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A Successful Sealion


Come off it, DMA, even Doctor What
couldn’t do a successful Sea Lion first try.

LUAKY COMMER and the Stoned Philosopher


A question that has been asked from time to time is if Operation Sealion, the German invasion of Britain 1940, could have worked – and, if so, how would the war have gone. Others have written about the many problems that the Germans would have suffered, so I will content myself with pointing out the three main problems.

The Germans did not have enough landing craft to land enough units before the Royal Navy closed the sea-lanes. In theory, the Germans could have landed as many as six divisions on the UK, but that would have relied upon extraordinary good luck.

The German Luftwaffe had no aircraft trained to handle battleships, like the Japanese would use in 1942. People project the loss of the Prince of Wales onto Home Fleet and see it as a German victory; in practice, the Germans were never very good against surface ships.

The Germans did not plan for the operation in time to surmount the minor problems, from coordinating their forces to overcoming the economic dislocation that would have resulted from wasting the Rhine barges and other craft they intended to place into service for the crossing.

So, can we produce a successful sealion?


The POD is in 1937, when it becomes clear that the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) will be unable to meet its obligations before the war begins. (NB; Hitler expected the war in 1938). Let’s have Goring decide that the Luftwaffe needs a dedicated anti-shipping capability, one that surmounts the attempts by the Navy to claim some naval aviation for itself. He orders the preparation of torpedo bombers, perhaps in cooperation with the Japanese and/or Italians. Trying to find a clear role for them, he hits upon the idea of invading England.

(Yes – I know this has believability problems. We could have the Kriegsmarine making its own plans for the invasion, only to be pre-empted by Goring.)

Hitler is not amused to discover the political catfight once it impinges itself upon his notice. Hitler tended to play subordinates off against each other, but the idea of threatening Britain with a viable invasion threat appeals to him. If the British think that the Germans will invade, they’ll be ‘reasonable,’ and if they don’t, well, they can be invaded. Hitler’s encouragement leads to the plan being formalised – I’m calling it Sealion to save time – and he puts Kesselring in charge of the planning.

This takes them up to the edge of 1938. Kesselring is a clear-sighted thinker and works the plan out in stages; ships, transports, special tanks and torpedo-bombers. The Luftwaffe is delighted to work on the aircraft, even adding to the plans by inventing glider regiments for the task. Transports – in most cases – represent an expansion of the Rhine fleet, which will be helpful if the plans fall through. Modifying the tanks for limited underwater trouble runs into problems – Hitler decides that a tank that can literally make it all the way from France to Dover underwater is a great idea – but the Wehrmacht is delighted with the more practical designs. Some of them can be built directly, particularly when the Czech windfall falls into their lap.

I am assuming that British Intelligence won’t pick up on this and Stalin’s intelligence service – meaning Stalin – choose not to pass along what they get. Kesselring has sold the plan to the various personalities by claiming that it is really a number of separate plans, ones designed to improve the different services. Some people know the truth; others choose not to believe it.

The Polish War provides an opportunity to field-test the tanks. Barring a radical and unexpected change, it is hard to see how 1939 can go worse for the Poles. The British still let them down and the Germans and Soviets still carve up the country between them. However, the Germans have one problem left; Kesselring has been planning on the assumption that France will fall or be knocked out of the war.

Norway produces the first major change to history. The Germans take the opportunity to field-test both the transports and the torpedo-bombers. The transports work about as well as they did in the original history; the bombers work much better. Much to Hitler’s delight, the British lose four ships to them…although one of the German battlecruisers is suck in a dual with a British battleship. Even as both sides are counting up their losses, the battle of France gets underway.

Hitler is convinced, from the results of Norway, that an invasion of England is suddenly practical. He takes the Manstein Plan of OTL and adds an extra requirement; destroying the BEF. France, he concludes delightedly, is not worth much, but the British…

Hitler is proved right as the French fold when the Germans spring their surprise. Some French units fight bravely, but the main focus of the attack is on the BEF, chasing them back towards Dunkirk. Churchill – who takes over a few day’s earlier in this TL – orders the royal navy to prepare for an evacuation, while promising to fight to the death in defence of France.

Ironically, as they don’t have anywhere to run to, Lord Gort is able to hold a defence line around Dunkirk, saving some of the BEF. (Barring ASBs or a British surrender, breaking into Dunkirk would have been harder than it looks on a map.) By the time that the Germans break through, the RN has been hammered, but several divisions have been lifted, although without their equipment.

Kesselring is all for immediate invasion, but it will take time to get everything in place. Hitler takes the opportunity to offer a peace deal to France (which is accepted) and England (which is not). Furious, Hitler orders the invasion to proceed.

Kesselring has made good use of the extra time. The invasion force – six divisions plus a ton of supplies – is ready to leap. The Luftwaffe engages the RAF above Dover – rather than a concentrated attempt to wear down Fighter Command – and the invasion force lands.

(For Rommel fans, we’ll put him in command, lol.)

The British have had less time than they would have liked to prepare defences. The Home Guard is pretty much impotent (Won’t you please oblige us with a bren gun wasn’t a joke) and the Army isn’t as strong as they want it to be. Manpower is not a problem; tanks, weapons and guns are the problem. Rommel’s forces, spearheaded by gliders, manage to land in the early morning, securing a commanding position inland.

The Royal Navy soties at once, heading into the English channel. The Germans attack it at once, using mines and aircraft. Although they cannot stop the RN, they cam damage it, and the longer it remains in the channel, the more damage they can do. Rommel’s teams add insult to injury by turning the Dover guns on the British ships, while spreading out towards London.

For the sake of argument, we’ll assume that the main battle is fought at the GHQ line. The British simply didn’t have the ability to stand up to the Germans on the ground. With speed and daring, Rommel punches through the line and heads towards London. In the meantime, the Luftwaffe takes over a few British airfields, flying in more men during the day and shipping in more men at night.

Now what?

At some point, Churchill et al will realise that the battle is lost. We will follow the OTL plans for such an event; the King will go to Canada, along with the Home Fleet. Hitler’s peace offer demands the fleet, but – as the last bargaining chip the British have – they are not eager to surrender it. The British Government heads to Bermuda, later to be under US protection, and someone is appointed viceroy until the first German commissioner arrives. Although it takes nearly two weeks for the surrender to be honoured everywhere – and the Germans to visit everywhere to accept it – Britain is an occupied nation by September 1940.

The Germans accept someone in the role of Petain. For the moment, we will go with Mackesy’s General Fuller. Oswald Mosley can play Darlen. Hitler knew both of them; Fuller might have been better for him from a point of view – avoiding a rival fascist party. In the meantime, a Free Britain government sets itself up in the Bahamas, under American protection.

Should I do more? Post on the Yahoo group or the discussion board if interested…


Part 2

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