Intended FJ role in Sealion

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phylo_roadking
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Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 02 Jul 2009 02:31

All, it was only when discussing the general shortage o JU52s in the summer of 1940 after operations in Norway and Holland and how that and other problems would affect the roles envisaged for the FJ in Sealion - that I became aware how thin on the ground details on that role in print actually are!

MacDonald refers to it briefly in his book on Crete; he notes that in the first draft of the Sealion plans, the only role foreseen for the FJ were drops on the high ground north of Dover and at Brighton to secure the flanks of the invasion, but SO many physical obstacles were evident on the planned landing grounds that finally any airborne role at all for them was ruled out, and the 7th Flieger and 22nd Airlanding divisions were to be relegated wholly to the General Reserve.

The problems cited by MacDonald as leading to this were - in no particular order or precednece -

1/ the shortage of Ju52s (as discussed elsewhere); over the summer of 1940 Junkers worked hard at repairing as many of the aircraft damaged in Norway and the West as possible...but it's own new-build rate seems to have been quite slow, down around 25-just over 30 a month - and this took a back seat for June and part of July because of the reconstruction/cannibalisation work. Between the losses in Norway and those in Holland, over 2/5s of the Transportverband's Ju52's had been destroyed.

2/ By the end of the summer, the numbers lost in Norway and Holland had been made good - but very few of these new volunteers had as yet received their jump training! Some of the losses suffered by the FJ had been quite horrendous - the high-casualty blocking action at Donbas in Norway, for instance...where their inserting Ju52s had to fly BELOW the level of Norwegian machinegunners in the mountains around the Donbas drop zone, leaving them like sitting ducks...the losses at Rotterdam...and the very-effectively defended airfields they assaulted in Norway and Holland...together of course with the casualties from cracked-up aircraft attempting to landing on boggy and wreckage-strewn Norwegian strips, flooded Dutch strips, and the unsuitable sands out at Zandvoort on the Dutch coast when they ran out of room anywhere else...

3/ an overall shortage of SILK! After the conquest of France the Germans had to scour France for material suitable for parachutes.

4/ a shortage of gliders; operations in the Spring had used up nearly the whole of the Luftwaffe's existing stock.

5/ a general unwillingness on the part of OKH to get involved in the same sort of mess the FJ got themselves into in Holland (so Halder records in his diary). They didn't want the whole focus of the Sealion beach landings to change into making fast, costly dashes to relieve FJs marooned far behind enemy lines as had happened in Holland.

It was only when the recovering Student (from his Austrian sanatorium, he was recovering from a head wound received in Holland) heard how limited this role was to be in the original plans that he sent Gen Putziger hotfoot to OKH to beg a greater role for the FJ.

It was now decided that Eben Emael-style combat engineer landings should be made to take out the coastal gun batteries north and south of Dover. And a SECOND role was now planned for the FJ; the 7th Flieger were to make TWO mass airborne landings, at Hythe and Hawkinge, to assemble then take Lympne airfield...after which the 22nd Airlanding could be brought in. The FJ would then move to a secondary objective - and secure the line of the Royal Military Canal through Romney Marsh. Once they were relieved - both the Lympne and RMC objectives were very close to the landing beaches - they would go back into the General Reserve for the ground fighting to come.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 02 Jul 2009 02:35

At THIS point I came across a copy of James Lucas' Storming Eagles I'd forgotten I had! He of course gives more detail on this operation - MacDonald's data was just an in-passing resumee of events leading up to Crete, after all.

It was proposed that two minutes after dawn, Meindl's battalion would drop around Hythe while Bruno Brauer's would jump over Paddlesworth and Etchinghill. Both groups were to rendezvous at Sandgate...and while they did so, the Ju52's were to return to France to emplane Stenzler's battalion. This would drop around the villages of Sellinge and Postling, rendezvous in turn with the first wave, and then begin to surround Lympne airfield. A combined attack was THEN to be carried out on the airfield - a simultaneous ground attack by the three units on the ground, and a glider attack on the airfield itself....by the Ju52s returning a THIRD time. After taking the airfield they were to immdiately to move to the north and secure the high ground overlooking the airfield.

Once Lympne was in the FJ's hands, a FOURTH return wave of the same Ju52s was to bring in the 22nd Airlanding, who would thicken the perimeter than move out to take position along the line of the Royal Military Canal. After this, if all went to plan, the Luftwaffe could fly in a forward operating unit and Bf109s could be put into Lympne...hopefully!

Well - you can see the obvious difficulties!!! Mandated by the lower-than-ideal number of suitable transport aircraft - TWO waves had to drop parachute troops and two separate rendezvous had to be made...even before a THIRD wave of the same aircraft on a return leg brought gliders into Lympne for the final assault. So ANY delay anywhere in that timetable pushes the airfield attack further and further back through the day, giving the British time to react in whatever way they could in the area.

Whatever happens IN FRANCE - even if no runways are blocked by damaged aircraft crashlanding on their return, and all personnel in all waves are loaded to schedule....LOL...the second, third and fourth waves will be flying through an aerial combat zone as Fighter Command tries to regain air superiority over the invasion beaches. Likewise the area will be filled with the RAF's "Banquet Bombers" - light and training aircraft converted to drop Mustard Gas and Paris Green weedkiller on the beaches....AND Bomber Command will have its medium bombers...its Blenheims with their crews exhausted by nights of pre-invasion bargebusting...in the Kent and Sussex areas...

Those sucessive waves of Ju52s are going to be taking cumulative losses as the fly back and forth over the invasion area. The number of aircraft available for each successive wave is going to decline.
Last edited by phylo_roadking on 02 Jul 2009 02:44, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 02 Jul 2009 02:41

Lucas goes on to identify a couple of other "new" problems...

1/ the training aspect resurfaces; the new recruits of the half-reformed 7th Flieger would "not have undergone the training exercises which convert groups of soldiers into crack battalions"...especially the light skirmishing and squad tactics that airborne forces specialised in in the field. Of course they would fight to the utmost of their ability - but it wasn't the cohesive 7th Flieger of the start of April 1940...

2/ as well as shortage of planes...and parachute silk - there was ALSO a shortage of trained dispatchers in the FJ as a result of events earlier in the year.

3/ Britain in the autumn of 1940 wasn't Crete of 8-9 months' development of X Flieger Korps and its support echelons later; the FJ still didn't have any heavy-lift capacity as of 1940. They would be dropping without anti-tank guns, transport, any form of armour even the lightest armoured car. How long would they be expected to hold on? Could the ever-diminishing Ju52 fleet carry in enough supplies to keep the 7th Flieger and 22nd Airlanding fighting until they should be relieved - if there was any delay at all?

Now...this is where details on the plans starts to dry up; Lucas notes that some details and a rough map of the drop zones survived in the IWN. He would know - when Storming Eagles was being written he was the Deputy Head of the Dept. of Photographs at the IWM! The rest of his short chapter on Sealion and the FJs deals with the preparations through the summer rather than the plans...

So does anyone know more???

EDIT: one of the areas I'm currently trying to uncover is the actual defences at Lympne. Over the last few years I've become increasingly aware that defences around RAF airfields were actually quite strong, with a variety of standard defensive works and emplacements. Last month Britain At War ran an article on the sort of defences the RAF had on the ground, and I'm aware each field had a defensive force of the RAF Regiment and a minimum of two A-T guns or weapons of some type. I also had a chance a couple of years ago to crawl (literally now!) through surviving BoB-era airfield defences here in Northern Ireland - and they were as hardened as any British pillbox of the invasion threat period.

But I'd like to lay my hands on a diagram or map of the specific defences at Lympne.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by Markus Becker » 02 Jul 2009 09:59

Does "Operation Seeadler" ring a bell or why do you go into this topic?
I ask about Lympne´s defences elsewhere.

By the way, thanks to you we now know why all those Landsers wanted to get into the pants of the french chicks. :lol:

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by Ironmachine » 02 Jul 2009 10:36

phylo_roadking wrote:EDIT: one of the areas I'm currently trying to uncover is the actual defences at Lympne. Over the last few years I've become increasingly aware that defences around RAF airfields were actually quite strong, with a variety of standard defensive works and emplacements. Last month Britain At War ran an article on the sort of defences the RAF had on the ground, and I'm aware each field had a defensive force of the RAF Regiment and a minimum of two A-T guns or weapons of some type. I also had a chance a couple of years ago to crawl (literally now!) through surviving BoB-era airfield defences here in Northern Ireland - and they were as hardened as any British pillbox of the invasion threat period.
Just a minor point, but if we are talking about Sealion time, then the defensive forces could not not have been part of the RAF Regiment, as this unit was formed in 1942.
See, for example, their own official page:
http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafregiment/history/

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by Inselaffe » 02 Jul 2009 13:54

Phylo,

You're probably already aware of this but have you looked at http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/specCol ... N=27988914 There may be material there about the defences at Lympne, I've just had a quick look and didn't see anything :lol: but it's not the most user friendly site! I did see plenty of stuff on Hawkinge however.

It's a good resource for any research around British invasion defences though it'll be a better one when they present it in a more accessible way. Re the airfields and any possible coup de main op by the Fallschirmjäger, all the airfield sites in the UK from the period that I know appear to have had very substantial defences, I suspect that they'd have been too tough a nut under the circumstances.

Cheers.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by Gooner1 » 02 Jul 2009 14:37

Inselaffe wrote:Phylo,

You're probably already aware of this but have you looked at http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/specCol ... N=27988914 There may be material there about the defences at Lympne, I've just had a quick look and didn't see anything :lol: but it's not the most user friendly site! I did see plenty of stuff on Hawkinge however.
Cheers.
They have an excellent Google Earth plug-in. Lympne airfield has maybe 6 or 7 pillboxes surrounding it.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by The_Enigma » 02 Jul 2009 14:43

Very intresting posts thus far!
Those sucessive waves of Ju52s are going to be taking cumulative losses as the fly back and forth over the invasion area. The number of aircraft available for each successive wave is going to decline.
Does any of the information you looked though take into account or discuss the fleet declining in numbers due to wastage as the operation proceeded? It seems a little off but it looks like they were banging on perfect conditions for all the lifts (sounds sorta simlar to a more famous operation launched later in the war by the allies).
EDIT: one of the areas I'm currently trying to uncover is the actual defences at Lympne. Over the last few years I've become increasingly aware that defences around RAF airfields were actually quite strong, with a variety of standard defensive works and emplacements. Last month Britain At War ran an article on the sort of defences the RAF had on the ground, and I'm aware each field had a defensive force of the RAF Regiment and a minimum of two A-T guns or weapons of some type. I also had a chance a couple of years ago to crawl (literally now!) through surviving BoB-era airfield defences here in Northern Ireland - and they were as hardened as any British pillbox of the invasion threat period.
That "The Real Dads Army" that we discussed earlier this year talked about this; defensive positions facing in and out - to defend the fields from Fallschirmjager attacks from the outside and to shoot up anyone stupid enough to try and land on the fields themselves ala the role of the glide borne chaps you noted.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by Gooner1 » 02 Jul 2009 15:04

phylo_roadking wrote: It was proposed that two minutes after dawn, Meindl's battalion would drop around Hythe while Bruno Brauer's would jump over Paddlesworth and Etchinghill. Both groups were to rendezvous at Sandgate...and while they did so, the Ju52's were to return to France to emplane Stenzler's battalion. This would drop around the villages of Sellinge and Postling, rendezvous in turn with the first wave, and then begin to surround Lympne airfield.
But what about the British Herr General? :lol:

Hythe was a strange area to select as a dropping zone - it was, and is, home to the army Small Arms Training School. Couldn't find a greater concentration of crack shots if you tried.
Postling was home to the Headquarters of 1st London Infantry Brigade, probably not a good place to be dropping either.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 02 Jul 2009 15:44

They have an excellent Google Earth plug-in. Lympne airfield has maybe 6 or 7 pillboxes surrounding it.
Gooner, does the plug-in highlight the positions of still-existing pillboxes, or "period" ones?
Hythe was a strange area to select as a dropping zone - it was, and is, home to the army Small Arms Training School. Couldn't find a greater concentration of crack shots if you tried.
Postling was home to the Headquarters of 1st London Infantry Brigade, probably not a good place to be dropping either
Yes, I went past it on the bike one noisy working day in 1988 :lol: I was suprised then - knowing what very little I knew then - how close the proposed operation was to units and defences positioned actually ON the coast. IIRC in a couple of places you could actually SEE Lympne airfield from the physical invasion defences still extant on the coastline - and in 1940 the surrounding countryside would be even more exposed without the last 60+ years of protecting tree growth. Any delay in either the two initial waves OR the two rendezvous before any attack on Lympne could actually take place - and the FJ wouldn't facing Home Guard and the RAF, they'd be facing re-positioned regulars 8O All which is in turn going to play havoc with the envelopment planned for before the actual airfield assault would take place...
Does any of the information you looked though take into account or discuss the fleet declining in numbers due to wastage as the operation proceeded? It seems a little off but it looks like they were banging on perfect conditions for all the lifts (sounds sorta simlar to a more famous operation launched later in the war by the allies).
Lucas doesn't mention that being taken into account; MacDonald later in The Lost Batle references the many issues at makeshift landing fields in Greece that greatly slowed down refueling and turnround of aircraft from the first and each successive wave, so that a cumulative delay built up through the timetable.

In 1941 in Crete, the problem with delayed follow-up waves was that losses on the first landings left the attackers short of men and supplies and in several locations unable to action their objectives. In Kent however...there is that series of FIVE very specific Points-Of-Failure - the TWO landings, the TWO rendezvous, and the surrounding of Lympne airfield - that can occur BEFORE an attack on Lympne can be launched.

I've seen OOBs for the Luftwaffe's combat forces for Sealion in the past - not not very much detail at all on the Transportverband's arrnagements - fields to be used, support units assigned etc. Does Peter Schenk's book on the German preparations for Sealion have much on that aspect?
and to shoot up anyone stupid enough to try and land on the fields themselves ala the role of the glide borne chaps you noted.
This was the lesson from Norway and Holland - that at that time the preferred FJ tactic was a "shock" landing right on the airfield and overwhelm the defenders. Arguably the plan to land sufficient forces to group and surround the airfield, and then to co-ordinate their attack with the gilderborne assault is the FJ learning from their mistakes on the continent, despite the lauding of the operations there as tactically successful.

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by The_Enigma » 02 Jul 2009 16:10

In 1941 in Crete, the problem with delayed follow-up waves was that losses on the first landings left the attackers short of men and supplies and in several locations unable to action their objectives. In Kent however...there is that series of FIVE very specific Points-Of-Failure - the TWO landings, the TWO rendezvous, and the surrounding of Lympne airfield - that can occur BEFORE an attack on Lympne can be launched.
Am I right in saying that Operation Tonga had been planned for months? Using Merville and Pegasus as examples, even the best laid plans can go astray i.e. 1 glider being flown by crack pilots down the wrong river and most of the men not arriving to take on the battery.

The Fallschirmjager plan, like Sealion, am assuming was a rush job? Also there seems to be so many “ifs” involved and requires too much on good fortune – all the men getting down in the right area together, rendezvousing together before even surrounding and assaulting the target.

Could have it worked?

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 02 Jul 2009 16:35

IIRC planning for Operation TONGA began as far back as February 1944, after some considerable delay in actually identifying a role for British Airborne in Overlord through the second half of 1943! Ambrose's Pegasus Bridge gives a very good picture of the rigorous training and planning carried out for the operation right down at unit level.

The revised role for the FJ detailed above certainly doesn't predate the issue of Directive No. 16 on 16th July; so at best - with a target date of the end of the first week of September - they had just over a month and a half to prepare...and this don't forget this six weeks ALSO involved a host of preparatory work such as identifying forward assembly areas and depots in France by FJ officers themselves...

Lucas was in communication during his research for Stroming Eagles with a Hermann Goetzel, an FJ captain and company commander in the summer of 1940. He was transferred up to 7th Flieger's HQ as Ib (today's G4) and through the first part of the summer was caught up with the raising and equiping of the new volunteers. Only as late as the 7th-8th of September was he ordered, along with two other captains, to select airfields in Belgium and Northern France to act as departure fields for the operation, and identify a large building near Laon to act as a supply depot. Once the 8 airfields were identified, and permission given by Putziger...Goetzel was THEN concerned with timetabling the movement of 7th Flieger and 22nd Airlanding from their depots all over Germany to the fields concerned....! A busy chap in a very short time! 8O

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by The_Enigma » 02 Jul 2009 16:58

I just realised I was asking whether or not it could have worked based on the short amount of time they had to prepare for it compared to the months the 6th Airborne had however Market Garden was slapped together in a short space of time; however am thinking the divisions involved didn’t have to worry about identifying airfields to take off from, the large scale training of personal to refill the ranks or the large scale repairing of machines. I guess the other thing would be numerous combat drops, experienced men and pilots and 4 years of war played their part in being able to launch such an operation in such quick time – the market-garden force didn’t have as much on their plate so to speak?

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by phylo_roadking » 02 Jul 2009 18:00

the market-garden force didn’t have as much on their plate so to speak?
T-E, Carl Schwamberger has a WI going on this exact subject at the minute; after D-Day and the Normandy breakout, the Allies advanced far faster on the ground into France and up into Southern Holland than ever anticipated, so fast that it overcame on the ground a number of lesser objectives that it were considered as targets of an airborne attack at some point.
but if we are talking about Sealion time, then the defensive forces could not not have been part of the RAF Regiment, as this unit was formed in 1942.
I-M, quite right, they received their Royal Warrant on the 1st of February 1942. Prior to that however, and after the Dunkirk evacuation, there was a growing awarenes that the Army would be too stretched to provide a full defence for RAF fields, so there was a growth station by station of airfield defence detachments...a "tradition" that had already begun in the Empire in the 1920s with the creation of the Armoured Car Companies for airfield defence in the Middle East. Crete of course was the final major catalyst for the official mustering of the regiment, when the Army proved incapable of defending the island's three vital airfields.

In a number of reference works, however, the term "RAF Regiment" sems to be used retrospectively to cover the airfield detachments :? In David Orr's Duty Without Honour, his recent and comprehensive history of the Ulster Home Guard and it's role in the defence of Northern Ireland including its airfields - he follows this strange practice, referring to "RAF Regiment" arms and defensive positions as a generic term back into 1941. I suppose it's an attractive shorthand for authors.

Along with the list of Lympne's defences, it would be interesting to find out what the station mustered as defensive manpower on the ground in 1940.

NOTE: what I do know is that Home Guard units in the UK in the vicinty of airfields often exercised and trained as part of the local defensive plans for such installations...

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Re: Intended FJ role in Sealion

Post by Gooner1 » 03 Jul 2009 10:41

The_Enigma wrote: The Fallschirmjager plan, like Sealion, am assuming was a rush job? Also there seems to be so many “ifs” involved and requires too much on good fortune – all the men getting down in the right area together, rendezvousing together before even surrounding and assaulting the target.

Could have it worked?
'The Bde Gp detailed to recapture LYMPNE
aerodrome left the concentration area at 0400
hrs, [12 Feb] debussed at ALDINGTON and
endeavoured to put in an attack before first
light at 0700 hrs. This was not successful,
and the Bde Gp eventually attacked with
artillery and M.G. support at 1130 hrs.' :lol:

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