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Old April 8th, 2017, 02:36 PM   #1

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Review of Robert Forczyk's "We March Against England: Operation Sealion 1940-41"


As with how I've reviewed or am reviewing the various books on the Battle of Verdun, I will be reviewing the book chapter by chapter with a final judgement at the end...

Admittedly, most of what I've read on Operation Sea Lion and Germany's campaign against Britain prior to Barbarossa has been limited to Wikipedia and some online articles... but when I came across We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion 1940-41 by Robert Forczyk, I was intrigued. Flipping through it in the bookstore increased my curiosity... and so, I picked out. And given recent debates over Sea Lion on other parts of the forum... I figured to put in my own review of the book and seeing how well Forczyk makes his case...

Introduction
Forczyk opens with an introduction in which his primary goal is to set the tone and state what his argument is. He moves quickly to identify that argument as to set a new look at "Operation Sea Lion," and that the operation and fighting is not quite what it would seem to be. In doing so, Forczyk is attempting to revise how the operation and time period are doing...

Forczyk is also quick to identify what view(s) needs to be changed. He also quickly identifies this at the start of the introduction as an orthodoxy that the RAF... or "the few" saved Britain from invasion and thus "won the war." He chronicles its origins with Winston Churchill and even with more modern historians like John Keegan and Leo McKinstry. He further adds that some have taken that orthodox argument further to state that Sea Lion was nothing more than a bluff from start to finish, and that Britain was never in any danger and comments by Galland and Kesselring "prove" this.

The remainder of the introduction covers what Forczyk identifies as the chief problems in that orthodox argument.

THE ORTHODOX ARGUMENT'S FLAWS (AS FORCZYK IDENTIFIES THEM):
1) The argument often compartmentalizes many aspects of Germany's war against Britain. "The Battle of Britain," "the Battle of the Atlantic," and "the Blitz" are put into separate boxes, when in reality, all of them really mixed together... as the RAF may have won the air battles, but that victory didn't stop the U-boats and neither did it stop the Fw 200s from flying out west of Ireland to raid British merchant shipping. The RAF victory also didn't stop the Germans from bombing the British at night.

2) The arguments over Sea Lion have often lacked balance or critical military analysis, as Forczyk sees it. Histories have been written from one side's point of view with little effort to integrate actions and intentions. It's in this, that the commentary that Sea Lion was doomed to defeat no matter what the Germans did had they launched it. The argument has ignored weaknesses in Britain's defenses and often comes to simplistic conclusions that often ignore points where the German army often did relatively well despite being in positions that were isolated and short of supplies. In this, one could say that many of the older arguments over the history of "Sea Lion" are held by Forczyk to be weakened by inherent biases.

FORCZYK'S INTENT:
Forczyk state's his intent is to try and provide a holistic look at the situation to demonstrate that the events were not "pre-ordained" and that the victory does not come down to a single explanation.

INTRODUCTION'S STRENGTH:
Forczyk makes a clear statement on what he his arguing for and against and much of what he argues makes some sense. And that is something that an introduction to a book attempting to revise the views on "Sea Lion" will need.

INTRODUCTION'S WEAKNESS:
The principle weakness of the introduction is the fact that it IS stating that is making a revisionist argument. In principle, revisionism isn't necessarily a bad thing, as new facts and evidence are always discovered, but it's also something that is difficult to successfully accomplish. While Forczyk makes his case reasonably well, to those that fully support the "orthodox history" that he's arguing against, that may not be enough and will leave him in an uphill battle through the course of the book.

POTENTIAL STRUGGLES FOR THE BOOK:
1: The biggest potential struggle will be in proving his case to those that will support what Forczyk has called the "orthodox history." He cannot just present "facts" and leave it there. He will need sound logic and reason to make his case believable.

2: The holistic approach may end up leaving holes in his argument as he tries to cover too much into one book. While his point that much of the compartmentalizing of history is valid, there is also the counter that a lot of is unavoidable. That "compartmentalization" Compare, for example Martin Gilbert's general history on the First World War and his book on the Battle of the Somme. The book that focuses on the battle will likely have far more detail on that battle than what is presented in the general history of the war. That could prove to provide a potential weakness for We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion 1940-1941 as Robert Forczyk loses detail trying to cover too much...

3: The issue of speculation... Forczyk states that he isn't writing a counterfactual history, or at least that that isn't his intent. However, he states he will avoid using the word "if" as much as he can, he does admit that the potential for that weakness IS there. And even if Forczyk manages to successfully avoid making a lot of "what if" statements, that doesn't mean that people won't take the book as a counterfactual argument and thus ignore it entirely... which would reinforce issues in the first potential struggle for the book.

INTRODUCTION THOUGHTS:
Forczyk makes a quick and clear case for what he is arguing for in the introduction. It is quick and to the point, which works well in attracting attention.
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Old April 11th, 2017, 11:19 PM   #2

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The review continues with chapter one.

Chapter One: Strategic Setting, June-July 1940

Chapter one is a lengthy chapter and one that Forczyk uses to set out the overall situation for both Britain and Germany in 1940.

He starts off with the build up of what would be the BEF in 1940 and going through the events of the Battle of France and of course Operation Dynamo. This section is likely to provide some image of the British forces and their strength going into 1940 and the ultimate position that the British army was in after the Battle of France. Forczyk states that the British started the war with a force of 224,000 trained regulars and that Britain would be depending on 173,000 reservists and 200,000 territorial units. And while a lot of their equipment was of WWI vintage, they would take some new weapons like the Bren Gun and the Two Pounder gun.

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(A British soldier carrying the Bren Gun, which would prove effective and served through the entirety of WWII as this photo is dated to 1944)

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(British troops employing the Two Pounder Gun in the field, which proved effective early in the war and was also the main armament for the Matilda II tank)

This position for the British is something eerily similar to World War I, in which Britain needed the French to be able to stop the Germans to give the British time to raise and equip their forces. This, however, didn't happen and that the British found the Germans overrunning Allied lines and pushing forward and forcing a situation where the British would need to evacuate troops and would lead to telling signs that need to be remembered and considered. The first is the defense of Calais, which Claude Nicholson's 30th Infantry Brigade was committed to fighting. In this fight, Churchill would not allow the British withdraw their forces and demonstrated to those within his government and to his French allies that he would fight on.

Meanwhile, the other issue relates to idea that Germany let the BEF escape from Dunkirk as part of an effort to convince the British that Germany meant no harm to Britain and who issued the "halt order." Forczyk makes the point that the halt order was first ordered on the night of May 23-24 as Rundstedt worried over counter attacks that the French and British couldn't launch and while Kluge was pushing for the advance to be slowed to let the infantry catch up with the armor. Hitler's halt order came a day later. The result bought time for the British to evacuate the BEF and large numbers of French forces in Operation Dynamo. See: Operation Dynamo, the evacuation from Dunkirk, 27 May-4 June 1940 for reference... The political controversy over the halt order is something that some historians, such as B.H. Liddel Hart, mention that it was a political gesture to let part of the BEF escape, a point which Forczyk claims "does not hold water." He points out that the halt order was issued before Operation Dynamo began, so the Germans couldn't have slowed the advance to allow the evacuation to continue, as the evacuation hadn't started. There is also the fact that the Luftwaffe destroyed Dunkirk's port facilities making the removal of troops from Dunkirk close to impossible on May 27. In this, Forczyk claims that the German intention was to destroy the BEF in France, not let it go. This, it obviously failed to do and thus represents some failure on Germany's part.

This left Britain's army without much in 1940 after the Battle of France, and in a position where it would be unlikely that they could realistically do anything against a German invasion...

After the background information on the military build up before the war and the events of the Battle of France, Forczyk shifts his focus onto Churchill's efforts to keep Britain in the war...

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(Winston Churchill, British PM and the man who kept the war going)

Forczyk makes the argument that a lot of Churchill's determination to fight on in the wake of the Battle of France was not entirely shared by even other members of his own government. Men like Halifax, for example DID favor negotiations with Germany, and at the same time, Churchill had the shadow of Gallipoli and its failure in WWI (see: Winston Churchill?s World War Disaster - History in the Headlines for reference). It was a situation that wasn't easy and one that Forczyk argues Churchill was nervous over, as while he was the Prime Minister, he was NOT the leader of his party at that time. In the end, Churchill did manage to hold office and keep Britain in the war, but mostly through the speeches that he gave, which Forczyk argues were at best speculative. Churchill's speeches of the threats and intents that Germany posed to Britain were not based on intelligence reports. In this, Churchill proved capable of selling an opinion. It says a lot about Churchill's determination, but not that there was really a rational way he could have won in 1940 after the fall of France...

That is not to say that Britain was alone or entirely hopeless. Forczyk reminds his readers that the Commonwealth was also still in the war and some like Canada would provide training bases that would help the RAF in the course of the war that the Germans would never be able to strike. In addition to the Commonwealth, the British also got help from nations the Germans occupied. Poland had two destroyers, 30,000 troops, and nine squadrons for the RAF (5 fighter squadrons, 4 bomber squadrons). The Dutch managed to get 4 of their newest submarines to Britain. Norway provided a great deal of help with their merchant marine helping Britain and 3,000 Czech forces were also in Britain. There were also De Gaulle's Free French...

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(Churchill with De Gaulle and a Free Polish Leader Wladyslaw Sikorski)

However, being alone wasn't so much the problem as it was having a plan for victory and even getting along with the allies they had. Forczyk points out that Sir John Dill didn't think much of the Czech troops and that Clement Atlee, now serving as a Churchill ally in the government, held De Gaulle as "practically Fascist." And Sir John Dill was reluctant to arm the Free French. That lack of trust would hamper any effort or help these allies could provide the British and many of Churchill's actions and war policies would also particularly hurt French/British relations and thus hurt any option of getting help from France. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack...-el-K%C3%A9bir for reference.

Forczyk continues in his analysis of British strategies immediately after the Battle of France were predominantly defensive or at least on the periphery of German power, even to the point of violating neutrals. It wasn't a strong position and ran counter to the options available to Adolf Hitler...

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(Adolf Hitler, German Fuhrer who had plenty of options available to him...)

Forczyk makes the case that in many cases with regard to looking into his strategic decisions, Hitler did seek professional advice, even if he wasn't going to follow it all the time. And by June 30, 1940 Alfred Jodl sent a memo to Hitler stating the six options open to him, which were: 1) find a diplomatic solution, 2) blockade/trade warfare, 3) terror bombing, 4) invade directly, 5) take an indirect approach, or 6) turn to a defensive policy. And in a odd way, there was some interest or thought that ALL could work. After all, Hitler had won some respect in the British population, leading to the formation of the British Union of Fascists, the U-boats had begun the war some highly publicized successes, terror bombing had in theory worked in the Spanish Civil War, the British army was badly weakened, there was support for an indirect campaign, and to some degree, Hitler even did put out polices for demobilizing units after the fall of France.

All of these options had various difficulties and chief among them was ultimately be reliant on Hitler and a system that is not what it's often assumed to be. We tend to see Germany as some sort of hyper-organized and rational military machine that knew EVERYTHING about warfare that had been hijacked by the Nazis. However, Forczyk argues flat out that this wasn't true...

He states:

Quote:
Contrary to popular opinion, most German military planning during the World War II was fairly slipshod in nature, conducted by a handful of staff officers operating in single-service environments and armed with faulty intelligence assessments. Logistical factors were generally given little weight, which would lead to disaster later in the war.
-Robert Forczyk We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion 1940-1941 pg. 55-56
And his grammatical error aside, Forczyk's point is that German planning was not what we tend to take it as. And after Hitler issued Fuhrer Directive Number 16, the planning for Sea Lion was no exception. There were profound differences on how the invasion was to be done between the army and navy, and Grand Admiral Erich Raeder was generally in opposition to Sea Lion, if only to protect what warships he had after the mauling the German Navy took off Norway earlier in 1940. In this, Raeder urged postponing Sea Lion until 1941 when the navy would be stronger, but this soon ran into issues with the Luftwaffe, under the leadership of Herman Goering.

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(Herman Goering and Erich Raeder, the leaders of the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine and rivals over Sea Lion's operations... Goering wanted glory, Raeder probably didn't want to launch it at all, and if forced to, he preferred a narrow front he could better defend)

Rivalries within the German High Command and between its services all represented problems for Germany and were further complicated by the fact that Hitler, himself, seemed to waffle between various ideas that ranged from invading Britain, to working with Spain, to fighting in the Mediterranean, to invading Iceland, Ireland, or Switzerland (see: Unternehmen Tannenbaum, Unternehmen Ikarus, and Unternehmen Grun), and even toward the invasion of the Soviet Union. The fact that Hitler's thinking was so inconsistent meant that nothing could really be inevitable or rigidly fixed...

As Forczyk closes the chapter with:

Quote:
It is also important to note that German military operations in the World War II were not based on rigid plans. Instead, the Germans tended to develop a quick, loose scheme of manoeuvre, but actual operations were constantly tinkered with even during execution, as circumstances developed. In 1941, Hitler would invade the Soviet Union with the critical question of deep objectives and main effort still undecided. Similarly, Case Blau (the German summer offensive in Russia in 1942) was conducted with priorities shifting between Stalingrad and the Caucasus on a weekly basis. As a military commander, Hitler was both opportunistic and nervously undiciplined, frequently shifting objectives and apprehensive of enemy counter-moves.
-Robert Forczyk We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion 1940-1941 pg 65
CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) The chapter is highly detailed and it is clear that Forczyk has put a lot of effort to provide facts and information that he generally does support well.

2) He's compartmentalized perspectives and points to within certain sections in the chapter. And while, Forczyk has argued that "compartmentalization" of many of the aspects of the war can be problematic, the fact that he does it demonstrates some understanding of addressing the weaknesses his book faces.

3) Forczyk sets a fairly decent tone with how he deals with his mentions of other historians or arguments in the chapter. The fact that he is trying to revise opinions on Sea Lion generally requires this, as being confrontational... as say Mosier was in his book on Verdun... is not going to inspire anyone to change their minds. Forczyk avoids that.

4) Includes some other means of seeing the information. On page 23 he provides a table to get a look at British production numbers to allow for a better understanding of the output Britain had and can compare with the needs Britain had after Dunkirk...

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) I found two spots in which Forczyk has had some grammatical errors.

2) The chapter is lengthy and heavily detailed. This may work well for serious students of military history, but the average reader or more casual student of military history could be overwhelmed. Forczyk compartmentalizes things well within the chapter, but it might have been easier or even better to split into two chapters, one looking at the German perspective and the other at the British perspective.

CHAPTER THOUGHTS:
Forczyk provides a very detailed report on the situation that Britain and Germany were in June-July 1940, but in a sense it's length and detail mean that the chapter isn't exactly light reading.

Last edited by Sam-Nary; April 11th, 2017 at 11:21 PM.
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Old April 23rd, 2017, 11:29 PM   #3

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The review continues with chapter two.

Chapter Two: Improvising an Invasion Force

In chapter two Forzcyk begins to cover what was likely the greatest weakness in Operation Sea Lion, the ability of the Germans to actually conduct amphibious operations, which he identifies almost from the beginning as rather lacking. He opens the chapter with a comparison the amphibious capabilities of Japan and Great Britain, both of which had had plenty of experience in such operations earlier in history. Japan with its adventures in China and Britain with the historical reference to operations at Galippoli and landings made at Narvik in Norway earlier in 1940. By comparison, Nazi Germany really didn't have that. The Imperial German Navy conducted only one such operation, Albion in the Baltic in 1917 (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Albion for reference), but since the Imperial German Navy lost its heavy warships and the Reichsmarine (1919-1935) and the Kriegsmarine (1935-1945) adopted different strategies regarding naval warfare, and particularly against Britain, Germany entered that into the time period after the fall of France without any real experience in amphibious warfare and that just about everything they'd do would be improvised.

Army Pioneer Battalions were among the first to begin testing on these issues in the thirties, though these projects were small and limited. And while some of these efforts did lead to some fairly sophisticated designs for amphibious craft such as the Pionierlandungsboot 39 and the Land-Wasser-Schlepper, Forczyk makes the point that by the time these boats were ready in any numbers... Sea Lion had been postponed.

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(Pionierlandungsboot 39, a craft developed for Sea Lion but wasn't available in numbers until after the operation was cancelled)

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(Land-Wasser-Schlepper, an amphibious tractor developed for Sea Lion, but wasn't available in numbers until after the operation was cancelled)

The fact that German navy was being saddled with the operation, that left the Germans with trying to put together an operation that would be able to land troops. Here the German navy had only two things they could do. One was to draft as many river barges that they could and alter them as necessary for the purposes transporting troops across the channel and look to the landings in Norway for ideas and lessons. But it is pointed out that landing in Britain wouldn't be quite as how the landings in Norway were handled. In Norway, the Germans had been able to pull into port, dock and unload their troops onto the docks. In Britain, they'd likely be landing on a contested shore. This ultimately turned to using the Sturmboote Type 39 Assault Boat.

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(German troops using a Sturmboote Type 39 Assault Boat, intended to get troops from the transports to shore in Sea Lion)

Forczyk then brings in the point that while the Navy focused on river barges and the army put together ideas for tractors and more conventional landing craft, the Luftwaffe was also involved in building craft for crossing the English Channel which then brings in Major Friedrich W. Siebel. Siebel was a Luftwaffe officer originally tasked with getting France's aircraft factories operating for the German war effort, but rapidly put together ideas for a catamaran type craft that would come to be known as "Siebel ferries." Many of these ferries were made ready for targeted invasion date and would lessen the need for tugboats.

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(Siebel Ferry carrying vehicles, front view)

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(Siebel Ferry, used as a Flak boat, side view)

Siebel also lent some ideas to the development of the Marinefahrprahm (MFP), although, Forczyk points out that it, like many of the other ideas for landing craft, didn't come into service until AFTER Sea Lion had been postponed.

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(Marinefahrprahm, a landing craft intended to carry tanks, but couldn't be produced in time to support Sea Lion)

The other option that the Germans did experiment with were with the tauchpanzers that could effectively swim from a barge to shore.

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(Tauchpanzer preparing to go into the water)

Forczyk comments that the idea, while theoretically quite workable, was not likely to very practical. The tanks would be blind under water and could easily become stuck, and while means had been made to protect against the crew being killed by their own engine exhaust, that didn't mean that it was perfect... And in a way, this mirrors much of what Forczyk conveys in the chapter. That Germany was inexperienced with amphibious warfare, and despite opposition from men like Raeder, the Germans made a rather dedicated effort to try and get things ready. Forczyk even describes the effort given as "herculean" in the chapter. However, despite the effort, it's improvised measures would mean that that doesn't mean they'd necessarily be the best possible solutions or even ready at the time needed... and would give an implication that Germany went into the campaign without proper preparation.

CHAPTER STRENGTH:
Forczyk gives a detailed development of Germany's amphibious capabilities and showing how far they came from where they started at. It shows an amazing feet of work and improvisation given how little experience the Germans had with it before the war started.

CHAPTER WEAKNESS:
The real weakness in the chapter is one that relates a potential struggle the book as a whole will have. Forczyk's intent is to change opinions with regard to how Operation Sea Lion is viewed... and what he seemed to have the most issue with in his introduction was the conclusion by some historians that Sea Lion was a bluff from the beginning. He gives a detailed and extensive explanation on Germany's efforts to improve its amphibious capabilities and covering the weaknesses betrayed by these efforts. However, to many... the weaknesses in their preparations, such as the boats and tractors not being ready until AFTER Sea Lion being cancelled would only be taken as proof that it was a bluff. In this, Forczyk could have stood to do more to differentiate between bluffing and being ill prepared.

CHAPTER THOUGHTS:
As with chapter one, Forczyk's writing is very detailed in its coverage of the efforts made to improve Germany's amphibious capabilities. It shows that a lot of work was put into the idea and ultimately gives the reader a great look at where these efforts risked outright failure and where they did fairly well. He could stand to better with regard to making it clear that areas where the Germans didn't do well would be proof of either bluff and/or not trying hard... but all in all, the chapter is quite informative.
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Old May 12th, 2017, 12:44 AM   #4

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The review continues with chapter three...

Chapter Three: Diplomacy, Espionage, and Intelligence

Chapter three is a longer chapter, but one that focuses on many issues that we may tend to see more as background information or not quite as relevant when thinking on the Battle of Britain or Operation Sealion. As the diplomatic aspects of the time period may not directly relate to what we think of when the battle is mentioned and the espionage and intelligence aspects are things that have long been held as "top secret" and something that would fit more into it's own and not part of something else. Forczyk does a fairly decent job covering the multitude of matters on these issues and presents them in a way that they tie to things mentioned earlier in the book and should be remembered for later.

He opens with the diplomatic efforts on the part of Churchill and the British government to acquire American aid and potentially even bring America into the war. They sent Arthur B. Purvis to represent Britain in Anglo-French Purchasing Commission, which after the fall of France would become the British Purchasing Commission. Forczyk covers the successes and failures at this diplomacy and the things that the British ran into in trying to deal with America and its policies...

The problems in this came from the conflict between isolationists and those that favored intervening in the war. While Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American President was supportive of Britain, he faced opposition both within his government/party and from others who were opposed to his policies.

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(Franklin Delano Roosevelt, US President and supportive of Britain's cause, but hampered by dealing with strong isolationist sentiment)

This strong isolationist sentiment weakened what Roosevelt could do, and with 1940 being an election year, he had to play as though he he would stay close to the Neutrality Acts. See: https://history.state.gov/milestones...eutrality-acts. This limited what the British could buy and thanks to resistance from within the US government and military, including from General George Marshall, most of what was sent to Britain during the early parts of 1940 were largely old out of date equipment that wouldn't likely do much. Forczyk does note that some, like the destroyers for bases deal did include weapons that were still active, such as the USS Twiggs and USS Wickes, but that even this deal wasn't easily received by either the US or Britain... and that while American policy would change, it would not be until after the 1940 elections and thus after the September deadline for Sealion had passed and the operation delayed until 1941 at least. He ends that in the long term success of what became Lend Lease in proving supplies for the Allied powers, but in June 1940, Churchill didn't get the sort of support or help he wanted from America and the long term support he got later would also serve to lead to Britain surrendering leadership in the Allied camp to the Americans when they DID join the war in 1941.

In a sense, Forczyk does make a valid point here, as America WAS heavily hampered by the isolationist lobby, regardless of how much FDR personally supported Churchill and Roosevelt would be have to operate within the constraints that American democracy functioned under... I would think that Forczyk makes that point a bit poorly in the end as seen of that first section...

Quote:
"Churchill's quest for American aid weakened Great Britain financially and precipitated a slide towards second-tier status that was irreversible. In fear of losing Britain's independence to Hitler, Churchill instead surrendered it to Roosevelt, who was in no hurry to get into the war."
-Robert Forcyzk We March Against England: Operation Sealion 1940-41 pg.
92
Now, in a way, one could argue that he was right with the effects that Churchill's diplomatic decisions ultimately did, it should still be noted that America had no interest in conquering Britain and that Britain's overall position was such Britain couldn't win on its own. If Britain was to fight on, it would need help. It should also be noted that Britain, while it might not equal America in economic output and manpower would still hold a major position in determining Allied strategy well into the rest of the war, which couldn't have happened without the decisions made in 1940.

From Britain's diplomacy with America, Forczyk moves onto Britain's various intelligence and reconnaissance services, which through MI6 and others had varying degrees of success. Some, such as the Australian Sidney Cotton had success with covert missions going into Germany even before the war, and brought his expertise with mounting cameras to aircraft for intelligence purses to the RAF during it.

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(Sidney Cotten Australian businessman who worked with MI6 to develop high quality recon photos taken from the air)

Cotton's ideas did eventually catch on and proved the British with a lot of information to their benefit. There is also some mention the interrogation of prisoners, though Forczyk spends little time on this and mentions that most of Britain's improvements would come later in the war. The biggest portion on British intelligence efforts relates to the breaking of the enigma code. Here, Forczyk makes mention of some histories getting the breaking of the enigma code wrong in citing much of success being done by the British alone, and provides the correction on how many of the early successes came from other countries, such as Hans Thilo Schmidt a German from the Reichswehr's cipher office who was dissatisfied and Marian Rejewski a Polish mathematician.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans-Thilo_Schmidt, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marian_Rejewski

From there, Forczyk serves to provide a "brief" highlight of he breaking of German codes offering Ronald Lewin's Ultra Goes to War (1978) and Hugh Sebag-Montefiore's Enigma: The Battle for the Code (2000) for those wishing to know more about the efforts to break the code. It is interesting that he's included this... as it would seem to be almost pitching these historian's books in his own...

In Forczyk's discussion on the breaking of the German codes, he stresses that the Germans used various ciphers that were in many ways different from each other had gave the British, including Alan Turing, who developed a mechanical device to assist in the decoding of German ciphers.

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(Alan Turing, the inventor of Ultra and one of the minds working at Bletchly Park to crack Enigma)

The work done was difficult and at times, the code breaking efforts did produce valuable information... but early on in the war, not reliably enough to be able to tell the full story...

From there, Forczyk moves on to provide comparative information on Germany's intelligence services and diplomacy. This provides a major comparison and shows just how Britain and Germany's efforts differed... or how they fared. He starts with the German attempts to get Abwehr agents into Britain and even stated that even going into the start of the war, there were plenty of pro-Fascist sentiment that might be willing to spy for the Germans, such as Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and others. Yet, Germany made no attempt to recruit them before the war and more often than not... spies recruited by the Abwehr were either arrested the same day they arrived or turned into double agents working for the British... And about the only real success the Germans did get came from a sympathetic diplomat, and all he revealed to the Germans was that Churchill was seeking American aid... This wouldn't help the Germans.

Issues of command and inter-service rivalry also factored heavily. Forczyk describes things in the German intelligence system as being "stove piped" with things going up, but not being shared with collaboration on these issues being virtually nil. He also notes that the Germans lacked the ability to match the sort of photo reconnaissance ability that Cotton's men provided the RAF. They took photos, yes, but they were of poor quality and little could be figured out from them. These issues would hurt the Germans with regards to their intelligence, but things would be compounded by men who either weren't supportive of Hitler or were too supportive of Hitler...

At the head of the Abwehr was Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. In theory, his job was to provide OKW with the intelligence reports needed to function. However, by 1938, Canaris had become something of an opponent to Nazism and it's been suggested that he's worked with British intelligence agencies through various secret deals and deliberately sabotaged Hitler's negotiations with Spain.

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(Wilhelm Canaris, German Admiral and Chief of the Abwehr... and after 1938, an opponent of Hitler within Germany...)

Forczyk states that Canaris wasn't the only German who was at least potentially providing help for the British which hurt Germany, but he also argues that some German figures, such as Josef "Beppo" Schmid who were quite supportive of Hitler to the point where they let their pro-Nazi bias cloud what reports they did deliver. Either they made their reports in a way in which the person reading them got what they wanted to read or the information was based off comments by double agents working for the British.

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(Josef "Beppo" Schmid inspecting German troops under his command)

These sorts of reports, and many of Schmid's in particular gave the impression that Germany was doing well in the battle and winning it by a wide margin. And along with many of the other errors made by German intelligence agencies during the period after the fall of France, it left a climate of uncertainty that with regard to Sealion, may have made the odds seem bigger when some of these sorts of intelligence reports were proven wrong.

The chapter ends with a lengthy discussion on Hitler's attempt to get help from the Spanish. For Hitler, it was an attempt to provide some means to bring Spain into the war and essentially help the Italians in Africa by seizing Gibraltar. And on some level, Franco was willing to join the war, but only when the Germans had rendered the British powerless so that they could claim colonial territory in Africa. These negotiations and the plan to invade Spain to get at Gibraltar in Operation Felix ultimately came to nothing, and it has been suggested that Canaris sabotaged these negotiations... but Forczyk comments that what Canaris said to Franco is an unknown. The end point remains... the talks didn't succeed, as the delay of Sealion to 1941 and other events forced postponement of operations in Spain and eventually an end... though with Spain providing volunteers for Barbarossa... Much of the discussion on negotiations with Spain really doesn't seem to relate much to Sealion and Forczyk concludes the section on a speculative point on possibly swapping food and economic aid for warships... but that point remains speculative.

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) Given the length and subjects covered in the chapter, it needs to be well organized and balanced to cover the full scope of the topic. In this, Forczyk does a very good job of grouping things together in order to make sure his points are clear and that they make sense when read.

2) Detailed analysis... Again, Forczyk covers a lot and provides a lot of information to demonstrate the strengths in British intelligence, the failures in German intelligence, and the struggles of both British and German diplomatic efforts. The tables and figures provided in chapter also make things easier understand.

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) It's length... As with chapter one, it's a long chapter. And while excellent information is provided and well organized so that it can be followed... the book still isn't something that would be "light reading." It might have done better to split it into two chapters with one dealing on those issues from the British perspective and the other from the German perspective.

2) Relevancy issues regarding Spain... While dealing with Spain may have been a part of German diplomacy as part of their campaign against Britain, much of those efforts would seem to take things away from Sealion and toward Raeder's Mediterranean Plan. And the one point that would relate more to Sealion that is raised or wondered on... is more speculative than anything else. Now, the issues with Spain would still be there, and a case could be made... but given on how different the objectives for Hitler and Franco were, going into the level of detail that Forczyk did seems to move away Sealion.

3) Tact issues regarding Britain's negotiations with America. While Forczyk may be right with regard to the impact that the efforts to get America into the war had, I'd think that those last sentences could have been phrased a bit more tactfully and without the implication that Britain gave up its independence to the US. For, while Britain may have lost its status as a world power, that didn't mean it became a US colony.

CHAPTER THOUGHTS...
Forczyk continues to write highly detailed work in We March Against England, and his information is well organized and easily readable. In a sense, it balances out the fact that the chapter is a long one, particularly if you're a serious scholar of history. In this, the strengths of the chapter can offset the weaknesses, though that would depend on what you're looking for specifically. I'd think that the chapter could be made easier to follow had the chapter been split in half with focusing on the Germans and the other on the British so that way all that detailed information is put into more... digestible pieces... but that said, that may more of a editorial view rather than a concern on Forczyk's scholarship.
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Old May 16th, 2017, 10:44 AM   #5
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Hi Sam
So the grammatical error was an editorial error caused by some automated program. In the original text, I had used "the Second World War" throughout the book and this is how it remained through the final manual review. Then, when it went to the publisher, somehow somebody decided to run some automated tool and replaced every occurrence of "Second World War" with "World War Two," but left the article. So, there are about 20+ instances of "the World War II" scattered throughout the book. I told Osprey about it immediately, but it was left in the first edition. The book editing process is fraught with pitfalls and often they aren't apparent until the first hard copy is printed. In the past, I've had maps deleted and entire paragraphs duplicated. There is no way for writers to control what goes on in the print shop.
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Old May 16th, 2017, 11:20 AM   #6

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Originally Posted by Dreyse1866 View Post
Hi Sam
So the grammatical error was an editorial error caused by some automated program. In the original text, I had used "the Second World War" throughout the book and this is how it remained through the final manual review. Then, when it went to the publisher, somehow somebody decided to run some automated tool and replaced every occurrence of "Second World War" with "World War Two," but left the article. So, there are about 20+ instances of "the World War II" scattered throughout the book. I told Osprey about it immediately, but it was left in the first edition. The book editing process is fraught with pitfalls and often they aren't apparent until the first hard copy is printed. In the past, I've had maps deleted and entire paragraphs duplicated. There is no way for writers to control what goes on in the print shop.
Oh... auto-correct... You so silly.
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Old June 30th, 2017, 04:58 PM   #7

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The review continues with chapter four...

Chapter Four: Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe Capabilities against England, 1940-41

In chapter four, Forczyk begins to address the capabilities and even some of the specific actions that the Germans had with regard Operation Sealion and attacks on Britain during the same time period and continues to show both the potential strengths and weaknesses that Germany had.

He opens with dealing with daylight bombing with Germany's medium bombers. And while in many cases, Forczyk does make the point that Germany's bombers did get through to hit... or at least attack targets... there were many gross mistakes that hampered their operations, though many of them are not the ones we often think of first.

The first of this relates to the losses the Luftwaffe took in the Battle of France. Forczyk points out that Germany lost over 500 medium bombers in the six week campaign over France and over 200 damaged and with around 2,000 crewmen killed. In fact he'll even make the point that Germany suffered losses at rates that in theory would otherwise cancel such bombing operations, and that in France and Poland, they'd only been "successful" because ground units had captured the Polish and French airfields and thus removing their fighters from the equation. Against Britain, however, that wouldn't be possible until landings could be attempted... and against the radar system that Britain had in place, they would have plenty of early warning against such attacks. Yet, despite the losses in France, Germany would send the Luftwaffe against Britain quickly, and before it had had a chance to really recover from the Battle of France...

And with a bomber force that was primarily two engine tactical bombers, Forczyk argues that even the strategy chosen to attack the RAF was doomed due to poor quality in either the machine, the tactics, the strategy, or the targeting... In this, Germany in 1940 had the Ju-88, the He-111, the Do-17, and would add the Bf-110... and would still have a problem.

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(Junkers Ju 88, one of the bombers used in the Battle of Britain)

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(Heinkel He 111, one of the bombers used in the Battle of Britain)

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(Dornier D 17, one of the bombers used in the Battle of Britain)

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(Messerschmidt Bf 110, originally a pure fighter... but became more of a fighter/bomber over time)

Though the problem isn't quite what many think. Many often make the comment that Germany failed to build the big four engine bombers and thus lacked the range to strike Britain. However, in 1940, it was not like the Allied bombing efforts over Germany where they would fly from Britain to Berlin and back. Many of Germany's bombers were based closer to Britain and had the range to hit targets as far west as Belfast in Northern Ireland. Range wasn't their problem. The problem with the machine was ultimately in the fact that all of them had a light bomb-load and couldn't carry the ordinance to do major damage, and this sort of weakness then compounded the problems generated by the bombing strategy. This included poor bomb-sights, target choices, and the inability to make it impossible to keep RAF fighter command grounded, as fighters flying from grass strips couldn't be easily taken out of action... And at the same time, Britain's radar warning also prevented the Luftwaffe from catching planes on the ground.

And in that sense... in order to defeat fighter command, that meant that Germany would need to defeat Britain's fighters in the air. And in theory, they had a fighter that could do that in the Messerschmidt Bf 109E...

Click the image to open in full size.
(The Messerschmidt Bf 109, Germany's principle fighter in the Battle of Britain, though designed more as an interceptor, it was not well suited to the bomber escort role)

But Forczyk makes the point that the fighter was designed to serve as an interceptor. So, while the 109 could take down plenty of British fighters when purposely employed against British fighters, their limited range made them poor escorts and they often suffered when trying to escort Britain's bombers. And in this, Germany's bombers would not even be useful bait to lure up fighter command.

From there, Forczyk moves to cover what became a more apart of the terror and night bombing of Britain. This related to the use of a delayed action fuse. These delayed fuses proved difficult for the British to disarm and at first many British engineers only succeeded in blowing themselves up and that many of these UXBs have even survived to this day. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unexpl...United_Kingdom for reference.

These sorts of fuses would be harnessed in many of the raids over Britain that went on both day and night. And at night the Germans had an advantage of a radio guidance system that could guide them to their targets. And while the British found ways to jam the initial system an improved system designated X-Gerat was put in place that worked even better and the success then allowed for the raid on Coventry. See: Germans bomb Coventry - Nov 14, 1940 - HISTORY.com And in 1940, these nighttime raids had the real opportunity for success in 1940 as Britain wouldn't begin to have an effective night fighter system until 1941.

In theory this would seem to make the case that Germany's best option would be to engage in terror bombing tactics at night, though this could also have the potential to weaken any attempt to prepare for an invasion... though this would also come into play with the errors Germany committed selecting its targets. Forczyk makes the case that various studies were made to select targets and that Goering and his chief of staff, Hans Jeschonnek looked through and analyzed. Yet, both seemed to either misinterpret information or ignored it. Forczyk even argues that as time went on target selection became less and less strategy based and that at the heart of their troubles was that they had too many targets and thus couldn't focus on any one target.

The rest of the chapter then focuses on other related capabilities. This includes the use of mines, torpedo boats, long range maritime patrol bombers, surface raiders, merchant cruisers, and the u-boats. Each of these had their pluses and rivalries that both helped and hurt the German efforts....

This is shown heavily in the use of mines. As part of its efforts to blockade Britain, Germany placed large numbers of mines along the British coasts and Forczyk even makes the point that in the early years they had found in the magnetic mine a weapon that could not be easily countered and one that could even be enlarged to deal with warships. The Germans found various ways to deliver these mines, be they from destroyers, bombers, S-boats, and even from submarines. The magnetic mine proved highly effective and at one point it even looked as though the the use of this sort of mine warfare had a shot at closing off the port of Liverpool... but in the end, despite the dangers the magnetic mine posed to the British, that campaign was lost... not so much to British counters to the magnetic mine... but in the rivalry between Admirals Raeder and Donitz. Donitz didn't favor the use of mines as the mine campaign got in the way of his own pet project in attacking British convoys in deeper water.

That had its own problems as the Germans also found early on and with varying other weapons. Germany would alter various aircraft to carry torpedos and had various purpose built torpedo boats, schnellbootes, and these at times did prove surprisingly successful. Forczyk makes mention a group of schnellbootes catching Lord Mountbatten's 5th Destroyer flotilla on the 9th of May (though the year is not listed, it is presumably 1940). This attack was startling to the British and by July, the Germans had schnellbootes in the channel and preying on convoys.

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(German schnellboote)

Forczyk also covers with the improvement of the Luftwaffe in countering British shipping in even striking at ships at full speed and so on. This includes the hits on HMS Southampton, HMS Edinburgh, HMS Norfolk, and others. However, this also counters issues that come out the Dunkirk evacuation. There the Luftwaffe had trouble hitting the ships evacuating the Allied troops. Yes, they hit ships, but they were usually stopped or moving slowly... and even some of the ships that were hit that Forczyk were also at anchor or moving slowly. Now, if these mentions came AFTER Dunkirk, there could be some explanation that the bomber crews had improved at intercepting ships... but much of this was mentioned to have happened during the Norwegian campaign. So... what made X Fliegerkorps different from the bomber crews that failed to destroy the evacuation attempt at Dunkirk? Forczyk doesn't get into this...

From there Forczyk begins to move into the hear of the Battle of the Atlantic and focusing on the trade war that Admiral Erich Raeder and Karl Donitz tried to fight in the Battle of the Atlantic.

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(Karl Donitz, commander of the German U-boat Arm in 1940, would eventually command the entire German Navy and at the end of the war succeed Adolf Hitler as Fuhrer)

The U-boats played a major part in the trade war against Britain, and Forczyk does talk the new tactics that Donitz employed to improve their danger British convoys. Their danger was clear provided plenty of danger of sinking British ships and even warships, as there were some startling victories early in the war. However, even with the implementation of the Rudeltaktick, Donitz had major problems. For one, Germany didn't have many U-boats when the war began and in the early years of the war, they weren't building many. This provided major limitations to what Germany didn't have enough U-boats to strangle Britain and thus lessened the damage they could do, given the expected need for around 300 U-boats... Forczyk also makes mention of construction crews who might have otherwise built more U-boats were transferred for part of the Sealion preparations. And these limited numbers would often mean that many convoys made it through because there weren't enough U-boats to spot them. Some numbers changed toward late 1940, but this was more to having more proficient U-boat captains than earlier...

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(Otto Kretschmer, German U-boat commander in WW2 and the top U-boat ace)

But early in the war, the U-boats also had to share the Atlantic and other oceans with the German surface fleet and other secret raiders. In 1939 the Germans sent out the Deautschland and Admiral Graf Spee to raid British convoys. This would continue into 1941 with other German surface warships including the Admiral Hipper, the Scharnhorst, Gneisneau, Prince Eugen, and the Bismarck...

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(Deutschland Class cruiser, representative of the Deutschland and Admiral Graf Spee, sent to raid British convoys in 1939)

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(Admiral Hipper Class cruiser, representative of the Admiral Hipper and the Prince Eugen)

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(Bismarck Class, representative of the Bismarck and Tirpitz)

However, unlike the success of the U-boats, the success of the surface warships was much more limited... or mitigated by other circumstances. Britain wasn't about to just let German warships stalk their convoys and the German ships were often tasked to avoid contact with British warships. This often limited the number of merchantmen that they could sink and often meant that they had to flee if confronted. And even that didn't always work... As the Admiral Graf Spee was caught by British cruisers off of Uruguay and was ultimately scuttled and the Bismarck was caught and sunk off of Brest, France. There were some successes... but they did not offset the loss of the warships sunk when they were sunk...

And would raise some point to question as to how much Raeder really cared about his surface ships. Raeder is noted for his opposition to Sealion on the basis that it would risk his surface vessels... but yet he would quite willingly send them out alone with the great risk that the British won't be on patrol... for if they were, it'd be almost guaranteed that they'd be sunk if caught.

Added to surface warships were covert vessels, warships disguised as merchantman. Called Hilfskreuzer, they mirror the British concept of an armed merchant cruiser, but were used by the Germans to raid British convoys and lay mines. One even managed to lay mines off of New Zealand that took down at least one British/Allied ship. The most famous of these being the raider Atlantis.

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(Hilfskreuzer Atlantis)

And from the air... Germany would aid specialized Luftwaffe units flying the Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condor. These long range bombers could then hit British convoys at ranges that went beyond the range of British fighters. And while the Fw 200 had to attack at low altitude, this actually came to its benefit.

Click the image to open in full size.

And Forczyk makes the point that all of these came together at a point where the British would be stretched thin to try and confront them all, if they could all move together and all move at once... and onto the right targets. But in the end, despite all the pluses that were there, that didn't occur. Largely for the same reasons that doomed Germany's efforts to bomb Britain, and that is what he ends the chapter with. Their ability to coordinate targets was poor. The U-boat war emphasized the raw tonnage sunk, but didn't really differentiate their targets and often exaggerated the tonnage of the ship sunk besides. This relates to some things that I've read in the book Black May by Michael Gannon. The Germans may have sunk ships, but the ships sunk may NOT have actually been carrying much in the way of raw material. And Forczyk does state openly that the Germans had trouble identifying the ships that would matter most. Which is a failing... as if you hit a ship carrying a china set for the Queen and miss the ship carrying fuel oil or tanks or necessary food, the tonnage of the ship sunk really doesn't help starve Britain all that much. He also makes the point that between the ability to get their Hilfskreuzer's out into the Atlantic and with their long range Type IX U-boats, the Germans could have also hit certain fuel refineries in the Caribbean that would have drastically hurt British oil imports. But the Germans didn't attack them in any real way that would truly affect them... at first because they didn't want to provoke the US and later because of inter-service rivalry over tactics.

It's almost as if the Germans garner an advantage and then sabotage that advantage...

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) Highly detailed. Forczyk continues to provide a lot of information that covers the information that specifically relates to the chapter's topic. The listing of specific aircraft and even specific bomb types and fuses help provide a lot of information about what Germany had in 1940.

2) Well organized and readable. This relates to the first point, but given the chapter length it stands well on its own. Because there is a lot of information to cover, there needs to be a good sense of order, or such a lengthy chapter would come off as rambling... and in this Forczyk does a good job of grouping his information and even providing tables and maps to help illustrate his point.

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) Poor connections to what we know as Operation Sea Lion. While Forczyk does provide a lot of information and it is relevant to Germany's war with Britain... it doesn't really fit in with what we think of as Operation Sea Lion or even relates to it. There is some mention of that in the transfer of U-boat construction workers to the crews assembling the landing craft... but Forczyk really doesn't provide the explanation to connect the dots between the various weapons and tactics and how they related to the idea for Sea Lion... were the surface warships intended as a decoy on Raedar's part away from the landings? Or were they truly to make the landings viable by luring the Royal Navy away? More could be explained here... especially as many elements are not part of what we would typically think of with regard to Operation Sea Lion.

2) It's again a very long chapter. Granted there is a lot of information, but the chapter length continues to mean that it really isn't something that would be easy to pick up.

CHAPTER THOUGHTS...
The book remains very detailed and highly informative, but its chapter lengths continue to be such that someone who isn't truly dedicated to studying the topic may not actually get much from it. Especially as this chapter's primary weakness shows that the chapter talks a lot about all the weapons the Germans had available to them... but doesn't connect them to the end theme of the book as a whole. In this, it might be easier to split the chapter into two parts and let one focus on Luftwaffe efforts and the other on the Germany navy... and if absolutely need be... even DROP some of the detail to provide connections between all the information gathered and how they would either help or hurt Sea Lion's chances.
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Old July 11th, 2017, 01:03 PM   #8

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So, while the 109 could take down plenty of British fighters when purposely employed against British fighters, their limited range made them poor escorts and they often suffered when trying to escort Britain's bombers.
This should be Germany's bombers... If he Bf 109 was escorting British bombers, the Luftwaffe had another problem.
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Old August 26th, 2017, 04:44 PM   #9

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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 five...

Chapter Five: Countdown to Sea Lion

I would start that I think this chapter is poorly placed, at least when compared to what the previous chapter focused on. The previous chapter went over all the weapons, persons, and abilities that were available to the Germans to make Sea Lion work. For the sake of balance, this chapter should focus on what weapons, persons, and abilities the British had to resist it. It would thus balance out what was put in the previous chapter. Instead, Forczyk moves to cover events that were supposedly on the eve of Sea Lion and mistakes made by Churchill during that time. While this could be helpful to setting up Forczyk's main thesis, it's placement in chapter five does not provide adequate balance. In this, the chapter would have been better placed as Chapter Four or as Chapter Six... (as Forczyk DOES have a chapter that focuses on Britain's weapons, persons, and abilities... but it comes after this chapter and thus has it separated from his analysis on Germany's weapons and abilities).

Forczyk opens the chapter with some reminders of Churchill's mistakes in World War I with regard to decisions that he made that failed and makes the mention that decisions made in WWII were not always good that his bad decisions are often forgotten or overlooked due to the victory. This included putting the funding for a massive automatic digging machine that would ultimately become called, "Nellie." The idea was that the machine would be able to dig trenches automatically and thus allow for the sort of stalemate that existed in WWI from being prevented. As Nellie would allow the British to dig right up to German trenches. And despite the Battle of France in 1940 ultimately showing that the trench warfare of WWI wasn't going to be the focal point of WWII, Churchill maintained his support for "Nellie," which dwarfed Britain's Matilda II tanks and by 1943 Britain had only built four of them. In this, Forczyk compares Churchill's "Nellie" project as every bit as silly as Hitler's obsession with massive tanks later in the war.

For extra info on "Nellie" see: Nellie ? Churchill?s Mechanical ?Mole? | Armchair General | Armchair General Magazine - We Put YOU in Command!

Forczyk also makes mention of Churchill's support for weapons like the Z-Battery in a series of anti-aircraft rockets that ultimately proved ineffective and diverted resources to other weapons and equipment that wouldn't have done much strengthen Britain's position. All of this is a beneficial element to Forczyk's argument in that while Churchill is rightly remembered being steadfast in 1940, it should not be forgotten that embracing new technologies or continuing to push failed ideas from WWI does NOT make Churchill's military judgement entirely sound. He was every bit as capable of making mistakes as Hitler did.

And these sorts of potential mistakes are not limited to equipment. Forczyk also points to strategic moves that Churchill made that sent British forces to all sorts of fronts that wouldn't do much to defend Britain. This included bolstering units in Africa to fight against Italian troops in Libya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. In early August 1940, as the air battles raged and various warning signs that a German invasion was possible... and growing... Churchill dispatched reinforcements to General Wavell in Africa to allow for a resumption of offensive operations against the Italians in Africa...

Click the image to open in full size.
(Archibald Wavell, British Commander in Egypt and East Africa whom Churchill chose to reinforce on August 13, 1940 even with the threat of invasion still high)

In the end, the move would pay off in that Britain won a victory over Italy... but that generally still relies on the fact that ultimately Germany didn't actually launch Sea Lion. Many might even make the argument that the attack was a bluff and thus there was no threat to Britain. But, even if true, that's a judgement made AFTER the fact. Churchill couldn't have known with 100% certainty that Sea Lion was a bluff or would be postponed at the time. As such, it doesn't make much sense to transfer entire units, including armored units, to strategically unimportant areas when the real possibility of your homeland being invaded existed. In this, if the attack came... Operation Apology had the real potential to have weakened the British defenses in Britain to win some unimportant areas in Africa.

The "success" that was enjoyed by Wavell as a result further allowed for gambles that did little to win the war... in sending troops to Greece and Crete, which would be caught and defeated there by the Germans and left Britain's position weak before Rommel in Libya...

Churchill would also commit naval forces to confront the Vichy French forces controlling Dakar. Here, Forczyk points to the belief proposed by De Gaulle that the Vichy French forces would rapidly switch sides and thus deny the Germans access to the Battleship Richelieu...

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(French Battleship Richelieu, the target of Operation Catapult/Menace)

Committed to the attack on Dakar, were the battleships Barham, Resolution, the Aircraft Carrier Ark Royal, the cruisers Fiji and Devonshire, four destroyers from the Home Fleet, and seven more destroyers from Gibraltar. In terms of raw numbers, this would be an impressive force to deal with one French battleship, especially if De Gaulle was right and the Richelieu defected to the allies along with the Dakar garrison. But in the end, nothing went as planned. Remembering Mers-el-Kebir, the Vichy forces opened fire almost immediately and both the Barham and Resolution took heavy damage and despite firing over 400 rounds at a stationary target, no significant damage was done to the Richelieu. It was a failed raid that took vital naval forces that would have been needed to deal with any potential German launching of Sea Lion...

Even with their inaccuracy at Dakar, the presence of Barham and Resolution in the Channel in September 1940 would have been a major presence that the Germans wouldn't have been able to easily contend with. Their destroyers and improvised weapons weren't going to be as well armored as the Richelieu or as well armed by conventional means. Their defeat at Dakar would mean that neither would be available to even pose a threat to any potential German landing effort... Thankfully for Britain, the events of July-September 1940 with regard to the air war and the flaws in German decision making regarding strategy... Sea Lion was never pushed and the loss at Dakar was not as damning as it COULD have been in the bigger picture.

From discussing Churchill's errors, Forczyk then moves on to discussing the issues that related to trying to expect the possible German landing areas. And like the Germans before D-Day, he makes the case that the British really didn't do any better in September 1940. Forczyk makes reference to many having fears over East Anglia being a possible target, remembering Admiral Hipper's raids on the same region in WWI. (See: First World War.com - Battles - Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, 1914 for additional info on those raids)

It is mentioned that attention did turn to the south coast in late August 1940, but this was only after the Germans were seen moving shipping into France's channel ports. And there, things remained rather hesitant as the British moved to lay fortifications across every possible site of attack rather than what they thought the most likely to be. The key figure behind this was General Edmund Ironside, and while his efforts would give the British the ability to put some resistance against any German landing and the British would have a reserve to counter landings... it should be noted that of twenty six available infantry divisions, only three would actually be in a place to deal with the Germans where they actually intended to land.

Click the image to open in full size.
(Edmund Ironside, Commander of British Home Defense in 1940, who spread Britain's defenses out to counter any possible attack... but never pinpointed where the Germans actually intended to land)

Forczyk also comments on the British having some questions on how such an invasion would even be conducted, which would thus present them with issues that would seriously hamper any attempt to respond to a German invasion. This could, therefore, give the Germans better odds of success in landing and succeeding in Britain... but Forczyk ends the chapter there and doesn't go into any further detail...

CHAPTER STRENGTH:
Forczyk does do a good job of presenting the weaknesses in the British defenses regarding their preparations for dealing with Sea Lion and the weaknesses of Churchill's own strategic thinking. It does present a good case that Sea Lion was not doomed to defeat should it have been launched as the defenses were weakened by poor strategic moves and poor anticipation on where the Germans might land...

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) Poor balance between British and German issues. While presenting the weaknesses on the British side could make a good case for the Germans having success had they launched Operation Sea Lion, Forczyk does NOT actively present any direct information on things going on on the German side on the "eve" of Sea Lion. And to those familiar with my debate with Poly in another thread, (The Best German Option After the Fall of France...), one will note that he continually asserts that the plan was a complete bluff because Rundstedt went on vacation after the fall of France. Now, given that Rundstedt would ultimately lie about the halt order before Dunkirk, it is entirely possible the plan could have been serious and Rundstedt going on vacation was a major mistake... However, without any reference to that sort of situation on the German side, Forczyk does not present comparing information that would truly help prove his case that Sea Lion wasn't a bluff... He's made a case for British mistakes on the eve of the operation... he has not made any case for the Germans being serious to even launch the plan. As such... Forczyk actually serves to argue against his own thesis in this chapter.

2) Poor placement of the chapter. I repeat what I began this chapter review with that this chapter would have been better served placed BEFORE the chapter on Germany's weapons and capabilities or after the chapter on Britain's anti-invasion capabilities... NOT between them.

3) Short chapter length... It may be odd that THIS would be a weakness, given that many of the previous chapters were felt to be too long and could have been broken up into shorter more specialized chapters... but in a way those longer chapters did cover much more information. And with the fact Forczyk focuses far more on the British than the Germans in this chapter, it is clear that he could have stood to provide a longer chapter that would deal with everything. As it is... he would need to have another short chapter that discusses the eve of the battle for the Germans to balance things out with this chapter, but if THAT is added, he would open up another issue of poor chapter placement. In that... it would have been better to have had this be a longer chapter to cover some of the material that is presently missing...
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Old August 27th, 2017, 01:38 AM   #10

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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 six...

Chapter Six: British Anti-invasion Capabilities, 1940-41

This is the chapter that I feel should have been immediately after the chapter on Germany's weapons and capabilities, as it would better balance out things out with that chapter... as here, Forczyk claims to want to cover Britain's capabilities as completely as he covered the German capabilities earlier...

Forczyk starts with the Royal Air Force, which served as the first line of defense and has gained much notoriety with regard to the Battle of Britain as we know it. And in this it would include more than just Fighter Command, but Bomber and Coastal Commands as well. He also notes that as September 1940 arrived, their finding of where the Germans were massing their landing craft and barges for Sea Lion, they launched many air raids on cities like Antwerp, Dunkirk, and Le Harve and ultimately forced the Kriegesmarine to spread itself out to avoid being such a tightly packed target. In a sense, this does show some capability on the part of Bomber and Coastal Commands to hit targets, but Forczyk also points out that the Luftwaffe surely would be tasked to protect their invasion convoys, which would be where Fighter Command's importance comes into play... Dealing with the invasion convoys would then also depend on what the British bring to the fight...

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(Fairey Battles in flight, light bomber available to Bomber Command)

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(Bristol Blenheim, light bomber available to Bomber Command)

These bombers would have been available to strike against the German invasion fleet and barges, but Forczyk made the point that their presence wasn't an instant "Britain wins" scenario. The bombers listed all proved vulnerable to interceptors and in the French campaign had needed to come within 110 yards to have a chance of hitting a target which could make their potential losses in any battle to stop the German invasion could be between 30 to 50%... Likely due to their vulnerability to fighters and the fact that they'd have to come so low in altitude to hit their targets... Forczyk also adds in some coverage of British efforts to stop the German "Channel Dash" later in the war. In the course of Operation Cerberus, in February 1942, Bomber Command and Coastal Command launched around 400 sorties, lost 17 bombers, and failed in their mission to stop the German ships. Forczyk points to poor coordination between Bomber, Coastal, and Fighter Commands being part of the problem in 1942 and that thus one shouldn't expect there to be GREATER cooperation in 1940... Which would be potentially troublesome, as given the vulnerabilities of Britain's bombers, they would be dependent on help from Fighter Command.

And it's fighter command under Hugh Dowding that gets a lot of the attention with regard to the Battle of Britain, and many elements of the battle over Britain that did reflect his assessment on buying time.

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(Hugh Dowding, Fighter Command commander during the Battle of Britain)

By September 1940, he had 19 squadrons of Supermarine Spitfires and 21 squadrons of Hawker Hurricanes with new fighters being built in the same time being over 1,000 and thus allowing Fighter command which fit a quote that Forczyk provides on Fighter Command's mission...

Quote:
Mine was the purely defensive role of trying to stop the possibility of an invasion, and thus give this country a breathing spell... it was Germany's objective to win the war by invasion, and it was my job to prevent such an invasion from taking place.
-- Hugh Dowding commenting on Fighter Command's mission after the fact...
And the numbers did seem to support Dowding's claim that Fighter Command bought Britain time. His Spitfires and Hurricanes did prevent the Luftwaffe from gaining air superiority over Britain's air space...

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(The Supermarine Spitfire[top] and Hawker Hurricane[bottom], Britain's principle fighters in the Battle of Britain)

... But despite these positive numbers, Forczyk makes the argument that despite their successes, they alone wouldn't have stopped Sea Lion if it had began. This came from the missions that would be given to Fighter Command to confront Sea Lion. And according to a memo issued on September 14, 1940, this would include protecting the Royal Navy, escorting the bombers attacking the German invasion sights and invading convoys, and taking down any German transports. These requirements presented a series of problems...

These problems included:
1) Escorting the navy and bombers attacking German invasion convoys would take them out into the Channel, which would negate many of the advantages the Spitfire and Hurricane had in confronting the Bf 109 over England.
2) Individual British fighter tactics were still inferior to German fighter tactics, and after June 1940 as the British rushed to keep Fighter Command's numbers up, the training of new pilots also dropped. And in fact, Fighter Command was good at intercepting bombers found by Britain's radar... but not much else.
3) Training for Fighter command's navigation over water was which give them trouble in fog and had given RAF Fighter Command's efforts difficulty over Dunkirk earlier in 1940.
4) Covering the Royal Navy against Sea Lion would require up to 150-200 sorties and was about 20% of the number of sorties that Fighter Command could sustain each day on the whole...
5) German paratrooper attacks were executed in such ways that Britain's radar system wouldn't be able to identify them completely. They may realize planes are coming, but they won't know for sure what kind of planes they are, and with the Ju 52 flying at low altitudes... attacking them would only expose the British fighters to any escorting German fighters.

In this with the difficulties that the memo presented for Fighter Command, Forczyk makes the point that stopping the German landings wouldn't be likely... even under favorable conditions. However, he DOES raise the point that once the Germans had landed, the RAF bombers would have a better time directly dealing with any parked vessels and that Fighter Command could more easily deal with any German ground attack aircraft trying to support their troops on the beaches.

From the abilities of the RAF, Forczyk then moves on to the Royal Navy, and there, while it may have been the most powerful force the British had, again, Forczyk directly attacks many of the supposed "myths" about the Royal Navy's superiority. He argues that others have argued that the Royal Navy's size would justify the claim that Sea Lion was doomed from the start, as the British would simply throw their navy at the Germans had they launched it. In this, Forczyk makes his by pointing to various numbers and the intentions of the British Home Fleet's command...

The numbers is fairly easy to work out and Forczyk provides a table on page 208 of the operational ships available to the Royal Navy. Using that table, 145 out of 258 warships were in home waters, around 56% percent of the entire navy. That is an impressive force by itself, and certainly would give anyone pause for thought, but it should be noted that the bulk of these numbers would be in destroyers and to keep in mind that numbers by themselves do not mean everything. We should remember that if we went "by numbers" the Battle of Midway SHOULD have been a tremendous Japanese victory... but it wasn't. And that is where factors that relate to the command of the Home Fleet comes into the picture...

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(Admiral Sir Charles Forbes, Commander of the British Home Fleet in 1940)

Charles Forbes, the commander of the British Home Fleet had a fairly cautious streak, and while he had a large fleet at his disposal, he WASN'T going to risk his most valuable ships to stop any invasion so that they could be bombed by the Germans. The battleships sent to be based in the Channel (and after Barham and Resolution were damaged by the Richelieu, this would come down to just the Revenge) were of WWI vintage and wouldn't be as costly a loss as Britain's newer battleships. And Forbes only made that commitment reluctantly... and in the end it would not be until 1944 that the British sent a battleship through the Straits of Dover... Forczyk also argues that had had Britain's capital ships been deployed... it would have been to deal with later waves...

But even if its capital ships wouldn't be in the first wave... the force the British had was large in size and I'd personally argue that had Sea Lion been launched, it'd be likely that Churchill would have at least tried to get Forbes to use his bigger warships at some point and as such they should be counted as available.

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(J Class Destroyer - image is of HMS Jervis - of which two were stationed in the Channel There were also 3 similar I Class Destroyers in the Channel)


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(V Class Destroyer - image is of HMS Vanessa - There were also several similar W Class Destroyers)

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(Town Class - image is of HMS Newcastle)

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(Arethusa Class Cruiser - image is of HMS Galatea)

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(E Class Cruiser - image is of HMS Emerald)

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(C Class Cruiser - image is of HMS Capetown)

These ships all gave the Royal Navy the numbers needed to be impressive, but Forczyk does include the point that the minefields likely laid by the Germans would serve to give the Royal Navy trouble to navigate through, and while they could move at night to avoid the Luftwaffe, many of the ships in service did NOT have radar which could then make targeting difficult. And when compared to the general inaccuracy at Dakar, expecting the Royal Navy to just one shot German ships would be a bit two optimistic. Night actions would be further hampered by the fact that many of the weapons installed on the warships in 1940 were not great for night action and that many of the duel purpose 20mm and 40mm weapons had NOT been installed yet. And the use of smoke could negate the British use of star-shells and illumination rounds.

Forczyk also points to flaws in other historian's theories on how British destroyers could easily destroy the German invasion barges... The theory was that the destroyers could just use their bow wake. The flaw in that argument is that these invasion barges, while slow, and not necessarily the best suited for ocean travel... were not unarmed and helpless. Coming in that close would expose the British destroyers to an assortment of defensive weapons that could do damage to the destroyer.

Forczyk also points to various failed attempts by the Royal Navy to sink German convoys, including one raid on the night of September 10-11, 1940 in which three RN destroyers caught a German coastal convoy off of Ostend, but only managed to sink a small handful of ships. On the night of October 13-14, 1940 another force of British destroyers caught a small German convoy, and despite being better armed than the Germans, the convoy escaped with little real damage. The cycle of failed raiding continued on months later in the Mediterranean where the British largely failed to stop German convoys trying to get to Crete, many of which travelling at speeds on par with the 5 knot pace many of the Sea Lion barges would be travelling at. In this, despite the size of surface fleet, it isn't likely that the Royal Navy would be able to easily dominate the channel, and given that many of the ships committed were WWI vintage with weak air defense, what they could do would be limited. HMS Revenge might be a trump card in dealing with what German destroyers were committed, but their presence was NOT the instant Britain win's issue...

In fact, the points where Forczyk would argue where the Royal Navy had its best potential to stop the German invasion at sea were in areas that in theory helped the Germans as well. Germany's unwieldy barges would have a difficult time navigating British minefields in the dark and they would potentially face something we don't often associate with the Royal Navy... Submarines. Britain's T Class Submarine was BETTER than its German counterparts, could strike day or night, and the same time would face meager German anti-submarine defenses... It's these that would have likely done the most damage to any attempt at Sea Lion.

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(British T-Class Submarine, the Royal Navy's trump card according to Forczyk)

From there, Forczyk moves on to the British army, which he points out that even three months after Dunkirk was STILL suffering shortages of equipment and trained personnel. By September 1940 they had 23 Infantry Divisions, 2 Armored divisions, and 4 Commonwealth Divisions. In this, not counting the Home Guard, the British had 1.3 million men in uniform, but that number is deceptive with the number of fully trained combat troops being rather low. There was also weaknesses in that the methods of training and the doctrine in which they operated were written in 1937 and took nothing in relation to "combined arms" into account. This would weaken any response the army could make...

At the same time, and essentially building off of the point that the British army couldn't pinpoint where the Germans would land, they had also adopted a very spread out... "curst defense," even going as far as to reactivate old Napoleonic era forts for use as defensive positions. These might do "some" good, but it isn't likely that they'd last long against modern weapons, and it would be likely that once the Luftwaffe began bombing tactical targets to support the landings, these old Napoleonic forts wouldn't last long. To try and improve this, the British would attempt to lay mines in many areas, though in 1940, Britain was largely improvising as it lacked a comparable mine to the German S-Mine. The British would also add what became called the "Mushroom Mine," but this mine proved extremely sensitive and lead to a series of costly accidents including civilian deaths and a "chain detonation" of these mines destroying other beach fortifications.

Forczyk also makes the point that the British were confronted by having several officers that were unfit or aging. One was a Major General Claude F. Liardet, an officer who was 59 years old and largely out of touch with the modern army. Another was a Lt. Colonel John RJ Macnamara MP, who was openly sympathetic to the Nazis. General Alan Brooke essentially had his hands full with these sorts of issues...

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(General Sir Alan Brooke, Commander of the British ground defense in 1940)

And at the same time, Brooke also ran into trouble with regard to his personal rivalries with other officers and trying to coordinate a general reserve, which would likely be employed to counter where the Germans land. This reserve did include a largely reconstituted tank force, which Forczyk claims has been what many have argued would enable the British army to win. Forczyk, however, counters that while in terms of numbers, the British had 762 tanks by September 1940, it needs to be remembered that the tactics with which British tanks were to be employed hadn't changed, and wouldn't change with regard to their relation to infantry until 1943. And while Britain's Matilda II was formidable, by September 1940 the Germans WERE beginning to put counters to it into service.

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(Matilda II, British Infantry Tank and Britain's best armored weapon)

As such, there was the real risk that British tactics would weaken any hope of a successful armored counterblow by the British, especially when looking at how later British commanders, like Montgomery, still tended to operate "by the book." And while they did win later in the war, it did mean that attacking rapidly and in an almost improvised manner, which would be needed to defeat any German landing, was NOT likely. And in 1940, the artillery and air support was just not there for the British overwhelm the Germans as it would be later in the war.

From the regular army, Forczyk moves on to the Home Guard, which he largely dismisses. While roughly 1.6 million strong by September 1940, he notes that by comparison, neither the Soviet People's Militia nor the German Volksturm performed well from 1941 to 1945. As such, while Forczyk also notes that recent studies have shown that many Home Guard troops were under 27 years of age, there is no great reason to assume that the Home Guard would do any better against trained troops. Perhaps the most skilled younger troops could be selected for full training and regular service... but the end conclusion on the Home Guard was that they weren't good for much more than sparking a patriotic effort from the population.

From there, Forczyk closes the chapter with Britain's capabilities with regard to chemical warfare. And while both sides initially agreed to abide by the Geneva Protocol of 1930, the Imperial Chemical Industry (ICI) Randle Works worked to produce plenty of poison gas weapons, just in case the Germans violated the protocol and by the time he was Prime Minister, Churchill was quite willing to use it as an area deterrent weapon. (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britis...eum_and_poison for more information). In this, it would appear that Churchill seemed to forget the great lessons of WWI... that all turning to chemical weapons would do was make the job harder and would not win the battle...

CHAPTER STRENGTHS:
1) Highly detailed on what Britain had at its disposal and was sure to provide both their strengths and weaknesses. In many cases, elements that see Sea Lion as doomed from the start will tend to assume that anything and everything the British had was superior or wouldn't face any serious difficulty. In this by looking at the potential weaknesses of all involved, Forczyk does provide some better understanding on just what the British could do to defend against Sea Lion.

2) Information is well organized with tables and maps to help the reader along. As with many of Forczyk's chapters, this is a fairly long and detailed one and he often does get into some unit designations and has details that if simply left on the page could be difficult to follow for the casual reader. However, with the maps and tables provided, the reader can easily see on where units were located and what their areas of operation were.

3) Polite treatment of other arguments. Unlike Mosier in his book on Verdun, Forczyk when he mentions either other historians or their claims does not was time throwing insults at them. He may include commentary where previous histories have missed something or have ignored something, but he doesn't insult the historian or his argument.

CHAPTER WEAKNESSES:
1) Poor editing... On page 208, Forczyk writes, "The Admiralty also wanted the battleship HMS Revenge sent to Portsmouth to cover the south coast of England..." Yet on the next page on the map of where Britain had its warships based, no battleship is placed at Portsmouth, but there is one placed at Plymouth further west. Now, perhaps the Revenge was sent to Plymouth rather than Portsmouth, but if so... it is not mentioned in the chapter. And if it was sent to Portsmouth, he's failed to put the battleship in the right port on the map.

2) Poor chapter placement. I stand by my opinion that this chapter would be better served next to the chapter on Germany's capabilities, as while elements from the previous chapter do come into play, it needs to be noted that some of those decisions also came after some of the dates mentioned for when and where units were placed... and that at first, these units should be considered "available" to defend Britain. Things like the decision to attack Dakar could still be explained... but putting the chapter on German abilities next to the chapter on British abilities wouldn't require that much in the way of editing...

CHAPTER THOUGHTS... Forczyk has done a great job with this chapter, similarly with his chapter on Germany's abilities. Things are well explained, and while he does make references to other histories, historians, and claims he does so in a way that remains respectful, even if he disagrees. This would provide for those who are more heavily supportive of the claims he's arguing against to be more willing to read and accept his argument. And the balancing of strengths and weaknesses for the British does go a long way to show that the Battle of Britain was not instantly won the moment it began... and that in a way, just because the British won in history, that doesn't mean that that win would easily translate over into a different scenario.

Last edited by Sam-Nary; August 27th, 2017 at 01:42 AM.
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