Could Germany have successfully invaded Britain by sea without air superiority?

Dec 2014
To all the sceptics out there, think about this......

Assume the germans had NOT attacked in May 1940 and we were discussing a "what if" on the possibility for Germany to defeat France in one month...

Which of you would actually say, it was possible ? And which of you would point out to the strong Maginot line, the numerous French army supported by the british and potentially the belgians... the difficulty to break through at Eben Emael..... The superior number of allied tanks and the superior quality of the french B1 and Somua tanks which could not be handled by any german tanks... The strength of the allied air forces.. The numerous rivers in the north of France... The strength of the allied navies, making troop movements along the coast difficult for the germans etc..
In May 1940 the Belgium army mustered some 22 divisions against the Germans 150 divisions. Suppose we were sitting here arguing over the possibility of Belgium invading and conquering Germany single-handed instead? Is that possible?

Now remember that the RN superiority over the Kriegsmarine was significantly greater than that at this point. By the beginning of September the RN had between Plymouth and Harwich, 4 light cruisers and 57 destroyers tasked with repelling any invasion attempt, a force many times larger than the naval escorts that the Germans had available. That is a force 3 to 4 times as powerful as the entire available German fleet, stationed within the anticipated invasion area purely for the purpose of destroying any invasion force, let alone the major Naval forces stationed further away. Every asset the Germans had to defend the fleet the British had in greater strength, more mine-laying and mine-sweeping capacity, more submarines, more light craft, more warships. Even in air capacity, all the British have to do is prevent the German bombers, especially the slow and vulnerable stukas, from attacking the warships, and the Spitfire and Hurricanes can do that easily.

Now while the Germans did fit some 88mm's to craft as mentioned, the British destroyers each had up to 8 of the standard QF 4-inch naval gun, capable of firing between 15 and 20 shots a minute, as well as a variety of AA guns such as the quad 2pdr mount. These are not being fired by artillerymen on a rocking platform but by sailors trained to operate guns under these conditions. Since the barges used were unarmoured and had a low seaboard (often no more than about 6 feet) it would only take one or two hits from a 4-inch shell on a target that was moving at little more than a slow walking pace to sink it. Given this is probably taking place at night (and under enemy fire) in all likelihood there would be little chance to rescue survivors.

So if we take your figures of a 33% loss rate from 2000 barges, and allow 150 men on each as you say, then before a single German sets foot ashore into what the Commander of the OKH called a sausage machine, the Germans have lost the best part of 100,000 men. Using your own figures we are potentially talking casualties double that of the Battle of France here before the invasion even begins. Still think this is acceptable?

Now remember that it is anticipated by the German High Command these barges are going to have to do this day after day for weeks before the Germans can even break out of their beachhead, so the navy will have plenty of opportunities to attack them, not just one night.


Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
The British do not need to lay a glove on the first wave. They only need to effect seroious interediction to the flow of suppleis and reinforcements.

The Barges were hardly built for landing and running them ashore did not work so well in the one trial the Germans had. Getting them ashore, unloading and getting them out again, is pretty hard work even without opposition. landing heavy equipment was going to be extremely hard work. The Germans absolutely needed to get a substantial port intact very quickly.

They were to be crewed by hastily rounded up personal with limited sea experience and very little training.

The Barges had to be reused significantly to get enough troops and supplies in. There planning speaks of waiting of rides, And taking days to land the first wave, and almost a week till the second wave could start landing after the initial attack.

And this is to be a contested landing, were the Naval gunfire support is absent. The only real support would be the Luftwaffe. In the RAF is instinct thats a very dubious proposition.

The Barges need to be protected for far more than just the initial crossing.

The Kreigsmarine was short of warships full stop. A handful of destroyers, some torpedo ships (a few of the German "torpedo boats" were virtual destoryers so there are few extra 'destroyers' there, boats and minesweepers the total amount of escorts is very low and would have to spread out over a very large area. And this lareg area had to be protected for days and nights.

The British have a whole range of attack options, Destroyers is the big one, Cruisers, motor torpedo boats, submarines, land based artillery, and the 300 odd armed trawlers are a serious thought. Without clear air superioirty they are in serious trouble.

If the RAF and Radar and fully working, landing paratroopers and supplying them is pretty wishful thinking. The Germans would start critically short of transport aircraft as well. A handful of AA guns in Crete decimated the paratroopers. England has a lot of AA guns.

The Luftwaffe would be very busy, protected ships, land areas, providing ground support, paratroopers around the clock without mnuch co-ordination. if the RAF is intact withg it's co-ordinate defence system

And German intelligence was woeful in this period. Thinking the Norwegian coastal defense fort was not manned cost them a cruiser.


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Stockport Cheshire UK
If the British thought an invasion was likely, wouldn't they heavily mine parts of the Channel?
One of the German naval requirements before launching an invasion was total air superiority over the Channel for at least two to three weeks before the invasion in order to allow them to both clear parts of the British minefield system and lay their own defensive minefields, this was never achieved.
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Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Stockport Cheshire UK
(it also again illustrates that the Norwegian campaign was a useless waste for Germany but that is another topic)
Also the vast majority of the Norwegian merchant fleet went over to the Allied side, over 3 million tonnes of it.


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Stockport Cheshire UK
No... It just points out that pre conceived ideas (such as the RN being able to destroy the german invasion fleet) dont necessarily work in reality
The German’s won through concentration of force and speed, in their invasion it would be them who were trying to defend everything and moving very slowly, while the RN would be concentrating their superior forces and moving fast.
Also the RN doesn’t need to sink vast amounts of barges they merely need to cause chaos amongst the invasion fleet, scattering them, forcing tugs to abandon their towed barges to escape, or cause them to turn back, all this would doom the invasion.
Apr 2014
Istanbul Turkey
Speaking of which did German had any formation sailing , any large scane naval amphibious sortie exercise ever with their magical barges , flat bottommed river barges that supposedly could sink a RN destroyer ? In bad weather all in other weather and current conditions ? Trained crews of these barges for open sea conditions and formation sailing ? I do not think so. Even sortie of first invasion wave invited an unimaginable chaos and disaster for Germans
Oct 2014
If Britain's the Bank, you build LARGE Kriegsmarine. If the Bank is someplace else, you built an Army !
So crazy Adolf built himself an Army.
Wanna bet, that, ifEngland were to be connected to Europe by a sliver of land, Hitler still gonna go...East !?
But its not so he didnt ......... We are dealing with facts not what ifs dude ,,,,,,,,,,


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Stockport Cheshire UK
here is an alternate view

Exposed: How Close Nazi Germany Came to Invading Britain (And the One Thing That Stopped Them)

Nor was the Royal Navy necessarily a powerful invasion-deterrent. “Of all the misconceptions about Seeloewe, the ability and willingness of the Royal Navy to defeat an invasion attempt are often the most egregious,” according to Forczyk.

As the Germans’ self-imposed late-September 1940 invasion deadline loomed, just five of the British fleet’s 14 capital ships were in home waters. “Furthermore, Adm. Sir Charles Forbes, commander of the Home Fleet, was very wary of risking his capital ships in the English Channel where they could be bombed by the Luftwaffe and was content to rely primarily on destroyers and light craft, supported by a few cruisers, to oppose any invasion.”
And what were the Germans going to use to defend both flanks of the invasion fleet, 7 Destroyer's, 9 Torpedo Boats , 27 submarines and a few lighter craft and that's all.
Their only heavy cruiser was going to be sent on a joyride around Iceland and the 3 light cruisers were to escort 3 large liners on a diversionary sortie along the East coast.
This of course would merely give the Home fleet something to do while the actual anti-invasion forces dealt with the invasion fleet in the Channel.


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Stockport Cheshire UK
Summer, 1940 Britain was not a threat to Germany. The B.o.B. was a waste of German resources to no purpose.
Britain was not a direct threat to Germany militarily, but a Britain still in the war and maintaining a naval blockade of occupied Europe was a huge economic problem.
Even with the oil supplies they were getting from the Soviet Union they were still facing a long term shortfall in oil, and because of this it shortened the timeline of when Germany could attack the Soviet Union in order to gain these and other natural resources.
So British staying in the war compelled Germany to attack the SU in 1941.
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