by Author | December 22nd, 2010

The first aim of the Kreigsmarine was to disperse Royal Navy resources as much as possible prior to the launch of Sealion North. To that end, Donitz waged an intensive U-Boat campaign against allied shipping in the North Atlantic during July, August and early September. This caused the Royal Navy to commit more and more escort vessels to convoys, which meant that it would take time for them to concentrate their full surface fleet in the event on an invasion of Britain. The Germans banked on forcing a decision on land before the Royal Navy had the chance to concentrate in full.

In addition to this, the Royal Navy’s capital ships needed to be dealt with effectively as the German surface fleet was not strong enough to face the British down in an open engagement. They decided to deal with the problem at source, by bottling up the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow from the outset. To that end, six days before ‘S’ Day, every available U-Boat left its hunting ground and made for the North Sea. The intention was for a large force of U-Boats to bottle up the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow and, should the British attempt to break out, sink as many of the Royal Navy’s capital ships as possible whilst at the same time falling back slowly southwards. It was hoped that by the time the Home Fleet got to grips with the invasion fleet, the odds would have been evened up nicely. 

More U-Boats were deployed to the mouths of the Humber, Tyne and Forth in order to bottle up the cruiser squadrons and destroyer flotillas that had been deployed there in anticipation of invasion. The U-Boat screens would be backed up by an extensive mine-laying operation the night before ‘S’ Day and extensive air raids would also target Scapa Flow and the River Estuary concentrations of Royal Navy surface units.

Most threatening to the immediate landing operation would be the three cruisers and large destroyer force based in the Humber and thus an extra precaution was devised for this vulnerable point. Hitler, ecstatic over the perceived success of the glider borne assault on Eben Emael, was in the mood for yet more novel tactics. To that end it was decided that Storm Battalion Koch, the heroes of the Maas bridges and Eben Emael, would land on Spurn Point and capture the two major gun batteries that were situated there. Rather than destroy these batteries, the battalion would capture them intact, and would be accompanied by trained gunners, who would then turn the British guns against their former owners and engage any Royal Navy ships attempting to break out of the Humber.

Finally, there would be a large scale feint delivered in the English Channel in order to keep British attention focussed in the south for as long as possible. Not only was this meant to provide a distraction, the feint was devised to lure out the Harwich destroyer flotilla and the Portsmouth flotilla in order for them to be engaged by Stuka dive-bombers, hopefully resulting in their elimination from the developing battle. Several German destroyers and modified gun-boats and armed trawlers would be used to herd hundreds of virtually derelict barges from the rivers of Europe into the English Channel in order to create the impression of a large landing operation being launched against the Kent and Sussex coastline. When the dummy fleet became engaged, the fighting units would detach themselves and break north to join the real invasion force that would already be steaming across the North Sea from Denmark and the German ports.

Meanwhile, it was hoped that British would react aggressively to the dummy fleet off the south coast and launch a considerable portion of its remaining air power to deal with it. At this point, the Luftwaffe would put every available Me 109 over the Channel in order to cause as much attrition against the British bomber force as possible before the RAF realised that they were being deliberately baited.

The entire Kreigsmarine plan was finely tuned and had little room for flexibility, mainly as a result of its destroyer losses in Norway. The Kreigsmarine had been given a very tall order indeed, but thanks to Raeder’s anticipation of the Fuhrer’s intentions, the Kreigsmarine had just about managed to achieve the minimum requirements for a successful amphibious operation against Britain. Raeder knew that it was a big gamble and that even if the Army was successful after landing and managed to force a British capitulation within just a few days, the Kreigsmarine was likely to suffer considerable attrition. He told the Fuhrer so, who acknowledged the fact, but stated that given this was the most critical operation of German military history, then it was essential that every possible sacrifice was made to ensure success.

 Next time: The Luftwaffe’s contribution…

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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.