by Author | November 14th, 2010

German preparations for an invasion of mainland Britain had begun long before Fuhrer Directive No.16 was issued in the aftermath of the debacle at Dunkirk. In fact, those preparations had begun even before the startlingly successful offensive in the west, Fal Gelb, had even been launched. This had been the result of a casual conversation between Grand Admiral Raeder and several high ranking Nazis close to Hitler. Several of them had claimed that they had been privy to a remark made by the Fuhrer over dinner in January 1940, where he had claimed that Britain, not France, was the real danger to Germany in this war. Regardless of the outcome on mainland Europe, he had apparently claimed, the only way to end the war quickly and favourably was to either bring Britain to heel or knock it out of the equation completely, and that, he was alleged to have said, would possibly require a major landing operation on British soil.

As much as the thought of mounting an amphibious landing against Britain filled Raeder with dread, he realised that Hitler was not a man to be swayed once an idea was in his head. With that in mind, Raeder did not intend to be put on the spot and faced by impossible odds if, in several months time, Hitler gave this particular idea a public airing, or worse, made it an official order. He immediately gave Admiral Lutjens, an energetic naval commander, the task of coming up with options for mounting a large scale amphibious assault against Britain. Within less than a week of being given the job, Lutjens reported back that Germany simply did not have enough amphibious capability to even put a full Army Corps ashore.

Raeder and Lutjens promptly imported an international team of ship designers and maritime experts, particularly from Denmark and Italy, and gave them two key tasks. Firstly, to design a landing craft that was capable of transporting up to four heavy tanks at a time across the German Sea and land them on a shallow beach. Secondly, to design an infantry assault landing craft that could be towed across the sea by larger transport ships, before loading with up to 80 troops and making a final run into shore and deliver troops, quickly, onto the same shallow beach. The aim was to produce a tank carrier that could sail at a minimum of 6 knots and an infantry craft that could make a minimum of 8 knots. Finally, he gave the design team their most important constraint; they must have the first prototype ready by the 10th April 1940.

Unbelievably, and by adapting existing designs fitted with special ramps and bigger engines, the design team had the first two prototypes ready by the 1st April. Both were subsequently tested within a fortnight under combat conditions, when the Germans launched their attack on Norway. After two weeks of use under the scrutiny of specially selected crews and a team of observers, the prototypes were withdrawn, evaluated, and final modifications completed. They were then given exhaustive tests off the Danish coast, so that, by the time the last British troops were being pulled off the Dunkirk beaches, Raeder was able to give the two landing craft designs the seal of approval. Without waiting for further direction from above, he redirected some of his shipbuilding resources towards producing more of the new landing craft.

When the Fuhrer finally issued his order to prepare a landing on the British mainland, Raeder already had several options for the plan of attack, with detailed lists of pros and cons for each, but more importantly, the means with which to move the Army. The only question was, how much of the Army could he move? Hitler ordered Raeder to increase production of the new landing craft immediately and on a huge scale, making it a top priority for German industry. The clock was ticking, and as every day went by, and more of the craft rolled off the production line, Raeder and Lutjens revised their running totals for lift capacity. By the middle of August, two months after Dunkirk, Raeder was able to tell the Army that he could land two full Army Corps of infantry in one wave, alongside a small armoured/mechanised Army Corps.

The second and subsequent waves, theoretically landing on unopposed beaches and through captured harbours, would be able to use more conventional craft. It wouldn’t allow a huge landing on a wide front, but was enough to deliver over 100,000 men in 48 hours or so, allowing for a safe passage. It was now just a case of where the landings should take place, in order to deliver the killer blow in a short space of time, the essential requirement of the overall plan. Thus the scene was set, and it was now time to add the detail. The heads of service now sat down to thrash through options…

Continued next week.

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Seelöwe Nord is the online home of Andy Johnson, a war fiction novelist. Seelöwe Nord is a war novel that tells the alternative history of Operation Sealion, the proposed German invasion of Britain in 1940. Followed by Thunder in May, and the recently released Crucible of Fate, the trilogy of War Fiction remains a popular read within the genre.

Andy has also started to publish small Leadership and Management Booklets drawing from his extensive experience across many sectors and industries, both military and civilian, the first of which is entitled Captains of the Gate and is now available for download on eReaders directly from Amazon.