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British and French Intervention in German Invasion of Poland

papacavy

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I am looking for some "professional" advice on an alternate history scenario that has been running around my mind for years: Given the political will to do something immediately about Hitler's 1 Sept 1939 invasion of Poland, did the British and French military have the resources and the assets to retaliate against western Germany and divide Hitler's attention, thus buying Poland some additional time?
 

Archibald

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You may be thinking about this


Alas... on the French side, Supreme Commander Maurice Gamelin is as dumb as a toilet seat (not nice for the toilet, sorry to insult toilets), his brains and thinking fried by advanced syphillis (no kidding: got that information from a former French physician).
Gamelin is Daladier favorite, Daladier is the Radical Party, and the Radical Party is an essential link into any 3rd Republic coalition in the quagmire that is late 30's France (and boy, was it ugly and fracked up, my country back then).

You need to get ride of Daladier for Gamelin to be removed, and that won't be easy.

 

Dilandu

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To put it simply: impossible. Germans have too much troops - almost 31 divisions - on Westen borders. Granted, mostly it wasn't first-line or even second-line troops, but their only function was to hold fortifications against unmobilized French army - and those garrison troops were equipped accordingly (they have less transport, but more machineguns and engineering equipment than frontline divisions).

To break through German defenses, unmobilized French army simply did not have resources. Not enough tanks, heavy artillery, and availbld troops, and most importantly, not enough warplanes (Germans have two luftflotte, 2nd and 3rd, concentrated on West, and they have more modern planes than all French air forces). British expeditionary force was not combat-ready till October. At best, they might achieve some local sucsesses with extreme losses. Which would gain them nothing, because Germans started to shift troops from the East to the West already since 20 September.

So, any attempt to launch serious offensive in September 1939 would force French to storm German fortifications without sufficient numerical advantages, heavy artillery or armor, and under the Germans significant air superiority (which would make aerial control of French artillery fire impossible). Even if - with mounting losses - French troops would be able to break through defenses, they would not have enough momentum left to actually do something. German reinforcements - first-rate divisions - would came startimg with 20 September, and excausted French armies would be forced either to retreat fast, or be cut off by German armor and destroyed.

To summarise: any such attempt in September 1939 would only made everything worse for Allies.
 

alertken

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Dil is exactly right...but it's even worse than that. UK+France had made meaningless Mutual Aid Agreements (Greece, Romania (13/4/39), Turkey (12/5/39), 31/3/39 Guarantee of Aid to Poland) secure in the knowledge they were...meaningless. UK Grand Policy was "Cunctation" - Re-arm slowly, in the hope that Germany (and the other E.European Fascist regimes, which, may I remind you, included Poland, a nasty military dictatorship, which had chewed up border rectification when CZ was dismembered) would leave the West alone and turn East: “If there is any fighting in Europe to be done I should like to (see) Bolshies and Nazis doing it” PM Baldwin 29/7/36: H.M-Hyde,Br.Air Policy Between Wars,Hein,76,P389. There was zero appetite in UK/France to fill body bags for "faraway countries of which we know nothing"...except that they are odd foreigners who don't play cricket (or rugby).

The massive what-if of 20th.C History is that a UK Delegation (led by Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax!) to Stalin, 8/39, to try to agree deterrent/response to German aggression was by slowboat/train, so Germany got in first with 23/8/39 Non-Aggression Pact. If UK+France had flown together to Moscow....
 

Dilandu

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The massive what-if of 20th.C History is that a UK Delegation (led by Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax!) to Stalin, 8/39, to try to agree deterrent/response to German aggression was by slowboat/train, so Germany got in first with 23/8/39 Non-Aggression Pact. If UK+France had flown together to Moscow....
Agreed. It was basically the last chance to actually do something. At least in term of deterrence.

Must point out, hovewer, that considering actual state of Red Army in 1939, it is doubtful, that even direct Sovet help would be able to save Poland. Most likely any reinforcements Stalin could be able to rush in would be defeated by Germans. But Germany would be put into two-front war from the very beginning; forced to divert attention between two mighty foes.
 

Archibald

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And France motto / mantra was "wait spring 1941 wait spring 1941 wait spring 1941" when rearmement would start paying and showing. Even then however the country governnement and military was so deeply in shambles (meh !) I wonder if collapse wasn't waiting in the shadows even with different scenarios than OTL. Some basic facts wouldn't change: geography, senile leadership, rotten political system...
Note how many postwar successfull "darlings" - from De Gaulle to Dassault to many others - couldn't shake the deeply rotten morasse that was late interbellum France.
 
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Justo Miranda

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- Chronology of the disaster



On 10 May 1934 the German Government officially recognized the existence of the Luftwaffe.

In April the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) decided to update the concept 'strategic fighter' that had been developed in Germany during the First World War.

In July, the Polish Government approves the development of the P.Z.L. P.37 Łos medium bomber.

In September the Polish Department of Aeronautics approved the design of the 'strategic-fighter' P.Z.L. P.38 Wilk.

On 31 October the French Air Ministry issued a specification for a multiplace léger de defénse, Potez 63, the French version of the so-called 'strategic-fighter'.

On 28 May 1935 the Messerschmitt Bf 109 V1 prototype performed its first secret flight.

The prototype of the dive bomber Junkers Ju 87 V1 Stuka flew on 17 September.

All the work of design of the German 'strategic-fighter' Messerschmitt Bf 110, was carried out during the summer of 1935.

In October the prototype Dornier Do 17 V1 was demonstrated at Bückeberg and the Polikarpov I-16 Type 5 at the Milan International Aeronautical Salon.

On 6 November 1936 the Legion Condor is constituted and the Polikarpov I-16 Type 5 enters combat in Spain.

On 10 January 1937 the Heinkel He 111 V4 prototype was revealed to the world.

In February the Bf 109 B-1 (462 kph) entered service with the JG 132 Richthofen and the Ju 87 A-0 performed its first bombing mission in Spain.

From 23 July to 1 August, the Bf 109 V13 with DB 600 engine and the Do 17 (450 kph) are presented to the international press during the 4th International Air Show at Dübendorf.

In November the Bf 109 V13, with DB 601 engine, reached the world speed record with 611 kph and the Polikarpov I-16 Type 5 entered combat in China.

In January 1938 the He 111 E was revealed, the government of Yugoslavia ordered 12 Hawker Hurricane Mk.I and the P.Z.L. P.37 bomber entered service.

On 13 March, Austria was annexed to the Third Reich and the Polikarpov I-16 Type 10 entered combat in Spain.

During the spring of 1938 the Bf 109 C-1 (467 kph) and the Bf 109 D-1 (571 kph) entered service.

In May the prototype P.Z.L. P.38 Wilk carried out its first flight equipped with two provisional Ranger engines.

In July the Bf 109 D-1 was revealed as the fastest service fighter in the world.

The Messerschmitt Bf 110 B-1 was revealed during the official visit of the French Chief of Air Staff Général Vuillemin in August.

On 28 September, the Munich Agreement was signed. The Hawker Fury, Gloster Gauntlet, Hawker Demon, Dewoitine D.510 and Loire 46 are painted in camouflage to be used as ‘emergency fighters’ due to the shortage of modern fighters still in production. The RAF has only six squadrons of Hurricanes and three Spitfire fighters.

In October the Wehrmacht occupied Sudetenland and the Polish Department of Aeronautics published the Sokół emergency fighter program specification.

In December, the Bf 109 B-2 was revealed, the Government of Romania placed an order for twelve Hawker Hurricane Mk.I. Polish preparation of the Plan W for the defence against the U.S.S.R. was completed.

The first flight the P.Z.L. P.38 prototype, powered by two Foka II engines, was made in January 1939. The delay of its mass production prevented the conversion of the 15 squadrons of P.Z.L. P.11c scheduled for that year.

The P.Z.L. P.50/I was officially presented and the Bf 109 E-1, capable of flying at 547 kph, entered into service in February.

On 15 March, German invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia and the Polish Government completed the preparation of Plan Z for the defence against Germany.

Hitler took the decision to invade Poland on 23 May.

In June, the Polish pilots testing the Seversky EP-1 and considered it faster and more manoeuvrable than the P.Z.L. P.50/I.

During the month of August, the Polish Government tried to acquire, without success, Dewoitine D.520, Morane 406, Hawker Hurricane Mk.I, Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I, Seversky P-35, Curtiss P-36 fighters and Fairey Battle bombers. The Dornier Do 17 P-1 began their missions of reconnaissance on Poland flying at 7,000 m, the P.Z.L. P.11c took 9 minutes to reach that altitude, but they were slower than the German aircraft and could not reach them.

On 23 August the Soviet-German non-aggression pact is signed, allowing the Third Reich access to resources of petroleum in Romania and Hungary and the Soviets regained the territories lost in 1920. The mobilisation of the Polish Army begins.

On 1 September, the German invasion takes place with four-hundred-and-twenty-nine Messerschmitt Bf 109 types B-2, C-1, D-1 and E-1, eighty-two Messerschmitt Bf 110 B-1 and C-1, twenty-one Heinkel He 46, eight Fieseler Fi 156, thirty- seven Henschel Hs 123A, one-hundred-and-eleven Henschel Hs 126 A-1, two-hundred-and-seventy-three Junkers Ju 87 B-1 , ten Junkers Ju 87 C-0, four-hundred-and-forty-seven Dornier Do 17 types E, F-1, Z-2 and P-1, three-hundred-and-two Heinkel He 111 types E, H and P, twenty-one Heinkel He 60 C, eight Heinkel He 115, twenty-seven Dornier Do 18 D and four-hundred-and-ninety-five Junkers Ju 52/3m.

On 17 September the Red Army occupied the eastern regions of Poland.
 

uk 75

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Britain looked at the problem of a continental war again and again from 1936 onwards and came to the same conclusions:
France would bear the initial brunt of any war with Germany.
"General War" would be a long drawn out affair but naval power and blockade would eventually prevail.
Czechoslovakia and later Poland could not necessarily be restored after such a war.
Fear of German bombing against British cities was reinforced by the Korda movie "Things to Come" and Nevile Shute's "It happened to the Corbetts". Official estimates drew on WW1 raids on England and bombing in Spain to come up with almost nuclear era casualty figures.
There are a number of commercially available wargames on the what if options in 1936, 1938 and 1939 (see the Boardgamegeek website for info).
The Chamberlain government saw Stalin as a greater menace than Hitler. A Labour government might have been less squeamish about enlisting Soviet aid. But the Labour party also opposed rearmament until 1938.
Had Churchill been PM in 1939 he might have unleashed RAF bombers on Berlin and other German cities with bombs instead of leaflets. This would not have helped Poland but might have signaled Stalin that Britain was serious about beating Hitler.
A France which had invested in decent air and armoured forces instead of the Maginot line would have been a game changer.
 

riggerrob

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As a humorous aside, after the Fall of France, several political prisoners (Blum, Daladier, Gemilan, Mandel, Reynaud, etc.) were imprisoned in Fort Portalet (Pyreneese Mountains). It is partway up a steep hillside (almost a cliff) in a steep valley. It can only be approached via a single road with multiple switchbacks.

In Quebec, a "portalet" is short for the "portable toilet" seen at construction sites, festivals and outdoor concerts.
Hah!
Hah!
 

riggerrob

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Seeing as how Britain was a naval power and France also had a decent navy, a likely response would be to extend the naval blockade to the East of Denmark. How they would secure Danish cooperation is a question for diplomats.
How they would sail large navies East of Denmark without Germany seeing them is a second question.
How their ships would survive attacks from land-based Stukas, etc. is a third question.
How quickly the Luftwaffe could re-deploy to the French border - after crushing the Polish Air Force is a fifth question.
Far too many difficult questions for the peace-mongering gov'ts of Britain and France.
 

Dilandu

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A France which had invested in decent air and armoured forces instead of the Maginot line would have been a game changer.

Contrary to popular opinion, Maginot line was not exactly very costly, and actually represented a quite good investment, allowing France to not bother about the protection of long southern border.
 

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A France which had invested in decent air and armoured forces instead of the Maginot line would have been a game changer.

Contrary to popular opinion, Maginot line was not exactly very costly, and actually represented a quite good investment, allowing France to not bother about the protection of long southern border.
And France was warned as early as March 1940 of Manstein sickle cut through multiple channels. Ardennes included.

Meanwhile the French defensive line was pushed from Escault to Dyle to Breda: from Northern France to central Belgium to the NLs.

Before Manstein and Breda France and Germany would have mutually punched in the chin or jaw like boxers facing each other: Balboa vs Creed.

By April 1940 France would try to land a long distance and max thrust punch by sending Giraud 7th army forward like a rocket missile across Belgium to rescue the Netherlands;

but Germany flexed its legs and knees, the punch ( Giraud 7th army = strategic reserve) went over Germany head which then punched France right in the testicles, and won by K.O.
France ended down for the count : first K.O like Rocky against Mister T and finally as dead as Apollo Creed against Ivan Drago.
 

Dilandu

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And France was warned as early as March 1940 of Manstein sickle cut through multiple channels. Ardennes included.
Since it was PLANNED that Germans would try to outflank the Line, it was exactly what French military hoped for. The whole idea was, that Germans would try to outflank the Line from the North, where French army would meet them on favorable terrain and narrow front. Problem was, French army was not ready to actually defeat Germans in such battle.
 

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Nope it was more subtle. The french waited the germans in northern Belgium flatlands. They bet back 2 panzer divisions send there as a faint: Gembloux Namur Tongres.

7 others PD then went to southern Belgium across the Ardennes on a 100 km wide corridor that included Luxembourg; they sneaked 20 km north of the Maginot line extreme northern end: the Fort de la Ferte and its artillery range.
2 PD north of Sedan, 3 in the middle and 2 south. My grandfather ended right in the middle of the chaos and barely survived and escaped what become the giant trap in the north.
The 7 PD hit and steamrolled right between Huntziger 9th army and Corap 2nd army and anihilated them on May 13. By the 19 they reached the Channel coast at Abbeville closing the trap.
France was now lost - in 9 days. Frack.
 

Archibald

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Corap was painfully aware its defenses - where he was later crushed in May 1940 - were weak and complained of a lack of funds; but Gamelin told him coldly "Corap your front, La Meuse : I don't care about it."
A livid Corap went to the French parliament and found a MP Pierre Taittinger. He went saw and was aghast. Taittinger made a vitriolic report in March 1940 that... went nowhere.

Meanwhile Huntziger was parading and claiming TWICE in April and on MAY 7 1940 (d'ooooh!)

"common the Germans will never attack near my army - in the Ardennes. NO WAY."

What a visionary ! he ended in Vichy along Petain and Laval, that SOB. A plane crash got him.

French HQ in 1940 was led by Abe Simpson(s) in a bad day.
 
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Archibald

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At the "France fights on " forum I started a collection of "very infortunate punchlines by politicians and militaries, 1940 France".
Some of them let you scratch your head in disbelief saying "gosh no he really didn't said THAT" after that it is either laugh or cry, really.
Gamelin had a knack to say unbelievable stupid things - and politicians too.
 

uk 75

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A France which had invested in decent air and armoured forces instead of the Maginot line would have been a game changer.

Contrary to popular opinion, Maginot line was not exactly very costly, and actually represented a quite good investment, allowing France to not bother about the protection of long southern border.
Agreed.. I was being lazy and using the popular shorthand for France not developing its armoured forces, which had some decent kit, and air forces into an effective response to Germany.
 

Archibald

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As a matter of fact, the government and industry were so fracked up, France didn't needed the expense of the Maginot line to shot itself in the foot.

Only the Navy was ready. The Army and Air Force had nice gear on paper at least, but production was flawed, conops were flawed...

I use to think a french combat aircraft from the 30's was flawed from the RFP to combat, at every single level: RFP, prototypes, production, pilot schools, production, spares, tactics, logistics... nothing worked.

And very remarquably, while what really doomed France was (with 100% perfect hindsight) a senile HQ, Gamelin and Daladier, at the time nobody realized that and instead spent its will and energy chasing imaginary scapegoats.

Nothing works in France.
Oh well, it's because of the [insert random scapegoat here] [: jews, free masons, communists, 5th column, the republic, the Front Populaire ]
 

_Del_

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To put it simply: impossible. Germans have too much troops - almost 31 divisions - on Westen borders

Reading through the thread, I'd say we all agree more than disagree, but I think there is a very real political component if there is more than just a flurry of words from the West. Particularly with an aggressive blockade. Perhaps paired with an equally aggressive air campaign against canal and rail traffic along the North Sea and the Western frontier.
Would not make much of a dent militarily, but probably bleeds air power back West from the Polish campaign, and definitely sends a political message that differs significantly from the Phoney War status. The threat to the economic system would probably get more attention than military losses the West could inflict at this point. With a keen eye on the homefront, it may have influenced decision-making at the highest levels in Berlin. If nothing else, a campaign against transportation networks makes the later German mobilization for the battle of France more tedious and so buys a little time on both fronts.
It'd be interesting to see what lessons the air forces involved would learn and how early, if the early air campaign ramped up beyond armed reconnaissance.

As to a tripartite pact with the Soviets, that was tried and got nowhere. By the time the Molotov -Ribbentrop Pact is being moulded, I'm not sure what the West can offer Stalin that compares to a giant slice of Eastern Europe-- and ironically, the more fervent the British and French became in warning against German interference in Poland, the more attractive a deal with Stalin begins to look for Hitler. It seems like a foregone conclusion.
 

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I believe the Maginot Line represented the best military solution to a future attack from Germany at the time. Of course, new technology, strategy and tactics meant that it turned out to be a minor hindrance when the Germans invaded.
 

uk 75

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Sadly we know that the RAF was in no position to do any effective interdiction raids on Germany in 1939-40. Its raids on naval targets were hacked down by the Luftwaffe.
I am sure Churchill would have sent Whitleys, Hampdens and Wellingtons to bomb German cities in response to the bombing of Warsaw.. The RAF would have done its best despite protesting.
 

uk 75

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I believe the Maginot Line represented the best military solution to a future attack from Germany at the time. Of course, new technology, strategy and tactics meant that it turned out to be a minor hindrance when the Germans invaded.
I am not well read on this but the original plans for Maginot covered the Belgian and Italian borders and also envisaged mobile forces to cover breakthroughs and go on the offensive. As usual, politics got in the way.
 

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The Maginot line was well thought and the Germans didn't even tried. Starting from Switzerland it covered the borders with Germany and Luxembourg (Alsace Lorraine, here we go again) but stopped right at Belgium for political reasons.
So one may ask, where was the northern tip of the Maginot line ? Where was the northern fort ?
That one

now if you look at the southern flank of the German breakthrough corridor (south of Sedan) then this fort is quite close: barely 20 km.

What Guderian and co. did, was to unfold a map of the MAginot line, pick the Luxembourg - Belgium - France border corner where the line stopped: the last fort in the line.
Then they added a "safety" margin corresponding to its guns maximum range... and their breakthrough southern flank was exactly there !

What is also pretty infuriating in that one of the Meuse crossings of shame (Lafontaine, 71e D.I, Bulson panic...) is only 20 km from that place, too, and nearby there is Stonne & Mont Dieu where the French resisted Verdun style.
But could never start a counteroffensive to crush the bridgehead on the Meuse. It just went too fast.

So within a span of 30 km are three symbols of France 1940 defeat
- the northern tip of the infamous Maginot line (La Ferté)
- the schwerpunkt where the frontline broke (Montmédy)
- one of the fiercest battle of the campaign (Stonne)

Between May 14 and May 19 the French HQ and Government vaguely knew 7 panzer divisions were "somewhere between Sedan and Abbeville in northern France". These divisions covered 250 km (Sedan - Abbeville) in 5 days !
 
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Foo Fighter

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It was the only way he could really go, plenty of oil from the Caucasus region, space to train his troops out of easy sight and a gullible leader, if that's not the tripartite of building up without attention I don't know what is. EVerything spills over from there and as for Poland, well Stalin would always want 'some of that' with the increased access to the Baltic region.
 

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Daladier and Chamberlain were pretty hopeless - one doesn't send Laurel and Hardy negociating with the Devil itself. I have to say I once hated Chamberlain with passion; but since I know that Daladier made Gamelin untouchable for five freakkin' years (1935-1940) I have to say, I loath Daladier, too...
 

riggerrob

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And France was warned as early as March 1940 of Manstein sickle cut through multiple channels. Ardennes included.
Since it was PLANNED that Germans would try to outflank the Line, it was exactly what French military hoped for. The whole idea was, that Germans would try to outflank the Line from the North, where French army would meet them on favorable terrain and narrow front. Problem was, French army was not ready to actually defeat Germans in such battle.
The French Army would have been wiser to survey artillery positions, dig gun pits, trenches, survey bridges, survey hospitals, pre-position ammo and canned rations, stretch telephone lines, etc. during the Phoney War. It would not cost much in materials and would prevent boredom among mobilized troops.
 

uk 75

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A book that I read as a kid had the world suddenly divided into different time periods. In London it is 1966. The Cabinet (Harold Wilson's Labour Government) has to deal with the fact that over in France it is 1917 and the BEF is on the Western Front.


Ever since I have always wondered what would have happened if the British Government in 1962 to 1968 had found a Europe still in 1938. Could a PM persuade Hitler of the power of the RAF to wipe out Germany. Sadly I doubt he would have been detered. Chamberlain tried in his feeble way to warn Hitler of what a war would do to Germany. Sadly the crews of Bomber Command took four long years and many lives to show he was right.
 

Archibald

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And France was warned as early as March 1940 of Manstein sickle cut through multiple channels. Ardennes included.
Since it was PLANNED that Germans would try to outflank the Line, it was exactly what French military hoped for. The whole idea was, that Germans would try to outflank the Line from the North, where French army would meet them on favorable terrain and narrow front. Problem was, French army was not ready to actually defeat Germans in such battle.
The French Army would have been wiser to survey artillery positions, dig gun pits, trenches, survey bridges, survey hospitals, pre-position ammo and canned rations, stretch telephone lines, etc. during the Phoney War. It would not cost much in materials and would prevent boredom among mobilized troops.

They did - even the ones that were later crushed on the Meuse. But that was half-hearted, with low morale, and lack of means.
 

_Del_

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Sadly we know that the RAF was in no position to do any effective interdiction raids on Germany in 1939-40. Its raids on naval targets were hacked down by the Luftwaffe.
I'm not sure we really know, because they never attempted a serious air campaign for all the bluster inter-war. The Battles were restricted to the front lines, and the medium bombers to armed reconnaissance and a few attempts at the harbors, and both were thrown in piece meal. A Vic of Fairy Battles (who the Air Staff refused to provide escort for) on an armed reconnaissance at the front was never going to establish anything. Two dozen Wimpy's assigned to hit Wilhelmshaven present a fairly easy problem to solve for the Luftwaffe. I'm not sure that twice as many at once is as easily solved.
It certainly doesn't help that the Neutrals (and France!) forbid overflight or basing for heavier bombers, or that the RAF itself was hamstrung politically by those who wished to avoid retaliation (perhaps more forgivable when seen in the context of watching what was unfolding above Warsaw), and but we're discussing what could have been done differently.

Bomber strikes en masse, not a dozen or two at a time, with escort from France aimed at the Rhein region transportation network, might have had political, if not military impact. Later facts bore out the larger raids suffered fewer casualties (as a percentage of force). It's intriguing to think of what might have evolved after an early air campaign. Particularly if it was combined with a more than half-hearted Saar Offensive.

A concerted effort early might have seen air tactics develop more quickly-- perhaps even differently -- on both sides.
 

Justo Miranda

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The French government knew that, after Verdun's horrors, his people were not going to fight. France was preparing for a 1914-style attrition war, it did not need good strategists but large reserves of metals, oil, food and ammunitions to resist behind the Maginot Line until the Royal Navy blockade weakened the Germans enough to negotiate something. The British felt safe from Luftwaffe bombers because their bases in Germany were too far away for escort fighters. The cancellation of the Dornier Do 19 long range bomber and the poor maneuverability of the Bf 110 seemed to support the theory that German territorial ambitions did not exceed 500 miles beyond its borders.

After the German-Soviet non-aggression Pact (23 August 1939) the French communists received order of delaying the weapons production through a program of strikes and coordinated sabotages. The most affected were the Farman and Renault factories that manufactured the only bomber capable of reaching Berlin and the tanks that could surpass those of the Germans. But the biggest damage was the chaos created in the manufacture and distribution of aircraft components.

When the Allies declared war on Germany (3 September 1939) out of the hundred-and-twenty-three Bloch fighters that have been built, ninety-five did not have propellers and half of them had not yet received weapons, radio equipment or gunsights. At the beginning of 1940, delays in the delivery of the Messier landing gear forced the manufacture suspension of fifty-nine M.B.152 fighters. Fearing that the machine guns would fall into the hands of communists, l'Armée de l'Air was in charge of the installation, but the process was slow and required numerous modifications.

The M.B.152 came from factory temporarily equipped with wooden propellers, 14N-25 engines with the old cowling of 100 cm diameter and OPL R-39 gunsights. Faced with a shortage of Chauvière 371 propellers, many were sent to combat with Gnôme-Rhône 2590 propellers (with adjustable pitch in ground only) or armed only with machine guns, due to the delays in the delivery of the H.S.404 cannons.

The replacement of the waste pneumatic firing system by Deltour-Jay electro-pneumatic devices which ensured a more rapid trigger response, caused further delays at the beginning of 1940. On 10 March 1940 there still were fifty Bloch M.B.152 fighters without armament and propellers in the Entrepôt 301 centre. When the German attack came thirty days later, hundred-and-forty M.B.151, three-hundred-and-sixty-three M.B.152, four M.B.155 and one M.B.153, with Twin Wasp engine, had been accepted by l’Armée de l’Air, but only eighty-three of them, considered bons de guerre (combat-ready), had been delivered to the Groupes de Chasse. During the Battle of France, the Bloch fighters shot downed 146 German aircraft, including forty-five Bf 109 fighters. Eighty M.B.152 and four M.B.151 were destroyed for different causes.

Worse still was the availability of the bombers, whose priority was lower than that of the fighters. The delivery of the Amiot 350, Bloch M.B.174 and Breguet 693 bons de guerre to the Groupes de Bombardement suffered from inadequate supplies of the Alkan and Gardy bomb racks and many LeO 45 did not receive the Gnôme-Rhône 2590 propellers in time, being destroyed in land without any opportunity to combat.

Consequence of the disorganization caused by the sabotages, on Armistice Day (25 June 1940) l’Armée de l’Air had 2,348 planes, many more than on the invasion day, even counting losses. Most fell intact in the hands of the Germans.
 

Archibald

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Excellent post ! except perhaps the communists and sabotages. the infamous 5th column "la cinquieme colonne".
It has been academically researched - and found to be mostly a grossly inflated myth. Very few deliberate sabotages ever existed.
Just like that other 5th column: the german one, more sabotages. There were 5th columns everywhere and of every kind ROTFL.
...
The TRAGIC REALITY was there was no need for deliberate sabotage by foreign agents.
French aircraft were dysfunctional (even Saint Exupery superb MB-174 by the future Dassault) because the French industry military government and society were grossly dysfunctional.

One example: during the horrible winter 1939 the antiquated Amiot 143 engines are send to overhaul to Gnome & Rhone. When they return, they are found to be defective: oil leaks broken spares... the french pilots were so aghast they wondered if there had been sabotage by a 5th column - either communists or german agents ! the tragic reality wad that G&R and its workers were negligents with low morale.

And this story tragically illustrates not only why France collapsed but also how people failed to undestand why, blamed imaginary ennemies and ended adopting Vichy as the answer to this disarray.
 

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My favorite part in Saint Exupery "flight to Arras" is that tirade about frozen controls.

Even the excellent MB-174 ended flawed in some ways : build and designed as a medium height (below 20 000 ft) medium bomber, its ill suited bomb bay made it a strategic recon aircraft... at 25 000 ft or higher. End result: crew, oxygen masks, controls, engines... frozen into solid ice. Saint Exupery rightly blame a wholly disfunctional French society of the late 30's and on this he is spot on and tragically lucid.
The MB-175 with the correct bomb bay come mid to late June 1940... way too late.
 

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Excellent post ! except perhaps the communists and sabotages. the infamous 5th column "la cinquieme colonne".
It has been academically researched - and found to be mostly a grossly inflated myth. Very few deliberate sabotages ever existed.
Just like that other 5th column: the german one, more sabotages. There were 5th columns everywhere and of every kind ROTFL.
...
The TRAGIC REALITY was there was no need for deliberate sabotage by foreign agents.
French aircraft were dysfunctional (even Saint Exupery superb MB-174 by the future Dassault) because the French industry military government and society were grossly dysfunctional.

One example: during the horrible winter 1939 the antiquated Amiot 143 engines are send to overhaul to Gnome & Rhone. When they return, they are found to be defective: oil leaks broken spares... the french pilots were so aghast they wondered if there had been sabotage by a 5th column - either communists or german agents ! the tragic reality wad that G&R and its workers were negligents with low morale.

And this story tragically illustrates not only why France collapsed but also how people failed to undestand why, blamed imaginary ennemies and ended adopting Vichy as the answer to this disarray.


Sabotage was a common tactic among communist cells of the 1930s, they were responsible for numerous accidents during the Spanish Civil War, especially at the bases of the Legion Condor and in suspected accidents suffered by nationalist leaders. After accidents, it was possible to check for knots in parachutes, metal parts in carburetors, fuel tanks with small holes, sugar in the gasoline, bombs with acid-damaged fuze, etc.



BOMBSTHATNEVERKILLED: PEACEFULSABOTAGEDURINGTHE SPANISH CIVIL WARSUMMARY: During the Spanish Civil War there were many surprising cases of, until now, mostly unpublished sabotages. These are peaceful sabotages of people who wor-ked in armament factories and who not only disabled the armament that was intended for the alleged enemy, but in many of those events came to include messages of encouragement in shells like “i ́m with you”, “Palma de Mallorca workers salute their brothers” or “the one that passes by my hand will never explode”, so that they could be seen once unarmed after not exploding. These facts have been rescued from archives of war like the Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica, Archivo General Militar de Ávila, and through interviews and investigations that took place in the course of the accomplishment of the doctoral thesis Guerrilleros y sabotaje en la retaguardia enemiga durante la Guerra Civil española directed by Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza and Manuel Aguilera.



The sabotages continued after the Civil War when all the Republican planes interned in Oran La Senia were sabotaged to avoid handing them over to the nationalist pilots who went to retrieve them. There is abundant documentary evidence. Also well known judicial processes such as that of the 13 sabotages of the Aerodrome Virgen del Camino, in Leon. There were also processes against communist sabotage in France but since this was a common practice during the Resistance, after liberation no one researched too much.
 

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France had only the Maginot Line for its defence, but the British Islands were protected by eight barriers that the Germans did not manage to cross. The English Channel, the Royal Navy, the Chain Home with 21 radar stations, the Anti-Aircraft Command with 350,000 personnel, 1,340 heavy guns and 370 low level guns, the Balloon Command with 40,000 personnel and 1,400 balloons, the Royal Observer Corps with 30,000 personnel, the Fighter Control System force multiplier and the Hurricanes, Spitfires, Defiants and Blenheims of the Fighter Command. After the Battle of France, the Germans, believing the war was over, neglected the manufacture of airplanes and the training of pilots. On the other hand, the British in their desperate isolation, doubled the production of previous year by building 15,000 aircraft in 1940.

They also strove to improve the performance of the fighters in combat operations by introducing numerous modifications on existing models. New self-sealing fuel tanks, armoured windscreens, constant speed airscrews, special carburettors for the Merlin engines to not lose power in inverted flight and IFF equipment were installed. The harmonisation of guns was reduced to 200 m to increase the hitting power and the Brownings Mk.II machine guns were hurried into service with Ball and de Wilde incendiary and tracer rounds. Hundred octane gasoline was also imported from the USA.
 

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and in suspected accidents suffered by nationalist leaders

This: it has long puzzled me that Sanjurjo and Mola, Franco strongests rivals for the top dictator job, both died in plane crashes. There crashes were quite convenients for the future Caudillo...
(note: in french, a godillot is an old smelly shoe, from which the popular term "godasse" has been derived: "t'a pas vu mes godasses ?" ; duce sounds like douche - shower; and fuhrer, fureur: angst. Once can't invent such coincidences, really).
 
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Hood

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not enough warplanes (Germans have two luftflotte, 2nd and 3rd, concentrated on West, and they have more modern planes than all French air forces).

On 2nd September 1939 Luftflotte 2 had the following serviceable aircraft:
229 Bf 109
172 He 111
27 Do 17 (in recon role)
30 Hs 126
8 He 46

Luftlotte 3 had:
238 Bf 109
24 Ar 68
273 He 111
77 Do 17 (all but 3 in recon role)
34 Ju 87
69 Hs 126
19 He 46
3 He 45

Western Front total:
491 fighters
549 twin-engine bombers
34 dive-bombers
129 tactical reconnaissance (single-engine)

A large protective force but perhaps not massive enough to overwhelm the French air force in a counter-attack but defensively the strength of the fighters would have been enough to make attaining air superiority a very difficult task for the French. Nor indeed a large enough bomber force to worry about any 'knock-out' blows against cities.
About 180 of the Bf 109s were assigned to the newly-formed Zerstorergeschwader as there were no available Bf 110s, 4.48% of the serviceable fleet above are still biplanes, there is very little tactical ground attack capability.

This is of course a single snapshot, it offers little relation to the improvements made by both sides in the OOBs from September 1939 to May 1940, indeed there is no possible impact from British and French wartime production, no time for any impact of US-deliveries already made. So qualitatively all three nations are on the back foot to some extent before the cheque books started waving around (for example even aircraft would be ordered from Italy by Britain and France).
Also it would take France at least a month if not more to really make a good ground offensive effort. In some ways you can praise the fairly rapid response that brought forth the Saar Offensive within days of the war breaking out, but it was probably as much a lack of in-depth preparation as much as timidity that saw it quickly peter out.


I think if we are to be honest, Britain and France didn't want to get its hands dirty.
They thought it would be relatively easy to let Poland with its large army to take the brunt while they thought up some solutions, probably hoping after some battles and losses that Hitler might think again and come back to the negotiating table.
Reinforcing Poland or sending war materiel was practically impossible due to its geographic location and any Anglo-French naval blockade of Germany would take time to have effect and Germany's efforts at autarchy were already known to some extent. Britain probably spent more time thinking about how to bomb Baku despite never declaring war on Hitler's non-aggressive ally who happened to also invade Poland. As Del_ has mentioned above, despite all the bluster of the inter-war bomber barons, they made conspicuous little effort to put their plans into operation - a woeful lack of intelligence on targets not helping. In addition the civil governments didn't want to trigger a response and invite their own people to be bombed (not a good vote winner if the war did 'blow over' after a few months. Also why invite legal claims for damage later (again, if it all 'blew over' after a few months).

Probably no-one foresaw quite how Blitzkrieg would unfold. A lot is said about combat experience in Spain, but it was a long and bloody drawn out war. There never had been an invasion and collapse like that in recent European military history on such a scale. The theories of Fuller, Hart and Guderian were just that - nobody seeing the fleets of relatively small tankettes or even the relatively puny (by later standards) medium tanks of 1939 would have necessarily believed them capable of such inflicting such damage. A lot was written, and observed in Spain, of bombing against urban areas but very little public exposure was made on tactical ground support airpower.

Neither the Chamberlain or Daladier governments had a plan, they just felt they had to act and fulfill their threat to Hitler so all they could do was declare war and hope it got sorted out. Even Churchill's government in May-September 1940 had no real plan, just a bluster of "we will never surrender" and hope that no Plan B was required, or even thought of what Plan B might be (in Churchill's mind Plan B was how to drag the USA in, but that wasn't necessarily a sound back-up plan in 1940). The rapid defeat of Poland made all their assumptions void and the 'Phoney War' reflects the paralysis on both sides struggling to figure what to do next and how to force either side out of the war (Churchill's meddling in Norwegian waters causing serious blowback when Germany pre-empted the Allies). Perhaps it was some semblance of guilt that persuaded Churchill to send some of Wavell's units to Greece in 1941 to offer some practical support for an ally - ironically dooming both Greece (not enough on the ground to make a real difference) and losing to chance to have completely secured all of Italian Libya by May 1941 - which was probably a bigger a blunder than the loss of Malaya/Singapore/Burma. Had Northern Africa been swept clear before the Afrika Korps had left Italy the entire course of the war would have been drastically different (for good or bad).
 

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Had Northern Africa been swept clear before the Afrika Korps had left Italy the entire course of the war would have been drastically different (for good or bad).

Hell yes. You British alone nearly had finished the job by January 1941 yet the A.K come right in time to save Benny ugly butt (am I allowed to say "butt", dear sensitive readers ?) and Northern Africa dragged on until May 1943: exactly 2.5 years more.

In France fights on (FFO) with Vichy nipped in the bud (at least 90% of it, leaving Laval and a skeleton NEF) and the bulk of France power moved to Algiers, the italians are toast right from October 1940. The bulk of OTL North africa meat grinder however moves to the Mediterranean and the Balkans. Rommel "Afrika korps" becomes "Albania Korp" but he can't stand the name and picks "Skanderbeg" instead, a more heroic name.

About fighters: France tragic mistake was to bet way too much on the goddam MS-406. It was available early and easy to pilot, but otherwise was badly lacking everywhere.

Somebody at FFO has spun an earlier (and very honest TL) POD with the Nieuport 161 competitor to the Morane, which was seemingly eliminated for the wrong or obscure reasons.

Note that Dewoitine had a good fighter with the 501 / 510 series, and another good one with the 520; but tragically, between them was the 513, an early atempt at a closed-cockpit / retractable UC modern fighter; unfortunately it proved a complete dog that helped but delayed the 520 by nearly two crucial years 1936-38.
 
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