Intended FJ role in Sealion

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Markus Becker
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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by Markus Becker » 07 Jul 2009 13:42

The 7th Fliegerdivision in Operation S....n:

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Jul 2009 14:06

Gooner, thanks for that source....
This concentration in the Aldershot area was contrary to the original plan in which the base camp for 2 NZEF (UK) was to have been in Colchester in Essex. But the senior officers who had been sent over from Egypt to prepare the camp and to organise the base had found the situation very different from that envisaged by General Freyberg in 1939. The defences in northern France had collapsed and Colchester was classed as a ‘Battle Area’, within which battalions would be dispersed as garrison troops in the coastal towns. As this would have been detrimental to their discipline and training, General Freyberg had suggested an area in the Southern Command. The War Office gave him the choice of Winchester with billets or Aldershot with tents. The General preferred Winchester, but the whole force could not be accommodated so Aldershot it had to be.

These plans had been made when the convoys were moving up the African coast and when the policy of the British Government was to give overseas troops every facility to complete their training. They were changed when the succession of disasters in Europe left the Germans free to plan the invasion of Britain. Thereafter, partly trained though it was, the echelon became part of the defence of the country. The New Zealand Government recognised this state of emergency but stipulated that the troops should have adequate equipment and be a separate formation, under the command of the GOC of the war area in which they were placed and not under the command of any British divisional commander. So, from 17 June, 2 NZEF (UK) was a separate formation, under the operational control of the War Office and, from 24 June, responsible for No. 3 section of the Aldershot defence system.
The rest of the echelon spent their time training for their role in the defence of Britain. General Freyberg had given the officers an inspiring survey of the military situation; the press and Mr Churchill warned everyone that each weekend was a potential crisis. And history seemed to be repeating itself with some romantic variations. On 6 July the battalions were inspected by King George VI, and men with imagination and some slight knowledge of history thought of Elizabeth I at Tilbury or of George III reviewing his regiments when they were waiting for the forces of Napoleon.

At this stage the battalions and detachments of reinforcements with the Second Echelon had been organised into 2 NZEF (UK), with a Force Headquarters and three groups. Headquarters Covering Force (Brigadier Miles) had C Squadron of the Divisional Cavalry Regiment, a machine-gun company and an infantry battalion commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Fraser and made up of the men from the two batteries of 5 Field Regiment and the two batteries of 7 Anti-Tank Regiment that were still without guns. The Mixed Brigade1 (Brigadier Barrowclough) was formed from 28 (Maori) Battalion and 29 (or Composite) Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel McNaught2) organised from the unattached infantry reinforcements. The third group was 5 Infantry Brigade (Brigadier Hargest). Fourth Anti-Tank Company was attached to the Mixed Infantry Brigade and 5 Anti-Tank Company to 5 Infantry Brigade.

There was still an acute shortage of arms, vehicles and equipment. Fifth Field Regiment had only one battery: a collection of 18-pounder guns and 4.5-inch howitzers. The anti-tank companies had been given the Bedford 30-cwt trucks, sheeted with ⅝ inch steel plate and equipped with Bren guns and anti-tank rifles. C Squadron Divisional Cavalry had six light tanks and six Bren carriers. The Army Service Corps details, men from the Petrol and Ammunition Companies, had motor lorries, but for the transportation of troops 8 and 9 Motor Coach Companies had been attached from the Royal Army Service Corps. With their enormous camouflaged buses they could lift the whole force in one move.
...well, they were definitely mobile! :lol:
On 17 July, when the force was finally organised, it came under the control of the Commander-in-Chief Home Forces and with 1 Canadian Division and 1 Armoured Division formed 7 Corps under the command of Major-General A. G. L. McNaughton. Their allotted task was ‘to counter-attack and destroy any enemy force invading the counties of Surrey-Kent-Sussex-Hampshire which was not destroyed by the troops of the Eastern and Southern Commands.’

As this landing was thought likely to take place at any moment the training of 2 NZEF (UK) had to be unconventional. Instead of the regular stages of section, platoon, company, battalion, brigade and finally divisional exercises, the order was reversed. The syllabus began with divisional training on the assumption that the troops were already trained soldiers. They practised moving by motor transport to their defence areas and trained by doing tactical exercises on the spot.

The first large-scale exercise took place on 18–22 July. Three convoys of buses moved off in drizzling rain for Ashdown Forest to the south-west of Tunbridge Wells. The brigades then had to cover the southern approaches to Crowborough and to counter-attack any landings on the south coast east of the River Ouse. With wind and rain to encourage them, they dug in and learnt by unpleasant experience how to bivouac in the open. They repelled hypothetical assaults on the beaches or overwhelmed imaginary parachutists landing on the South Downs. The exercise ended with a solid route march, a night embussing and a move back to Aldershot
...and that the War Office had stated that the echelon would leave Aldershot on or after 15 September. The Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces, General Sir Alan Brooke, inspected the force preparatory to its departure; Mr Churchill appeared on 4 September to fulfil a promise of a similar inspection. Both were impressed and said so.

But to everyone's surprise, on 4 September all preparations for departure were abruptly halted. Late that night General Freyberg was asked by GHQ Home Forces if the echelon could be retained in an operational role. The Intelligence Staff was almost certain that a landing on the south-east coast was imminent. For days the Luftwaffe had been attempting to eliminate the Royal Air Force, there was an ominous concentration of shipping across the Channel, and September was the month with favourable tides and phases of the moon. To meet the threat every available unit was being transferred to the southern counties.
The order from GHQ Home Forces ran as follows: ‘Emergency Move. NZ Force and 8 R Tanks under command General Freyberg will move to area EAST of TUNBRIDGE WELLS to be selected by Commander 12 Corps. On arrival this area FORCE will come under command of 12 Corps and will be held in reserve for counter offensive role.’ For further information the General went to GHQ Home Forces, where he learnt what the commander had not been willing to say over the telephone—that after the heavy bombardment of Dover from Gris Nez, Mr Churchill had ordered that if an invasion took place and Dover was captured it must be retaken at all costs. To take part in this all-important counter-attack the New Zealand brigades were being transferred to the outskirts of the Dover-Folkestone area. The signals strength for this role was increased by 100 British signallers who had served in France or Norway, 8 Royal Tank Regiment came under command and, after 12 September, 157 Anti-Aircraft Battery.

The brigades left Aldershot late on 5 September, stopping and starting all through the night, listening to the drone of aircraft on their way to bomb London and eventually settling down under cover in the woods before first light. East of Maidstone there was 5 Brigade, north of the Maidstone-Charing road was 7 Brigade, now commanded by Brigadier Falconer, and at Charing there was Milforce, an armoured group, commanded by Brigadier Miles and formally constituted the following morning.

Their instructions were specific and detailed. Seventh Brigade would deal with airborne landings in the Chatham-Maidstone area; Milforce and 5 Brigade would prepare to counter-attack in the direction of Dover and Folkestone.

However - things things get a bit chaotic for the defenders at command level - remember, these were "short" brigades" the Second Echelon of their parent division, with the larger part in the Middle East...which had just come under attack by the Italians. Note the comment in red...
Mr Churchill thereupon decided that the force must remain in Kent; only when all dangers of an invasion were over was it to go overseas. He has since stated that, ‘By the middle of September the invasion menace seemed sufficiently glaring to arrest further movement of vital units to the East, especially as they had to go round the Cape. After a visit to the Dover sector, where the electric atmosphere was compulsive, I suspended for a few weeks the dispatch of the New Zealanders and the remaining two tank battalions to the Middle East.’

This decision forced General Freyberg to choose, for the second time that year, the theatre of war in which it was most necessary for him to be. In Kent he had the Second Echelon, nearly 7000 men, waiting to counter-attack a German landing. In the Middle East the Italian Tenth Army had crossed the Egyptian border on 14 September and was advancing towards Sidi Barrani. This meant that the First Echelon (4 Brigade Group), only partially equipped and strung out along the line of communication, was presumably about to be engaged in a major battle. The Third Echelon (6 Brigade) was on its way to the Middle East to be trained and equipped. Convinced that any invasion would fail and confident about the ability of the Second Echelon, he decided to return to Egypt.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Jul 2009 14:17

Markus - that's an interesting map. Looking at it -

1/ the First Wave drops are a mile to a mile and a half further SOUTH than the village names in Lucas would indicate. I expected some displacement ;

1/ the Second Wave drops are both further north...and far further south, right on the edge of the airfield...than Lucas' account would indicate!

3/ MOST interestingly, however...it looks more from that as if Lucas' "surrounding" the airfield before the glider attack is more a throwing out of a perimeter to the north-west, north and north-east to prevent any reinforcements hindering the attack on the airfield. From that map I'd question the paratroops having any real role in the attack on the airfield! 8O Maybe as little as providing troops from the divisional Reserve concentration marked on the map.

4/ there's a FIFTH drop marked there that he doesn't mention, behind the Dymchurch-Hythe Road and on the SOUTH side of the Canal! I've been along that road...and the period invasion defences are still noticable; concrete artillery revetments make GREAT suntraps for a summer p1ss-up! :lol:

You know...given the emphasis in Milforce' and 5th Brigade NZEF's orders about clearing paratroops out of the Dover - Folkestone area - I get the faint impression that the British KNEW the broad outline of the FJ plan...! I can understand Dover - the Germans needed a port to debark their heavy equipment and armour, they wanted Dover...and the British KNEW this and Churchill's orders specifically mandated a counterattack to retake Dover if it's lost in the initial landings...but the emphasis on anti-paratroop operations around Folkestone in the orders for BOTH Milforce and 5th Brigade make me wonder if the British had some inkling of an action specifically in the Folkestone area...?
Last edited by phylo_roadking on 07 Jul 2009 14:33, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Jul 2009 14:32

I reckon, going by the map and the bend in the Canal, that the fifth landing is just about - there...

Image

It looks close to the airfield...but don't forget, that aerial view has foreshortened the land between the foot of the 100 metre escarpment/cliff, and where the land appears to view again :wink: There's as much land again out of sight as from the drop zone out to the sea.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Jul 2009 14:38

As a P.S....is it just me - or are FJR-2 and II./StRgt dropping in narrow valleys ??? 8O

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by The_Enigma » 07 Jul 2009 15:55

Just to pull a little info from an old post of mine, this info is from Playfair, Med and ME series V.I pp. 245 - 247

Over the 17 week period from August 1940 to the end of the year 76,000 men, including 5,000 Aussies and 700 New Zealanders, were dispatched to the Middle East from the UK along with the 2nd Armoured Division, 3 field regiments, 2 medium regiments and 19 AA batteries.

I don’t believe Playfair stated when exactly but during this period the New Zealand force, in the counterattack role near this airbase, lost a good chunk of their manpower.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Jul 2009 15:57

Some detail on the Royal Military canal - From Wiki

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Image
The canal was built as a third line of defence against Napoleon, after the British Royal Navy patrolling the English Channel and the line of 74 Martello Towers built along the south coast. Romney Marsh was considered to be a likely point of invasion for Napoleon's Army, particularly during the period of the Third Coalition. However, the planned invasion by Napoleon never occurred and the threat of a French invasion was greatly diminished following the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805. The canal was still a long way from completion at this point and the cost of its construction was becoming politically difficult for the government. As a result, both the canal and the Military Road were opened for public use with tolls being charged. The tollgate for the canal and the road was located at Iden Lock.

Construction was commenced at Seabrook, Kent, near Hythe in Kent on 30 October 1804. The canal was completed in April 1809 at a total cost of £234,000. It was constructed in two sections: the longest section starts at Hythe and ends at Iden Lock in East Sussex; the second, smaller section, runs from the foot of Winchelsea Hill to Cliff End. Both sections are linked by the Rivers Rother and River Brede. Gun positions along the canal were generally located every 500 yards. Any troops stationed or moving along the Military Road would have been protected by the earthen bank of the parapet, which was piled up during construction.

Despite the fact that the canal never saw military action, it was used to try to control smuggling from Romney Marsh. Guard houses were constructed at each bridge along its length. This met with limited success because of corrupt guards. Although a barge service was established from Hythe to Rye, the canal was abandoned in 1877 and leased to the Lords of the Level of Romney Marsh.

During the early stages of World War II, when a German invasion was looking likely, the canal was fortified with concrete pillboxes
Taking and holding the line of the Canal was of course going to be important for a number of reasons;

1/ to keep British reinforcements OUT of the Romney Marsh area while the invasion forces come ashore and deal with the relatively heavy defences there; there was a lot of emplaced artillery along the Marsh coastline.

2/ to stop the British holding it and pinning the invasion forces in the Romney Marsh area!

3/ Given that the British were likely to blow bridges in the area - the vast majority were pre-mined - it would allow the advancing invasion forces to bridge the canal as needed, rather than force a crosing under fire.

I have to say....THIS element of the plan makes far more sense than Lympne! 8O If they can take and hold the Canal it gives the invaders a sort of "prefabricated bridgehead" once they clear the dfenders out.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Jul 2009 16:07

including 5,000 Aussies and 700 New Zealanders,
I don’t believe Playfair stated when exactly but during this period the New Zealand force, in the counterattack role near this airbase, lost a good chunk of their manpower.
The 700 NZ troops mentioned are the "specialist" troops including foresters, mentioned in Gooner's reference to the NZ Official History that were transferred back to the rest of the 6th Division in the Med before Churchill blocked the rest of the NZEF moving to the Middle East :wink: Going by the Official History, the main part of 5th Brigade remained there until well after the September invasion window.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by Gooner1 » 07 Jul 2009 16:09

phylo_roadking wrote: Their instructions were specific and detailed. Seventh Brigade would deal with airborne landings in the Chatham-Maidstone area; Milforce and 5 Brigade would prepare to counter-attack in the direction of Dover and Folkestone.
Bit more on the specific orders from "MILFORCE OPERATION INSTRUCTION NO.4. 20 Sep 40"

"
4. Tasks in general.

The tasks of N.Z. Div. in order of priority are:
(a) to counter attack vigorously any enemy landing in 1 Lon.
Div. area, especially in the area North and N.W. of DOVER
and FOLKESTONE.
(b) To re-establish the line of ROYAL MILITARY CANAL eastwards
of HAM STREET.
(c) Concurrently with the above, to deal with any hostile air
borne landings in the area SITTINBOURNE - FAVERSHAM -
CHARING - MAIDSTONE.

6. Tasks in particular.

(a) N.Z. Div. less 7 Inf. Bde. Gp. is to be prepared to counter-
attack enemy in area:
(i) North and N.W. of DOVER south of the line SANDWICH (7776)-
WINGHAM (6875) from the direction of CANTERBURY. This will
be known as plan "A".
(ii) N.W. of FOLKESTONE from the direction of SELLINGE (5356)
Plan "B".
(iii) POSTLING GREEN (5153) LYMINGE (6059) - Plan "C"
(b) 7 Inf. Bde. Gp. is to be prepared to:
(i) Attack enemy air-borne landings in the area
SITTINGBOURNE - FAVERSHAM - CHARING - MAIDSTONE.
(ii) From petions [sic] on high ground immediately North of
road HARRIETSHAM (3171) - CHARING - to provide A.A. L.M.G.
defence for move of 5 Inf. Bde. Gp. on that road.
(iii) Support remainder of Div. in Plans "A" "B" OR "C".

INTENTION.

7. MILFORCE will act as Div. Adv. Guard. and will take up a position covering the debussing of 5 Inf. Bde.

14. Speed.
8 m.i.h.

15. Density.
10 v.t.m.
Clanking along at a modest 8 Mph :lol:

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by The_Enigma » 07 Jul 2009 16:25

3/ Given that the British were likely to blow bridges in the area - the vast majority were pre-mined - it would allow the advancing invasion forces to bridge the canal as needed, rather than force a crosing under fire.
I do recall reading that the invasion force was leaving most of its heavy equipment for later waves, which were going to be quite apart time wise. That would make the FJ even more important wouldnt it? Of course accepting that the first line is completly accurate, which am not to sure on at this precise momement.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by Gooner1 » 07 Jul 2009 17:13

phylo_roadking wrote: Taking and holding the line of the Canal was of course going to be important for a number of reasons;

1/ to keep British reinforcements OUT of the Romney Marsh area while the invasion forces come ashore and deal with the relatively heavy defences there; there was a lot of emplaced artillery along the Marsh coastline.

2/ to stop the British holding it and pinning the invasion forces in the Romney Marsh area!

3/ Given that the British were likely to blow bridges in the area - the vast majority were pre-mined - it would allow the advancing invasion forces to bridge the canal as needed, rather than force a crosing under fire.

I have to say....THIS element of the plan makes far more sense than Lympne! 8O If they can take and hold the Canal it gives the invaders a sort of "prefabricated bridgehead" once they clear the dfenders out.

That is all true and well noted. But ... looking at Markus Becker's excellent map (although the German 17. I.D. appears to be landing a lot further East than in other planning maps I've seen) it would appear that the FJ's could only seize one corner of the RMC. The bulk of 4 German divisions would still be hemmed in by the Canal.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Jul 2009 17:19

Gooner - that's a map of the 7th Flieger's drop zones and objectives :wink: It was the 22nd Airlanding that was to move out once landed at Lympne and hold the line of the Canal. I'm not aware of any map for that given that the Canal was marked on maps of the area anyway :) and of course subsequent operations by the 22nd Airlanding reducing the pillboxes lining the north side of the Canal would just be a progression of combat-engineer operations down its length.

EDIT: just had a thought -
it would appear that the FJ's could only seize one corner of the RMC. The bulk of 4 German divisions would still be hemmed in by the Canal.
...one of the vital objective for forces landing anywhere near Folkestone would be moving north-EAST to invest Dover from landwards. Therefore a certain percentage of the forces landing on the beaches at Romney Marsh would be expecting to pass through the 7th Flieger positions on their way towards Dover.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Jul 2009 19:53

Clanking along at a modest 8 Mph :lol:


Depends - would they be sent by train south as far as possible? :wink: Matildas were IIRC only supposed to do ten mile legs between maintenance intervals. They COULD do much more of course - there was IIRC that 100+miles retreat from Belgium into action at Arras without maintenance stops...

But HERE'S the interesting thing...
(ii) N.W. of FOLKESTONE from the direction of SELLINGE (5356)
Plan "B".
(iii) POSTLING GREEN (5153) LYMINGE (6059) - Plan "C"
(b) 7 Inf. Bde. Gp. is to be prepared to:
(i) Attack enemy air-borne landings in the area
8O 8O 8O !

They JUST happen to have been ordered to wander all over the area, starting with trundling across the Second Wave drop zones??? That's a hell of a coincidence...

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 07 Jul 2009 20:24

I do recall reading that the invasion force was leaving most of its heavy equipment for later waves, which were going to be quite apart time wise. That would make the FJ even more important wouldnt it?
There's a possible answer to that in Lucas...
Goetzel now recalls that general Putziger and other officers took part in a wargame at Roubaix, near Lille. The object of the game, attended by more than two hundred Generals and Admirals, was to determine the situation on the ground between the 4th and 6th days of "Seeloewe". It was assumed that by that time paratroops and airlanded troops would have created a bridgehead. It had to be established whether during the 4th or 6th day of the operation enough troops could be brought into the bridgehead to allow a successful breakout. The confidence of the Luftwaffe and Army officers that an attack could succeed was in direct contrast to the pessimism of the Navy and no firm conclusions could be drawn from the war-game. The presence of the Paratroop officers at the game was in Goetzel's opinion, unnecessary, for their strictly airborne role would have been completed by Day 4 of "Seeloewe".
1/ Obviously - the FJ hadn't yet totally recognised or accepted their limitations, despite the object lessions in Norway and Holland! 8O It seems Clausewitz wasn't on the FJ syllabus...

2/ the ARMY at least expected the FJ to be in place for anything up to six days 8O Without Lympne to land heavy weapons and supplies - this was NOT going to happen! In the absence of Lympne...or Lympne with a useable flightline...how are the FJ going to be supplied after the first day? The "suprise" first wave would be ok - the second wave ...difficult - the third wave glider attack would be..."interesting"...but after that, dropping supplies by parachute is going to be VERY problematical in the skies over Kent.

It appears the ARMY expected the FJ to perform quite a respectable blocking action. If ANYTHING occured to delay the FJ timetable, or prevent any element of the airborne force landing or being resupplied...this wasn't going to be successful. In effect - taking Lympne and holding the Royal Military Canal are only tactical operations in support of the overall blocking action. THAT'S the one that's important to the Sealion planners.

(...especially of the British hit them early and hard - as it now looks as if they were ready to do...)

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by Bergedorf » 07 Jul 2009 23:11

8th RTR at this time were equipped with Matildas (the majority actually Matilda Is IIRC)
One Companys of Matilda I and one Company of Matilda II according to:
HILDA’S BOYS
THE STORY OF
THE 8th ROYAL TANK REGIMENT

By
Peter Gudgin
A former Adjutant of the Regiment:
The Battalion Ordnance Mechanical Engineer (OME), Lieutenant MC Clear was posted out of the Battalion on the 17th August, while, on the 24th, with the Battalion at last up to strength with some 50 “I” tanks, a revised tank allocation to squadrons was introduced; C Squadron was to remain entirely equipped with the Infantry Tank Mark II (Matilda), whilst the other two tank squadrons had only “I” Tanks Mark I.
best regards

Dirk

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