Operation Sealion - Seriously considered or just a feint?

Discussions on every day life in the Weimar Republic, pre-anschluss Austria, Third Reich and the occupied territories. Hosted by Vikki.
Gwynn Compton
Member
Posts: 2840
Joined: 10 Mar 2002 22:46
Location: United Kingdom

Operation Sealion - Seriously considered or just a feint?

Post by Gwynn Compton » 15 Dec 2003 23:13

Was Hitler intent on invading Britain, or were the Sealion preperations part of a feint to try to convince Britain to make peace? Having recently watched a show on the history channel about the Battle of Britain, a German veteran suggested that it was all just a feint to compel Britain to make peace.

Gwynn

User avatar
redcoat
Member
Posts: 1361
Joined: 03 Mar 2003 21:54
Location: Stockport, England

Re: Operation Sealion - Seriously considered or just a feint

Post by redcoat » 16 Dec 2003 00:22

Gwynn Compton wrote:Was Hitler intent on invading Britain, or were the Sealion preperations part of a feint to try to convince Britain to make peace? Having recently watched a show on the history channel about the Battle of Britain, a German veteran suggested that it was all just a feint to compel Britain to make peace.
Gwynn
It did start out as a proper attempt to organise an invasion force, but very quickly the German High Command realised that invasion was beyond their capacities. But instead of halting the build-up they carried it on as a faint, in order to keep-up the pressure on the British
However having said that, if British resistance had collapsed in the air-war, I think it possible the Germans might have attempted some sort of small scale landing in order to force the British to seek peace.

User avatar
Tim Smith
Member
Posts: 6177
Joined: 19 Aug 2002 12:15
Location: UK

Post by Tim Smith » 16 Dec 2003 00:35

Hitler was always half-hearted about invading Britain since in his little dream-world Britain was supposed to become his ally, or at least a neutral. He basically hoped that Britain would cave in before the invasion went ahead. But Goring was all for the invasion and so were most of the senior army generals. However Raeder, commander of the Kreigsmarine, knew that his fleet was too weak to protect the invasion fleet, and was telling Hitler not to risk it unless the RAF and RN were neutralised first. Hitler listened to Raeder.

The Germans were serious about Sealion until September 17th, after that it became a feint as the Luftwaffe grew visibly weaker and had obviously failed to subdue the RAF.

After the Battle of Britain the Germans tried to downplay their defeat by claiming the whole thing was a gigantic bluff. Even Adolf Galland, normally an honest man, said of the Battle of Britain: "There was no battle, and therefore we did not lose it."

These are the words of a man trying to fool himself.

User avatar
Deterance
Member
Posts: 1248
Joined: 26 Apr 2003 03:10
Location: Republic of Texas

Post by Deterance » 16 Dec 2003 06:24

Tim Smith wrote: The Germans were serious about Sealion until September 17th, after that it became a feint as the Luftwaffe grew visibly weaker and had obviously failed to subdue the RAF.
Even with a large degree of aerial superiority, the Germans still had to deal with the Royal Navy.

Any attempt to cross The Channel would have resulted in an all out effort by the British to destroy the landing fleet with Naval Gunfire, submarines and remaining air assets. In the confined areas of the Channel, a few British Battleships or cruisers in landing fleet would be catostrophic.

-German surface navy didnot have anywhere near the skills to fight the Royal Navy ship to ship.
-Short distances involved would ensure that more than a few British warships would survive aerial/U-Boat attacks to destroy landing force.

User avatar
Daniel^1
Member
Posts: 28
Joined: 02 Sep 2003 22:13
Location: Australia

Post by Daniel^1 » 16 Dec 2003 14:44

Remember it took almost the entire royal navy to sink one ship after the pride of the British navy was blown out of the water in minutes. A lucky shot, the same could be said for the swordfish pilot who hit the rudder of the Bismark. Being a land locked country and under the treaty of versaile for 15 years doesn't help one build a navy.
And last time I checked, battle ships and cruisers don't stand up well to air attack. (Midway, Toranto, Yamato and Coral Sea).

I believe Hitler had already pushed his luck far enough with France and wanted an easy victory against England or even better a truce. Realistically if it took great Britain, US and Commonwealth 4 years to build an invasion force agianst an already weakened Germany Army what hope did Germany have with a 4 week preperation time? Too many people I believe overestimate the Battle of Britain in importance since it didn't really affect Hitler's real intention of attacking USSR. If victory in the East was quick no one would be talking about the battle of Britain. All Hitler wanted to do was avoid a war on two fronts which did for a while. Even if England was defeated Germany would still have lost against the Soviet Union. Hitler had dreamed that all the west would fight against the communists and be united with Germany.

He was wrong

tonyh
Member
Posts: 2911
Joined: 19 Mar 2002 12:59
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Post by tonyh » 16 Dec 2003 16:05

Hitler's stomping towards Britain was always bluff. From the very beginning, Sealion was a non-starter. Even Churchill said that "The German's may come, but they won't come by Sealion". And that was in August 1940. Before the so called "Battle of Britain" even got into full swing.

The Battle of Britain therefore remains a German attempt to stall any attempt by the British to bring the war to Germany, by either destroying the RAF or trying to rupture it enough as to render it impotent for the foreseeable future. Hitler's eyes were always turned towards the East, the Western events were simply precipitated by Britain and France's silly declaration of war in September 1939.

Tim, can you prove this quote by Galland? I have heard that some old Luftwaffe men say that there never really was a "Battle for Britain" and in a way they're correct, but I have never heard, or read that Galland was supposed to have said it. He certainly didn't say this in his autobiography "First and the last" or even in the Biograghy about him. It certainly doesn't sound like a Galland quote.

Tony

Tiornu
Member
Posts: 922
Joined: 20 Aug 2003 20:16
Location: NAmerica

BB

Post by Tiornu » 16 Dec 2003 19:58

"And last time I checked, battle ships and cruisers don't stand up well to air attack. (Midway, Toranto, Yamato and Coral Sea)." In fact, battleships do extremely well against air attack. In all of World War II, not one single battleship was sunk by air attack while protected by a healthy CAP. The same cannot be said of aircraft carriers.
However, battleships do not figure in this topic as the RN had no intentions of sending its battleships against an invasion fleet. No need--the RN was loaded with flotilla vessels to do the job.

User avatar
Andy H
Forum Staff
Posts: 15313
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
Location: UK and USA

Post by Andy H » 16 Dec 2003 21:22

Remember it took almost the entire royal navy to sink one ship
A rather over simplistic analysis dont you think?

Andy H

User avatar
Andy H
Forum Staff
Posts: 15313
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
Location: UK and USA

Post by Andy H » 16 Dec 2003 21:36

Tony H wrote
Hitler's stomping towards Britain was always bluff
Hi Tony, I agree that it started out like that, but it morphed into a real attempt and when that failed, they decided to trot out the line that it was never really going to happen anyway. For the Luftwaffe it was a costly and expensive bluff in both men and machines given what was coming in the East.
The Battle of Britain therefore remains a German attempt to stall any attempt by the British to bring the war to Germany, by either destroying the RAF or trying to rupture it enough as to render it impotent for the foreseeable future
Britain had a very very limited ability to strike at Germany proper and the RAF's losses whilst doing it were wasteful and suicidal given the planes at hand. As you well know Britain didn't really start to cause Germany too many sleepless nights (No pun intended) till late '43 onwards.

If they wanted to render the RAF impotent for the foreseeable future (Whatever that is) why did it not make Britains A/C factories a priority target, and this would have to be a substained campaign and not a flash in the pan.

Andy H

alf
Member
Posts: 1343
Joined: 09 Oct 2003 10:45
Location: Australia

Post by alf » 16 Dec 2003 22:13

Why would the Royal Navy bother with gunfire to sink barges? And Churchill did did have the Admilitary agree to use its battleships in the event of an invasion

Simply high speed passes through the flotillas and the ships wake would do they rest.

From pictures I have seen of the "invasion fleet" being assembled, two factors emege; the majority was not very sea worthy and any men travelling in them would have probaly been so sea sick by the time they arrived on shore to be useless for a few hours.

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8879
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Post by michael mills » 17 Dec 2003 00:07

In November 1940, Germany proposed to the Soviet Union that it join a Four-Power Pact (Germany, Italy, Soviet Union, Japan), directed against Britain,

The role of the Soviet Union under that proposed pact would be to expand to the south, toward Iran, Afghanistan and eventually India. Such an expansion would inevitably brought the Soviet Union into conflict with Britain in the region of the Persian Gulf and/or India (much as later happened in the 1980s).

The condition set by Germany was that the Soviet Union should abandon its ambitions to expand further into the Baltic area (Finland) and into the Balkans (Bulgaria, Turkey), and not contest German hegemony in those areas.

If the Soviet Union had agreed to join the Four-Power Pact on German terms, it would have meant that Britain would have been engaged against the Soviet Union in the Persian Gulf region and against Japan in the Far East. Given the resultant stretching of British forces, and the dispersion of British naval power to defend India, Burma, Malaya, Singapore, the defence of the Home Islands might have been sufficiently weakened to allow Germany to risk a cross-Channel invasion in 1941 with good prospects of success.

As it happened, Stalin did send a written response offering to join the Four-Power pact, but on his own terms; he demanded the right to expand into Finland, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Since Stalin knew that those conditions were absolutely unacceptable to Germany, his response must be seen as a de facto refusal. Stalin had made the decision not to join Germany in its war against Britain, but to remain neutral, thus retaining the option of joining the war against Germany at some later time of his own choosing, when both Germany and Britain would have been sufficiently weakened by their mutual conflict.

It was at that point that Hitler realised that the Soviet Union would eventually attack Germany, and he decided on a preventive war against it; his "Weisung Barbarossa" was issued on 18 December 1940.

From that point on, all thought of an invasion of Britain in 1941 was abandoned. Any further preparations for Sealion were essentially a cover for the preparations to invade the Soviet Union, which did not become definitive until the Soviet Union formed an anti-German alliance with Yugoslavia in the first week of April 1941 (rendered nugatory by the immediate German invasion of that country).

Hop
Member
Posts: 570
Joined: 09 Apr 2002 00:55
Location: United Kingdom

Post by Hop » 17 Dec 2003 01:12

Sea Lion started off as a hedge against Britain refusing to seek peace. As the summer wore on, Sea Lion became the only German plan for defeating Britain.
From the very beginning, Sealion was a non-starter. Even Churchill said that "The German's may come, but they won't come by Sealion". And that was in August 1940.
RV Jones notes in Most Secret War thaty Churchill was initially sceptical about an invasion, but became convinced after seeing the amount of information coming in from Enigma intercepts.
It did start out as a proper attempt to organise an invasion force, but very quickly the German High Command realised that invasion was beyond their capacities. But instead of halting the build-up they carried it on as a faint, in order to keep-up the pressure on the British
Sea Lion continued as an actual plan until late September at least. It's interesting to note the orders coming from Hitler regarding Sea Lion:

"The C. in C., Navy, having reported on July 31 that the necessary preparations for Sea Lion could not be completed before September 15, the Fuehrer has ordered:
Preparations for Sea Lion are to be continued and completed by the Army and Air Force by September 15.
Eight to fourteen days after the launching of the air offensive against Britain, scheduled to begin about August 5, the Fuehrer will decide whether the invasion will take place this year or not; his decision will depend largely on the outcome of the air offensive ...
In spite of the Navy's warning that it can guarantee only the defense of a narrow strip of coast (as far west as Eastbourne), preparations are to be continued for the attack on a broad basis, as originally planned"

That was on 1st Aug. On 14th September:

"The Fuehrer has decided:
The start of Operation Sea Lion is again postponed. A new order follows September 17. All preparations are to be continued."

But by 12th October, when the invasion was finally postponed, the orders were:

"The Fuehrer has decided that from now on until the spring, preparations for "Sea Lion" shall be continued solely for the purpose of maintaining political and military pressure on England.
Should the invasion be reconsidered in the spring or early summer of 1941, orders for a renewal of operational readiness will be issued later"

That was the first mention of Sea Lion being a feint, and it wasn't until after the chance of invasion had passed. If Sea Lion had been a feint, that's the order that would be issued at the start.

The quotes are from Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by Shirer. He goes in to some detail about the discussions going on in the German high command about Sea Lion, and it's clear that Hitler was agonising about the invasion descision until mid - late September.

Tiornu
Member
Posts: 922
Joined: 20 Aug 2003 20:16
Location: NAmerica

Post by Tiornu » 17 Dec 2003 02:24

"Remember it took almost the entire royal navy to sink one ship "
"A rather over simplistic analysis dont you think?"
Yes, I'd suggest a different perspective--the British had an entire fleet available to face one German ship.

User avatar
Andy H
Forum Staff
Posts: 15313
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
Location: UK and USA

Post by Andy H » 17 Dec 2003 03:23

"Remember it took almost the entire royal navy to sink one ship "
"A rather over simplistic analysis dont you think?"
Yes, I'd suggest a different perspective--the British had an entire fleet available to face one German ship.
and who said whit was dead within TRHF :wink:

Andy H

tonyh
Member
Posts: 2911
Joined: 19 Mar 2002 12:59
Location: Dublin, Ireland

Post by tonyh » 17 Dec 2003 12:29

Andy H wrote:Hi Tony, I agree that it started out like that, but it morphed into a real attempt and when that failed, they decided to trot out the line that it was never really going to happen anyway. For the Luftwaffe it was a costly and expensive bluff in both men and machines given what was coming in the East.
Well, you missing the point somewhat. Hitler's bluff was that Germany was going to launch a land invasion and occupation of Britain. Adlertag etc was a very real operation and designed to knock out Britain's ability to wage war by pounding her into "peace terms". But the invasion/occupation threat was never, ever going to be realised.
Britain had a very very limited ability to strike at Germany proper and the RAF's losses whilst doing it were wasteful and suicidal given the planes at hand. As you well know Britain didn't really start to cause Germany too many sleepless nights (No pun intended) till late '43 onwards.

If they wanted to render the RAF impotent for the foreseeable future (Whatever that is) why did it not make Britains A/C factories a priority target, and this would have to be a substained campaign and not a flash in the pan.
At the time, Britain's ability for an air war over Germany was somewhat limited, as far as a Bombing campaign (in the 1943 sense) was concerned. But high command was aware that the RAF possessed the possibility to attack in the future. But the bombing attacks were not really Hitler's main concern in 1940. He simply wanted britain "out of the equasion" as it were. As long as Britain was an active player in the war, she was a threat. She had already caused a radical change in Hitler's plans with the declaration of war in September 1939 and in April 1940 with her ambitions in Norway. An aggressive Britain was something that Hitler didn't need when his back was turned towards the East.

Tony

Return to “Life in the Third Reich & Weimar Republic”