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#1 Rick

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Posted 10 September 2005 - 1954 PM

If the Germans managed to capture the British and French troops who evacuated Dunkirk, would the British have had the manpower for their future campains? Especially in North Africa in 1940-41. My lack of knowledge of this time regarding the British especially, and W.W. 2 generally, offers me no clue as to what could happen. Thank you.
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#2 KingSargent

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Posted 10 September 2005 - 2114 PM

If the Germans managed to capture the British and French troops who evacuated Dunkirk, would the British have had the manpower for their future campains? Especially in North Africa in 1940-41. My lack of knowledge of this time regarding the British especially, and W.W. 2 generally, offers me no clue as to what could happen. Thank you.

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Personally, I think the brand-new Churchill government would have fallen and peace terms accepted, especially if Hitler offered a good deal. The Nazis were Nasties then, definitely harsh on the people they didn't like, but genocide had not started yet, so there wouldn't be the moral persuasion to keep going. At that point it was simply the European War for that generation, not a Crusade Against Evil.

The US expected the UK to fall, except for FDR, and he broke lots of US laws to keep the UK afloat. Would he have done so if the whole British army was put into the bag? I don't know, but it would have been tougher to get his actions past the US isolationists.

The big issue was money. The Exchequer predicted the UK would be broke before 1941 if the war spending continued or increased. I am pretty sure Hitler was aware of this, which is why he sat back after the Fall of France and waited for Britain to throw in the towel.

The manpower issue is a little different. The UK would have been hurt, but they relied primarily on the Commonwealth for infantry until late 1942. The best of their tankers were already in Egypt, so the Royal Armoured Corps would not take that much of a hit, especially if the 1st Armoured was kept in the UK instead of going to France. The Royal Artillery would have taken a big knock, but the CW had lots of trained gunners scattered about the world. There was something there to rebuild on.

What would have hurt was the loss of the trained tecnical support personnel. In fact getting those out was first priority when DYNAMO was first proposed, on the assumption that any silly bugger can talk on a telephone or drive a tank, but it would take years to replace trained signallers and mechanics.

Even if they kept fighting, the British would have been even more afraid of going back to NWE than they were historically.

And Alan Brooke would have had to write My Life in the Stalag instead of his War Diary.
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#3 Skip

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Posted 10 September 2005 - 2340 PM

About 1/3 of those evacuated were French and they were sent back to France in time to surrender. The aprox 220.000 troops would not have mattered that much in 1940. There was not the weapons to arm them untill after the season to invade was over. It boils down to if the goverment could hold out.
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#4 KingSargent

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Posted 11 September 2005 - 0023 AM

About 1/3 of those evacuated were French and they were sent back to France in time to surrender.  The aprox 220.000 troops would not have mattered that much in 1940.  There was not the weapons to arm them untill after the season to invade was over.  It boils down to if the goverment could hold out.

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If all the BEF went into the bag, the government's worries about training of specialist troops would come true. The Army would be crippled for a long time.

As you say, the situation after June 1940 was essentially political, but the prospects of rebuilding the British Army would have a lot to do with whether politicians felt bellicose or not.
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#5 Geoff Winnington-Ball

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Posted 11 September 2005 - 0246 AM

I think it's entirely possible that the British might have repatriated their Far Eastern troops in order to make up the shortfall... thus the latter might not have gotten bagged when the Jap moved in. But, in essence, I agree with King -- Winnie's government may well have fallen and its successor may well have sued for peace. Even if not, what then?

It's an interesting scenario, though, one I'm thankful didn't come to pass.
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#6 Rubberneck

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Posted 11 September 2005 - 0345 AM

From what I've read on the subject a bigger concern would be how to re-equip the Army. As King points out, the British were going broke, and they were critically short in some needed equipment....IIRC, they were critically short aircraft, tanks, artillery pieces and machine guns. Anyone have the numbers handy?
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#7 Rubberneck

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Posted 11 September 2005 - 0910 AM

I'm fairly certain it would have been the case. The Germans had already raided the Skoda Works in Czechoslovakia for their tank production, and would incorporated the French and British materiel as they saw fit for their forces.
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#8 Skip

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Posted 11 September 2005 - 0952 AM

Which of course begs the question, how much more effective would the German logistic system have been in 1941 during the invasion of Russia?

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It would have been better until the need for spare parts for those trucks.
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#9 KingSargent

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Posted 11 September 2005 - 1126 AM

It would have been better until the need for spare parts for those trucks.

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Very likely German peace negotiations would have included the UK/CW selling equipment and especially fuel to Germany. The fuel especially would have been of great use on the Eastern Front.
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#10 BillB

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Posted 11 September 2005 - 1548 PM

Even if they kept fighting, the British would have been even more afraid of going back to NWE than they were historically.

And Alan Brooke would have had to write My Life in the Stalag instead of his War Diary.

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That's the third time I've seen you trot that "the Brits were afraid of facing the Germans in NW Europe" canard out over the last couple of weeks, King. I assume you have some evidence to back it up? Or are you letting your seeming personal dislike of British officers like Alanbrooke and Alexander get carried away? :P :)

Back on topic, why would the loss of the BEF have made the British more likely to negotiate with Hitler? The Brits were steeled by the perceived ramifications of defeat, not the fact that they had lost a lot of men and kit. IMO you are seriously misreading the British character. We simply don't like losing, a trait noted by Continentals from at least the 1500s are arguably earlier. I'd also argue that the character of the Nazi regime were quite clear by 1939, never mind mid-1940. A lot of it was connected with the Spanish Civil War, and there was not a lot of support for right-wing politics in the public at large, as opposed to that among the upper echelons of society, people like Halifax, Mosely and Nancy Mitford. Have you heard of the Battle of Cable Street? The only underestimation was the precise depths to which the Nazis would sink, not that they were capable of such behaviour. And a lot of that went back to opposition to German militarism from before 1914.

all the best

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#11 KingSargent

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Posted 11 September 2005 - 1800 PM

That's the third time I've seen you trot that "the Brits were afraid of facing the Germans in NW Europe" canard out over the last couple of weeks, King. I assume you have some evidence to back it up? Or are you letting your seeming personal dislike of British officers like Alanbrooke and Alexander get carried away? :P :)

all the best

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Read Churchill on the way he felt prior to OVERLORD. He was having stomach problems, he was so worried (of course it might have been bad booze ;) ). Somebody buried deep in the stacks right now theorized (he stated it as fact but didn't say how he knew :huh: ) that Brooke was afraid the British Army had lost its touch after the recent loss of Singapore and Tobruk, which disasters couldn't be blamed on the French like 1940 :P . According to this bloke, Churchill was all for a 1943 invasion of NWE until Brookie said the army wasn't up to it. So Brooke convinced WSC to go back to the old British 'Peripheral Strategy' and went to Casablanca with folders full of made-up data that he trotted out whenever a Yank opened his mouth. British troops were sent to Greece and the Dodecanese in 1943-44, and I can't see any reason for it except to keep them unavailable for NWE - and/or to somehow prove that Winnie had been right about Gallipoi in 1915 and Greece in 1941. According to Wilmot, Brooke continually blocked Churchill's efforts to have the British do anything in the Far East. Of course Winnie's proposals were a bit scatter-brained, but IMHO a good subordinate tells the boss it won't work and why and trots out an alternative that will work. Brooke didn't even try to make anything go in the Far East AFAI can tell. :angry:

Let me clarify that when I say "the Brits were afraid to go to NWE and meet Germans again," I mean the upper decision-makers, not all Brits nor even the vast majority of the British Army, most of whom were bored silly and anxious to get the job done. Sorry to have come across as if all Britons were cowering in their Wellingtons, I know that wasn't the case.

Now, British generals: I am a big fan of Wavell whose chief problem (aside from no troops, no equipment, and no stores) was getting along with Winnie. Slim was of course excellent, but I don't know if an Indian Army man should count as a "British" general?:unsure:
Alexander was OK, the only thing I hate about him was his prejudice against Yanks. Anderson was an idiot, and Alex should have taken his "Americans can't fight" idea and looked at WHY they had had a bit of problem (remember the Germans did NOT break through at Kasserine and we recovered all ground); it was because Anderson had them split up into penny packets and mixed US with CW and French troops, and he spread II Corps out too far and had dictated where they were to be placed down to bn level. I really shudder that Anderson was considered for OVERLORD before they tapped Monty.
Monty's successes never came close to matching his ego, and he never admitted his failures. I think Auchinleck was pretty good, but out of his depth. Had I my druthers I'd have left Wavell in the ME command and given the Desert field command to Auk. O'Connor was brilliant in COMPASS with a professional army against Italians, but was only so-so as a corps commander in NWE. Of course he had a lot of catching up to do after his vacation in a POW camp. Cunningham did a good job in East Africa, but was too stressed-out immediately afterward to be given the Desert command; IIRC he did well in other posts after a bit of R&R.
Hobart was one of those "difficult geniuses" the Brits seem to throw out on a regular basis. I can't remember the name of the CO of 11th Armoured Div in NWE, but he was really good. Freyberg was good, so was Tuker and Morshead, although they were Colonials. :D There was a man named Key who was the bright spot in British command during the Singapore fiasco. Percival was right up there with Gamelin in effectiveness.

I am sure I am missing people, but that's what I have off the top of my head.

Again, apologies for seeming Anglophobic; I'm really not, I'm Stupidophobic.
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#12 baboon6

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Posted 11 September 2005 - 2159 PM

11th Armoured Div- you're thinking of Maj. Gen. "Pip" Roberts, who at 37 was one of the youngest divisional commanders in the British Army (he had started the war as a captain in North Africa). Wasn't the GOC 1 Corps in North West Europe, Lt. Gen. John Crocker (also from the Royal Tank Regiment) meant to be quite good too?

I read a biography of Lt. Gen. (later Field Marshal) John Harding a year or two ago. He served as BGS (Brigadier General Staff- basically Chief of Staff) of 13 Corps in North Africa, commanded 7th Armoured Div at Alamein, was badly wounded shortly afterward, was Alexander's Chief of Staff in Italy (and was considered to a large extent to have carried Alex) and finally commanded 13 Corps in the final offensive in Italy. By all accounts an excellent officer.

As for Auchinleck- I think a large part of his problem was that he was an Indian Army man and didn't know the largely British Army officers who were his subordinates. I think though that you can't regard Indian Army officers as "Colonials" - the Indian Army was in every way subordinate to the British, its white officers from the same sources (Sandhurst and Woolwich), India's government simply an extension of the British government, not comparable to that of an independent country like Australia or Canada.

Freyberg? Well he did pretty badly on Crete...

Edited by baboon6, 11 September 2005 - 2217 PM.

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#13 KingSargent

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Posted 11 September 2005 - 2234 PM

11th Armoured Div- you're thinking of Maj. Gen. "Pip" Roberts, who at 37 was one of the youngest divisional commanders in the British Army (he had started the war as a captain in North Africa).That's him! Thanks.  Wasn't the GOC 1 Corps in North West Europe, Lt. Gen. John Crocker (also from the Royal Tank Regiment) meant to be quite good too?Well, I told you I missed some.... :P

I read a biography of Lt. Gen. (later Field Marshal) John Harding a year or two ago. He served as BGS (Brigadier General Staff- basically Chief of Staff) of 13 Corps in North Africa, commanded 7th Armoured Div at Alamein, was badly wounded shortly afterward, was Alexander's Chief of Staff in Italy (and was considered to a large extent to have carried Alex) and finally commanded 13 Corps in the final offensive in Italy. By all accounts an excellent officer.I've heard that too, another I missed. By all accounts, "Jumbo" Wilson was another excellent, if unsung, officer.

As for Auchinleck- I think a large part of his problem was that he was an Indian Army man and didn't know the largely British Army officers who were his subordinates. That's my feeling too. I think though that you can't regard Indian Army officers as "Colonials" - the Indian Army was in every way subordinate to the British, its white officers from the same sources (Sandhurst and Woolwich), India's government simply an extension of the British government, not comparable to that of an independent country like Australia or Canada. I'm aware. I was "pulling the chain" a bit with comments about Indian and Colonial officers - that's what the smilies were for.

Freyberg? Well he did pretty badly on Crete... Well, name me someone else who could have done better, especially with the communications failures they suffered? BTW those figures are probably indicative of what would have happened to the whole British Army if all the signallers had been put into the bag at Dunkink -- excuse me, "DunkiRk." DunkiNk is when I'm finished with sex.... :lol:

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#14 baboon6

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Posted 12 September 2005 - 0139 AM

I still feel that a determined counter-attack on the first day on Crete would have decided the battle in the favour of the British Commonwealth forces. Yes I agree it wasn't entirely Freyberg's fault but he was ultimately responsible for holding back troops to counter a seaborne invasion which they in theory (Ultra intercepts) knew wasn't coming. (The small German force which was coming by sea had been sunk by the Royal Navy. Yes more forces were sent by sea later but by then the battle had been decided). By the time a counter-attack was mounted on Maleme airfield it was by a few companies, rather than the brigade-strength one that could have been done, and doomed to failure. Of course the question of whether the British should have attempted to hold Crete in the first place is a different story altogether...

Re Jumbo Wilson- the only reason he got anywhere is because he was a favourite of Churchill's. His total operational experience in the war was a few weeks in Greece and several more in Syria, and in both those cases he had an Australian corps commander under him doing most of the actual fighting (Blamey in Greece and Lavarack in Syria). How he became Supreme Commander in Italy I don't know, maybe only because there were no other obvious candidates. He is hardly mentioned in any history of the campaign I've read. I think it's clear Alexander, Clark and their staff officers (especially Harding) were making most of the decisions. And he was the person who sacked Hobart...
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#15 Geoff Winnington-Ball

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Posted 13 September 2005 - 0840 AM

I wonder if it would have impacted the German Armys transport situation? If the BEF had surrendered rather than evacuated, its possible the number of trucks and equipment to be captured in operable condition to be greater than it was historically. Considering the BEF was fully mechanised, that could have been a major shot in the arm for the German army which still relied on significant amounts of horse transport. Coupled with likely swift surrrender by Britain, and spare parts would have been easier to get to such a hodge podge of equipment running.

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The standing order at the time was to destroy all vehicles before evacuation, by either draining them of fluids and running them until they seized, or by taking a pickaxe to the rads and blocks. Unfortunately this was not done in all cases, and the Germans did end up with a sizeable stock of British transport which they used until the end of the war. I'm sure they became suitably impressed with Lucas electrical systems... :D
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#16 Geoff Winnington-Ball

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Posted 13 September 2005 - 0846 AM

From what I've read on the subject a bigger concern would be how to re-equip the Army.  As King points out, the British were going broke, and they were critically short in some needed equipment....IIRC, they were critically short aircraft, tanks, artillery pieces and machine guns.  Anyone have the numbers handy?

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I don't have the numbers, but yes, the shortages were critical. Old stocks were being used and both American and Canadian industry was gearing up madly to fill the gaps, from us alone everything from trucks to guns to small arms and even Corvettes (and everything in between). The 1st Canadian Infantry Division was on the ground in England by Christmas 1939, and the 2nd followed shortly thereafter, so there was some military reinforcement in those dark days.
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#17 larrikin

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Posted 13 September 2005 - 0858 AM

I don't have the numbers, but yes, the shortages were critical. Old stocks were being used and both American and Canadian industry was gearing up madly to fill the gaps, from us alone everything from trucks to guns to small arms and even Corvettes (and everything in between). The 1st Canadian Infantry Division was on the ground in England by Christmas 1939, and the 2nd followed shortly thereafter, so there was some military reinforcement in those dark days.

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ISTR that in the immediate aftermath of Dunkirk the only fully equipped mobile brigade in England was Morsehead's Australian Bde, that went on to become the core of the 9th Div.
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#18 Rod

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Posted 13 September 2005 - 1534 PM

Question, given the size of the British forces in NWW, and the fact that Gernany wasn't still fullly geared up for war, couldn't the British forces fought the Germans. Meaning no disrespect to the French, but over 200,000 troops in action should not be taken lightly even for the Germans whose blitzkrieg favored fast movement not one of stagnation and attrition. In summary how would the British forces have fared against the Germans assuming they decided to make a stand and assuming all sort of support that the mainland could provide as in close air support, naval bombardment, logistics, etc...
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#19 Colin Williams

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Posted 13 September 2005 - 1748 PM

This is a difficult question, but I think the answer is that unless the Germans take their eyes off the ball and fail to press home an aggressive war against Great Britain, the British are finished if the BEF is taken at Dunkirk. I could see this happening one of three different ways.

(1) The political will to continue the war fails, Churchill's government falls, and Halifax makes peace with the Germans.

(2) The British Army is so gutted by the loss of most of the BEF, the Germans realize that if they manage to get even a modest force ashore in England, there is essentially nothing to stop them. Hence the Battle of Britain is not the war-saving campaign it was historically but only a prelude to a large-scale Crete-style campaign that ends in British defeat.

(3) Hitler and Mussolini follow up with great success in the Med, leaving Britain with little more than the home islands and practically defeated (even if still technically in the fight) once the Japanese get rolling in the Pacific and succeed in scooping up Malaya, Burma and India.

In the optmistic scenario, in which Britain stays in the war, deters Operation Sealion and benefits from Hitler's distraction with the Soviet Union, I still see the British role in the war effort as badly damaged and completely subordinated to the Americans. An analogy would be Austria-Hungary's position vis-a-vis Germany by the middle of WW1. Basically the A-H Army was far from up to the overambitious tasks set for it by Conrad von Hotzendorf, that it was essentially crippled for the rest of the war through the loss of its trained nucleus in the early campaigns against Russia and Serbia. Similarly, the loss of the BEF means the loss of nearly all the long-serving professional soldiers and officers. Consider the impact in senior leadership. In one blow they lose Gort, Brooke, Adam, Alexander, Montgomery, Pownall, Leese, Horrocks, Dempsey, Lumsden, Kirkman, and many other future corps and division commanders. At best they would adopt a strictly defensive posture in the Middle East, possibly losing Egypt in the process. (While there are benefits to staying out of Greece, think of Wavell's options if left without armored reinforcement and if some Commonwealth units are diverted to Great Britain.) Certainly there is no Battle of El Alamein, and probably no Operation Torch.
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#20 Colin Williams

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Posted 13 September 2005 - 1759 PM

Regarding Operation Overlord -

Three Brits are signficant with respect to the Second Front: Monty, Churchill and Brooke. Monty was always on the Overlord page, asking Brooke about invasion plans right after El Alamein. Churchill, as we all know, tended to be all over the map, but this was because he couldn't keep his eyes off the potential for peripheral operations, such as an invasion of Norway or Greece. Nonetheless, his distractions and occasional emotional statements to the contrary, I have no doubt Churchill was firmly committed to Overlord and simply needed occasional bucking up by Ike.

Brooke is a more difficult case. On the positive side he certainly held up his end as CIGS in supporting the Overlord build-up. (IOW he did his job, whatever his personal feelings.) He was greatly disappointed to not be chosen to lead the landings, and this suggests a real interest in Overlord. On the negative side, there was Brooke, as with Churchill, a strong interest in Mediterranean strategy, even at the expense of delaying Overlord. Brooke wanted to build on the Italian collapse by not only going into Italy but by also exploiting through the Aegean to open the Dardenelles, bring Turkey into the war and knock both Bulgaria and Romania out of the war. However, he knew the Americans wouldn't go for it at the expense of Overlord and didn't raise the issue. (Unlike Churchill, who always thought there were infinite resources available to do everything.) In the end, I think Brooke wanted to see the Germans dramatically weakened, particularly by the Soviets, before launching Overlord. Up until fairly late in the game he wasn't sure the timing was right and may well have been happy to see events like Bagration happen first before landing. For this reason alone I'm glad Ike was in charge!
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