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Battle of Dunkirk what if

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today.

Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby stg 44 on 21 Oct 2013 22:20

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Dunkirk
Action at Poperinge[edit]
The route back from Brooke's position to Dunkirk passed through the town of Poperinge (known to most British sources as "Poperinghe"), where there was a bottleneck at a bridge over the Yser canal. Most of the main roads in the area converged on that bridge. On 27 May, the Luftwaffe bombed the resulting traffic jam thoroughly for two hours, destroying or immobilising about 80% of the vehicles. Another Luftwaffe raid—on the night of 28/29 May—was illuminated by flares as well as the light from burning vehicles. The 44th Division in particular had to abandon many guns and lorries, losing almost all of them between Poperinge and the Mont.[23]

The German 6. Panzerdivision could probably have destroyed the 44th Division at Poperinge on 29 May, thereby cutting off 3rd Division and 50th Division as well. Thompson calls it "astonishing" that they did not, but they were distracted by investing the nearby town of Cassel.[24]


What if the 6th Panzer Division did just this? What would it mean for the evacuation and defensive efforts to hold back the German advance?

I personally don't know enough about the particulars of the battle to make an informed comment, but it seems that in this case then the perimeter would have a major gap that would be exploited, stopping the evacuation early and potentially preventing most of the historical evacuees from escaping. If so this would potentially have serious political consequences, not to mention military ones in the near future. Despite the British war cabinet being aware of the disaster in France that was brewing and being prepared for it, the public was not and would not have been prepared emotionally for losing most of the BEF at Dunkirk. Historically the defeat of France was mitigated by the successful evacuation of most of the BEF sans equipment, but it was still a propaganda miracle that it was pulled off. But if it had failed or at least only resulted in some 50-75,000 men evacuated I think it would have been a much harsher blow to British national morale. I doubt it would make a long run difference in terms of the British surrendering, but in the short term if coupled with major defeats elsewhere, it could potentially hurt Churchill politically.

Any idea though what this would mean for the African Campaign if the BEF was not successfully evacuated?
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby phylo_roadking on 21 Oct 2013 22:46

Any idea though what this would mean for the African Campaign if the BEF was not successfully evacuated?


In the autumn and winter of 1940, or long term?
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby stg 44 on 21 Oct 2013 23:04

phylo_roadking wrote:
Any idea though what this would mean for the African Campaign if the BEF was not successfully evacuated?


In the autumn and winter of 1940, or long term?

Both
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby phylo_roadking on 21 Oct 2013 23:24

I doubt it would make a long run difference in terms of the British surrendering, but in the short term if coupled with major defeats elsewhere, it could potentially hurt Churchill politically.


Public opinion management would have taken care of that; there would STILL have been a "miracle of Dunkirk" - the miracle would just have been smaller... :P

In the short term in the Desert - not a lot actually; of what was shipped aborad in late August to reinforce the Western Desert Force, the majority of infantry sent, were the UK echelons of the Australian and NZ "short" divisions here; it was half our tank strenght and its crews etc. being sent abroad that was far more valuable - and they could have been sent anyway.

Long term? We'd have lost...what...seven divisons at Dunkirk??? We'd still have had eleven or so in the UK - with several more in basic training, and formating. I can see a greate remphasis being out on the Home Guard - their training, equiping, formating with the regular Army and incorporation into Army defence plans earlier and deeper. This would release more men for the Middle East; not as many as OTL, but perhaps the Indian and other Commonwealth armies could have made up the shortfall before 1942. For instance, immediately the Autumn 1940 risk of Sealion passed, that freed up the 1st Canadian division...
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby sunbury2 on 22 Oct 2013 01:26

I don't think it so black and white, if there were suddenly a couple of hundred thousand British POW's in June 1940 then they become a very powerful negotiation tool for the Germans. Churchill had been in power for about 3-4 weeks and did not yet have the support of the British people. There still were very powerful "Peace" proponents in the British Parliament, Churchill could have been rolled.

If Germany dangled the carrot of the return of those men in return to Britain to not interfere in Europe, then who is to say that Britain would not have agreed. I accept that war would eventually have flared again but for 1940 there would be an uneasy peace.

For Britain's Home defence, there was always the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard.
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby Tim Smith on 22 Oct 2013 09:35

phylo_roadking wrote:For instance, immediately the Autumn 1940 risk of Sealion passed, that freed up the 1st Canadian division...


Except that there were political problems about deploying the Canadian divisions. The Canadian prime minister and generals wanted them deployed as an independent Canadian army, not split up under different British corps. (A bit like the Americans insisting in WW1 that the American Expeditionary Force be an independent command under its own general, not used as reinforcement divisions by the Entente.) Also the Canadian prime minister wanted the Canadian army to defend the UK, not prop up the British Empire in Africa. And the British Army in WW2 didn't want an inexperienced Canadian Corps HQ commanding Canadian divisions in North Africa, and potentially vetoing the orders from the British 8th Army commander if it didn't agree with them.

I think the Royal Canadian Air Force was also upset about Canadian pilots being deployed as replacements to RAF squadrons, rather than concentrated in RCAF squadrons.
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby phylo_roadking on 22 Oct 2013 15:03

And the British Army in WW2 didn't want an inexperienced Canadian Corps HQ commanding Canadian divisions in North Africa, and potentially vetoing the orders from the British 8th Army commander if it didn't agree with them


I'm suprised there were no WWI veteran officers among Canadian ranks given their service on the Western Front...the Australians and New Zealanders were able to scare up some!

The Canadian prime minister and generals wanted them deployed as an independent Canadian army, not split up under different British corps. (A bit like the Americans insisting in WW1 that the American Expeditionary Force be an independent command under its own general, not used as reinforcement divisions by the Entente.) Also the Canadian prime minister wanted the Canadian army to defend the UK, not prop up the British Empire in Africa...


...which could have been achieved in late 1940 by replacing the 51st (Welsh) in Northern Ireland, positioned for the "W-Plan" counter-invasion of the Irish Free State, and allowing them to go to the Middle East ;)
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby sunbury2 on 23 Oct 2013 01:26

I'm suprised there were no WWI veteran officers among Canadian ranks given their service on the Western Front...the Australians and New Zealanders were able to scare up some!


Just an information item, Australia sent Leslie Morshead and the 18th Infantry Brigade to the UK in 1940. Morshead in 1941 commanded the garrison at Tobruk and was instrumental in inflicting the first defeat of Blitzkrieg. Morshead had been a very experienced WW1 Officer, between wars had served in the Citizen Military Forces (Territorials/National Guard). His opinion of blitzkrieg was that it was a very limited tactical manoeuvre and in 1941 he exposed its weaknesses.
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby Orwell1984 on 23 Oct 2013 03:58

phylo_roadking wrote:I'm suprised there were no WWI veteran officers among Canadian ranks given their service on the Western Front...the Australians and New Zealanders were able to scare up some!


But there were of course!

General Andrew McNaughton, commander of the First Canadian Division 17 Oct 1939 – 19 Jul 1940

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_McNaughton

McNaughton joined the Canadian militia in 1909. He took the 4th Battery of the Canadian Expeditionary Force overseas with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and arrived in France in February 1915.
While there he helped make advances in the science of artillery, and was wounded twice.[1] The need to accurately pinpoint artillery targets, both stationary and moving, led to his invention of a target detection technique using an oscilloscope which was the forerunner of radar. He sold the rights to that invention to the Government of Canada for only $10.[3] In March 1916 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and returned to England to take command of the newly arrived 11 (Howitzer) Brigade RCA, taking it to France in July. In early 1917 he was appointed the Counter Battery Staff Officer of the Canadian Corps. On the day before the armistice he was promoted to Brigadier-General and appointed General Officer Commanding Canadian Corps Heavy Artillery.


Major General G.R. Pearkes, VC, DSO, MC commander of the First Canadian Division 20 Jul 1940 – 1 Sep 1942 (VC won at Passchendaele)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Pearkes

In 1915, he enlisted in the 2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles; transferring in September 1916 to the 5th Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles. During the war, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. He received the Victoria Cross, the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order.
Following the First World War he became a career officer in the army. He was appointed to Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. During the 1920s and early 1930s he was stationed as a staff officer in Winnipeg, Manitoba and in Calgary, Alberta. He also served as staff officer at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. In 1936, he attended the Imperial Defence College for two years.


Major General H.L.N. Salmon, MC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._L._N._Salmon

Enlisting at the age of twenty, his military career began in 1914 with the 95th Saskatchewan Rifles out of Regina, though he was soon assigned to the 28th Battalion, another western Canadian unit. He served with distinction in the First World War, spending from 1915 to 1919 in Europe ... He joined the staff of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division in January 1940, attaining rank of Lt. Col. in February of that year, and commanding the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment (colloquially known as the "Hasty P's and part of the First Division).


General Harry Crerar
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Crerar

He rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel of artillery in World War I. Unlike most officers, he remained in the army after the war.,,He served in World War II, initially as a Brigadier on the General Staff at Canadian Military Headquarters in England (in the early years of the war)


Just a sampling of some of the higher ranks as an example. Obviously many of the other officers in service in the Canadian Army in the early war years had experience fighting in WW1.
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby Von Schadewald on 28 Oct 2013 19:31

Of all prisoners, the British were the most troublesome to the Germans as regards to their unceasing attempts to escape the stalags.

How would the Germans have handled 250,000 British prisoners in 1940 if the evacuation had failed?
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby stg 44 on 28 Oct 2013 20:00

Von Schadewald wrote:Of all prisoners, the British were the most troublesome to the Germans as regards to their unceasing attempts to escape the stalags.

How would the Germans have handled 250,000 British prisoners in 1940 if the evacuation had failed?

What were the prisoners Germany captured historically? Mostly RAF, which were usually the most motivated men in the British military (as air force personnel usually were for all nations). So a bunch of demoralized army PoWs on the receiving end of a serious beating at the hands of the enemy army aren't going to be nearly as motivated to get out and go back to that. Also do you have statistics for prison escape attempts by nationality? I think this might be anecdotal and the plural of anecdote is not data.
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby phylo_roadking on 28 Oct 2013 21:18

What were the prisoners Germany captured historically? Mostly RAF, which were usually the most motivated men in the British military (as air force personnel usually were for all nations). So a bunch of demoralized army PoWs on the receiving end of a serious beating at the hands of the enemy army aren't going to be nearly as motivated to get out and go back to that.


There were 41,338 British POWs (or missing) after Dunkirk; the specific RAF figures must only account for a fraction of that, for I'll need to check but there can't have been much more than 15,000 men of all ranks/skills sent to France with the AASF/BEF Air Element! And plenty of "blue jobs" came home...

In terms of anecdotal material - Airey Neave's classic "Saturday at MI9" would indicate hundreds if not three-figures'-worth of British stragglers wandering over France in the months after Dunkirk, as late as September 1940! Many crossed into Vichy and were interned quite a few later escaping/evading. And if you look at escapers'/evaders' memoirs, such as Pat Reid's...many of their "careers" in escape and evasion began in those early route marches and train journeys back to Germany!

But when it comes to escaping, and the motivation and/or lack of morale...it's worth remembering that Other Ranks' didn't have the legal protections that Officers did; they could be shot...

That tends to discourage adventurism... :lol:
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby jeger on 11 Jan 2014 03:45

Just a word on other ranks vs officers trying to escape, officers were shot too (Ref " The great escape")when the Gestapo murdered 53 Jeger
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby Deans on 18 Jan 2014 07:35

Interesting scenario. Can someone comment on weather 6th Panzer's proposed actions would indeed have cut off some units from evacuation. I don't know enough to make an informed comment.
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Re: Battle of Dunkirk what if

Postby werd on 26 Jan 2014 23:43

All British island left 500 guns of various calibers, 200 tanks and very few firearms. Germans thing was to swim to the island. British after Dunkirk fight with the Germans in 1940 was nothing.
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