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Equipping the French and British armies in the 30s

uk 75

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There is already a thread on what might have been in the 1930s.
I want to focus on the land forces. Britain and France in 1940 had some tanks (Somua and Matilda 2) which could match the Germans. If the French and British General Staffs had understood the importance of armoured units in a future war, both countries had the industrial capacity to produce decent equipment in adequate numbers.
Even with the equipment they had, British and French armies suffered from lacklustre commanders. A DeGaulle or a Wavell might have produced a rock rather than paper to blunt the German scissors. Not advancing into Belgium and using tanks in numbers rather than penny packets come to mind.
 

Foo Fighter

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Not sure we did have the capability to be honest, One of the reasons so many British tanks have riveted chassis and turrets is because welding was a skill in short supply and mainly in shipyards. Those riveted tanks should be a source of shame like the loss of an ability to create tanks is now.
 

Archibald

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Where to start ? blow the French HQ in Vincennes, for a start. Ensure not missing Gamelin.

More important than that... discussing on the French Fights On forum / La France continue la guerre since 2007 has been an eye opening to me. http://1940lafrancecontinue.org/forum/

Look at these two links and weep.



To make a long story short...

ON THE GERMAN SIDE

1 - By October 1939 Manstein "sickle cut" through the Ardennes, south Belgium, did not existed yet.

2 - The German war plan was a very bad repeat of Schlieffen, 1914, in central Belgium flatlands.

3 - The Anglo-French were all too aware of that and thus the bulf of BEF + 2/3rd best French armies were to dug and fend there.

4 - By March 1940 the sickle cut has been adopted.

ON THE FRENCH SIDE

Take a map. Look at three places: Escault, Dyle, Breda. And now, fasten your seat belts...

1 - Escault is a river in northern France, near the Belgian frontier, in the flatlands

2 - Dyle is a river right in the middle of Belgium

3 - Breda is at the corner of Belgium, Northern Germany... and the southern tip of The Netherlands.

So what happened ? Very simple.

1 - In the fall of 1939, France was to fight on its territory, that is, on the Escault

2 - In the winter, Belgium asked for help, so the French Armies would enter their territory ASAP when the German attacked, and advance to the Dyle

3 - in March 1940, it become politically impossible to abandon The Netherlands while fighting for Belgium, so Breda become the new defensive line.

Thanks Daladier and Gamelin for that utter siliness.

And there... Generan Giraud 7th Army, FRANCE STRATEGIC RESERVE ARMY was taken out of Reims and told to push to Breda when the German attacked.

So, in a nutshell.. while the Sickle cut moved the Schwerpunkt from north (Gembloux) to south (Sedan), the French armies encounter point shifted West to East by 300 miles - from Escault to Dyle to Breda.

Basically, the French and Germans were to clash head-on in central, flatlands Belgium.

As they rushed toward each others, the Germans dodged, flexed their knees, and hit in the french in the belly or even in the testicles - from below.
The French tried to send an uppercut from a long distance, but their armored fist (Giraud 7th army, now in Breda) went way above the German head and landed in vacuum.

Then the german punch in the french belly literally cut them in two.

When the Germans on May 14, 1940 broke the frontline and advanced like crazies, passing north of Paris, direction Abbeville on the coast to close the future Dunkirk pocket, they went past Reims... where there was no 7th Army to march toward them and stop them, BECAUSE THAT FUCKING ARMY HAD BEEN SEND TO BREDA IN THE NETHERLANDS 200 MILES NORTH.

That's the reason why, when Churchill asked Reynaud on May 15, 1940 "where is your strategic reserve army ?" Reynaud just wept. It had been send to freakkin' Breda.
 

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Dilandu

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Well, one thing to be clear - Char B1 must be made from the very beginning with traversable hull gun, NOT with extremely overcomplicated "precise aiming" gearbox. More efforts should be put into producing Char D1/D2 medium tanks; of all French 1930s machines, they have the best balance of mobility, armor protection and weaponry. Renault R35 must be seriously reconsidered; maybe even cancelled, replaced as main infantry support tank with H35/38.
 

Archibald

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- As long as Escault become Dyle and then Breda (the later taking Giraud 7th Army, the strategic reserve);
- and as long as "Schlieffen 1940" becomes "Sickle cut";
- then, whatever the improvements brought to French hardware, France is screwed because the nazis have achieved strategic surprise.

As simple as that.

By contrast

- Sickle cut vs Escault - no Dyle-Breda shift eastwards
thus, keep Giraud 7th Army in Reims rather than sending it to Breda, and France still has a powerful, well equiped force able to kick german asses after they exit the Ardennes forrest near Sedan.
The germans are stopped long before Abbeville and the coast, as such they can never close the "trap" and then shrink it to Dunkirk...

- Shlieffen 2.0 vs Escault: that was the plan as it should have happened in the fall of 1939. End result: a titanic struggle in central Belgium flatlands.
Whether France (with BEF) would have been able to stop the onslaught - we will never know for sure.
On one hand, the French Army is fighting exactly as it intended to do, so that might balance the Gamelin idiocies and weaknesses.
On the other, the HQ is the same, and God only know how criminally dumbarses, were they. Anything going out of the plan, and the rotten house can still collapse, OTL style.
 
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uk 75

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Thanks for the interesting info.
It does suggest that more could have been done to give the Ftench and British a better chance of stopping the Germans.
 
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