If Sealion was impossible, what were the British so worried about?

Coulsdon Eagle

Monthly Donor
Irrational fear IMHO on the part of US politicians
1 firstly without oil they are useless
2 british capital ships can find refugee from canada to Australia ( pretty much anywhere in the world ) and can easily evade the german coast guard [ aka kriegsmarine]
3 britain worse case scenario transfer their govt from British isles and still give Germany a very tough time
4 Germany has no crews to man them and train new ones will take years
The US concern was that in order to get more lenient peace terms a British government may hand over what was left of the Home Fleet. Whether the RN would disobey a direct order from the legitimate government of the day (assuming a negotiated surrender) is an interesting point for argument. Would the lower deck support continuing resistance if it meant greater hardship for their families at home e.g. deportation for forced labour?

All of your comments above are correct although #1 do the Germans obtain Britain's oil reserves? Or take over British sources of oil in the Middle East. Or with no Britain in the West, have free access to Romania's oil?

#4 is a good point. In order to man a combined fleet German / French / British ships how much manpower would need to be removed from the ground forces in the East?
 
The issue I'm looking at with the British Army was that they were equipping forces specifically for a last ditch defense. The 2-pdr AT gun was more or less obsolete after the Battle of France, but it was still being produced in huge numbers because the gap to switch production to the 6-pdr was unacceptable. Fifty thousand flame fougasses were emplaced in defense positions along the British coast. Large numbers (possibly more than a thousand) of Armadillo and Bison improvised armored vehicles were deployed to defend airfields from German paratroopers. These were not the actions of a force rebuilding itself to fight in North Africa, and certainly not a force planning to undertake offensive operations.
Sorry to disagree. Pretty bad points here, and thus unsurprisingly wrong conclusion.

The 2-pdr was definitely not obsolete in 1940, and could still do its work in 1941. Sure the 6-pdr was much better, but the production gap was an actual industrial concern. Note this happened to all combatants throughout the war. The Germans continued to produce obsolescent material regardless of their strategic stance and intentions, the Soviets did the same, etc.

The fougasses were cheap and their production did not interfere with the production of important offensive weapons.

Ditto the improvised armored cars. You take an existing truck and add timber and gravel siding for the fighting compartment and a thin mild steel additional layer to the driver's cabin. This thing most definitely does not interfere with the production of real armored vehicles to be deployed to a real front line. Again, the Germans and Italians did this too for third-rate rear-area anti-partisan units, and the Soviet did this in the Odessa siege.

Meanwhile, if you want to look for British production for offensive operations, look up the history of the Short Stirling and of the other two four-engined bombers which would become the backbone of Bomber Command. In 1940, the Aviation Ministry should have spent all of its money on fighters, if they really had been laboring under an emergency-defense-only mindset. Instead, that's the year when the Stirling became operational and was delivered to the first RAF units (first operation in January 1941). Contracts for thousands of heavy bombers were being awarded in 1939 and 1940. Of course there were also frontline tanks being built, and artillery pieces and whatnot, but the heavy bombers are telling because they are much more of an offensive-only weapon.
 
as is seemingly supported by the transfer of 150 tanks to Egypt at the height of the crisis
I think a lot of people have a bit of a misunderstanding of this particular point, they see it as resources being traded from an allegedly mandatory objective (defend against invasion) to an allegedly optional objective (clear a secondary theatre) and therefore assume both objectives are equivalent (fair enough) and both were in reality optional. However IMO the reality is that both were mandatory to the UK having any kind of realistic chance of continuing the war without direct help from USA/USSR.

The disaster of Japans entry, a large part of the shipping crisis, the manpower shortages, etc etc flowed from the disastrous failure to quickly and decisively clear North Africa of Axis forces and I think all those potential issues were to some degree appreciated by the UK strategy wonks. So given the choice between:
  1. leisurely building up of home defences, surrendering the initiative in North Africa and hoping for a deus ex machina to save the day and/or winning the war against DE/IT/JP solo by 1955 or later
  2. Leaving the home islands completely undefended, crossing their fingers and going all-in for North Africa ASAP
  3. cobbling together whatever they could for home defense and North Africa at the same time and give it their best try
they went for option 3 and as it turns out they were a day late and a dollar short, by the time they won North Africa an irredeemable strategic catastrophe had already unfolded in Asia and the UK would be a parrot on Uncle Sams shoulder for the foreseeable future.

Would option 1 have worked better? Maybe, but if the other players had reacted differently to a more passive UK strategy it could have gone badly badly wrong.
Would Option 2 have worked better? Probably, given what we know now but it’s a very high stakes gamble and I can’t fault them for dismissing it given what they knew at the time.

To me it seems like an example of how there no good choices to make once the initiative has been lost in a war.
 
cobbling together whatever they could for home defense and North Africa at the same time and give it their best try
It probably would have worked if Churchill hadn't diverted half of the Western Desert Force's reinforcements to a forlorn hope in Greece rather than finish the job in North Africa. The fact that the presence of British Forces in Greece caused Germany to intervene and doomed the place only makes it worse. The Greeks were quite capable of resisting the Italians on their own.
 
Not James Stockdale said:
why did Churchill also order such a risky operation as the transfer of British gold reserves to Canada?
Much of that gold was gonna be spent in the US anyway. So sending it somewhere closer to it's likely long term destination and safe should the highly unlikely worst case happen does make sense.
In March 1940 France sent two shiploads of gold bullion to North America, deposited in Toronto, for current & future pmts to US industry. That was while it was still inconceivable that France would be conquered.
 
In March 1940 France sent two shiploads of gold bullion to North America, deposited in Toronto, for current & future pmts to US industry. That was while it was still inconceivable that France would be conquered.
A large amount of British gold was transported to Canada in 1939 to pay for American war materials, which was no different from what the French were doing. Operation Fish in June and July of 1940 transported all British gold reserves to Canada for safe storage during the war.
 
I think a lot of people have a bit of a misunderstanding of this particular point, they see it as resources being traded from an allegedly mandatory objective (defend against invasion) to an allegedly optional objective (clear a secondary theatre) and therefore assume both objectives are equivalent (fair enough) and both were in reality optional. However IMO the reality is that both were mandatory to the UK having any kind of realistic chance of continuing the war without direct help from USA/USSR.

The disaster of Japans entry, a large part of the shipping crisis, the manpower shortages, etc etc flowed from the disastrous failure to quickly and decisively clear North Africa of Axis forces and I think all those potential issues were to some degree appreciated by the UK strategy wonks. So given the choice between:
  1. leisurely building up of home defences, surrendering the initiative in North Africa and hoping for a deus ex machina to save the day and/or winning the war against DE/IT/JP solo by 1955 or later
  2. Leaving the home islands completely undefended, crossing their fingers and going all-in for North Africa ASAP
  3. cobbling together whatever they could for home defense and North Africa at the same time and give it their best try
they went for option 3 and as it turns out they were a day late and a dollar short, by the time they won North Africa an irredeemable strategic catastrophe had already unfolded in Asia and the UK would be a parrot on Uncle Sams shoulder for the foreseeable future.

Would option 1 have worked better? Maybe, but if the other players had reacted differently to a more passive UK strategy it could have gone badly badly wrong.
Would Option 2 have worked better? Probably, given what we know now but it’s a very high stakes gamble and I can’t fault them for dismissing it given what they knew at the time.

To me it seems like an example of how there no good choices to make once the initiative has been lost in a war.
If they really were that concerned they would have went with option 1. When your homeland itself is threatened everything else is expendable. If you lose NA then you lose NA, losing NA isn't like losing the country itself. If you don't lose the island itself you may or may not get everything you lost back but at least your people are safe, if you lose your homeland itself the rest doesn't matter as your empire is gone and the conqueror will take it over.
 
Operation Fish in June and July of 1940 transported all British gold reserves to Canada for safe storage during the war.
I guess moving all British gold reserves to canada through the atlantic was no without risk. Was this Churchill's personal decission? it may indicate that, after all, the government saw a minor possibilty of a german invasion being succesful...
 
I guess moving all British gold reserves to canada through the atlantic was no without risk. Was this Churchill's personal decission? it may indicate that, after all, the government saw a minor possibilty of a german invasion being succesful...
It was the US effectively demanding they send them not the UK wanting to. US wanted to make sure they got paid if Britain threw the towel in.
 
One of the reasons the Brits overestimated the German capabilities was the fact that they assumed that the Germans were on a full war economy, thus they severely overestimated the production rate of German war material, especially planes. The Brits thought that the Nazi's were producing more planes and pilots than they were losing in the Battle of Britain, while the British had a severe lack of pilots. Thus, they believed that the Germans had a real shot at aerial supremacy, as they didn't have the right German production numbers. As for the tanks going to Egypt, consider this: the Suez Canal was the lifeline of the British Empire, and Churchill knew it. If it fell, the way to the Oil of the Middle East was open, and the war would be over.
 
I think also it must be mentioned that Soviet intensions were not well understood. I don't think further co-belligerant action was out of the picture. Imagine maybe a Soviet invasion of the Mid East or India. So you'd have the RN versus the Kriegsmarine, the Regia Marina and the Red Fleet. Add a menacing and Axis aligned Japan in the Pacific and I don't things look so certain for the Royal Navy.
 
Think about the people of the western US clutching their Winchesters and looking furtively at the Pacific after Pearl Harbor, and imagine their reaction if there'd been a real army only 20-odd miles away...
 

Coulsdon Eagle

Monthly Donor
Err...Germany was more mobilised for war than Britain was, and had been for years.
They were, but not even close to being on a full wartime economy setting, which the British had switched to very quickly post-Dunkirk. "If we can do it, they must be too, and they started earlier."
 
Err...Germany was more mobilised for war than Britain was, and had been for years.
Yes and No.

Germany had stolen a march on Britain and France by rearming before they started. But its output was constrained by capacity in key arms related industries and shortages of raw materials and fuels. Hence the UK had overtaken it in arms production by 1940.

A massive investment programme starting in 1939 plus the looting of western Europe allowed Germany to expand output up to 1944, along with reductions in consumer products.

Then again, the UK did the same, helped by Lend Lease, to probably stay ahead in military output.
 
Yes and No.

Germany had stolen a march on Britain and France by rearming before they started. But its output was constrained by capacity in key arms related industries and shortages of raw materials and fuels. Hence the UK had overtaken it in arms production by 1940.

A massive investment programme starting in 1939 plus the looting of western Europe allowed Germany to expand output up to 1944, along with reductions in consumer products.

Then again, the UK did the same, helped by Lend Lease, to probably stay ahead in military output.
that's it, they expanded capacity in capital goods, thus production of weapons was somehow lackuster in 1940-43. they were somehow planing for a long term war with the uk and the us, giving the defeat of russia as done with what was available in 1941.
by the way this capacity expansion explains partly the quick reconstruction of west germany and the good performance of this economy in the 50's.
 
that's it, they expanded capacity in capital goods, thus production of weapons was somehow lackuster in 1940-43. they were somehow planing for a long term war with the uk and the us, giving the defeat of russia as done with what was available in 1941.
by the way this capacity expansion explains partly the quick reconstruction of west germany and the good performance of this economy in the 50's.
What constrained German production in 1940-42 was the constraints on inputs, raw materials and labour. Without the capital investments made in 1939 and before German production couldn't have held up as well as it did from 1943 onwards. The synthetic fuel plants, synthetic rubber, new capacity for producing aircraft and armoured vehicles were all essential to the expansion of production in 1943, combined with slave labour and the wholsesale looting of the conquered territory. There were some efficiency gains to be sure, thought that had more to do with factories becoming more experienced in producing particular models of weapon\vehicles than any 'armaments miracle' claimed by Speer's mythos.
 

DougM

Donor
A few thoughts.
First off I think we sometimes look back and don’t see what our ancestors saw. As we see with 21st century eyes.
Also we say Sea Lion could not work because we know what was being done by both sides. But neither side truly knew what the other side was doing so they just see the POSSIBILITY of something.
I also think that in an Extreme German wank Sea Lion COULD have been pulled off. I have no idea how this wank would have ever happened as Germany would have to have rolled ALL 6s while everyone else rolled 1s (or better yet lost the dice altogether).
But in theory of Germany had crushed Russia and signed a peace treaty (or just signed a pac with the and avoid war) and if Germany was building as much as they absolutely could. And if they built better boats to cross the Chanel with And if Britain screwed up royally (and let’s face it they did not have a good track record in Africa, France, Greace or S.E.A. At this point). Then Germany could have landed.
If Germany had build as many planes as Britain thought they were building crushed the RAF (and that was a close thing) and achieved air superiority over the Channel then the Royal Navy is so much wasted Metal as it can’t survive in the Channel to prevent the invasion.

As it turns out Russia pulled its act together. And Germany was not building the right boats nor were they at breakneck building speed. Add in bad decisions on the part of the Luftwaffe and the RAF getting its act together and taking this all in we get the real timeline that has Sea Lion being impossible. But that is classic 20 20 hindsight. And obviously Britain did not know this in 40 or 41.
 
If they really were that concerned they would have went with option 1. When your homeland itself is threatened everything else is expendable. If you lose NA then you lose NA, losing NA isn't like losing the country itself. If you don't lose the island itself you may or may not get everything you lost back but at least your people are safe, if you lose your homeland itself the rest doesn't matter as your empire is gone and the conqueror will take it over.
And here comes that false dichotomy again, akin to arguing that given the choice between being shot or stabbed a carving knife to the liver is a mere bagatelle relative to a 9mm in the heart. They’ll both end you.

It’s not “lose NA, keep UK, everything will be roses”. It’s “lose NA, end up in war with Japan in addition to Germany and Italy, lose everything east of South Africa, be forced to peace out.”

In 1940 there was only the potential of US aid, USSR was a nazi cobelligerent, Japan was more hostile by the day, all of Europe was conquered or neutral, having the empire split in two was just as likely a path to defeat as having the beaches stormed by improvised landing forces.

Once the US gave up the pretence of being neutral the strategic risk faded hugely but gambling on being bailed out in future by a strategic rival is a chancy thing.
 
A few thoughts.
First off I think we sometimes look back and don’t see what our ancestors saw. As we see with 21st century eyes.

Also we say Sea Lion could not work because we know what was being done by both sides. But neither side truly knew what the other side was doing so they just see the POSSIBILITY of something.
I also think that in an Extreme German wank Sea Lion COULD have been pulled off. I have no idea how this wank would have ever happened as Germany would have to have rolled ALL 6s while everyone else rolled 1s (or better yet lost the dice altogether).
But in theory of Germany had crushed Russia and signed a peace treaty (or just signed a pac with the and avoid war) and if Germany was building as much as they absolutely could. And if they built better boats to cross the Chanel with And if Britain screwed up royally (and let’s face it they did not have a good track record in Africa, France, Greace or S.E.A. At this point). Then Germany could have landed.
If Germany had build as many planes as Britain thought they were building crushed the RAF (and that was a close thing) and achieved air superiority over the Channel then the Royal Navy is so much wasted Metal as it can’t survive in the Channel to prevent the invasion.

As it turns out Russia pulled its act together. And Germany was not building the right boats nor were they at breakneck building speed. Add in bad decisions on the part of the Luftwaffe and the RAF getting its act together and taking this all in we get the real timeline that has Sea Lion being impossible. But that is classic 20 20 hindsight. And obviously Britain did not know this in 40 or 41.
The sole way to answer the OP of this thread is to conduct research in the National Archive and see for oneself the intelligence and analysis available to the War Cabinet at material time, an act that would give rise to a nice PhD.
 
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