by Author | November 28th, 2010

Debate amongst the German High Command was heated and prolonged, but for entirely positive reasons however. Thanks to Raeder’s foresight and the personal support of Hitler, the Kreigsmarine were now confident that they could land a medium sized force on British soil, and re-supply it by sea, provided certain conditions were met, those being:

1.         The British Home Fleet was weakened considerably between July and September either through attrition or by sealing the surface units in their home ports.

2.         The operation took place before the end of September in order to ensure that the most fraught part of the operation was completed before the onset of heavy winter seas.

3.         The RAF was either annihilated or rendered impotent by the Luftwaffe for the first, critical 5 days of the operation.

With this in mind, the Army and the Luftwaffe then set about their own planning. Goering, as ever, was confident that he could destroy the RAF and boasted openly that the Luftwaffe could rule the skies over Britain anywhere between the Scottish border and The Channel. Having made this claim, he promptly gave the planning commitment and command responsibility for the Luftwaffe to Albert Kesselring, the commander of Air Fleet 2. Goering gave him seniority over the other Air Fleet commanders and along with the freedom to pick and choose assets for the operation as he saw fit. Kesselring, an able commander, immersed himself in the planning despite his reservations. His Air Fleet was renamed Air Fleet Sealion.

The Army, along with Hitler, then set to the task of trying to decide how best to bring Britain to its knees in a ground campaign. From the outset, they realised that Britain was a belligerent nation. The British Army had performed, on the whole, much better than the French during May and June, and all German commanders had a healthy respect for the fighting spirit of the British soldier. With his back to the wall, the average Tommy was likely to fight even harder.

To that end, the various options were wargamed extensively. The obvious, easy crossing of the Channel, followed by a landing on the South Coast was not very desirable. High chalk cliffs, large forested areas, undulating terrain, and almost half of Britain’s Army concentrated within 70 miles of the Channel was enough to make the proposition a daunting one. To land there, would mean landing on stony beaches or scaling the cliffs; all difficult for armoured units. Then a fight through close country towards a heavily defended capital, including attacks over the South, North and Marlborough Downs. Many British Naval ports were dotted around the South Coast and South East Coast and they were filled with destroyers, cruisers, minesweepers and torpedo boats. Furthermore, the big German capital ships would struggle to manoeuvre effectively in the Channel. On top of all this, Britain’s industrial heartland would be more than 150 miles distant, and safe from ground attack until well into the campaign. In short, this option wasn’t very attractive at all to the Army.

Next on the list of options was a landing on the coast of East Anglia. This involved a longer sea crossing but would give the Germans the advantage of landing on long, sandy beaches with low-lying, flat terrain beyond the beach heads. In addition, the East Anglian area would benefit from relatively secure flanks until any break out reached the line Peterborough-Cambridge-Hertford. The flat terrain would be good for using tanks, but at the same time, it would also provide excellent fields of fire for anti-tank assets and machine-guns, and thus could prove a difficult prospect for attacking infantry. There were a number of other problems with this option too.

Although London was within reach, along with several other historic, though strategically unimportant towns and cities, there was very little within reach of the East Anglian coastline that would constitute a prize strategic target. There were numerous Royal Navy surface units loitering nearby in Harwich and the Humber Estuary, and the whole area was covered by the two strongest RAF fighter groups, and on the doorstep of the majority of the RAF bomber groups. Added to all of this, the coastline here was geographically convex, with no headlands to speak of to act as natural breakwaters for an invasion fleet anchored offshore in the late autumn/early winter seas.

So it was that the German high-command began to consider a plan so daring that it made Eben Emael, the Holland assault, the crossing of the Meuse and conquest of France, and the Norwegian campaign, appear very ordinary, bland and predictable in terms of strategic and tactical risk-taking. What they now proposed was a surgical knock-out blow to eviscerate the British war effort, within a week in order to make further resistance impossible. In the next instalment, we shall take a look at the detail of the final German plan…

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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.