A best selling aviation historian poses questions and provides some answers about the great mysteries of 1940. The Germans controlled the Western coastline from Norway’s North Cape to the Spanish border, so what happened to Operation Sealion? – Highly Recommended.
NAME: Hitler's Invasion of East Anglia 1940, An Historical Cover Up? FILE: R3062 AUTHOR: Martin W Bowman PUBLISHER: Pen and Sword BINDING: hard back PRICE: £25.00 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: WWII, World War II, World War 2, Second World War, 1940, post- Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo, Home Guard, British Resistance Volunteers, anti-glider poles, airborne landings, amphibious landings, reconnaissance raids, coastal defences, Norfolk Broads, flying boats, commando raids
PAGES: 274 IMAGE: B3062.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/ye3z94wt LINKS: DESCRIPTION: A best selling aviation historian poses questions and provides some answers about the great mysteries of 1940. The Germans controlled the Western coastline from Norway's North Cape to the Spanish border, so what happened to Operation Sealion? – Highly Recommended. In 1940, after the Battle of France had been lost, Britain stood alone, save for the Commonwealth and those nationals who had escaped to Britain from the mainland to form Free Forces continuing the fight to liberate their countries. The significant success of Operation Dynamo had brought out almost 350,000 British and French troops from Dunkirk and the surviving Hurricanes, with a selection of other RAF and French Air Force planes, had flow out to the British Isles. However, the troops evacuated from Dunkirk and its beaches had left all of their heavy equipment behind and even most of their small arms. The opportunity for the Germans to invade Britain seemed wide open. The reality was somewhat different. The Germans had suffered casualties, as they had during the invasion of Poland, with trained troops and equipment being the most difficult to replace quickly. The German Navy was not enthusiastic about Operation Sealion because they understood the risks of moving an invasion force across the channel without serious preparation of specialist equipment that was not in the German inventory. The German army also had reservations because they had no previous experience of launching a large scale amphibious landing on a defended coast. The Luftwaffe was confident that it could destroy the RAF on the ground and terror bomb British towns as they had already done in Spain, Poland, the Low Countries, Scandinavia and France. Hitler had been nervous during the Battle of France but was convinced after Dunkirk that the British were defeated and would soon wish to agree a peace, allowing him to turn on the Soviet Union. What the Germans had failed to understand was the significance of the advanced command and control system, with its Chain Home radar stations, as a force multiplier for the RAF. As the Battle of Britain unfolded, the Luftwaffe were amazed to find the RAF increasing the number of aircraft directed onto German air fleets at a time when they had been claiming to have shot down almost all of the RAF fighters and put their airfields out of action. As the Luftwaffe was falling behind their targets for obtaining air superiority, the British were actually striking back from the sea and with airborne troops. The numbers of commando raids were still small and scattered but they were steadily increasing in size and frequency. At the same time, the preparations for an invasion fleet were not going smoothly. Hundreds of barges and other vessels were being assembled and modified, but they were unproven designs and a very long way from the standard of special craft built by the Allies for the invasions of German territory, beginning with the landings in North Africa. What is difficult to fully evaluate is just how big a gift Hitler was to the Allies. His over inflated opinion of his skills as a great general were to speed the stalemate and then collapse of Nazi Germany, but his early victories had disguised the realities of the German situation, where Britain battled on, Allied war production was comfortably out-stripping German production, and the entry of the US and the Soviet Union would make crippling German defeat inevitable. However, Hitler's view that Britain was defeated in May 1940 and no longer posed any threat to his plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union go a long way to explaining why the Germans did not mount a reconnaissance in force on the British coastline in the way that British and Canadian troops were to be used at Dieppe, or even the smaller scale raids from the air and from the sea. The author has looked at the possibility and pointed out that history is fragile. Every nation in and after war presents its view of the victory and the defeated try to find excuses. Documents are lost, some events are never documented. During the active period, censorship and rumour create false images of what is, or has just, occurred. One example from 1940 was MTB 102 which served as flagship for Admiral Wake Walker in the closing days of the evacuation from Dunkirk. At 68 ft, MTB 102 had only a very small crew working very closely together, and yet two events are remembered differently by members of the crew. The Admiral's Flag had to be hastily created as a red cross on a white field. Two crew members recalled how it was created and from what materials. A tea towel with a red cross painted on it is one relic still with the vessel which has been preserved by operation, but there is no guarantee that it really is the flag flown. There are different memories of who the senior Army officer was who was recovered in the last day of MTB 102's outstanding service at Dunkirk. These sorts of differences will have occurred across the range of WWII experiences, leaving historians with an impossible task to produce a definitive account with all 'proof' being fully confirmed beyond question. In the case of German attacks on the British Isles by special forces the only two that seem to be beyond debate are the commando attack on the Isle of Wight and the attacks on US troops rehersing for D-Day at Slapton Sands. However, there are numerous attempts recorded of the landing of agents from submarines and aircraft where they were rapidly rounded up and either turned as double agents or shot. There are also unsubstantiated claims that German supply ships used Irish ports to refuel and rearm U-Boats in the same way that ports in Spain and Goa were used. What doesn't exist is substantiated evidence of attacks by airborne forces and commando raids on Britain. This raises the question of whether the attacks took place, but were covered up by the British, and where they were either unrecorded, or the records lost on the German side. What does exist are numerous rumours from the time which are usually dismissed as invasion fever from the rumour mill. The British did go to great lengths to make life difficult for airborne forces. Open spaces in the East and South of England sprouted anti-glider poles to make it very difficult to land even small assault gliders. The Norfolk Broads were similarly disrupted by commandeering yachts and motorboats and mooring them across the waters to prevent the landing of flying boats and seaplanes. Very quickly, the Home Guard was established together with Air Raid Wardens who patrolled at night and looked out for parachutes and low flying aircraft, while the Royal Observer Corps and the radar networks kept a very effective watch for aircraft of all types, around the clock. Seaborne attack was also effectively countered. In parts of the East Anglian coast, temporary roads of steel sheeting and wire netting were laid on sand to allow frequent military vehicle patrols & coastal rail lines were also used for military trains. It is surprising if some attempts by the Germans succeeded unnoticed but there are no records currently available from either side. There were frequent battles off-shore between British and German fast patrol craft. German S-Boats attacked coastal convoys and British MTB and MGB crews lurked off sand banks, often in fog, waiting to surprise S-Boats heading for coastal convoys. These actions were often hard fought and resulted in bodies and wreckage washing up on British and French beaches. Rumours were rife in 1940. People saw German soldiers dressed as nuns and riding bicycles. There were stories of gliders landing and of hundreds of burnt bodies of German soldiers washing up on beaches. It was a stressful time and people saw what they expected to see, perhaps assisted by alcohol, which was still available, and by the difficulty of walking, riding or driving in the blackout. In some cases it was miss- identification when Poles, Czechs, Danes, Norwegians, Belgians and French who had escaped the Germans and joined the Free Forces in Britain were seen in unfamiliar and confusing situations. Unfamiliar accents, uniforms and salutes caused a degree of embarrassment and fresh stories of the Fifth Column. There were also some situations that suggest there could have been cover-ups. One example is a strong rumour of the bodies of many German soldiers, mostly badly burned, washing ashore on a Norfolk beach and of the Resistance Volunteers being ordered to battle stations. Today it is common for people leaking classified information cheerfully, but during WWII Britons had a highly developed sense of honour and security. Those at Bletchley Park and its outstations faithfully kept their secrets for decades and the same applied to the Resistance Volunteers. Mainly recruited from the Home Guard and rural occupation, Norfolk and Suffolk had particularly strong units. They were formed in 1940 and stood down in 1944. They had networks of safe houses and underground facilities with weapons and explosive dumps. When the Volunteers were disbanded many of the supply dumps were just abandoned and most of the records were lost or destroyed. Some information leaked out in the 1950s when a heath fire caused some explosives dumps to explode and one of the Volunteers came forward to advise the police and firemen where dumps had been placed. The friends and family of the Volunteer had been completely unaware of his role in WWII and many had though poorly of him as a draft dodger. The author has considered all of this and offered some views in what is an absorbing and very readable review.