An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

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Max Sinister
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An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by Max Sinister » 08 Oct 2023 09:34

The Battle of Dunkirk was the first big battle of encirclement (Kesselschlacht) of World War II and the only one to be fought in Western Europe. It developed after motorised Troops of the Wehrmacht had occupied Dunkirk on May 25th of 1940. The city had the third largest port in France, seven deep water basins, four dry docks, and more than five miles of quayside berths, hence would be perfectly suited for an Evacuation. But because of the "Scythe plan" by Erich von Manstein, several hundred thousand Allied Soldiers in Belgium and Northern France had been cut off; when Dunkirk was occupied, the last escape route via the sea was lost.

Strengths of the Allies
  • Better tanks, on the average - especially the French Char tanks have thicker armor, especially if compared to the Pz III.
    Their Soldiers are fighting with the back to the Wall, with the courage of desparation.
    Their opponents have a crazy, labile "Führer" as supreme commander.
Strengths of the Germans
  • Numeric superiority of about 2 : 1
    Same thing in the air - since May 21st, the Royal Air Force has retreated from the theater, now has to take off from English airports, which costs time.
    The German Panzers are equipped with Radios and have the better Doctrine, thanks to Heinz Guderian.
    The German Panzers are on average faster than the Allied tanks.
    The German Panzers are built using iron ore from Sweden, which is of better quality than that from Lorraine used for French tanks
    Most French tanks are light tanks, some of them still from World War I
    Besides Charles de Gaulle, most French top commanders aren't that competent. (Lord Gort thinks thought that the French generals - on average older than either Brits or German counterparts - have useful experience from WW1)
    Since May 23th, the Brits are placed on half rations.
    The 1st French Army already lost most of their heavy equipment.
    The Allied Troops are slowly running out of fuel. (Even if most Germans don't know about this scarcity.)
    The fact that Allied tanks tend to burn more fuel than German panzers doesn't help with this.
    Millions of Belgians and Frenchmen are fleeing, getting the Allied Soldiers in disarray.
    At least some German commanders (e.g. Erwin Rommel) have good ideas, how to improvise, if things don't run according to Plan.
    The German fighting morale is high, the Allied one not so much. A lot of Material was already left behind during the retreat. Some commanders like Général de brigade Albert-Charles-Émile Bruché tried to escape - in his case, in a Citroen car
    The fact that the "führer" changed the attack date dozens of times actually helped the Wehrmacht: Their soldiers were kept on their toes, while the Allied ones, doing nothing, were wondering for which purpose they were there.
    The Belgian Army is already close to capitulate. (Their supreme commander, King Leopold III, would capitulate on May 27th, although nobody was able to know about that before.)
    (No) thanks to the Molotow-Ribbentrop Pact, the CPSU ordered the French and British Communists to sabotage the war efforts of their countries
The Battle

May 25th - The News of Dunkirk's Fall causes Panic among the Allies. Both Officers and Men have to choose between three to four bad Alternatives: Trying a risky breakthrough at Douai towards Peronne (distance 50 km, by air); trying to hold the line, make or break; risking a surprise coup of Dunkirk, to achieve Evacuation at the end; or capitulation. The Brits and younger commanders tend to a fight, the older Frenchmen and Belgians to capitulation. A few thousand Allied Soldiers per day manage to get picked up at the Belgian Shores by the small Boats at least. These boats have to take the longer Route Y, which means that even getting there takes them eight hours.

Winston Churchill, when learning that Dunkirk has been taken, orders the BEF to try to take it back, to continue Operation Dynamo, for which planning started just five days ago.

May 26th - The most advanced French Troops retreating reach Dunkirk, where the Germans already have created a defense line. First skirmishes end in a draw. German Panzer troops reach Lille, where the Remains of six French Divisions have concentrated.

May 27th - Belgian King Leopold III, supreme commander of his Army, capitulates - without having informed the other Allies about this. The Allied Troops in besieged Calais capitulate too, after a few thousand of them could make the evacuation. Lille is encircled by the 6. Armee (von Reichenau). For a short Moment, the Germans at Dunkirk seem to get into trouble, when the French mass their remaining tanks and start an offensive. The German anti-tank gunners are helpless - but when the Germans divert their anti-air guns from their proper use, they can destroy even the thickly armored French Char tanks. From now on, the French are only able to fight defensively.

French counter-attacks of the 10th Army at Abbeville coming from the South are blocked by the Germans.

May 28th - More than 90% of the Belgian Soldiers have capitulated against the Germans, the Rest continues fighting on the side of the Allies. Almost all of Flanders is now occupied by the Heeresgruppe von Bock; now, the Allied Soldiers can't even flee via the shores. BEF commander Lord Gort escapes with one of the last Ships. Alphonse Juin, one of the Division commanders in the encircled Lille, capitulates with his Troops. The Germans capture about 100 tanks and 300 Guns.

May 29th - The British Expeditionary Force (now under Harold Alexander) has to move Troops to cover their Northern flank, after the Belgians aren't there anymore. Making an Offensive much more dangerous for them. Despite of the difficulties, Montgomery succeeds with this Operation. The German Troops at Dunkirk push their opponents behind the Yser river.

May 30th - Hermann Hoth accepts the capitulation of Lille. The 1st French Army doesn't exist anymore. This is leaving only the BEF in the area around Ypres (once again...) between the rivers Yser and Lys. For one Week, the Men have fought on half Rations, effective strength and Morale have suffered accordingly.

May 31th - The commander Alexander contacts the Germans to negotiate about capitulation. The French counter-attacks at Abbeville are cancelled too, since the Situation seems hopeless.

June 1st - The BEF is dissolving now. Some Soldiers decide to fight their way through the German lines towards unoccupied France in the South on their own. Only few, like "Fighting Jack" Churchill, are successful with this.

June 2nd - Harold Alexander has to sign the BEF's capitulation at Ypres.

Results of the Battle

Even if the German losses (soldiers and panzers) were somewhat higher than in OTL, the Allied losses were several times higher, moving the balance in Germany's favor. Hence, the attack on France ("Case Red") was continued as soon as June 2nd, instead of June 4th.

The captured material alone which the Wehrmacht was able to peruse now was overwhelming: More than 500 usable tanks, more than 2,000 guns, over 10,000 Machine guns, and over 50,000 vehicles.

More than 300,000 men of the Allies had died, were missing, or had become German prisoners of war. Dozens of new prisoners camps (StaLags) were created for their placement.

The British Army wasn't just decimated, but practically halved. About ten Divisions had been lost in the battle, which had to be replaced now. For which there were only bad Alternatives as solutions:
  • Raising more Troops in the Dominions and colonies (which would take Months)
    Moving Soldiers of other services (Navy, Air Force) to the Army
    Sending badly or not at all trained Troops in the war
    Moving Troops from the Dominions and colonies to the mother country (which would weaken the latter ones)
England now seemed defenseless against a German Invasion (even if the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force remained for defense), Landings of Fallschirmjäger (parachuters) were especially feared. In the Anti-Air Divisions for the defense against air attacks had about 150,000 Men serving in them in mid-1940, and this rather seemed too little.

The British Empire, which still covered one quarter of the Earth's landmass on maps, now had become weak and attackable everywhere potentially, but barely able to change to the offense. The Troops which now were evacuated as fast as possible from Narvik to Great Britain couldn't change too much about that.

Many competent commanders of the Brits and other good men became prisoners of war now:
  • Alan Brooke, who'd become the most important Military advisor of Winston Churchill in OTL
    Noel Mason-MacFarlane, responsible for military intelligence at the BEF, who'd become Governor of Gibraltar in OTL
    Harold Alexander, who'd fight in Burma and Northern Africa
    Chief of Staff Henry Pownall, who'd later serve under Wavell and Mountbatten in OTL
    Ronald Forbes Adam, a good Organisator
    Giffard Le Quesne Martel, who passed on valuable experiences with German Panzers to the other Brits
    William Holmes, who fought in Syria and Northern Africa
    Kenneth Anderson, who participated in Operation Torch in OTL...
    Other famous commanders like Bernard Montgomery and Arthur Percival
    The Heydrich assassins from OTL, Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš.
Only a few, like Edmund Ironside, could be evacuated by plane.

Because of these losses of barely replaceable commanders, the Western Allies now were lacking leaders who had made experiences about the German Blitzkrieg tactics, especially the usage of Panzers, and in this regard, with Rommel as opponent. Hence, the remaining Troops of the Empire weren't just weaker and worse trained, but also less experienced and demotivated by the defeat.

France suffered too: Since those soldiers evacuated in OTL couldn't be sent back to France, Weygand has even fewer divisions available for defense.

Additionally, the French were discontent because several ten thousand Brits, but just a few thousand Frenchmen had been evacuated. Together with other events, this caused longer-lasting bad relations between the Allies.

On the other side, the Germans were able to use their Experiences from the battle of encirclement for great success later - especially the fact that many Officers had learned from Erwin Rommel how to use anti-air guns against strong tanks. The German Panzers often doing badly in comparison to the Allied ones lead to all of the Pz I and II being delegated for training purposes only, and the Pz III and IV getting stronger cannons faster than in OTL.

Finally, the German victory was an enormous Shock for the Allied Morale and that of opponents of the Nazis in general - and improved the Motivation of the followers of Adolf Nazi. Even if it was doubtful how much of a share he had regarding this victory.

See also: This wiki page

ljadw
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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by ljadw » 08 Oct 2023 11:50

Some corrections
1 Hitler was not labile or crazy in May 1940
2 ''Only '' half of the BEF was encircled at Dunkirk :190000
3 Many more than a few thousand French soldiers were evacuated
4 Germany had no operational airborne units in June 1940 .
5 British communists sabotaging the war effort ? What British communists ?
6 It is an exaggeration to say that the Germans used only Swedish iron ore for their tanks
7 Are there any proofs that the Swedish iron ore was superior ?
8 Most French tanks are light tanks ?
9 And why would that be a bad thing if most French tanks were light tanks ?
10 The Home Forces were strong enough to eliminate the few German forces that would land .

Max Sinister
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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by Max Sinister » 12 Oct 2023 11:18

Sorry, but this wasn't a great reply.

1. He certainly was a megalomaniac in 1940. IMO that counts as crazy.
2. What's your source for that? Usual sources say: About 85% of the BEF was evacuated.
3. In our history - yes. But this is the "What if?" forum.
4. ???
5. There were not many, but they existed.
6. Without checking: Make it "mostly".
7. I went to a uni which has a department for mining. I can check if necessary.
8. What my sources say. What are yours?
9. ...because they're weaker?
10. I never claimed they weren't. Sea Lion is an impossibility. However, the Brits may believe the Nazis might win. Hell, in our history they feared this for some time.

ljadw
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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by ljadw » 12 Oct 2023 15:51

1 Do you have a proof for your claim that Hitler was crazy in 1940 ? You have an example of a crazy act of Hitler in 1940 ?
2 Britannica :Dunkirk evacuation :198000 soldiers of the BEF and 140000 French and Belgian soldiers .
The manpower strength of the BEF was 390000 + ,of which 50 % was evacuated at Dunkirk .
3 A What If thread must be based on reality , otherwise ,one can imagine the arrival of the Martians to save the BEF
4 You said that 150000 men were not enough against a possible landing of German airborne units .
Reality is that the small number of Falschirmjäger had been decimated in Norway and the Netherlands and that without the help of infantry,artillery and tanks airborne units are doomed : see Crete and Market Garden
5 There is no proof that British communists would sabotage (at the order of who ? ) British war effort . Britain was not France and most British communists were intellectuals who would not know how to sabotage the British war effort .
6 The weight of the main German tank in 1940 (the Panzer 3 ) was 23 ton,most French tanks were heavier
7 The weight of a tank was secondary as tanks fought against each other only exceptionally .The speed of a tank was more important and the French tanks were mostly slower than the German ones .
From ''Panzer 1 '' on Wiki :
2574 German tanks were available for the attack in the West in May 1940
523 Pz1 weight 5,8 tons
955 Pz2 weight 11,8 tons
349 Pz3 weight 23 tons
278 Pz4 weight 25 tons
and a number of Pz35(t ) and 38 ( t ) with a weight of 10 tons .
Sources are easy to find :type Pz1,2, 3 ,4 etc

ljadw
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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by ljadw » 12 Oct 2023 20:35

From Jentz (Tome 1 P 121 )
Rommel's 7th Panzer-Division on 10 May 1940
Pz 1 34
Pz2 68
Pz 38 t 91
Pz4 24
Pzbef38 t 8
9 PzD
Pz1 30
Pz2 54
Pz3 41
Pz4 16
Pz bef 12
7 PzD had 24 Pz4,while 9 Pz D had 57 Pz3 and 4 .
But there are no proofs that 9 PzD did better than 7 PzD .

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Steve
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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by Steve » 12 Oct 2023 22:59

Communist Party membership was small relative to the population of the UK but it had an influence out of proportion to its membership in the trade unions. In March 1939 the Party had 17,500 members and sales of its newspaper were about 100,000 on weekdays and about 150,000 on Saturdays. By January 1940 its membership had risen to about 20,000.

The Communist Party of Great Britain was a member of the Comintern which was based in Moscow and took orders from them. Prior to the war its policy was to advocate for an alliance with Russia and the removal of the Chamberlain government and its replacement with a popular front government. On September 2nd the Party announced qualified support for the war. This soon changed to alignment with Comintern policy which was for “revolutionary defeatism” and the leader of the Party Harry Pollitt resigned for the awful mistake. The Party would now work to incite strikes for higher pay and strikes which had no overt political motive. In July 1940 Defence Regulation 58AA that allowed the banning of strikes was introduced followed by order 1305.

ljadw
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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by ljadw » 13 Oct 2023 07:04

Steve wrote:
12 Oct 2023 22:59
Communist Party membership was small relative to the population of the UK but it had an influence out of proportion to its membership in the trade unions. In March 1939 the Party had 17,500 members and sales of its newspaper were about 100,000 on weekdays and about 150,000 on Saturdays. By January 1940 its membership had risen to about 20,000.

The Communist Party of Great Britain was a member of the Comintern which was based in Moscow and took orders from them. Prior to the war its policy was to advocate for an alliance with Russia and the removal of the Chamberlain government and its replacement with a popular front government. On September 2nd the Party announced qualified support for the war. This soon changed to alignment with Comintern policy which was for “revolutionary defeatism” and the leader of the Party Harry Pollitt resigned for the awful mistake. The Party would now work to incite strikes for higher pay and strikes which had no overt political motive. In July 1940 Defence Regulation 58AA that allowed the banning of strikes was introduced followed by order 1305.
And how many acts of sabotage were caused by the British Communists ?
The Trade Unions supported the war against Germany and did not call for strikes .

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lordroel
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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by lordroel » 13 Oct 2023 15:15

ljadw wrote:
08 Oct 2023 11:50
Some corrections
1 Hitler was not labile or crazy in May 1940
More like a gambler who won several rounds before sarting a losing streak that ended with his death.

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Steve
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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by Steve » 13 Oct 2023 17:17

Sabotage can take many forms it does not have to be blowing up trains. From 1939 the party worked to disrupt the UK war effort by organising strikes. In August 1940 taking advantage of dissatisfaction with matters such as long hours being worked in factories, bomb shelters, rationing etc it started forming People’s Vigilance Committees. Their slogan was “For a People’s Government and a People’s Peace”. The Daily Worker published stories that for example suggested the Ministry of Labour took bribes from capitalists.

Their agitation was thought serious enough to be brought to the attention of the War Cabinet in November 1940. On January 9 1941 at a meeting of the Security Executive a member of the Trades Union Council and a member of the Ministry of Labour expressed “serious misgivings” about Communist propaganda. They argued that the Trades Union Leadership was being undermined by allegations that it was betraying workers. The conclusion was that the Communist Party wanted to destroy the Government’s authority and also the Trade Union’s authority and to impede the war effort. The propaganda campaign was making enough progress to “constitute a serious risk”.

The Party had been infiltrated by MI5 and its mail was intercepted and opened. In January it was reported that “One of its leaders told a private meeting at the beginning of January that Britain was only one stage removed from a revolutionary situation. The Peoples Convention Movement must be the focal point of continuing pressure”. For the large number of people who will no doubt be very interested in what the Peoples Convention Movement was I have put a link at the bottom.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/hardca ... ention.htm

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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by paulskordilis » 14 Oct 2023 14:35

As Karl-Heinz Frieser points out in The Blitzkrieg Legend, had the Halt Orders of 15 May and 21 May not been issued, the issue of the Third and most famous Halt Order on 24 May 1940 would have been moot, given that the Wehrmacht would already have captured Dunkirk.

Max Sinister
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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by Max Sinister » 14 Oct 2023 18:06

ljadw wrote:
12 Oct 2023 15:51
1 Do you have a proof for your claim that Hitler was crazy in 1940 ? You have an example of a crazy act of Hitler in 1940 ?
4 You said that 150000 men were not enough against a possible landing of German airborne units .
To 1: So, stopping his troops not once, not twice, but thrice which saved the BEF isn't crazy enough? :wink:

To 4: Read that again, but more carefully. I wrote it seemed so. In summer 1940, many Brits up to Churchill had real invasion fears. (Without good reason, but hindsight is 20/20.)

Got that? Because otherwise I really don't see the point of a discussion with you.

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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by ljadw » 14 Oct 2023 19:02

1 the orders of Rundstedt and Hitler did not save the BEF ,as only half of the BEF was encircled at Dunkirk and as there are no proofs that these men would become POWs without the orders of Rundstedt and Hitler .
4 There are only 2 possibilities :150000 men in the anti-air divisions were too little or were not too little . To write that they seemed too little is meaningless .
5 The fears for an invasion were created by the propaganda .Sealion was impossible in 1940,unless AFTER a British capitulation .
And, if there was no good reason to fear an invasion,as YOU are saying, there is no need to mention this artificial fear .

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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by ljadw » 14 Oct 2023 19:12

paulskordilis wrote:
14 Oct 2023 14:35
As Karl-Heinz Frieser points out in The Blitzkrieg Legend, had the Halt Orders of 15 May and 21 May not been issued, the issue of the Third and most famous Halt Order on 24 May 1940 would have been moot, given that the Wehrmacht would already have captured Dunkirk.
Frieser is totally wrong on this point : he is a retired Bundeswehr officer and can not afford,given the climate in Germany, to admit that Hitler was not a stupid military leader .
There is no proof at all that the WM could have captured Dunkirk before the evacuation, but there are a lot of indications for the opposite .

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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by paulskordilis » 14 Oct 2023 19:41

ljadw wrote:
14 Oct 2023 19:12
paulskordilis wrote:
14 Oct 2023 14:35
As Karl-Heinz Frieser points out in The Blitzkrieg Legend, had the Halt Orders of 15 May and 21 May not been issued, the issue of the Third and most famous Halt Order on 24 May 1940 would have been moot, given that the Wehrmacht would already have captured Dunkirk.
Frieser is totally wrong on this point : he is a retired Bundeswehr officer and can not afford,given the climate in Germany, to admit that Hitler was not a stupid military leader .
There is no proof at all that the WM could have captured Dunkirk before the evacuation, but there are a lot of indications for the opposite .
1. There is no evidence at all for your nonsense proposition about the authorship.
2.
At that point in time, the main body of the British and French divisions was still stuck
in the country’s interior about a hundred kilometers from salvation along the Channel
coast.
Now, however, the German Panzers threatened to push to the Channel ports along
the coast behind the back of the British and French. The British command immediately
recognized the danger and tried to transfer troops from England to Calais and Boulogne in
order, from there, to block the way of the Germans to Dunkirk. It was hoped that this port
could be held open for an evacuation. The embarkation of the contingents that were to
come to the aid of the trapped Allies was delayed so much that this race became a matter
of hours. British military historian Kenneth Macksey arrived at the following result: “But
it would be the morning of the 22nd before Boulogne received its main garrison and so it
follows that, if Guderian or Reinhardt had been sent there immediately on the 21st at the
same rate as they travelled on the 20th, they would have found the port virtually
undefended. Likewise they could have had Calais for the asking since that port’s garrison
was not properly in position until the 22nd.

141
The most important role was assigned to the 10th Panzer Division. At that time, it
would have been possible, without any problems, to push through to Dunkirk, which was
hardly defended.
But, after the first halt order at Montcornet, the Panzers were now
stopped once again at Arras. Without this intervention, however, the famous halt order of
Dunkirk on 24 May would not have had any consequences because that port would
already have been in German hands.
Frieser, the Blitzkrieg Legend.

ljadw
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Re: An alternative Battle of Dunkirk

Post by ljadw » 15 Oct 2023 09:25

paulskordilis wrote:
14 Oct 2023 19:41
ljadw wrote:
14 Oct 2023 19:12
paulskordilis wrote:
14 Oct 2023 14:35
As Karl-Heinz Frieser points out in The Blitzkrieg Legend, had the Halt Orders of 15 May and 21 May not been issued, the issue of the Third and most famous Halt Order on 24 May 1940 would have been moot, given that the Wehrmacht would already have captured Dunkirk.
Frieser is totally wrong on this point : he is a retired Bundeswehr officer and can not afford,given the climate in Germany, to admit that Hitler was not a stupid military leader .
There is no proof at all that the WM could have captured Dunkirk before the evacuation, but there are a lot of indications for the opposite .
1. There is no evidence at all for your nonsense proposition about the authorship.
2.
At that point in time, the main body of the British and French divisions was still stuck
in the country’s interior about a hundred kilometers from salvation along the Channel
coast.
Now, however, the German Panzers threatened to push to the Channel ports along
the coast behind the back of the British and French. The British command immediately
recognized the danger and tried to transfer troops from England to Calais and Boulogne in
order, from there, to block the way of the Germans to Dunkirk. It was hoped that this port
could be held open for an evacuation. The embarkation of the contingents that were to
come to the aid of the trapped Allies was delayed so much that this race became a matter
of hours. British military historian Kenneth Macksey arrived at the following result: “But
it would be the morning of the 22nd before Boulogne received its main garrison and so it
follows that, if Guderian or Reinhardt had been sent there immediately on the 21st at the
same rate as they travelled on the 20th, they would have found the port virtually
undefended. Likewise they could have had Calais for the asking since that port’s garrison
was not properly in position until the 22nd.

141
The most important role was assigned to the 10th Panzer Division. At that time, it
would have been possible, without any problems, to push through to Dunkirk, which was
hardly defended.
But, after the first halt order at Montcornet, the Panzers were now
stopped once again at Arras. Without this intervention, however, the famous halt order of
Dunkirk on 24 May would not have had any consequences because that port would
already have been in German hands.
Frieser, the Blitzkrieg Legend.
All you have is a claim from Frieser without any proof which you are repeating .
In Fall Rot, Robert Forckzyk writes that half of the German trucks and tanks were no longer operational ,when the first Halt Order was issued ,which means that only a small number of tanks could advance to Dunkirk,without the support of the infantry and artillery,and without this support tanks are powerless .

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