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Rhineland War 1936

uk 75

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It is often said that the French and British should have resisted Hitler's march into the Rhineland in 1936. It is argued that he would have had to withdraw and it might even have ended the Third Reich.
What has always fascinated me is how the rather primitive forces on both sides would have faired in combat.
Biplanes were the order of the day for all the air forces. Germany had yet to build up significant tank forces compared with France. What would Italy have done, especially to the UK in the Med.
The RAF and Luftwaffe already had well trained aircrew, but what could they have done with the planes they had in 1936.
 

Archibald

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The rumor has it, France Gvt did not reacted because of a power vacuum related to some weekend or holidays. I will dig that further.
It would have been a curbstomp for the French and British. Even if the French Army was already crippled by its all too famous flaws, sheer numbers would prevail. The German troops had bicycles and not many tanks if any. Hitler famously shited his pants, giving a very clear order "if you see any major French troops gathering, run away and give up any brickmanship."
Unlike 1940 sickle cut, France would dictate the war as it intended to fight it - that is, a WWI rematch in Belgium flatlands.
 

zen

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I suspect that fear was that Germany was the major stumbling block in the way of the Communist Revolution and Soviet Union rolling westwards.
After all Russia had done such before against Napoleon.
Factor in the pro-communist forces in the UK and FR.
 

Dilandu

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Well, despite all problems, French army was still the best in slow, nethodical "controlled" warfare on artillery-dominated battlefield. So, in direct combat, Germans have little chances. Their panzer forces were still extremely small & primitive, and Luftwaffe still operated only biplanes.
 

EwenS

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It is often said that the French and British should have resisted Hitler's march into the Rhineland in 1936. It is argued that he would have had to withdraw and it might even have ended the Third Reich.
What has always fascinated me is how the rather primitive forces on both sides would have faired in combat.
Biplanes were the order of the day for all the air forces. Germany had yet to build up significant tank forces compared with France. What would Italy have done, especially to the UK in the Med.
The RAF and Luftwaffe already had well trained aircrew, but what could they have done with the planes they had in 1936.
Italy would have done nothing to help Germany. She was still deeply involved in conquering Abyssinia at the time.
 

Dilandu

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Italy would have done nothing to help Germany. She was still deeply involved in conquering Abyssinia at the time.
Yep, and Mussolini at this time (pre Spanish Civil War) was less than pleased with Hitler. In fact, Italy would probably wait until the victor would become more obvious, and then suggest military help to France and Britain in exchange of agreeing with Italian territorial claims in Abyssinia.
 

Grey Havoc

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Well, despite all problems, French army was still the best in slow, nethodical "controlled" warfare on artillery-dominated battlefield. So, in direct combat, Germans have little chances. Their panzer forces were still extremely small & primitive, and Luftwaffe still operated only biplanes.
Not necessarily. Her logistical & associated industrial infrastructure was in a right old mess even at that time, for example.
 

Dilandu

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Not necessarily. Her logistical & associated industrial infrastructure was in a right old mess even at that time, for example.
Well, yes, but as long as you do not demand too much from it - and in 1936 it would hardly be the factor - those problems would not reach the critical level. Let's not forget, Germany was also very far from perfect & experienced at this time. Both sides would likely blunder; but French have more resources to compensate.
 

Volkodav

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The Rise of the Bomber: RAF-Army Planning 1919 to Munich 1938 by Greg Baughen, suggests that the RAF in particular was terrified of the Luftwaffe, believing that the bomber would always get through and England's cities would be devastated within weeks with the British people rising up in revolution to force a surrender. The message they were providing the politicians was they needed time to build a bomber force to counter that of the Luftwaffe.

Propaganda is all well and good in the battle for more funding, but very dangerous when those spreading it believe it. The RAF was so certain of defeat that they pushed for peace at any cost, the Luftwaffe would destroy any British Expeditionary force and sink the Royal Navy, before destroying the cities, one by one. There was no way Britain could prevail until the RAFs bomber force have been modernised sufficiently to permit them to destroy Germany first, until then buy time through diplomacy, i.e. get out of Germanys way.
 

Apophenia

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As uk 75 said in his opener, both sides had "rather primitive forces". I don't believe that this is about a fearful RAF or other military concerns. Rather, the lack of Western response was rooted in more general politics. France had just signed a pact with the Soviet Union (perhaps French members could address that?). In Britain, blame is usually laid at Stanley Baldwin's door but it actually seems to have been more about responding to the perceived public opinion.

Baldwin's Secretary of State for Foregin Affairs, Anthony Eden, stated that "... public opinion was strongly opposed to any military action against the Germans in the demilitarised zone. In particular, the ex-Service men were very anti-French. Moreover, many people, perhaps most people were saying openly that they did not see why the Germans should not re-occupy the Rhineland."


Baldwin stated that his government would support the League of Nations. But the League could only announce that Germany had violated the 1925 Treaty of Locarno - it had no power to demand corrective military action from its member states. In any case, the normal consequences would have been threatened ejection from the League ... which Hitler had already quit back in 1933. Of course, a breach of the Locarno Treaty was also a breach of the Treaty of Versailles. That made France and Britain the aggrieved parties but still no action was taken by either. Small wonder that Belgium declared its neutrality and withdrew from the fray.

With hindsight, the Western failure to respond to German aggression was madness. But if Anthony Eden had correctly gauged British public opinion, it's hard to blame the Baldwin government for inaction. That government may have been lacking in leadership but it did seem to be respecting the will of its people.
 

Archibald

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Well, despite all problems, French army was still the best in slow, nethodical "controlled" warfare on artillery-dominated battlefield. So, in direct combat, Germans have little chances. Their panzer forces were still extremely small & primitive, and Luftwaffe still operated only biplanes.
Not necessarily. Her logistical & associated industrial infrastructure was in a right old mess even at that time, for example.
Gamelin (shudder). You certainly have a point but 1936 german army was still pathetic enough sheer numbers would prevail and the french would steamroll their way into Germany.
Munich betrayal two years later really tilted the scale by handling Hitler the mighty Skoda panzers on a silver plate. The 1940 panzers III IV come from there.
 

Dilandu

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Gamelin (shudder). You certainly have a point but 1936 german army was still pathetic enough sheer numbers would prevail and the french would steamroll their way into Germany.
Munich betrayal two years later really tilted the scale by handling Hitler the mighty Skoda panzers on a silver plate. The 1940 panzers III IV come from there.
It also should be noted, that in 1936, it was France, who have superior air force. The revolutionary D.500 monoplane, and its improved derivative D.501 just went into service, and she was much superior to Arado biplanes, that represented the majority of Luftwaffe fighter force in 1936. So essentially the situation in air would be reversed 1940; it would be French who would wipe sky clean of German planes, thus ensuring that German troops would be blind & without much understanding of the situation.
 

Archibald

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Yep, the D-500 / 501 / 510 were good enough. Although the much vaunted moteur-canon didn't worked too well. Combat experience should help solving this issue.
One can wonder what would be the impact of this war, starting in March 1936, on Spain. Frente Popular had been elected in February, right wing plotters and the military were agitating but nothing that happened in July was carved in stone. Including Franco allegiance - the man was cautious and pragmatic to the bones.
 

Dilandu

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One can wonder what would be the impact of this war, starting in March 1936, on Spain.
Clearly, with shooting war against Germany, neither France nor Britain would be willing for pro-fascist Franco to win. So, at very least, they would allow free run of military equipment and ammunition to Republicans, and blockade Nationalists supplies.
 

Grey Havoc

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Interesting viewpoint on the flaws in Nazi Germany's logistics doctrine & associated infrastructure by the time of Operation Barbarossa, which were caused in part by a misinterpretation of lessons from WWI carried over from the Weimar era (examples of those flaws include overemphasis on mechanization, railways were ill-advisedly marginalised until it was too late).

 
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