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Old August 27th, 2017, 03:50 PM   #11

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While I've been out and away when I'd gotten the next chapters in this book, the review DOES continue, and to make up for it, I'll have a few chapters to add at once...

The review continues with chapter seven...

Chapter Seven: Feasibility of S-Tag, 25 September 1940

In this chapter, Forczyk begins to actually get into many of the aspects of conflict between Britain and Germany after the fall of France that would bring many of the book's aspects together and beginning to actually hit on Forczyk's thesis. The earlier chapters all discuss certain aspects that build up background information, capabilities, and other relevant information that would influence how any sort of battle would develop. Here, Forczyk begins to bring all of that together, and ultimately in a way that supports his thesis.

He begins with moving over the plan of movement the Germans had for moving their forces, which he does state was overly complex, would potentially see trouble from the weather in the Channel and the inexperience of their officers and crew at conducting an operation. At the same time, Forczyk also makes a point that while officers such as Raeder were constantly trying to undermine Sea Lion and Germany's launching of the operation, more local naval commanders did feel more confident than their commander. Kapitan zur See Erich Lehmann, assigned to assemble the invasion flotilla at Ostend, held higher confidence and said after the war that they could have crossed. Though, it should also be remembered that in many cases with German offices, there is the potential for Lehmann's testimony being shaped more by the outcome of the war than anything else and that given his position, his confidence doesn't necessarily mean that the operation was truly serious in and of itself. It can be indicative that Sea Lion was not universally opposed, but that is about all that it accomplishes.

Regardless, Forczyk then moves step by step through the various moves that the Germans had to move their men with preparations starting at varying days as early as S-9 to S-5 and on S-1 they would begin to sail out. He also provides the lay out for how the various invasion fleets were to be organized and where they would move to along the British coast. On page 241 he even provides a map to more clearly point to this make up of German forces. It is also noted that the echelons of Germany's movement would tend to become strung out as they moved and would continue to be plagued by issues related to disagreements between the German Army and Navy and that after landing, despite wishes to try to keep things together until the channel could be cleared, many ships would head out to return to France to get to the second wave, though Forczyk adds the point that it could take up to two weeks before that second wave could be readied.

Forczyk, next, moves on to the escort plan and how the Germans planned to protect their invasion convoys. It is commonly stated that Germans lacked the surface warships to escort the invasion convoys. On some sense this would make some sense, but it is often made with little real context to the over all situation. Germany's heavy forces were weakened by the Norwegian Campaign and the slowness of construction on ships like Bismarck and Tirpitz, but it isn't as though the Germans lacked any heavy warships. They didn't have many, but they did have the Admiral Hipper, the light cruisers Koln and Nurnberg that were available for use... but inter-service rivalries soon came into play. Halder and Army favored their inclusion in Sea Lion to provide their escorts with more striking power. Raeder, however, protective of his ships moved them to a deception operation, Herbstreise, rather than the actual invasion, Sea Lion...

This would mean that the Germans would be SHORT of major warships to commit, but this more due to Germany's own strategic decisions than to its limitations. In this, the German plan would ultimately commit 100 surface vessels of varying types. And while all of these were light vessels, they were nothing to sneer at. In fact Admiral Erich Bey did have some modern ships that would provide Germany with some advantages...

Click the image to open in full size.
(Admiral Erich Bey, German commander of invasion flotillas and escort forces in the Channel for Operation Sea Lion)

These included six Type 34A and one Type 36 Destroyer, which were newer than most of the destroyers the British had in the Channel, not to mention better armed...

Click the image to open in full size.
(Type 34A German destroyer - image is of the Z5 Paul Jacobi - A newer destroyer that was faster and better armed than much of the British forces in the channel)

Click the image to open in full size.
(Type 36 German destroyer - image is of Z20 Karl Galster as it was in 1945 - A newer destroyer that was faster and better armed than much of the British forces in the channel)

The Germans would also have plenty of schnellbootes, minesweepers, and auxiliary ships committed to help escort the invasion convoys. The most powerful of these were the 20 M-35 class Minesweepers.

Click the image to open in full size.
(German M Class minesweeper, nick-named a "Channel Destroyer)

All of these ships had the potential to give the British trouble, and even the auxiliary Vorpostenboot (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vorpostenboot) had the potential to do so. Mostly because many of the British warships that would be seen and engaged in 1940 were not yet equipped with 20 or 40mm duel purpose guns. By themselves, these ships may be able to defeat the Royal Navy outright, but when combined with the destroyers the Germans did have available, it is clear that they had the ships to cross the channel and support the first wave of landings on the British coast. The issue that Forczyk argues would really hit the Germans is more in whether or not the Kriegesmarine would be able to defend the anchorages it takes in the first wave and the following convoys. And there, the Royal Navy's greater overall numbers would have the potential to grind what naval forces the Germans committed down over time.

From there, Forczyk moves on landing operations, which would be like many German operations in WW2, a gamble dependent on the innate fighting ability of the German soldier in order to pull it off successfully. Some could argue that the lack of concentrated bombing efforts on fortifications would have made the German plan a farce, but Forczyk also makes the point that the Germans were really only vaguely aware of where Britain's defenses even were. It'd be hard to damage what you can't hit or don't know of until you get there... And that depended on the aggressive tactics that so far had gone well for Germany.

And given how... thin... British defenses were in places, it wouldn't be a tactically bad idea to play to those strengths, especially if the Germans DO get across. Though there could still be some difficulties, such as the expectation of Germany's Tauchpanzers struggling with regards to beaches that the British had mined and any potential strong points that the Germans landed near... but if all goes according to plan, it would be expected to have around 40,000 troops ashore by late afternoon on S-Tag. From there the plan would be to consolidate the landings and connect them. This would be difficult, but given the results of continuous actions on the Eastern Front later in the war and even some similar actions in France earlier in the war, it would be reasonably safe to assume that the Germans would manage to accomplish this, in spite of the potential for major fights Lydd and Hastings. German planning generally expected to accomplish this, but that any sort of breakout wouldn't begin until S plus 17/18.

Next, Forczyk moves onto an assessment of the German plans. He opens this section with saying that he wishes to avoid giving a speculative "what if" type of scenario and has stated that others have already done this. He states that his prime goal was to provide the relevant facts and information that would serve to provide help or hindrance to either side, but would ultimately be remiss if he didn't try to provide some general assessment. He also notes that there was another factor to remember in looking at how things would develop... That was luck. In many battles the Germans clearly showed their tendencies to gamble and make the gambles work by doing what was unexpected. And that since many of their other gambles worked... or at least worked to a great degree... the factor of "luck" would come into play against Britain.

And this issue would relate to the fact that in many situations the specific defenses in any one particular area was actually less well prepared than the French defenses were in 1940. That combined with the fact that the British didn't know where the Germans intended to land would give the Germans tremendous advantages in Sea Lion, even if conventional wisdom said otherwise.

In this, Forczyk makes the claim that the first wave would successfully land, though the Germans would take around 4,000 casualties on S Tag, however, by S plus 20, while a stable line in southern England would be achieved, between damaged ports and the limited ability of the ports that were active, only a limited amount of the German second wave would join the German forces in Britain and cannot push out. By the end of the first month, Forczyk expects that each side would have suffered roughly 400,000 casualties in the first month and while the Germans might manage to keep their troops supplied... this would be rather limited... enough to keep the British from overwhelming them but not enough to let them easily advance. In this the fighting in Britain would ultimately settle into a battle of attrition that in many ways neither could afford. The British wouldn't be able to replace their infantry lost in such a battle and the longer it went on the less the Germans would be able to keep their own shipping going for too terribly long... despite BOTH Hitler and Churchill pressing on.

And there, Forczyk makes the case that other factors would come into play. Major fighting in Britain would mean no real reinforcements to the Mediterranean theater, which could well mean that Egypt would fall... Though THIS I'd think would be left to the Italians, if the fighting in Britain becomes one of attrition. If the fighting in Britain presses on, it'd be more likely that Rommel's units would ultimately be sent to Britain, one way or another... With losses mounting, it'd also raise the potential that American politics would turn against jumping in to support a country without an army and that in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Stalin could well take advantage. In the end... it's Forczyk's assessment that by early to mid 1941, both Britain and Germany would have to come to negotiations... In this, Hitler would get his claim to a victory, but in Forczyk's view, it wouldn't be a total one... and one that would likely force him to pull back and rebuild while waiting for more favorable conditions...

This point is indeed speculative, and I'm sure many could argue against specific points. There are even points where I would disagree... in that Forczyk does offer that Rommel could be sent to Africa... while I'd think that it's more likely that if the battle in Britain turned into one of attrition, that just about all forces available would have been involved, including Rommel. However, this does translate over into the final section... Sea Lion's postponement. As the operation WAS postponed... and ultimately making any assessment of Sea Lion's success "speculative."

The question that is then to be asked is what brought about the postponement of Sea Lion? What brought about the change in decision?

To some, they make the case that there was never any intent to go at all and that Barbarossa was ALWAYS the true intent. But Forczyk makes the point that plan for the invasion of Greece was delivered five days before Barbarossa was even announced and that in many ways, Hitler was operating like a typical politician and trying to keep as many options open to make his move when the situation suited. It'd thus be clear that in the case of Sea Lion, the situation DIDN'T suit him which returns to the question of what made it so.

And there the answer seems to be two fold according to Forczyk. The first is with regard to infighting within the Wehrmacht and German government over Sea Lion. In this, Sea Lion ultimately found itself with very few real friends. Goering was unconcerned with the planning and more interested in the Luftwaffe's "glory" in taking down the RAF. Raeder, eager to prevent any harm coming to his ships, did his best to block any real support for Sea Lion coming down. About the only major figure that truly supported it was Walther von Brauchitsch...

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(Walther von Brauchitsch, Commander of the German Army in 1940 and a supporter of Sea Lion... but his weak arguments didn't accomplish much...)

But Forczyk describes Brauchitsch's arguments as being without strong conviction and that the man DIDN'T have Hitler's support. In this, it would seem that the German high command through its own infighting wasn't going to accept Sea Lion unless there was some spectacular victory, which from July to September 1940 could only be provided by the Luftwaffe. When the RAF won the Battle of Britain, Sea Lion was postponed. Not because it was a bluff, but because there was the wish to wait until more favorable conditions arouse. But it would seem that the situation that circumstances never did get more favorable than they were in June-September 1940 and Forczyk ends the chapter with a comment on this postponement...

Quote:
Instead, by tolerating these personal agendas, Hitler threw away any hope of achieving decisive results in regard to England. Hitler later complained in 1943 that he never should have let Raeder talk him out of conducting Seelowe.

- Robert Forczyk We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion 1940-41 page 267
In this he finally touches on the point made in his introduction that Sea Lion wasn't a bluff from the start. Hitler was PERSUADED to postpone/cancel the operation...

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) Very detailed and easy to follow. Which has followed with many of Forczyk's chapters in that he provides a lot of information to understand how the plans would have worked and provides maps other visual aids to help make his argument easier to understand... or to at least make it easier to see where units are and so on.

2) Actually using the overall material to bring things together into working with his thesis stated in the book's introduction. Some may claim that he may not have fully proved it... but he DOES bring his argument to a point where he allowing for all the facts given to provide support for his argument.

CHAPTER WEAKNESS:
Speculative points... While his assessment of what might have happened is good and isn't the sort of "one side would just stomp the other" sort of argument... it IS still very much a speculative argument that others will surely seek to find holes in.

CHAPTER THOUGHTS... By finally coming to putting a case that fully supports his thesis... that Sea Lion wasn't an out right bluff... Forczyk has done an excellent job of tying many things together. In fact he does make some minor references to things mentioned in earlier chapters that shows that he's tying things together. And while his assessment of the September attempt is speculative... it is reasonable speculation.
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Old August 27th, 2017, 04:54 PM   #12
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It is commonly stated that Germans lacked the surface warships to escort the invasion convoys. On some sense this would make some sense, but it is often made with little real context to the over all situation.
.....
This would mean that the Germans would be SHORT of major warships to commit, but this more due to Germany's own strategic decisions than to its limitations. In this, the German plan would ultimately commit 100 surface vessels of varying types. And while all of these were light vessels, they were nothing to sneer at. In fact Admiral Erich Bey did have some modern ships that would provide Germany with some advantages...
....
The Germans would also have plenty of schnellbootes, minesweepers, and auxiliary ships committed to help escort the invasion convoys. The most powerful of these were the 20 M-35 class Minesweepers.
.
Errm? The Germans were massive short of major warships compared to the Royal Navy. The Rotyakl navy had 40 times the major vessels the Germans had, sure they all were not in home waters, but the massive disparity of forces was a fact, and their strategic disposition were not the cause of it.

And if the Kriegsmarine a large number of smaller vessels the Royal Navy had many many more smaller vessels.

Was there any serious discussion about how the massively outnumbered escorts and the convoys of slow moving barges would be high venerable?

Was there any discussion have discussion of loading and sailing of the invasion fleet?

Any discussion of the Royal Navy Auxiliary Patrol?
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Old August 27th, 2017, 05:40 PM   #13

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While I've been out and away when I'd gotten the next chapters in this book, the review DOES continue, and to make up for it, I'll have a few chapters to add at once...

The review continues with chapter eight...

Chapter Eight: The Isle of Wight Gambit

This is another short chapter and one dealing with ideas that came up during the planning of Operation Sea Lion. This related to launching raids on the Isle of Wight...

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(Southern UK showing the Isle of Wight in the south with a red line around it... why it has Worthing, Portsmouth, and Brighton out in the English Channel I don't know...)

The idea was to raid and capture the island, which could be done by ferrying small formations to the island via destroyers at night that could then engage the modest defensive formations and ultimately turn the island into a potential forward base that could support Sea Lion when it was launched. Bey's destroyers could launch such a raid in a way that would truly benefit any landing forces. And since most of the defenses and guns that defended the island were both old and many pre-WWI vintage and focused at preventing a direct naval attack on Portsmouth, there is real possibility that such a raid could have been mounted with some degree of success.

The real question on what would happen next would relate to what the commander of the British troops in the region would manage. And here, Forczyk engages in a fair bit of speculation as to the responses and abilities of General Claude Auchinleck.

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(General Claude Auchinleck, British commander in the region around the Isle of Wight)

Forczyk makes the argument that it would be likely that the British garrison might be directed to fight and Auchinleck would likely try to reinforce the field commander on the Isle of Wight, the operation would proceed more like landings at Narvik earlier in 1940 and could serve as a distraction from the defeat the Luftwaffe had taken when Sea Lion was postponed. The move would certainly be brazen and could have certain advantages, it should be noted that such an action would have brought German formations within easy gunnery range of HMS Revenge which was supposed to be anchored at Portsmouth and while German field guns might outrange British Army field guns, they likely can't outrange or pose too great a threat to a battleship, even if of WWI vintage... And had the raid been carried out AFTER Sea Lion was postponed, the Germans would NOT be enjoying air supremacy. Successful landings MIGHT capture the radar station on the island, but it isn't like the British wouldn't know where the island was and flying over the Isle of Wight would not be the same as flying out over the Channel to attack the invasion convoys for Sea Lion...

In this, a lot of what this chapter builds on is speculation. It may be reasonable speculation that makes sense... but it is still speculation. If the British take this raid as main German effort, they could well commit more than what few forces in the immediate area that Auchinleck had available to him. The British could respond aggressively and commit their naval forces to either support the defense of the island or block off any resupply attempts... and if this raid is launched after Sea Lion is postponed, the Germans can't count on having air supremacy to help them...

And at the same time, while Forczyk engages in the theoretical ideas on what such a raid could do... he provides no reasoning for why it wasn't tried, particularly with the fact that Hitler was stated to have some interest in the idea. Now, perhaps it was an idea that was suggested in the earlier planning stages for Sea Lion and never got anywhere, which would make some sense given how much inter-service rivalries helped defeat Sea Lion on the whole... but without any reference to that, just as with the chapter on the build up to Sea Lion, those who already hold Sea Lion to be a bluff would not be convinced otherwise by this chapter.

CHAPTER STRENGTH:
Forczyk does present decent reasoning for his conclusions in the chapter, but that's about it. What's there is interesting... but interesting by itself doesn't prove much...

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) Short chapter length... Again odd when one considers that most of the issues with chapter length have been that they've been too long... But given some of the other flaws in the chapter, the shortness of the chapter means that Forczyk has left a lot of incomplete thoughts in this chapter.

2) Largely speculative in nature. While it may be well reasoned speculation and is built on good information... another historian can easily look at the same information and come to a different conclusion. If the raid was launched after the postponement of Sea Lion, it would surely face an RAF that would be able to find the island and the Royal Navy would be sure to look for some way block the Germans from resupplying themselves. As such, while the British COULD pull back in fear of losses... they could also choke the Germans off this small island and the raid amounts to a failure...

3) Doesn't give any reason for why this raid was never launched. There may be a reasonable explanation that exists... but it isn't presented, and as such the chapter does NOT provide anything that would make someone who believes Sea Lion to be a bluff to change their opinion... and in coming right after making a good statement and case for Sea Lion being serious, this sort of chapter essentially kills anything gained in the previous chapter and could well raise doubts as to the validity of the report that Hitler was talked out of it...

CHAPTER THOUGHTS... I'll say flat out that this chapter would have been better served as a footnote somewhere else, if it is used AT ALL. While the information may be interesting, it relies too much on speculation and its third flaw essentially kills anything gained in the previous chapter with regard to convincing anyone to support the book's thesis because there is ultimately so much that is left out. This would have been better serves as a footnote in the chapters on the planning of Sea Lion as an idea that was presented... but didn't go anywhere... and left it there. Not presenting it as a short chapter that really needed MUCH more to make it workable.
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Old August 27th, 2017, 05:53 PM   #14

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Errm? The Germans were massive short of major warships compared to the Royal Navy. The Rotyakl navy had 40 times the major vessels the Germans had, sure they all were not in home waters, but the massive disparity of forces was a fact, and their strategic disposition were not the cause of it.

And if the Kriegsmarine a large number of smaller vessels the Royal Navy had many many more smaller vessels.

Was there any serious discussion about how the massively outnumbered escorts and the convoys of slow moving barges would be high venerable?

Was there any discussion have discussion of loading and sailing of the invasion fleet?

Any discussion of the Royal Navy Auxiliary Patrol?
He does discuss that the German warships would be outnumbered, yes, and that their barges had the potential to be vulnerable...

BUT he also adds that in many other actions in which Royal Navy destroyers came across German convoys plodding at a 5 not pace, once off Ostend, once near Norway, and once near Crete, the Royal Navy did NOT sink every single ship in rapid succession. They may have sunk a few ships here or there, but in all of the cases mentioned, the convoy got away without taking crippling losses.

He's also mentioned that most of the destroyers the British had in the channel were older WWI vintage that wouldn't have radar and at the time weren't fitted with duel purpose weapons, so that regardless of how good one assumes the Royal Navy was... they weren't going to be capable of just annihilating the German invasion convoys because... Britain.

The issue he ultimately gets into with regard to Britain's numbers is that unless the British army instantly collapses at first contact, the battles would continue in the channel, which would present an attrition issue that the German navy couldn't fully afford... as while he argues that with its destroyers being newer... there weren't as many of them. They might be able to beat off some British attacks and do damage to British destroyers... but wouldn't protect EVERY ship and that as they took damage... which he argues that by S plus 20, the landing forces would be on such tenuous and weak supply lines, that while they might not be crushed... not enough would be getting through to allow for a major offensive.
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Old August 27th, 2017, 10:30 PM   #15
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He does discuss that the German warships would be outnumbered, yes, and that their barges had the potential to be vulnerable...

BUT he also adds that in many other actions in which Royal Navy destroyers came across German convoys plodding at a 5 not pace, once off Ostend, once near Norway, and once near Crete, the Royal Navy did NOT sink every single ship in rapid succession. They may have sunk a few ships here or there, but in all of the cases mentioned, the convoy got away without taking crippling losses.

He's also mentioned that most of the destroyers the British had in the channel were older WWI vintage that wouldn't have radar and at the time weren't fitted with duel purpose weapons, so that regardless of how good one assumes the Royal Navy was... they weren't going to be capable of just annihilating the German invasion convoys because... Britain.

The issue he ultimately gets into with regard to Britain's numbers is that unless the British army instantly collapses at first contact, the battles would continue in the channel, which would present an attrition issue that the German navy couldn't fully afford... as while he argues that with its destroyers being newer... there weren't as many of them. They might be able to beat off some British attacks and do damage to British destroyers... but wouldn't protect EVERY ship and that as they took damage... which he argues that by S plus 20, the landing forces would be on such tenuous and weak supply lines, that while they might not be crushed... not enough would be getting through to allow for a major offensive.

It appears author is too much German military fanboy. Conditions in Norwegian waters (where Royal Navy sunk entire German naval invasion force off Narvik in three days including ten of these modern and invincible German destroyers) and Crete were not same as English Channel since both Norway and Balkans were closer to European mainland with better interior lines of communication and transport at German disposal and Luftwaffe air cover AND in 1941 Luftflotte X specifically trained and equipped for anti shipping operations sent to Mediterranean (in 1940 Luftwaffe had no anti shipping squadron , armor piercing bombs or torpedoes-which were jealously kept from them by Kriegsmarine ) which is a much larger body of water and harder to air recon especially for British whose air assets were driven back to Egypt in April 1941. During Western Campaign , Dunkirk evacuation and Operation Ariel in May-June 1940 Luftwaffe historian Cajus Bekker (one of the biggest Ludftwaffe defenders) remarked that most of the Luftwaffe sorties against British ships off coast of France were in vain unless they were stationary because they were in constant motion and Luftwaffe bomber pilots were not trained to act again naval targets throughly.

In 1940 summer Royal Navy had 60 destroyers ready to use in Channel once invasion activity was spotted and these were mostly modern vessels (actually one of the reasons Donitz wolfpacks in Atlantic began having high sucess in First Happy Time during 1940 fall was lack of destroyers in North Atlantic escorts since most of them were at invasion watch duty at SW England) not to mention lighter MTB , MGB squadrons operating from offshore. In 1940 there was much more constant vigilance both in air and sea reconnicance on British part. And Royal Navy medium /small sized naval forces based in Portsmouth , Rosyth , Falmouth , Plymouth all the way to Dover which would be impossible to intercept. And even one squadron of light vessels would cause considerable damage and turmoil among invasions barges propelled by tugs. And once disorganization and chaos sets in amphibious operations well look no further than Gallipoli 1915.

On top of that coordination and cooperation levels between Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine was almost non existent. Due to lack of proper liason Luftwaffe accidently sunk two German destroyers in North Sea minefields (one bombed other struck a mine while maneuvering from Luftwaffe attack) on February 1940. Not only Goring was conducting his own private campaign to bring down Britain with his own Luftwaffe , no proper anti aircraft air defence was provided either on invasion harbours in Western Europe Seelowe was supposed to launch from. On 13 September 1940 there were such heavy RAF air raids on Ostend , Calais , Boulogne , Antwerp , Le Havre , Cherbourg and Brest German vessels anchored in began to send open SOS for better air defence. By 16th September Kriegsmarine reported to OKW that %14 of the vessels gathered for Opeatiion Seelowe was either sunk or too heavily damaged to participate the operation in near future. Once sailed these casaulties would multiply among German vessels.

Let's put these aside. Even if first invasion wave crossed Channel say in mid September 1940 with minimum idea about coastal conditions , currents , shore depth , tides etc there would be one factor that would bar next German invasion waves and logistical supply. WEATHER. After September , Channel weather is too bad and choppy to allow flat bottomed barges to cross. Even Siebel ferries which had to be sprang out of nowhere in 1940 would have big trouble in those conditions. Unless a big port would be captured in first wave and big drought supply vessels can cross Channel , initial German army wave would be unsupported and without logistical supply would either forced to surrender in whatever narrow beachead they could establish or retreat back to France on same choppy weather conditions.

As for Hitler's 1943 quote about Raeder convincing him to give up Seelowe , well Raeder who was a naval professional knew what he was talking about. Hitler a land animal was not. Raeder resigned in 1 January 1943 after Battle of Barents Sea fiasco so it was customary for Hitler to put blame about past failures of navy on him. Once Hitler remarked "on land I am a hero on sea a coward" In 1940 he was aware of that. A lot of the quotes atributed to Hitler in 1943-45 was either his own attempts to build up morale among his inner circle or rewrite history anyway.

Last edited by merdiolu; August 27th, 2017 at 10:33 PM.
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Old August 28th, 2017, 10:46 AM   #16

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It appears author is too much German military fanboy.
While Forczyk may have general opinions that would be more favorable toward the German military, fanboy isn't quite the word I would use. As he IS fairly critical on it at various points. He is especially critical on its ability to gather intelligence and that it should be noted when he does get into his assessment of Sea Lion, he doesn't end with... "and the German first wave makes it to Scotland by the end of the first day with few, if any casualties."

In fact his scenario generally has the entire offensive grinding down into stalemate a month in. The Germans might manage enough to sustain their bridgehead, but not enough really launch a massed offensive... Not exactly something a "fanboy" would argue for...

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Conditions in Norwegian waters (where Royal Navy sunk entire German naval invasion force off Narvik in three days including ten of these modern and invincible German destroyers) and Crete were not same as English Channel since both Norway and Balkans were closer to European mainland with better interior lines of communication and transport at German disposal and Luftwaffe air cover AND in 1941 Luftflotte X specifically trained and equipped for anti shipping operations sent to Mediterranean (in 1940 Luftwaffe had no anti shipping squadron , armor piercing bombs or torpedoes-which were jealously kept from them by Kriegsmarine ) which is a much larger body of water and harder to air recon especially for British whose air assets were driven back to Egypt in April 1941.
The issues that Forczyk points to off Norway related to the pursuit of convoys, not the direct engagement. And one should also remember that naval fighting around Norway was such where in places like Narvik where the German destroyers were caught in a position where they really couldn't maneuver and take full advantage of their speed. I would also think that Britain also committed several of its newer destroyers and cruisers to the Norwegian operations than the old WWI destroyers and warships that formed the bulk of the vessels defending the south coast later in 1940.

His ultimate point is that if the Royal Navy's mere existence is enough to slaughter German invasion convoys with little difficulty, they should have done so in EVERY situation where the Royal Navy intercepted German convoys plodding at 5 knots... because Britain. The fact remains, however, that they didn't.

He does make the argument that the Royal Navy's overall size would give it an advantage to fight a protracted battle of attrition, but gives the reminder that the English Channel is not a narrow fjord where Germany's ships would be caught unable to maneuver and thus ultimately be gunned down at a distance by British cruisers and battleships. As such, with its ability to maneuver still possible, it would be quite possible that the British would also take losses... far higher than what many tend to expect...

And Forczyk throughout the book DOES discuss on German inter-service rivalries giving them trouble on various issues and he would even argue that that sort of thing was part of why Sea Lion was postponed and later cancelled. No one could get along...

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In 1940 summer Royal Navy had 60 destroyers ready to use in Channel once invasion activity was spotted and these were mostly modern vessels (actually one of the reasons Donitz wolfpacks in Atlantic began having high sucess in First Happy Time during 1940 fall was lack of destroyers in North Atlantic escorts since most of them were at invasion watch duty at SW England) not to mention lighter MTB , MGB squadrons operating from offshore. In 1940 there was much more constant vigilance both in air and sea reconnicance on British part. And Royal Navy medium /small sized naval forces based in Portsmouth , Rosyth , Falmouth , Plymouth all the way to Dover which would be impossible to intercept. And even one squadron of light vessels would cause considerable damage and turmoil among invasions barges propelled by tugs. And once disorganization and chaos sets in amphibious operations well look no further than Gallipoli 1915.
Britain may have had 60 destroyers in the channel, but most of them were the older WWI vintage ships and most of them weren't equipped with the duel purpose guns that would be best to deal with the barges going 5 knots. And that's actually where Forczyk brings in the points at the other instances of Britain's intercepting German convoys comes into play. His point is that if the British destroyers were really that effective at sinking barges going 5 knots, why didn't they sink every single ship in the convoys they did intercept? As they did pit British warships against German convoys, most of which made up of barges plodding at five knots and with light escorts. If the Royal Navy is THAT good, then the German convoys should have been slaughtered in EVERY case... But they weren't.

The RN and RAF might do real damage while the initial convoys are "parked" in what landing areas and harbors they initially captured, but in terms of the convoys that the British intercepted historically... they wouldn't quite slaughter the Germans so easily as would be expected...

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Originally Posted by merdiolu View Post
On top of that coordination and cooperation levels between Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine was almost non existent. Due to lack of proper liason Luftwaffe accidently sunk two German destroyers in North Sea minefields (one bombed other struck a mine while maneuvering from Luftwaffe attack) on February 1940. Not only Goring was conducting his own private campaign to bring down Britain with his own Luftwaffe , no proper anti aircraft air defence was provided either on invasion harbours in Western Europe Seelowe was supposed to launch from. On 13 September 1940 there were such heavy RAF air raids on Ostend , Calais , Boulogne , Antwerp , Le Havre , Cherbourg and Brest German vessels anchored in began to send open SOS for better air defence. By 16th September Kriegsmarine reported to OKW that %14 of the vessels gathered for Opeatiion Seelowe was either sunk or too heavily damaged to participate the operation in near future. Once sailed these casaulties would multiply among German vessels.
And Forczyk does argue that the lack of ability of the Germans to get along with each other was a MAJOR part of the problem that they had...

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Let's put these aside. Even if first invasion wave crossed Channel say in mid September 1940 with minimum idea about coastal conditions , currents , shore depth , tides etc there would be one factor that would bar next German invasion waves and logistical supply. WEATHER. After September , Channel weather is too bad and choppy to allow flat bottomed barges to cross. Even Siebel ferries which had to be sprang out of nowhere in 1940 would have big trouble in those conditions. Unless a big port would be captured in first wave and big drought supply vessels can cross Channel , initial German army wave would be unsupported and without logistical supply would either forced to surrender in whatever narrow beachead they could establish or retreat back to France on same choppy weather conditions.
Forczyk does make mention that the post September changes in weather would give the Germans problems and that the ports that they would have taken in the first wave being small as being part of the reason why the overall offensive grounds down.

But one should remember that river barges and the Siebel Ferries (though Siebel personally insisted they were seaworthy) weren't the ONLY transports and vessels the Germans had. They did have the Bremen and Europa, both of which were Blue Ribband contenders before the Queen Mary entered Cunard's service. They might not be able to do it completely by themselves...

The limited ports and the potential for British submarines to be active in the channel are listed as potential problems that would limit the German ability to actively push an invasion beyond the southern part of England, largely south of London and along the coastal areas... but Forczyk maintains his point that Germany's weaknesses weren't such that Britain automatically wins... partially as Britain's own weaknesses in 1940 were also often in areas where the Germans were naturally strong...

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As for Hitler's 1943 quote about Raeder convincing him to give up Seelowe , well Raeder who was a naval professional knew what he was talking about. Hitler a land animal was not. Raeder resigned in 1 January 1943 after Battle of Barents Sea fiasco so it was customary for Hitler to put blame about past failures of navy on him. Once Hitler remarked "on land I am a hero on sea a coward" In 1940 he was aware of that. A lot of the quotes atributed to Hitler in 1943-45 was either his own attempts to build up morale among his inner circle or rewrite history anyway.
And the defeat in the Barents Sea COULD be part of the reason for Hitler later laying blame... but the fact still remains that Hitler was ultimate guy in charge of everything in Germany... and when he put his foot down, it didn't matter WHO he was arguing with or against. In this, the fact that Raeder "knew what he was doing" would be irrelevant had Hitler decided to be Hitler and pushed ahead with it anyway...

There is also the issue that much of Raeder's opposition to Sea Lion was more of a selfish position on his part to try and preserve his ships and not risk them in what would surely mean some confrontation with the Royal Navy... but even in that regard, Raeder also did support sending lone warships out to raid British convoys, which while they might be able to escape British escorts... if they were caught, the resulting battle likely would have the same result as had Sea Lion been launched... Which in the end gives some indication that Raeder really wasn't quite that great with regard to naval warfare either.

And the point in Forczyk's argument in the book is not so much about how well Sea Lion could have been... and arguably, in looking at the analysis over the possible September operation is that while he thinks it could produce a "victory..." it wouldn't be an outright victory and ultimately more of an armistice that serves to suit Germany for the short term and immediate future... but would also leave Britain with the "wiggle room" to also recover... In that both would ultimately have to wait for better circumstances...
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Old August 28th, 2017, 12:01 PM   #17
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First of all English Channel is not Norwegian fjords true but it is narrow enough , Dover Straits is less than 20 miles and with minefields laid by either side it would be narrower. Routes clear of minefields and therefore routes of invasion fleets would be clear to everyone. Author (just checked him by the way , did his active service in Germany , probably mixing with older German veterans in Beerhalls off Kasarne brainstorming how they could win the war) is just selecting facts supporting one thesis. Ignoring the rest. After 1940 summer English Channel were closed to coastal daylight convoys by both sides. Casaulties were heavy enough. And Germans did not have many vessels anyway to waste on coastal shipping traffic except in Norway which was further away than British isles. And even at night time sailing into Channel is risky enough without proper navigation points. (lighthouses are more than decoration) Especially with barges and ferries (again in 1940 when Seelowe required considerable since Germans would transport two full armies off Channel) that would have to be sprung out of nowhere. Some Siebels were used in 1942-43 on Mediterranean not 1940 as far as I know because none were in service. (or maybe prototypes) On top of that how much German army and Kriegsmarine practised amphibious landings or sailing in formation at night ? With 5 knot speed pulled by tugs and currents they could find themselves off Brazil as far as I know. In 1915 bad prep , hurried planning and non exercised and optimism led British and French to Gallipoli fiasco in Dardanelles. If Germans even reached wrong shore disaster would happen (in ANZAC landings off Gallipoli in 25 April 1915 boats carrying initial wave just landed one mile off at wrong beach. Result : Disaster)

Speaking of Med. author I think presumably referring why Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet couldn't stop German invasion fleet during invasion of Crete and later Axis supply convoys in Central Mediteranean. Simple : Mediteranean is bigger than Channel , Allies do not always have accurate intel or recon assets about enemy shipping movements (ULTRA could provide intelligence only to a certain point and British preferred to attack enemy supply shipping only before a big operation like Operation Crusader in November 1941 to ease situation for the army and conceal intelligence source. Most Axis ship losses on Italy-Libya route "bunched up" before a big Allied land operation started. ) And most importantly Luftwaffe had airbases in Greece and Aegean that covered Eastern Mediteranean that forbade or cut short of Royal Navy's room for maneuver in daylight.

Royal Navy could lose some vessels. They were used to that. But whatever their losses would be smashing or breaking up German invasion fleet would be big morale and strategic booster for them. And with just eight destroyers (rest were either sunk , damaged or in construction) which were tied escorting slow convoys without freedom to maneuver how effective Kriegsmarine surface fleet could be in 1940 in narrow waters of Channel tunneled only with predictable minefields ?

Actually only daylight crossing of Kriegsmarine in Channel (Operation Cerberus) occured when battlecruisers Scharnhorst , Gneisenau and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen under command of Admiral Bey caught RN off guard (and most importantly got constant air cover from Luftwaffe with liason of Adolf Galland to Goring and with effective naval radar jamming-equipment Germans did not have in 1940) in February 1942 then they made a big propaganda noise from it. Of course what was not mentioned is both Scharnhorst and Gneisenau struck mines and suffered damage during crossing then on March 1942 RAF Bomber Command hit Gneisenau off Wilhelmshaven and damaged it so badly (her entire bow section was destroyed) she was taken out of active service and then used as a blockship. Prinz Eugen was also torpedoed by a Royal Navy submarine in Norwegian Sea same month and taken into shipyards for eight month repair. I do not wish to think what would happen big fat targets like liners in narrow seas without Luftwaffe air cover. And that is assuming British would not sabotage or block any harbours (necesary for big ships to dock) to prevent their capture once axis of German invasion was plain.

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Old August 28th, 2017, 12:22 PM   #18
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And in Norwegian Campaign in April 1940 sure both Royal Navy and RAF were caught by suprise. Scandanivia was far from Reich and nobody expected Hitler and Kriegsmarine would be so daring and risk their surface fleet and naval transports in a gamble like this. What Royal Navy Home Fleet expected was a sortie by Kriegsmarine capital ships off Northern Atlantic and they got suckered , positioned their heavy battleships far more west rather than Norwegian Sea. With ULTRA intelligence (which was not operational in April 1940) and constant British naval /air patrol over Channel(which were numerous unlike out of range Norway) same thing repreating in Channel (when existence of Britain as a independent state was at stake) is a low chance. Of course we would never know.

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Old August 28th, 2017, 01:31 PM   #19

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First of all English Channel is not Norwegian fjords true but it is narrow enough , Dover Straits is less than 20 miles and with minefields laid by either side it would be narrower. Routes clear of minefields and therefore routes of invasion fleets would be clear to everyone.
And he does state the mines could be a problem. In fact Forczyk even argues that British mines were likely to be more dangerous to the invasion than the Royal Navy at the time...

But in pure theory that ISN'T a win all situation... The Germans DID have minesweepers, just as the British did and would have committed them to the operation... And at the same time, the Germans didn't intend to land at Dover.

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Author (just checked him by the way , did his active service in Germany , probably mixing with older German veterans in Beerhalls off Kasarne brainstorming how they could win the war) is just selecting facts supporting one thesis. Ignoring the rest.
Doubtful. For the most part, he's generally set up the book in a way that he puts out what helped or hindered either side, and at times he DID argue rather critically of mistakes and weaknesses on Germany's side as well. The point where he got to his assessment, which is admittedly pure speculation, does include that he's intended to try and balance out points to let the reader make a judgement based on what he's presented.

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After 1940 summer English Channel were closed to coastal daylight convoys by both sides. Casaulties were heavy enough. And Germans did not have many vessels anyway to waste on coastal shipping traffic except in Norway which was further away than British isles. And even at night time sailing into Channel is risky enough without proper navigation points. (lighthouses are more than decoration) Especially with barges and ferries (again in 1940 when Seelowe required considerable since Germans would transport two full armies off Channel) that would have to be sprung out of nowhere.
But the Germans were assembling forces for Sea Lion... whether or not it would have worked had it been launched is up for debate, and arguably Forczyk's assessment is pure speculation, but it isn't as though the limit of German transport capacity was a rubber dingy...

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Some Siebels were used in 1942-43 on Mediterranean not 1940 as far as I know because none were in service. (or maybe prototypes).
The Germans had around 20 Siebels in service for September 1940... but instead of using them for transport, which would have made more sense as they were faster than many of the river barges and could carry more heavy equipment... the Germans used them as floating flak ships. So they'd help against any air attack, but wouldn't be doing what they would be used for later...

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On top of that how much German army and Kriegsmarine practised amphibious landings or sailing in formation at night ? With 5 knot speed pulled by tugs and currents they could find themselves off Brazil as far as I know. In 1915 bad prep , hurried planning and non exercised and optimism led British and French to Gallipoli fiasco in Dardanelles. If Germans even reached wrong shore disaster would happen (in ANZAC landings off Gallipoli in 25 April 1915 boats carrying initial wave just landed one mile off at wrong beach. Result : Disaster).
The Gallipoli landings by themselves weren't a disaster, and in fact the Allies had many opportunities to make Gallipoli a successful campaign. The problem was that the Army and Navy coordinated things poorly and by the time the Allies went ashore... the forts that the first raid had damaged had been repaired and rearmed... and with the straits by that time also heavily mined, the Allied navy's couldn't adequately support the Allied advance on the peninsula... at least not on the side that they would need...

And even if things were better coordinated, portable radios were not available in 1915, which would mean any call for shore bombardment by the troops on the ground would take time to even reach the battleships supporting them...

The end result was that Gallipoli then turned into the sort of stalemate that was already present on the Western Front, which would have required MASSIVE commitments that the Allies weren't prepared to give... So in the end... even the campaign wasn't a complete disaster...

And one has to remember that with regard to the Germans in 1940, they DIDN'T have the experience of learning from Gallipoli... And even if one wishes to disagree with Forczyk's assessment that the Germans could successfully cross the channel (though he only makes this to be the case with the first wave... the second wave... he argued would be at best only partially successful)... it doesn't change the fact that when the plans were launched in 1940 that Hitler wasn't serious, which is ultimately at the core element of Forczyk's thesis...

For if you wish to argue that Sea Lion was a bluff... then the Germans WON the Battle of Britain, as you can't lose a battle you don't intend to fight. And that's not what Forczyk has argued... as he does state that the Germans lost... Just not exactly in the way that many tend to claim they did...

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Speaking of Med. author I think presumably referring why Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet couldn't stop German invasion fleet during invasion of Crete and later Axis supply convoys in Central Mediteranean. Simple : Mediteranean is bigger than Channel , Allies do not always have accurate intel or recon assets about enemy shipping movements (ULTRA could provide intelligence only to a certain point and British preferred to attack enemy supply shipping only before a big operation like Operation Crusader in November 1941 to ease situation for the army and conceal intelligence source. Most Axis ship losses on Italy-Libya route "bunched up" before a big Allied land operation started. ) And most importantly Luftwaffe had airbases in Greece and Aegean that covered Eastern Mediteranean that forbade or cut short of Royal Navy's room for maneuver in daylight.
The area between Crete and mainland Greece is comparable with the English Channel. It is not as though the capture of the island put German troops close to Egypt...

And at the same time... yes the Germans had air bases in Greece to support the landings in Crete... they ALSO had air bases to at least attempt to support Sea Lion, and from what Forczyk claims was that much of the final decision to go or not ultimately came down to what he thought the Luftwaffe would do against the RAF. Once the RAF won... and with Raeder and others arguing against Sea Lion, he changed his mind.

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Royal Navy could lose some vessels. They were used to that. But whatever their losses would be smashing or breaking up German invasion fleet would be big morale and strategic booster for them. And with just eight destroyers (rest were either sunk , damaged or in construction) which were tied escorting slow convoys without freedom to maneuver how effective Kriegsmarine surface fleet could be in 1940 in narrow waters of Channel tunneled only with predictable minefields?
But the point is that they WOULDN'T be smashing them. They might sink the "tail end charlies" of the convoys... but the point remains that saying the Royal Navy existed is not proof that they would win...

Shoot, look at the action of Dakar. The British had two battleships at the heart of a large fleet. The French had one battleship which remained stationary for the entire engagement. The British fired over 400 shots at the Richelieu. If this... because Britain argument... then the Richelieu should have been destroyed given the number of shots fired at it... But it wasn't, and in fact it wasn't seriously damaged in the engagement.

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Actually only daylight crossing of Kriegsmarine in Channel (Operation Cerberus) occured when battlecruisers Scharnhorst , Gneisenau and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen under command of Admiral Bey caught RN off guard (and most importantly got constant air cover from Luftwaffe with liason of Adolf Galland to Goring and with effective naval radar jamming-equipment Germans did not have in 1940) in February 1942 then they made a big propaganda noise from it. Of course what was not mentioned is both Scharnhorst and Gneisenau struck mines and suffered damage during crossing then on March 1942 RAF Bomber Command hit Gneisenau off Wilhelmshaven and damaged it so badly (her entire bow section was destroyed) she was taken out of active service and then used as a blockship. Prinz Eugen was also torpedoed by a Royal Navy submarine in Norwegian Sea same month and taken into shipyards for eight month repair.
Forczyk does make mention of the move. And while the German battlecruisers may have been damaged in the Channel Dash... DAMAGING them wasn't the goal. The goal was to SINK them, and since both made it back to Germany, that would require subsequent actions.

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I do not wish to think what would happen big fat targets like liners in narrow seas without Luftwaffe air cover. And that is assuming British would not sabotage or block any harbours (necesary for big ships to dock) to prevent their capture once axis of German invasion was plain.
He does make the mention that many of the harbors that the Germans would have captured would have needed repair... which he also states would have helped limit any ability by the German to keep major operations going for long...

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Originally Posted by merdiolu View Post
And in Norwegian Campaign in April 1940 sure both Royal Navy and RAF were caught by suprise. Scandanivia was far from Reich and nobody expected Hitler and Kriegsmarine would be so daring and risk their surface fleet and naval transports in a gamble like this. What Royal Navy Home Fleet expected was a sortie by Kriegsmarine capital ships off Northern Atlantic and they got suckered , positioned their heavy battleships far more west rather than Norwegian Sea. With ULTRA intelligence (which was not operational in April 1940) and constant British naval /air patrol over Channel(which were numerous unlike out of range Norway) same thing repreating in Channel (when existence of Britain as a independent state was at stake) is a low chance. Of course we would never know.
Yes, they were caught by surprise... but even being more attentive doesn't mean that the British would win. After all... in the defense of Normandy later in the war, the Germans were keenly aware of the Allies having the intent to land... but they didn't know where and thus couldn't concentrate to defeat that landing. In fact the greatest expectation in 1944 was that the Allies would land at the Pas Du Calias... NOT Normandy... And in the end, the British didn't know for sure as to where Germans intended to land in 1940 any more than where the Germans would expect the Allies to land in 1944... and under air support, Sea Lion would have had a chance...

But as Forczyk argues, the situation proved poor and the ability of the Luftwaffe to support them was weakened by September 1940 and thus the decision to postpone and hope for a better situation to materialize later.
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Old August 28th, 2017, 07:14 PM   #20
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The British don't need to sink all the German invasion fleet.

There would be what at least 10 invasion convoys, the German escorts would be extremely small 1 destroyer and 2-3 minesweepers/aux craft against a British attack force of say 10 destroyers, the German escorts would be hopelessly outnumbered, and the convoys where much more vulnerable than an ordinary convoy, if say 30 barges are lost (out say a 100) the convoy scattered it's enough , and 3-4 convoys are so mauled thats to serious undermine the German invasion right form the start.

The alleged quality of the German destroyers simply does not matter at odds of 10 to 1. And if they are kept together as a flotilla then the convoys are basically unprotected. They my defend one as group, but the others would be even more exposed. If scattered to give some protection to all convoys they simply are not enough to provide a real fight against a British attack force.

The Germans could not find enough crews with any maritime experience to man the barges, untrained raw crews, troops who had not trained on the barges , panic and just evasive action could sink barges. Remember 2/3 are unpowered and under tow. Any real substantive attack and there is real chance of panic. The very limited exercises revealed real problems with evasion and panic. And the crews would be improvised and the troops would almost all be loaded on a barge for the first time.

Motor torpedo and Guns boats would also be a serious threat. Submarines, mines. Even the armed trawlers and patrol boats some 400 mostly in the channel area would be a significant threat A broths destroyer flotilla and 30 odd armed trawlers who could go after the barges while the destroyers eliminated the few escorts.

There is plenty of potential for the Invasion fleet to be seriously depleted which is all the British need to do.
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