If Sealion had failed…
Operation Sealion remains the most interesting
‘what-if’ of the Second World War. If
it had been launched, many suggest, Hitler would have ended up dominating the
world. What might be more
interesting is what might have happened if it had been launched … and then
The first problem, however, is clearing the political decks
to allow Sealion to take place. Historically,
Hitler never permitted advanced planning against the British Empire, as he
expected that the British would seek a peace agreement with the Germans after
France was neutralised. However,
its not impossible that he could be talked into allowing some limited planning
by the German general staff to prepare for an invasion, both in case it was
needed and as a bluff to convince the British to keep some forces in Britain, as
they did in WW1. The British might
be more ready to talk peace if the Germans look like they’ve been preparing
for an invasion from day one.
This leads to a second problem. The Germans did not expect their campaign in France to be
such a stunning success. It tends
to stretch believability that they would plan for a launch from French
territory. I suspect that the 1939
sealion would be planning and preparation of the concentration of what ships,
barges and ferries they have at a particular point.
Let’s assume that events move along in a loosely similar
line to OTL. Germany will still
invade Norway and beat the allies soundly.
France will make the same mistakes that they did in OTL and lose the war.
The British will still manage to save most of the BEF from Dunkirk and
the French sue for peace. Germany
begins the battle of Britain as per OTL.
Here comes the POD. The
Germans accidentally bombed London and started a city-bombing campaign at the
very moment the British were nearly exhausted. If some German navigator does not make that elemental
mistake, London remains untouched and the British continue to lose planes at a
dangerous rate. Dowling, as per
plan, withdraws most of the RAF from the southeast region and Goring declares
Hitler decides to shake the dice again.
The Germans rush their motley invasion fleet into position and load the
troops onboard, heading towards Britain under cover of darkness.
The British, however, have plenty of warning.
The British move troops themselves to intercept the landing troops and
move the RAF (reinforced from all over Britain) back to the southeast.
The Germans are attacked as soon as they land, while the RAF intercepts
their air cover and the RN closes the channel.
The German fleet is wiped out (apart from the two battlecruisers which
were damaged in Norway) and what German troops have landed are either killed or
captured. The invasion is a
There are many different estimates of how many troops the
Germans could have thrown across the channel.
At most, the Germans will have lost ten divisions, possibly including a
Panzer one, which is a minor drain on the total German army.
The Luffwaffe will have also taken a beating, although probably not a
fatal one, as most of the aircraft were short-ranged and would not have taken
part in most of the invasion. The
German Navy would have been decriminated of its surface ships, although the
U-Boat component would have remained strong.
The British would have taken a battering as well.
The RN would have lost a lot of destroyers and other small ships.
The RAF would have taken losses in the desperate battle.
Percentage wise, the invasion would have hurt the British more than the
So, what would have happened in the aftermath of a failed
invasion? The failure would have
encouraged anti-German factions across Europe.
Spain, the Balkan nations, perhaps even Italy, would have been less
willing to bow to German demands. France
might have rediscovered some backbone, which would have translated into
increased resistance, and the anti-Hitler factions in German politics would have
My principle argument is that a failed sealion would have
been similar to the disaster at Stalingrad of OTL, although much less
disastrous. It would have served as
a signal warning to the Germans that the war was not over (in contrast to the
belief that the war was practically over after France fell), and they would have
attempted to deal with a long war, which is Germany’s historical weak point.
The Germans would probably have mobilised for total war in late 1940 and
increased their production rapidly. The
Germans would have also worked to integrate the industry of France into the
German war plants, while also stripping France of anything useful.
Hitler also needs new victories. The easiest place to get them is in the Middle East.
Hitler dispatches a full German force to Libya and uses it against the
weakened British force. Instead of a half-hearted support of Italy, Hitler sees the
Middle East as continuing the war against Britain and supports it to the hilt.
The Germans take Egypt by early 1941 and head into Palestine.
Arab forces rise in revolt and the Germans would have taken over without
much difficulty, while pressing into Iraq and supplying Iran with arms.
Iran provides a border to German expansion, so Hitler halts there and
continues to prepare for Barbarossa.
Hitler begins Barbarossa under far move favourable
circumstances. The Germans would
have been able to forge a treaty with Iran and can use it as a base for attacks
on the Russian oil wells. The
Germans are much stronger than they were in OTL as they’ve been raising new
regiments, as well as integrating Italian forces with better equipment, let’s
say that the Germans take Moscow towards the end of 1941.
The Germans have more supplies than OTL, as well as a more limited
version of ‘victory disease’.
The British would have been able to do less to support the
USSR. They’ve having to keep some
troops in Britain to forestall the possibility of another German invasion.
They’re desperately trying to build the defences of India before the
Germans or Japanese try to invade. The
British allow the Japanese to take the Dutch East Indies without complaint, as
the US won’t give any support. That
solves most of the Japanese supply problems, while Britain can be intimidated
into stopping the flow of supplies to China.
Without those supplies, the Japanese can wear down Chieng over time.
The fall of Moscow means the end of the Soviet Union.
Moscow is too important as a transportation hub and symbol of authority.
A Stalin-led government tries to claim that they’ve abandoned Moscow
like the Tsar did in 1812, but such claims do not carry weight with the
oppressed masses, many of whom revolt. Revolutions
spread across the Muslim SSRs and others. The
Japanese consider hitting the soviet rear.
The Germans are able to hold off any soviet counterattack, which sends
soviet morale plummeting.
Under such circumstances, Stalin is forced to consider
peace. The peace terms are harsh;
Germany annexes all the occupied territories and the Stalingrad region.
Stalin has limits placed on his armed forces.
With a powerful German presence northwards, the Shah of Iran joins up in
earnest, weakening the British positions in the remains of the empire.
The British sue for peace, losing the Middle East as the price of peace.