Just checking that I'm tracking things correctly;

The BEF is ~14 division equivalents (almost entirely motorized infantry) with decent cav units plus the French are mostly fighting the battle that they want on the terrain that they want. There are significant issues of command and control for the French armies but assuming that they can get to the Eschaut and dig in for a day with a notable water barrier in front of them, the Allied force density is pretty high and the quality of troops is good to very good. The core of both Allies' armies are pre-war professional officers and NCOs with fairly fit junior enlisted/conscripted men with good equipment. And they've already had a few days to start realizing that they are really at war. Both the BEF and French have local powerful and concentrated armor reserves.

Is this a correct read?
 

Garrison

Donor
Just checking that I'm tracking things correctly;

The BEF is ~14 division equivalents (almost entirely motorized infantry) with decent cav units plus the French are mostly fighting the battle that they want on the terrain that they want. There are significant issues of command and control for the French armies but assuming that they can get to the Eschaut and dig in for a day with a notable water barrier in front of them, the Allied force density is pretty high and the quality of troops is good to very good. The core of both Allies' armies are pre-war professional officers and NCOs with fairly fit junior enlisted/conscripted men with good equipment. And they've already had a few days to start realizing that they are really at war. Both the BEF and French have local powerful and concentrated armor reserves.

Is this a correct read?
Its reasonable summation, though the reserves will be rather used up and dispersed in the next phase of the fighting. The British and French aren't really looking at concentrated armoured thrusts at the moments and are using a lot of their armour as mobile pillboxes on the Escault Line.
 
May 19th – May 23rd – 1940 – The Battle of Belgium – Part III – The Battle on the Escault

Garrison

Donor
May 19th – May 23rd – 1940 – The Battle of Belgium – Part III – The Battle on the Escault

The 19th of May was a quiet day on the Escault, the first such since the Germans launched their offensive on the 10th. This was a great relief to the Allies who made good use of the respite to improve their defensive positions and bring up reinforcements, some of these positions began to take on a distinct resemblance to those of 1914 after the battlelines began to solidify and this seemed to be something of a relief to some senior officers among the Allied command, a return to a style of warfare they were familiar with and understood. This was far from a universal sentiment and the likes of Brooke and Montgomery among the British and De Gaulle and Leclerc on the French side vocally denounced the adoption of a ‘trench mentality’.

Gamelin was assuredly not in this camp. Halting the Germans and digging in to drain the resources of the Wehrmacht very much conformed with his original vision. He had always expected to draw the Germans into a form of attritional warfare, exhausting the Germans by taking advantage of the underlying weakness of Germany in terms of material resource, while the British and French could count not only on the resources of their empires but access to the industries of the USA. It wouldn’t have been a terrible plan if the Germans had conformed to his expectations on the battlefield [1]. That his vision of how the war would be conducted seemed to be coming to pass probably kept Gamelin in his job. The blame for the failures to reach the Dyle and hold the Germans could be pinned on the shortcomings of the Belgians, the disastrous loss of Eben Emael had unravelled the Dyle Plan and forced Gamelin to change strategy on the fly, while faced with partial and contradictory intelligence about enemy movements. This explanation for the chaos after the 10th of May was at least plausible and something Gamelin’s political supporters could rally around to defend his performance, while at the same time the government in Paris had hardly earned much credit for itself with the contradictory information and instructions that had been relayed to Gamelin’s HQ. As much as Prime Minster Reynaud would have liked to remove Gamelin, whom he personally detested, his own position had not been enhanced by the events in Belgium and clear divisions had opened in the French cabinet [2].

Granting the Allies a respite was not part of the German strategy, they simply had no choice in the matter. The effects of the Allied bombing of the supply convoys were being fully felt by this point and while efforts were made to seize abandoned British and French vehicles most of these had either been sabotaged or discarded precisely because they had broken down and couldn’t be easily fixed. Civilian vehicles were also pressed into service, regardless of their suitability, but these efforts could not address the fact that most of the Heer’s reserves had never possessed any motorized transport to begin with. Gamelin had been correct to identify logistics as the critical German weakness and OKH was perfectly well aware that if the campaign in the West lasted more than a few months the Wehrmacht’s reserves of ammunition and equipment would be critically depleted.

With the British and French having won the race to the Escault General Von Rundstedt in overall command of the attack now concluded that a prepared attack was needed to break through the lines and this meant the use of artillery and airpower to breakdown the allied defences before sending in the Panzers, who would now be expected to co-ordinate their operations with the infantry. Many a post war memoir written by German Generals would bitterly criticize Von Rundstedt’s decisions, at the time however such complaints were far more muted as many of the spearhead divisions were in genuine need of a chance to regroup before undertaking further action. There was also the question of how well would the Panzer have fared having to fight tanks which were often better armoured and armed than their own vehicles? OKH may have done the Panzer Divisions a considerable favour by restraining the aggression of their commanders, not that any of them would ever express any gratitude for it. Von Rundstedt originally wanted four days to complete his preparations, he was informed by OKH that he would be allowed two after Hitler made his intense displeasure at any delays clear. Thus the Wehrmacht launched their renewed attempt to breakthrough on the 21st [3].

The fighting between the 21st and the 23rd was the most intense seen to date. The German forces were no less aggressive or capable than in the previous phase of the battle, however the element of surprise was gone, and their tactical flexibility mattered less in what rapidly descended into a brutal slugging match between what were for the moment relatively evenly matched opponents. With clear orders and decent defensive positions, the British and French troops proved even more resilient and stubborn than they had during the withdrawal. The Allies did give ground in some places, crucially though the line didn’t break despite this. The opening the Panzers needed to sweep into the Allied rear remained just out of reach.

The battle had indeed become one of attrition rather than manoeuvre, the very thing Hitler and the General Staff had dreaded from the start and a powerful driver of Hitler’s declining faith in the General Staff. The most dangerous moment for the Allies came on the 22nd when the Belgians initially refused an order to pull back to conform with the movements of the BEF who had been forced to give ground on their left flank. At this point the Belgians were more than reluctant to give up any more of their country to the Germans, even at the risk of opening a gap in the line at the junction between the Belgian divisions and the BEF. The British managed to insert troops into the gap to prevent a breach until pressure on the Belgian divisions forced them to fall back and ended the threat [4].

By the evening of the 23rd Von Rundstedt anxiously conferred with General von Brauchitsch, knowing full what the personal consequences of his report might be, but he made his case nonetheless, the attacks on the Escault Line were proving costly in men and materiel and they were not achieving their goal, they had failed while the Heer still possessed the means to regroup and find another way to breakthrough. The Field Marshal agreed with Rundstedt’s conclusion, Case Yellow had failed, and a new plan was indeed called for. In Berlin Hitler swayed between rage and terror when von Brauchitsch advised him the battle of the Escault had been halted. According to later reports the only reason the Field Marshal wasn’t fired immediately was that Hitler had concluded all the staff officers were cut from the same cloth. The old guard of the General Staff had failed him, and the German army faced ruin in the same manner as World War I. Hitler might have ordered OKH to resume the attacks on the Escault and press on regardless, except he already had a new plan to hand, one that had appealed to his desire for a truly bold strategy from the beginning and this time he was not going to accept any hesitation from OKH about adopting it [5].

[1] From what I’ve read this was indeed Gamelin’s plan, halt the Germans, go on the defensive and let the Germans ‘bleed out’ without committing the French forces to any costly attacks.

[2] In the simplest terms the French situation in terms of both civilian and military command isn’t getting any better and lacking any clear vision for a better alternative they are just carrying on regardless for now.

[3] To be clear this is not this TLs version of the OTL Halt Order. This is more OKH deciding they need to use a more traditional style of breakthrough battle, with the aid of infantry support vehicles like the Panzer IV and of course Luftwaffe bombers.

[4] OTL as the battle developed the Belgians were fairly uncooperative, forcing the BEF to alter their deployments because of this, much to the displeasure of the General commanding the British forces most directly affected, Monty was not a fan of his Belgian opposite number.

[5] Yeah about those uncommitted Panzer Divisions…
 
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This is the war the French Army was made to fight and they are in roughly the position they expected to be. They've even had a couple of days grace to get their artillery system set up and working and get all their phone lines laid.

This new plan from Hitler will have to be something spectacular or it's just going to see some panzer divisions chewed up by prepared French defences.
 
This new plan from Hitler will have to be something spectacular or it's just going to see some panzer divisions chewed up by prepared French defences.
Hitler has a huge Panzer reserve, Knows the Sickle Plan, and The French has undefended Ardennes.
It may not end good.😬
 

Garrison

Donor
This is the war the French Army was made to fight and they are in roughly the position they expected to be. They've even had a couple of days grace to get their artillery system set up and working and get all their phone lines laid.

This new plan from Hitler will have to be something spectacular or it's just going to see some panzer divisions chewed up by prepared French defences.
Hitler has a huge Panzer reserve, Knows the Sickle Plan, and The French has undefended Ardennes.
It may not end good.😬
Well huge is overstating it, but Manstein is probably having a t-shirt printed with 'I told you so' in bold lettering...
 
Hitler has a huge Panzer reserve, Knows the Sickle Plan, and The French has undefended Ardennes.
It may not end good.😬
Well huge is overstating it, but Manstein is probably having a t-shirt printed with 'I told you so' in bold lettering...
Sure, but all of the decent Infantry and all of the Engineers and Pioneers have been committed to the main effort (Germany was only keeping the Panzers back). Those units had also been training specifically for the crossing for months beforehand, so even if the Germans can scrape together forces that can do an opposed crossing by boat, and then put up a pontoon bridge, they won't be as good. In the air the Luftwaffe is more tired and has a months worth of losses, it will not as effective as flying artillery.

On the French site the Sedan bunkers were building sites on the 10th May, mines unlaid and troops still acclimatising after the most recent reshuffle by Gamelin. An extra month isn't enough for them to do much, but it's enough to do something and given the very low starting point it's easy to make a dramatic improvement.

Given how fine some of the margins were (10th Panzer successful crossing hinged on a single 11 man squad ignoring orders and having incredible luck) it seems incredibly unlikely anything like the OTL success will be achieved.
 

Garrison

Donor
Sure, but all of the decent Infantry and all of the Engineers and Pioneers have been committed to the main effort (Germany was only keeping the Panzers back). Those units had also been training specifically for the crossing for months beforehand, so even if the Germans can scrape together forces that can do an opposed crossing by boat, and then put up a pontoon bridge, they won't be as good. In the air the Luftwaffe is more tired and has a months worth of losses, it will not as effective as flying artillery.

On the French site the Sedan bunkers were building sites on the 10th May, mines unlaid and troops still acclimatising after the most recent reshuffle by Gamelin. An extra month isn't enough for them to do much, but it's enough to do something and given the very low starting point it's easy to make a dramatic improvement.

Given how fine some of the margins were (10th Panzer successful crossing hinged on a single 11 man squad ignoring orders and having incredible luck) it seems incredibly unlikely anything like the OTL success will be achieved.
The problems afflicting the Allies after holding the Escault will be gone into in more detail on Thursday. Overall though far from being chastened by what happened in Belgium Gamelin feels his original strategy is back on track.
 
Germans behind trenches?
Some in the UK were planning for that
TOG-1.png
 

Garrison

Donor
Battle at France will be on Saturday?
Allied aftermath of the Battle of Belgium Thursday, German equivalent Saturday and then six posts covering the alt-Battle of France after that, which will be followed by four 'what do we do next?' posts about the British position after the Battle of France.
 
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