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Old June 1st, 2010, 02:30 AM
Noravea Noravea is offline
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Massacre of Dunkirk

On the 24th of May, Hitler gave a halt order for German forces about to pounce on the retreating Allied Army allowing for the escape of almost 350,000 troops to Britain. What if this order was never given, and the Allies were destroyed at Dunkirk.

The Battle of Dunkirk- May 23rd 1940- May 28th 1940


Hitler on the 23rd of May, 1940, gives Army Group B of the Germany Wehrmacht permission to assault Dunkirk (On this day IOTL, he ordered the German army to halt, allowing for the Allies to retreat). The French 1st Army which sits on the northern bank of the Scarpe River is caught by surprise, her route to the North being under attack. French General Maxime Weygand quickly orders the French 1st Army on a retreat to the North. Lord Gort of the BEF immediately orders his men who are currently on the retreat to Dunkirk to attack the Germany Army Group to the South just across the Lys River at Premesques.

On the same day, the 1st Panzer Division moves to capture the town of Gravelines with minimal casualties. The 2nd Panzer Division pushes 10 miles from the front line into Allied territory, capturing the towns of Watten and St. Omer. The 6th Panzer Division along with the 8th Panzer Division quickly dart across the lines and capture the town of Hazebrouck, losing some 4,500 men in the process. The Allies in these towns, most of which are part of the British Expeditionary Force not involved in the Counter Offensive, and not equipped to deal with a large portion of the Germany Army.

Later in the day, the BEF attacks Army Group B, which has reached one of the main roads to Dunkirk at the town of Premesques. Quickly, the light Allied tanks, which were designed to defend infantry across the battlefield are quickly sent from the North to strike at the Germans, while the French 1st Army sends Infantry from the South in an attempt to cut off the spearhead of Army Group B. Using Artillery, and heavier, faster tanks, the Germans manage to immobilize the British tanks. German Aircraft are quickly sent into the air, and strafe advancing French troops, quickly forcing the French back into defensive positions.

By the 24th of May, the BEF is forced back to the Northern Banks of the Lys, losing a large portion of troops in their failed Counter Attack. Rundstedt quickly orders the troops in the North to strike at the Belgian Army, which is on the brink of collapse. Panzer Divisions as well as infantry quickly move across the lines, bombing Belgian positions Bruges and Roulers. German Planes bomb Belgian positions as well, forcing a large portion of the infantry to move into defensive positions. The Panzers quickly overrun the Belgian forces, forcing them into a retreat West into Dunkirk. Over 2/3 of the Belgians however, are unable to retreat, and are quickly captured by the Germans advancing into Bruges. The Germans continue advancing towards the town of Ostend along the shore, surrounding the remaining Belgians, who quickly surrender to the Germans.

By nightfall on the 24th of May, the French 1st Army is completely encircled in the town of Lille, only 2,000 men actually reaching the BEF. Maxime Weygand is not one of 2,000 who escaped, and valiantly decides to stay with his men. Lord Gort orders another attempt to get to the encircled French forces. With 20,000 men, he orders a night attack, which allows his men to gain some land, but German Armor and Air quickly respond, killing a large amount of BEF Troops.

By the morning of the 25th, BEF forces are on the retreat. With the capitulation of the Belgian Army the previous day, Lord Gort has no choice but a complete retreat to Dunkirk from the advancing Germans, who already are on the verge of surrounding his army.

The BEF men stationed already in Dunkirk are ordered to hold until relieved by Lord Gort when he arrives with most of the BEF, and surviving French forces not encircled in Lille. Rundtedt orders Army Group B to capture Ypres, then push to Cassel to join with the 6th Panzer Division, to surround Lord Gort's BEF troops.

The offensive begins, and German troops are quickly met with resistance by well over half of the BEF forces retreating to Dunkirk. German armor is concentrated on one area of the British defenses, and quickly break through. Using the Sickle-Cut maneuver, the Panzers quickly force 15,000 defending British troops into submission along the defenses at Ypres. The 6th Panzer Division quickly moves into the town of Cassel, with the 2nd Panzer Division defending the 6th from the North, swiftly moving to the town of Wormhoudt. The completely eliminates all land routes to Dunkirk, leaving several Bridges crossing the Yser River as the only chance of British retreat.

On the 26th, in the early morning hours, the British begin to cross the bridges at the Yser under heavy German Air attack and artillery. Groups of German tanks under Rommel quickly capture one of the bridges, his tanks in position to completely cut off the British forces. Panzer Divisions at Gravelines in the meantime make a large push to the city of Dunkirk, quickly taking out Allied defenses, and capturing some of the vital beaches which would allow for British retreat.

Winston Churchill in the meantime orders remaining British troops in the Dunkirk Area to 'Retreat at all costs'. Lord Gort however, sees surrender as the most likely option, since very few bridges still exist crossing the Yser to Dunkirk. He does try one last time to attack Rommel and to cross as many bridges as possible.

Some 300,000 men are still south of the Yser, nearly trapped by Rommel and his Panzers, as well as the 1st Panzer Division about to capture Dunkirk itself. The British morale is deeply destroyed, many believing all is lost. Some 100,000 of the 300,000 men surrendered already over the last few days, the French, their only ally are surrounded and slowly being destroyed at Lille, and the Belgians gave up. Only 10,000-15,000 troops are still stationed in Dunkirk ready to leave at Lord Gort's command.

Lord Gort on the 27th orders his men to cross the bridges, which are under heavy fire by the Germans. Some 20,000 British troops attack Rommel's men, but are beat back after less than an hour. Luftwaffe sorties manage to take out one of the bridges, as well as Lord Gort's headquarters, killing many of the officers of the BEF. Several hours later, Army Group B begins to move to the North of the Yser River, completely cutting off Lord Gort, who is now under heavy artillery and Armour attack.

On the 28th, Army Group B attacks the British troops at Dunkirk, quickly bombing any ships approaching the ports to assist the 10,000 British troops there. Within hours, the garrison, at risk of complete annihilation, surrenders. Only 9,000 total troops in the battle escape to Britain, the rest give up, or encircles by the Wehrmacht.

With the BEF and French surrounded, and the Belgians gone, the Battle of Dunkirk ends. The British now lost 300,000 men, who are trapped in France.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 02:59 AM
Noravea Noravea is offline
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Oh, BTW, I plan on making a TL on this. Anyone have good sources on Winston Churchill's early days as PM in 1940, and the general British opinion of the war in the early days.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 03:01 AM
RogueBeaver RogueBeaver is offline
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Churchill's memoirs, Eden's memoirs, the Alan Brooke diaries, Keegan's The Second World War... to name just a few.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 03:17 AM
Noravea Noravea is offline
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Thanks. I'm reading Churchill's The Grand Alliance, maybe that could give me some insight.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 03:38 AM
BlairWitch749 BlairWitch749 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Noravea View Post
Thanks. I'm reading Churchill's The Grand Alliance, maybe that could give me some insight.
Guderian's memoirs provide excellent angles from the German side (he includes the German operational orders... although he must be taken with a grain of salt since he generally sought to badmouth/blame all of the leadership above him when he was the point man... and Kleist and Rundsted lacked the opportunity to properly rebuke him as having dropped the ball and being a general liar
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Old June 1st, 2010, 04:13 PM
Blair152 Blair152 is offline
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That would require the one thing that made the British evacuation of the BEF
at Dunkirk, (Dunquerque), in French, possible: Hitler not stopping Rommel's
tanks short of the Channel.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 10:51 PM
The Red The Red is offline
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Originally Posted by Blair152 View Post
That would require the one thing that made the British evacuation of the BEF
at Dunkirk, (Dunquerque), in French, possible: Hitler not stopping Rommel's
tanks short of the Channel.
History fail. The Germans didn't go for Dunkirk due to fears of overextension.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 10:55 PM
machine3589 machine3589 is offline
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History fail. The Germans didn't go for Dunkirk due to fears of overextension.
This is Blair you are talking to.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 11:35 PM
imperialaquila imperialaquila is offline
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Originally Posted by The Red View Post
History fail. The Germans didn't go for Dunkirk due to fears of overextension.
It's a moot point anyway; Hitler could easily override those concerns of overextension. He would want to finish the job, and ordering troops forward against the protests of his senior officers wouldn't be out of character at all for Hitler.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 11:47 PM
Blue Max Blue Max is online now
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Just remember, the UK was only expecting to get 1/3rd of the forces out of the Dunkirk Pocket.

The delay is three days and the whole UK high command expected to suffer heavy losses. But there are other concerns, like the French Garrison at Lille, in play as well.

Dunkirk could easily have been a greater defeat for the Allies. But I'm not sure that a partial evacuation of perhaps a third of the forces is still exactly a massacre. Granted, France probably folds like OTL, but the UK still has Prime Minister Churchill to rally the country even in the face of serious loss.

There would be a few more problems down the line, given that this probably means that more forces will be needed to garrison Britain itself in the days ahead--with all the consequences that would have if fronts like North Africa or the Pacific have less forces.

This would probably have major butterflies on those fronts, and it is possible that the UK loses Egypt or isn't able to commit to defend Greece at all--the choice that's facing the UK after the Battle of Britain is whether to split the forces from Egypt to defend Greece. In the former the loss of the Suez Canal probably means the end of Contesting the Eastern Mediterranean. The Latter may well mean that Hitler gets his extra month against the Soviet Union.

Ultimately, the USA is going to drop a nuclear weapon on Germany and things aren't going to diverge too badly. But the loss of two thirds of the BEF will probably inflict greater costs down the line.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 11:54 PM
The Red The Red is offline
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It's a moot point anyway; Hitler could easily override those concerns of overextension. He would want to finish the job, and ordering troops forward against the protests of his senior officers wouldn't be out of character at all for Hitler.
A large part of the orders were made there and then during Fall Gelb. If it happened any other way it would have been impossible for Germany to conquer what was the largest country in western Europe in less than two months. Also those fears weren't entirely false, the French could (heavy emphasis on 'could') have dealt a damaging blow if they could counter attack.
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Old June 2nd, 2010, 12:37 AM
Noravea Noravea is offline
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Just remember, the UK was only expecting to get 1/3rd of the forces out of the Dunkirk Pocket.

The delay is three days and the whole UK high command expected to suffer heavy losses. But there are other concerns, like the French Garrison at Lille, in play as well.

Dunkirk could easily have been a greater defeat for the Allies. But I'm not sure that a partial evacuation of perhaps a third of the forces is still exactly a massacre. Granted, France probably folds like OTL, but the UK still has Prime Minister Churchill to rally the country even in the face of serious loss.

There would be a few more problems down the line, given that this probably means that more forces will be needed to garrison Britain itself in the days ahead--with all the consequences that would have if fronts like North Africa or the Pacific have less forces.

This would probably have major butterflies on those fronts, and it is possible that the UK loses Egypt or isn't able to commit to defend Greece at all--the choice that's facing the UK after the Battle of Britain is whether to split the forces from Egypt to defend Greece. In the former the loss of the Suez Canal probably means the end of Contesting the Eastern Mediterranean. The Latter may well mean that Hitler gets his extra month against the Soviet Union.

Ultimately, the USA is going to drop a nuclear weapon on Germany and things aren't going to diverge too badly. But the loss of two thirds of the BEF will probably inflict greater costs down the line.
I didn't finish the TL yet. The 250,000 or so BEF troops and the French 1st Army are encircled still, but with no coast line. The Massacre part I will get up to in my next post.
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Old June 2nd, 2010, 02:44 AM
imperialaquila imperialaquila is offline
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A large part of the orders were made there and then during Fall Gelb. If it happened any other way it would have been impossible for Germany to conquer what was the largest country in western Europe in less than two months. Also those fears weren't entirely false, the French could (heavy emphasis on 'could') have dealt a damaging blow if they could counter attack.
I didn't say anything about whether the fears were true or not; I think they were true. But Hitler is the Fuhrer, and if he wants to eradicate the British, he will order the Heer to attack, over his generals' dead bodies if necessary. It may or may not hurt the overall war against France. I was just trying to say that bold, rash moves against the advice of his generals were unsurprising for Hitler.
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Old June 2nd, 2010, 06:06 AM
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Dunkirk: Flooded fenland accessible by a few roads with large drainage ditches either side of them to reach a supply port behind several rivers and ship and drainage canals. Defended by 300,000 well equipped regular troops plus any French forces in the area with partial fighter cover from Kent and extra artillery support from the Royal Navy.

It escapes me why more resources weren't put into that rather than taking Paris and forcing a French surrender.
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Old June 3rd, 2010, 01:31 PM
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Not Sure...

I'm not sure there would have been a "massacre" - with any hope of rescue gone, the BEF and probably the French would have surrendered.

A couple of thoughts - the Royal Navy and RAF won't suffer the heavy losses they did during the evacuation meaning the RAF is, if anything, stronger than in OTL. The loss of men was secondary to the loss of armour and other equipment which of course occurred in OTL.

The psychology is the significant thing - Dunkirk was spun as almost a victory by Churchill in his famous speech to the Commons and there was a real sense of unity and pulling together as the troops returned.

The fact of the biggest military disaster since Yorktown (ameliorated only by the successful evacuation from Narvik) would have led to more attacks on Churchill and memories of the Dardanelles would be revived.

There are elements in the Conservative Party who were strongly opposed to Churchill (more supportive of Halifax and Chamberlain). Could they have pushed a new motion of No Confidence ? It seems unlikely to succeed given the fact that the Prime Minister has been in office less than three weeks.

The demoralising effect of the Dunkirk Surrender "could" have made the British more receptive to peace feelers from Hitler via Bastanini or some other third party. In the same way, outright victory would have made Hitler even more disposed toward seeking a peace settlement.

Could it happen ? Only if the peace proposal gained the majority of the Cabinet which would mean the end of Churchill and either Halifax or Attlee seeking a negotiated settlement with Berlin.
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Old June 3rd, 2010, 03:17 PM
mailinutile2 mailinutile2 is offline
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Maybe I am a white fly here, but in my opinion OTL Dunkirk decision WAS justified from the german point of view.
How much dealing with the Dunkirk sack would blunt the forces intended spearhead the encirclement of Maginot's positions?
With 4/5 of french territories still in France's control and a large portion of the french army intact, to go for Dunkirk would have been a suicidal gamble.
reducing the momentum (by diverting troops to fight the sack ) and speed of the encirclement could give the french government time enough to overcome the shock and establish a second-line front and to give disengagement orders to the army which was about to be encircled.
Even if a second echelon coherent army would not be formed, guerrilla warfare (by isolated units of the french army escaping OTL southern rush) would have been a nightmare.
The BEF was a completely beaten unit, and it needed at least a couple of years to return to be an effective combat force: many things could happen in such a period, and a peace settlement was far from be impossible.
Not blunting their own sword in Dunkirk was a sine-qua-non condition to take france.
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Old June 3rd, 2010, 11:23 PM
Astrodragon Astrodragon is offline
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Why is there this assumption that a stop of the (badly needing a rest) armour somoehow is the same as Hitler standing on the beach waving goodbye as the BEF sail into the sunset?? Its nothing of the sort.

The Germans had a number of options to reduce the pocket.
Sit outside and starve them out
Attack with the armour (already needing a few days to refit, across boggy, flooded terrain full of dykes against AT guns known to be able to stop them, and Matlidas which needed 88's to stop, burning up petrol and meaning it will take longer to get ready to take the rest of France), while using the non-mechanised army as the anvil
Use the armour as the anvil, thus allowing them to rest for a few days and get ready for use again,preserving precious tanks, and use the infantry as the attack. Which is basically what hapenned.

Dunkirk wasnt a stupid decision by Germany, given the terrain, the defence, the need to plan for other operations, it made perfect sense, even ignoring the fact that no-one though more than a handful of men would escape. Even the British didnt think they'd get more than a quarter out.
unfortunately for Hitler, no-one seems to have shown the script to the RN, who went in and pulled off the entire army despite the fact it was supposed to be impossible. Very rude of them to upset everything like that


Cutting off th BEF and French before they reached the coast is also difficult to impossible.
From the south, Britain had deliberately sacrificed forces in places like Calais to buy time to get to the coast. Even if the Germans did cut off th allies, this isnt a small number of troops we are talking about. Its 300,000 troops, with equipment, separated from the coast by a relatively thin like of Germans, who know their ONLY chance is to break through to the coast. Which is exactly what Churchill would order them to do. I dont see whats going to stop them getting to the sea, when Dunkirk Mk 2 happens...
Encirclements arent nice, neat things where everyone surrenders once the enemy gets behind you. There are always troops that break out, often a lot. Its the equipment that gets lost, and that was lost in OTL. Given such a realtively short breakout needed, I really cant see it being stopped
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Old June 3rd, 2010, 11:30 PM
The Red The Red is offline
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Originally Posted by imperialaquila View Post
I didn't say anything about whether the fears were true or not; I think they were true. But Hitler is the Fuhrer, and if he wants to eradicate the British, he will order the Heer to attack, over his generals' dead bodies if necessary. It may or may not hurt the overall war against France. I was just trying to say that bold, rash moves against the advice of his generals were unsurprising for Hitler.
Around that time Hitler was much less likely to take such rash actions, it was only until after the crushing defeats of the winter of 1941 that he started to become really unhinged in terms of strategy. Believe me if it's a choice between crushing the BEF or conquering France, Hitler's always going to go for the latter.
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Old June 3rd, 2010, 11:42 PM
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Honestly the best POD for greater losses at Dunkirk for the Allies would be "What if the weather was clear for all days of the evacuation", which would allow the Luftwaffe to bomb during the whole thing. It would increase losses for the British both in soldiers and sailors. But this comes at the price of the RAF being able to fight back, which means increased losses of aircraft. IMHO a worthwhile trade off, as it pulls in more RAF fighters where they can be met by concentrated fighter sweeps. Of the 9 days of the evacuation, only 2 1/2 were flyable.

Nevertheless, even with this POD there would not have been a massacre, more like another 50,000+ casualties and several more sunken ships.

http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v02/v02p375_Lutton.html
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle7136214.ece

Last edited by wiking; June 3rd, 2010 at 11:50 PM..
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Old June 4th, 2010, 01:45 AM
Atreus Atreus is offline
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If I remember correctly, a lot of the troops evacuated from dunkirk were returned to france almost immediately. So the casualty roll will be a bit longer, but from a military standpoint the British don't lose too much with the Dunkirk pocket, especially as the Germans are going to take loses as well and probably have to delay their advance to make this happen.
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