Operation Catapult: Britain's only option or a bloody betrayal?

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,074
B
A similar set of circumstances actually also applies to Poles. NO ONE expected Poland to fold to the Germans inside a month, not until it happened. (Suggesting as much to the Poles at the time would have affronted them terribly.)
I think IIRC (i'm not sure, I think ) the military assessment once war started was Poland would had some months.
 
Sep 2016
29
France
Because if the British did that it could in France be construed as a British lack of faith in France's military ability?
It's very nice of the British to have so much faith in the French, but they should have considered that France was in a catastrophic strategic situation in 1939. During the first world war, France managed to stalemate Germany because Germany was fighting a two fronts war. This time, France was completly alone. Belgium was neutral, the USSR was giving ressources to Germany, Italy and Spain both were potential threats. Yes the French high command believed they could stop Germany and let the naval blockade do the rest eventually, but they also knew doing so would have required a huge sacrifice for the french population. The British had fought during WW1, they had sent millions of men in France, how could they not realised that the situation was terrible?
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,074
It's very nice of the British to have so much faith in the French, but they should have considered that France was in a catastrophic strategic situation in 1939. During the first world war, France managed to stalemate Germany because Germany was fighting a two fronts war. This time, France was completly alone. Belgium was neutral, the USSR was giving ressources to Germany, Italy and Spain both were potential threats. Yes the French high command believed they could stop Germany and let the naval blockade do the rest eventually, but they also knew doing so would have required a huge sacrifice for the french population. The British had fought during WW1, they had sent millions of men in France, how could they not realised that the situation was terrible?
Without relying on hindsight, the contemporary analysis available to the British and French it was all reasonable.

The Numbers were pretty equal and the Miitary belief was that teh defender had a substantial advanatge.

What measures were the British not taking? They had conscription and were inducting men as fast as tehy could equip them.

What was the evdidenc available to them that the situation was terrible?
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,415
It's very nice of the British to have so much faith in the French, but they should have considered that France was in a catastrophic strategic situation in 1939. During the first world war, France managed to stalemate Germany because Germany was fighting a two fronts war. This time, France was completly alone. Belgium was neutral, the USSR was giving ressources to Germany, Italy and Spain both were potential threats. Yes the French high command believed they could stop Germany and let the naval blockade do the rest eventually, but they also knew doing so would have required a huge sacrifice for the french population. The British had fought during WW1, they had sent millions of men in France, how could they not realised that the situation was terrible?
Given the speed with which things developed in 1940 it's not as if they could do all that much once it was clear things were going to hell in a handbasket.

What would have been required for that would have for the UK to pre-1939, several years earlier at least, starting to build a new huge conscript army for a land war in Europe. But then again that would mean assuming pretty much the entire French strategy for a new war in Europe, in place since iirc 1928 at least, was just wrong. If the FRENCH had told them, so and started working on some new plans (something akin to what de Gaulle was proposing) possibly the British might be faulted for not picking up on this. But the French had a plan, a good one as far as could be told, and was sticking to it. Why should the British assume the French were wrong about... pretty much everything?

Britain DID consider that its ability to materially aid the French initially in WWI had been on the weedy side. The BEF sent at the outbreak of WWII was MUCH larger, and as far as the conventional wisdom at the time was concerned, quite well equipped.
 
Jan 2015
3,286
Front Lines of the Pig War
In France it is know as "Pearl Harbour" or the stab in the back from an old ally. It was murder: an unprovoked attack on the forces of an ally without a declaration of war. The French told them that they would never hand over their warships to the Germans.
The French didn't tell them that, Darlan did, a man who coukd be replaced at any time.

The same arrogance. The British abject retreat to Dunkirk, when you all expeditiously evacuated the place as soon as you started to get a glimpse of the German mechanical superiority, abandoning all military equipment behind you, and without any consultation with your ally.
No, the retreat was began after the debacle in the Ardennes, when the French center disintegrated, allowing the northern forces & the BEF to be cut off.

AS for "didnt consult with your ally", there is no French record of what was discussed with Gen. Billotte, as he was kilked during the battle.
 
Jan 2015
3,286
Front Lines of the Pig War
French Amirality assured British that no matter what, the fleet will not fall into Axis hands. And there wasn't any particular reason, nothing pointed out that they would not respect their word. There were already the examples of the terrestrial army in France, were more than one commander and units refused to stop fighting, militaries of all ranks that prefered to take refuge on British Islands or in south, de Gaulle started already gathering remnants of the French army, aso.
Any assurance by the French Admiral or military would of course be worthless if he died unexpectedly or was replaced.
Suppose Pierre Laval replaced Darlan with someone more cooperative with the Germans?

You are essentially expecting the British to gamble their survival on Laval and Petain, both of whom were later convicted

I never truly understood Churchill's decision, to be honest.
Churchill didn't order the French fleet to be attacked, but that they couldn't remain in the Med.
The other French flotillas were either deactivated (Alexandria) or relocated to the West Indies, he never expected the French Admiral at Mers-el-Kebir to be so foolish and confrontational that he didn't send the full text to the Vichy authorities. He bears a large portion of the blame for what happened
 
Sep 2016
29
France
What would have been required for that would have for the UK to pre-1939, several years earlier at least, starting to build a new huge conscript army for a land war in Europe
The UK should indeed have taken measures to rearm. Conscription should have been reinstaured as early as 1936. France alone was never strong enough to contain Germany as Clémenceau said after the Versailles treaty "there are still 20 millions of germans in excess". Instead the UK played a very dangerous game by supporting Germany against France on various occasions the rhur occupation being only one of them. The French leaders have since 1815 been very careful not to antagonize the British. They also were afraid of possible speculations on their money which could cripple their economy. This friendly attitude led Hitler to believe a serious war with the UK was impossible, he wouldn't have been wrong if it hadn't been for Churchill.
 
Sep 2016
29
France
But he certainly was an important factor for the continuation of the war. With France defeated and the UK threatened, a lesser man might have been tempted by a peace with Hitler who was seen as the lesser threat compared to Stalin.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,074
But he certainly was an important factor for the continuation of the war. With France defeated and the UK threatened, a lesser man might have been tempted by a peace with Hitler who was seen as the lesser threat compared to Stalin.
completely different thing. Churchill was a factor but the British politicans knew what they were getting when they appointed Churchill, Churchill did not have the numbers as a personal following, the Political leadership appiontted Churchill knowing it meant fighting no matter what, had they desired another policy they would have appointed someone else. Churchill was teh personificnation of a policy rather than one initiating a chnage of policy.

Stalin was not seen as a bigger threat. Most people had pretty contemptuous opinion of the Red Army (especially after the winter war) . teh Osviets and stelin were very much not liked, but the power ofteh Soveit Union was greatly underestiated.
 

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