? It was the Panzer Corps that made the Wehrmacht so mighty, and any attempt to conquer Britain without them was practical idiocy.
The attempted solution? Rhine river barges, flat-bottomed and clumsy. Of the 1,200 barges assembled for training exercises, only a quarter were self-powered. The rest had to be towed. None carried serious weaponry. All of them floundered in any sea rougher than State 2. Note that a destroyer’s wake qualified as State 4, meaning all the Home Fleet had to do was drive past the German invasion flotilla to swamp or sink a hefty percentage. And how many of the soldiers who survived to reach the shore wouldn’t be seasick?
These barges weren’t equipped with cranes. So when (if) a barge reached the English shoreline, how were the soldiers supposed to unload the tanks? The serious suggestion was, fire the cannon and blow out the end of the barge. So, um, how was the second wave supposed to cross?
The invasion plan, Operation Sealion, stank. No other word for it. When reality sank in, OKW shuffled it off into a file cabinet and pretended it didn’t exist. Hitler turned his gunsights on Russia, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Just think, if Allied engineers hadn’t invented the LST and the artificial harbor, D-Day might have ended differently. But that’s another plotline.
About the Author
J. Gunnar Grey has never wanted to be anything except a novelist, so of course she’s been everything else—proofreader, typesetter, editor, nonfiction writer, photographer, secretary, data entry clerk, legal assistant, Starfleet lieutenant commander, stable manager, dancer—and no, not that kind of dancer. Her long-suffering husband is just excited she’s actually using her two degrees, one from the University of Houston Downtown and the MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Gunnar writes novels that are mysterious, adventurous, and historical, but all sorts of other stuff can leap out of that keyboard without warning.
She lives in Humble, Texas, just north of Houston, with two parakeets, the aforementioned husband (who’s even more fun than the birds), a fig tree, a vegetable garden, the lawn from the bad place, three armloads of potted plants, and a coffee maker that’s likely the most important item she owns.
My Own Two Cents
World War II is an endless source of great stories and interesting trivia. The great struggle between good and evil resulted in tremendous advances in technology and trickery. The stakes were so high that every action, battle and deception was critical. And, so many plans were born out of desperation. Carriers made from ice, bats bombs, sappers–everything was considered a viable option at some point.
This is the first I’d heard of the ill planed Operation Sealion in any detail. I thank J. Gunnar Grey for sharing it here. The tippy barges alone are a great piece of trivia.
Please visit Grey’s site at the1940mysterywriter.wordpress.com