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Thread: End of Empire - A British AAR 1938 SF

  1. #21
    Part 7

    The opening German moves and Operation “Bluecoat”

    February – April 1940

    February began with inclement weather returning to much of Northern Europe. Snow fell again in the north, while cold winds swept much of central and Western Europe while fierce storms battered ships at sea. But this did not reduce the developing crises on Britains convoy routes in the eastern Atlantic and off the coasts of France and Spain.

    Anthony Eden was furious with the Belgians and the Dutch. Despite the clear threat to their independence, both refused to join the Allies, complicating plans to form a coherent defence strategy for the Low Countries and North Eastern France. Edmund was involved in the feverish activity in early February as both the British and French attempted to get both countries to change their minds, but to no avail. Eventually, Eden was forced to tell the General Staff to forget the defence of Holland, and to forget co-operation with Belgium once the real fighting started. Henceforth, the BEF would operate only so far into Belgium to maintain a coherent defence with the French line, and Dutch and Belgian forces north or east of those positions would have to take care of themselves.

    Nevertheless, Norway came round. On the 10th February, fearing the growing threat from Germany following Denmark’s demise, she joined the Allies, immediately opening up the possibility of basing forces there. German forces meanwhile continued their build up opposite French positions in the Saar and on the Belgian and Luxembourg borders.

    Much of the Royal Navy was now committed to the defence of the convoys in the eastern Atlantic. Nevertheless, by the 26th of February, no less than 22 merchant ships and 2 escorts had been sunk, the loss rate now running at approximately 1 per day. Even though 20 new freighters rolled off the slipways that month, this rate of loss could not be sustained for long.

    As the month drew on, the British had a stroke of luck. On the morning of the 22nd, Somerville’s battle group intercepted a submarine flotilla in the Norwegian trench, heading eastwards towards Denmark, sinking one vessel and putting the rest to flight. That same afternoon, contact was made with a sizeable German surface force, and a brief engagement took place. One British ship and several German vessels were damaged in this fight, before the Germans made their escape. This compelled the Admiralty to conclude that this force had been the cover group for a landing operation further up the Norwegian coast. They therefore ordered 3 British submarine flotilla’s into the Skagerrat to try and forewarn of any further attempt and possibly intercept any troopships that might be foolish enough to venture out. It was one of these scout vessels that spotted that German U-Boats were using the Danish port of Fredrickshaven.

    It was immediately decided to mount a limited raid against the port, in order to damage the facilities there, which might perhaps impact upon the repair facilities for submarines operating out of it. No1 Tactical Group, RAF, was ordered to move to Oslo the following day, along with 11 Fighter Group to try and gain temporary air superiority over the area while the raid went in.

    Preliminary plans were drawn up for raids over 3 days, this being the maximum amount of time the Air Staff considered possible before the Germans relocated air assets to the area and changed the balance. It was hoped that would be enough time to cause sufficient damage. It would take several days before the supplies and ground crews were in place, therefore the first raid was due to go in on the 26th. This plan became known as “Bluecoat”.

    The first strike was a resounding success, catching several submarines, the Battlecruiser’s Scharnhorst and Gnieseneau and Germany’s only carrier “Graf Zepplin” in the process of repair at the port. By 28th February, the Luftwaffe had still not responded, and so the raids were continued until 2nd March, causing significant damage to the vessels and the port facility itself before 1 Group were called off to reorganise.

    While Bluecoat was winding down, the lack of a German air response compelled the Air Staff to conclude that most German air assets had been transferred to Western Germany in support of coming ground operations into France. Deciding to press the advantage, they quickly transferred 18 Group Coastal Command to Oslo on the 29th, preparing for another raid, to be known as “Bluecoat 2”

    This began on the 4th March, lasting 2 days and inflicting yet more damage on the ships and the port itself before 18 Group were also forced to withdraw and reorganise. Bluecoat & Bluecoat 2 had been a success.

    On the 8th, the Admiralty despatched reinforcements to the Middle East, in the shape of HMS Victorious to the Mediterranean fleet, while the Army reinforced both the Gibraltar and Malta Garrisons and also sent another division to Egypt.

    Throughout the month the weather improved and merchant ship losses continued to rise, March being the worse month so far with 31 freighters and 3 escorts lost. On the upside, 3 new King George V class battleships were launched, HMS King George V, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Duke of York, immediately freeing up production sorely needed for transport ships.

    German forces building up on the French frontier

    As April began, various intelligence sources indicated that German troops in Denmark were being withdrawn and heading south, a further sign if that a move against the Allies in the west was imminent. As German forces continued to concentrate against Frances eastern border, the situation in Denmark raised an idea with Backhouse. He went to the Army and proposed a limited operation in Denmark, in composition nothing more than a raid, but with the objective of disrupting German preparation, damaging the ports in eastern Denmark, and hopefully drawing out the German navy into open battle. He asked for 2 Army divisions for an operation lasting just 5 days – as the RAF were redeploying to cover the BEF, the navy would provide full air and maritime cover for the operation. The Army agreed and preparations were put in train for 5th and 49th Infantry divisions to be made ready immediately. The date was set for 10th April. Backhouse gave it the logical follow on name of “Bluecoat 3”

    As all this was going on, the German military machine finally opened the war in the west. Operations began at dawn on 6th April with German units beginning the attack on Luxembourg, followed 3 days later by a full scale attack on the Netherlands. Air attacks went in against French forces in the Strasbourg area and around Sedan on the River Meuse. Luxembourg lasted barely 4 days, capitulating on the afternoon of the 10th April, as British amphibious groups began crossing the North Sea for Bluecoat 3. Immediately it was apparent that Dutch and Belgian reticence had doomed their strategic plans and endangered those of the British and French aswell. The Netherlands announced she would join the Allies on the morning of the 10th April, but by this time her front was reeling and Germans forces had already smashed her defence picket in the north. Incredibly, as no direct attack had yet taken place on the Belgians, they still refused to join the Allies, angering both British and French governments and throwing all defence preparations into chaos.

    1. Stuka's, flying artillery over Holland

    2. Dutch defensive positions

    Meanwhile, Operation Bluecoat 3 pressed ahead, and as the Assault and Covering groups entered the Norwegian trench, a German naval battlegroup, including the battleship Bismarck, was intercepted in the Heligoland Bight at dawn on the 11th April by Sommerville’s 5th Carrier Group. During an engagement lasting several hours the German force was driven off with neither side taking any losses. If nothing else, this proved the Germans had radar.

    The operation proceeded to its initial point and the Infantry assault teams went in that afternoon, meeting no resistance. They immediately turned north and south respectively in order to secure the ports. At dawn the next morning the German’s attempted to block the Norwegian Trench with a force that include the Carrier Graf Zepplin, but was intercepted by Cunningham’s 1st Battlegroup. This engagement lasted several hours and although both sides suffered damage, there were no losses as the Germans were driven off again. Both ports were secured on the morning of the 13th. The British troops held the ports throughout that day and the next, did as much damage as they could, and were ordered to re-embark on the morning of the 15th. By now at least 8 German divisions, certainly diverted from the attack on northern Holland, were heading north barely 20 miles from Arhus.

    The amphibious group was extricated and held back in the North Sea in case an other opportunities arose, the Germans failing to make any interception. On the 19th, as the Royal Navy were preparing to close the operation, the Germans attempted a counter-attack and two large sea battle broke out on either side of the Denmark archipelago. The German forces mustered the Tirpitz, Admiral Hipper, the Deutschland and several other capital ships in engagements lasting 5 hours. The British Cruiser Aurora was the first loss, going down in the Norwegian trench, while the German’s lost 1 Destroyer Group. 70 miles away, the old Royal Navy cruiser HMS Carlisle was hit and later sank, while two more German destroyer groups, 2nd and 3rd, were both sunk. Both battle ended with the Kriegsmarine being defeated.

    As the British withdrew, HMS Hood and HMS Repulse with 2 light cruiser escorts moved in to give distant cover. They had already been in action twice and their crews were tired. At midnight on the 21st they were ambushed by the Bismarck, Scharnhorst and the Gniesenau, and a ferocious battle broke out. HMS Hood was severely damaged, and only the arrival of Somerville’s force prevented the loss of HMS Repulse. The Germans eventually withdrew once again, the badly damaged Scharnhorst trailing smoke and oil.

    All in all, the Navy had done an excellent job. But the damage was severe. Hood, Repulse, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Orion, Glasgow and Calcutta were all out of action. 3 Battleships were slightly damaged. All the CAGs needed rest and reorganisation. But the Germans had been defeated in every battle and had suffered worse losses overall. The decisive victory needed it wasn’t, but it underlined Britain’s ascendancy when there was little else to cheer about. Operation Bluecoat was over.

    For the Dutch meanwhile, things looked bleak. The Germans had broken through north of Eindhoven, surrounding the Dutch 1st Army and threatening the port of Den Haag. Even though the Dutch position was hopeless, the Admiralty urged the War Office to send forces to secure Den Haag, since another port on the channel coast in German hands would be unacceptable. The cabinet agreed, and BEF’s IV Corps together with the VIII Corps, hastily assembled from the Bluecoat forces now arrived back in the UK, were despatched to Southern Holland on the 23rd April.

    3. Dutch losses on the Northern defence line.

    As April drew to a close, Holland looked doomed, and British plans to form a defensive line were in danger of being undermined by Belgian intransigence. Gorts new plan was now to push forward immediately that Belgium was attacked, to attempt to occupy the line Antwerp – Leuven – Liege – Neufchatel, taking the defensive advantages of the river line and the fortress at Liege. That of course depended on the Belgians being able to hold the German’s up on the border long enough for the BEF to get into position.

    That was an unknown quantity.


  2. #22
    Colonel CptEasy's Avatar
    For the MotherlandHearts of Iron IIIHOI3: Their Finest HourSemper Fi

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    Nice reading as usually. I am impressed with the high %-age on positioning you get during naval battle. On average I get a lot less with the Brits in my MP campaign (see link - but some of it is not published). Perhaps I have too many battle ships in my task forces (but not so much that I get low screen penelty). I see you often have several small battle groups fighting togeather in each naval battle. Is is a specific strategy behind that?

  3. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by CptEasy View Post
    Nice reading as usually. I am impressed with the high %-age on positioning you get during naval battle. On average I get a lot less with the Brits in my MP campaign (see link - but some of it is not published). Perhaps I have too many battle ships in my task forces (but not so much that I get low screen penelty). I see you often have several small battle groups fighting togeather in each naval battle. Is is a specific strategy behind that?
    I think the British had in Cunningham and Tovey two of the most able naval commanders of WW2 and that seems to be represented in the game. After reading many of the posts on the main board, I came up with the following tactical formations, bearing in mind most of my destroyers are needed for ASW work

    Battlegroups of 2 BB, supported by a CVL and 4 CL's (2 in North Europe and 1 in the Med). These are small, medium speed groups with low penalties that can hold their own against most enemy forces. They comprise if possible of the medium age vessels, (BB II and IIIs and CL IIs and IIIs)

    Carrier Groups of 1 modern CV (CV IIIs and IVs), and 4 modern CL's of the Southampton class (CL IV). This will become 2 CV and 4 CL when I have enough CAGs to go round. They are fast, highly mobile and pack a big punch with no hull penalties at all.

    Support Groups of 2 BB or 2 CA and 2 CL. These are formed from the older class of vessels and tend to be slower. I use these as blocking groups (pickets) around which the Battlegroups and Carrier Groups are mobile. Its like a chequerboard arrangement, whereby if a larger enemy force shows up, fast mobile reinforcements can quickly reach the battle. The theory is it allows me to control a large area of sea and not be greatly outnumbered. Support groups can also be used as direct support where transport or amphibious groups need it in the combat area, as escorts or shore fire support.

    Because the BG and CG commanders have high ranks and skill ratings than the SG commanders, they can join a battle thats already underway and their skill rating negates the hull penalty in theory.

  4. #24
    Colonel CptEasy's Avatar
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    Thanks for long and describtive answer. Gives me something to think about. Still, in MP games with a human opponant with powerful 12-stack task forces, a smaller stack of about 6 units will be crushed so fast that I fear it will be difficult to reach the battle in time with another group in the area. I can't say I have tried it, but a few sub-hunter groups have been sunk so fast I hadn't even the time to say "battle group"... so I feel discouraged to use groups smaller than a 12-stack. But then I get lower %-age on positioning. Can't have it all, I guess.

  5. #25
    Part 8

    Friends and Allies

    May 1940

    Jakes unit got the order to move suddenly. The Germans attacked Belgium on the morning of 6th May, with aircraft crossing deep into Belgium to attack targets well behind the lines. The day was hot, 23 degrees, with barely a cloud in the sky. What everyone had assumed would be an orderly advance with well defined routes became a confusing miss mash of orders, counter orders, panicking civilians, refugee columns blocking the roads, fear, loss and dejection. For a start, no one had even considered how the civil population would react. No one had given any thought to the roads being blocked, orders being confused or the effect of air attack on the people. Murphys military law became fact. If it could go wrong, it did.

    It was the suddenness and ferocity of the attack that panicked the civilians. People simply packed what belongings they could carry and left, streaming south and west in endless columns. Which was completely in the direction opposite to the one the British Army wanted to go. Units got separated, lost, mis-directed. Artillery got separated from Infantry, tanks and trucks ran out of fuel and resupply could not get through. It was a disaster from start to finish. 4th Division were to occupy frontage on the river line south of Antwerp, part of the BEF forward defence line. It took them 3 days to travel less than 60 miles. When they got there, the “prepared” positions they were told would be ready for them courtesy of the Belgian Army were nothing more than a few foxholes. Nevertheless, KRRC were disciplined regulars, British Soldiers. They got their entrenching tools out and began to dig.

    A few days before that, the Navy got caught on the hop. KMS Bismarck, together with Hipper, Blucher and Emden tried to break through the English Channel, and only a weak blocking force of 2 heavy cruisers, Effingham and Suffolk together with 2 old light cruisers stood in their way. After the Bluecoat operation, the Navy had briefly withdrawn to reorganise and repair, and fewer ships were on station. Luckily for the channel force, Sommervilles 5th Carrier Group was on hand, HMS Formidable standing in for Ark Royal while she underwent minor repairs. They arrived on the scene just in time to prevent a breakout, but not in time to save the light cruisers Caladon and Dunedin, both of which were sunk. Nevertheless, Somerville’s group put the German ships to flight, then gave chase, desperate to avenge the British losses. They lost them, but Cunningham’s 1st Battlegroup steaming down from the north managed to intercept the German force off the coast of Holland. HMS Royal Sovereign, the new Battleship King George V, HMS Revenge and the Battlecruiser Renown now all closed on Bismarck and a huge battle took place. The German force was put to flight again, though without loss. CAGs from Formidable, together with No1 Group RAF chased after them and caught them, and this time KMS Blucher paid the price. Already damaged, she was hit by 2 torpedo’s from Formidable’s Swordfish aircraft, and went down in minutes. But it wasn’t over yet.

    The following day, Cunningham’s force then intercepted a German force in the East Norwegian Trench, including the carrier Graf Zepplin, driving it off. Cunningham’s force then withdrew to re-organise, and was replaced by the 4th Carrier group, headed by HMS Illustrious. She quickly came across a group comprised of transports, almost certainly another attempt to make a landing in Norway. It’s weak escort consisted of only the light cruiser Karlsruhe and 2 DD groups. HMS Illustrious’s CAG’s engaged Karlsruhe, and together with a transport she was swiftly despatched. Any attempted landing in Norway was ended. British losses were more than avenged.

    The same day, Sommerville’s force received HMS Indomitable as reinforcement, and almost the minute she joined the group, they again intercepted Tirpitz, the old Battleship Schlesien, and the Admiral Scheer trying to sneak around Denmark and back into the Baltic Sea. The German ships were forced to turn back to Wilhelmshaven, where Tirpitz was hit again by a torpedo fired from HMS Supreme and holed at the waterline. The Germans just escaped, severely damaged, by the skin of their teeth. Not a single British ship was hit. It showed just how vulnerable the battleship had become now that the aircraft carriers ruled the waves.

    2. Swordfish returning to HMS Illustrious after a sortie

    On the 12th, the new 2nd Armoured Division was sent to France and placed directly under the BEF. It would act as a reserve to the now fully committed Corps as they prepared their defensive positions along the Scheldt and Escaut Rivers.

    All this was above Jake and his mates. Their new positions faced the river, on slightly rising ground, in a large allotment of vegetable gardens. The Germans were nowhere to be seen, but the men had all heard by now that they were closing up to the line. On the second day, Jake’s platoon was put on control duty on the north side of the bridge, further up the river. They had to check everyone crossing over to the south, a task that quickly became impossible with the numbers arriving every minute. There was frequently confusion, false alarms and “5th columnist” scares. Several times they came under small arms fire from buildings across the street, and rumours of Belgians working for the Germans were rife.

    3. British soldiers cross the Belgian border

    The following day, back in the battalion position, they came under direct air attack for the first time. Several Ju87’s came out of the clear blue sky during the morning, aiming for the timber mill and warehouses immediately to the south of their position. Jake could see the bombs falling through the sky, disappear behind the crest of the ridge, heard the explosions, and a few seconds later the huge pall of smoke rising into the air. That bought more aircraft, and this time, several bombs fell short, onto the battalion position about 100 yards away from Jake. 6 men were killed and dozens wounded. There was no sign of the RAF, little in the way of anti-aircraft defence’s and everyone was shaken. The NCO’s had to pass amongst the men to help keep them calm. Apart from a few bursts with Bren guns at distant Stuka’s, the battalion had yet to see a German properly and already men were dead. What would it be like when the real fighting started?

    4. Knocked out Char B, Belgium

    Back at BEF HQ, Gort was receiving bad news at regular intervals. The Luftwaffe were engaging the French Air Force in the air and on its airfields and the French were losing badly. The Belgian defence was hopelessly uncoordinated and the German quickly drove a wedge into their positions in the south, which threatened Gort’s flank. The French were out of position and rushed to fill the gap but not before the German’s had managed to skirt the Maginot defences west of Neufchatel. The British had no reserves to send except the 2nd Armoured which was ordered to Philippeville. In the north, Amsterdam and Rotterdam fell and Dutch resistance was close to collapse. Already, the Allied position was looking shaky.

    5. German Infantry crossing the French - Belgium border
    Last edited by Redandwhite; 18-11-2010 at 18:06.

  6. #26
    Sergeant Led Zepp's Avatar
    Hearts of Iron IIIVictoria 2

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    Always love a British AAR
    ďI believe in one thing only, the power of human will.Ē

  7. #27
    This AAR keeps delivering.

    Great read about the battles in the North Sea and the fact the BEF is already being outflanked. Any hopes of restoring the French lines south of you position in Belgium by counterattacking with reserves from The Hague or the Brittish Isles?

    I'm actually quite impressed by the German AI which seems to realize the squadrons of the Kriegsmarine currently stationed in Wilhemshafen are too vulnerable there and need to withdraw to the Baltic. Also you screenshots seem to indicate Germany is using most of its armor and motorised infantry to force a breakthrough in southern Belgium, just where the Allied lines seem most vulnerable, instead of using their most potent divisions dispersed all along the front!

    Will be very interesting to see if you manage to save France and Belgium from the German onslaught!

  8. #28
    Part 9

    Holding the Line - The Battle for Roosendal

    June 1940

    3rd June. Edmunds day had been taken up with constant meetings between senior British and the French ministers. Britain had the previous day enacted legislation to switch British industry to a heavy industry focus which would improve efficiency. But the French were pressing for more British assistance on the continent, forces which as yet Britain didnít have. Even Edmunds skills as a recorder of events had been tested. There seemed to be no real conclusions, only vague agreements that depended on what happened next.

    Then had come the current situation, summed up neatly to the assembled ministers and aides by Deverill. Across France, the front remained stabilised with the exception of the German penetration threatening Arlon. Across Belgium, the BEFís arrival had stabilised the Belgian line on the Scheldt and Escaut rivers and on Den Haag and Leige, from where it looped down via Neufchatel to like up with the French. Fighting was going on around Arlon, and after a period of closing up in the north,German forces were building up in Holland opposite Den Haag, a sure sign that an attack was imminent. It had already been agreed, reluctantly by the British who were still unsure of their Allies, that the defence of Den Haag should be taken over by Belgian and French troops in order for the British to extricate VIII Corps as a reserve. Many senior British officers were uncomfortable with leaving this vital anchor for the BEFís northern flank in foreign hands, but there was little military or political option and the switch was scheduled to take place the following week. Holland had by now virtually collapsed and only the portion of the country occupied by British troops remained in Allied hands. The French had little reserve and, until VIII Corps could be replaced, the British had only one solitary Armoured division.

    In the air, things looked weaker still. The Allied air forces, particularly the French, were suffering at the hands of the Luftwaffe and Germany was slowly gaining air superiority. Fighter duels had been taking place over Belgium for several days, and each time they were engaged, the Allies were coming off second best. Britain had two groups of a better fighter than the Hurricane on order, the Spitfire, but the first of these was not due until September. In the meantime, the Allied air forces would simply have to do the best they could and simply try to avoid being destroyed.

    1. French Bloch Fighters

    Only at sea was the situation comfortable. The Kreigsmarine had been soundly beaten in every engagement so far, and its strength was slowly being whittled away. The Admiralty knew that, together with a Destroyer and a Submarine group destroyed by the French Navy, the Germans had by now lost 1 Transport, 3 Submarine and 4 Destroyer groups, the Heavy Cruiser Blucher and 2 Light Cruisers. On top of that, Bismarck, Tirpitz and the carrier Graf Zepplin had all come off worse in engagements with the Royal Navy. And that had been before the full deployment of the new carriers and the new KGV Battleships. The loss of so many escort class vessels would now make the German capital ships even more vulnerable in future. The Royal Navyís losses of 2 Destroyer groups had already been replaced, and one new Southampton class cruiser had been launched to start replacing the 4 lost Caladon class cruisers that very morning, with another due the following month.

    But overall, the situation looked bleak. Much would now depend on how significant German airpower became in the land battles that would follow, and on how the untried BEF stood up to sustained assault by the much vaunted German war machine. For the moment, the French were holding on and the Belgian Army was only still in existence because British Forces were there to prop it up. If the BEF could not hold the German attack that was expected to follow, the line in the north would soon become unravelled and there was little left to stop the Germans if that should happen. Edmund swallowed hard as he transcribed the final line.

    Jake saw the gunflashes and heard the bombardment of Den Haag start, fifteen miles away to his north, in the early hours of 8th June. It went on for several hours before the general noise merged into one of distant battle, aircraft diving and weaving, circumscribed by arcing tracer and columns of smoke rising into the morning sky. The battle of Den Haag had begun.

    So far, 4th Division had been lucky. Apart from the recent air attack and a couple of more days like that, together with a few local patrol skirmishes, there had been little activity on their front. This was almost certainly because the Scheldt river presented a difficult obstacle for the Germanís, which was why they had not yet attempted to cross it. Nevertheless, everyone knew that combat was likely to come sooner or later, and everyone was mentally preparing themselves, hoping that they would not let each other or themselves down when the moment came.

    And when the attack on Den Haag came, everyone understood that IV Corps, next door to III Corps in the Roosendaal plain, who were bearing the brunt of the attack, would be the source of units should a counter attack become necessary. IV Corps 1st Armoured Division had already been prepared for a move north, which had necessitated 4th Division taking over a wider frontage, and KRRC now found themselves covering 2 miles instead of the standard battalion regulation 1 mile. Jake spent the next few days re-organising his sectionís positions and firing arcs, and preparing his men for the need to move suddenly if it came to that. He hoped that would be forward, but as a good soldier and NCO, he also made sure his men knew what to do if it turned out to be backwards.

    2. Hurricane I's over Belgium

    The war at sea remained thankfully quiet. On the 9th, the 11th Submarine Flotilla surprised and sank another Destroyer Group. By 10th June, only 2 freighters had been lost, which was excellent news. Either the Navy were getting better at discouraging attacks, or the Germanís were not finding the convoyís as easy to find as previously.
    Meanwhile, the Battle of Roosendal became a vicious affair. German intentions quickly became apparent. Their main effort tried to push over the river, lower down at its flood plain, where it was easiest to cross, which would then mean they could outflank the city of Den Haag. On the 14th, they also began a frontal assault on the city itself, where to river was wider and hence more hazardous. Dills III Corps, together with some Belgian divisions, hung on in Roosendal for dear life as no less than 6 German divisions tried to push them out. Artillery and air attacks pounded their positions and those in the city as VIII Corps completed its handover to the French and Belgians.
    Dill, in overall command, now realised the gravity of the situation. After 8 continuous days of heavy fighting, III Corps was being to crumble. The French were so far holding Den Haag itself, so Dill had to make the decision where to deploy his reserves, the 3 divisions of VIII Corps. To relieve III Corps by rotation, or to reinforce the French in the city?

    Before he could make his decision, the Germanís made it for him. The assault on the French in the city suddenly stopped on the 17th. Dill immediately began to feed the divisions of VIII Corps into the battle for Roosendal, one by one, as each III Corps or Belgian division became depleted. Still the German assault continued as they poured in fresh divisions too. Air attacks raged over the city as fighters from each side fought desperately to keep the initiative.

    By the 25th, Dill had committed everything he had, but still the Germanís pressed. As VIII Corps units also became depleted, he called on his last source of reinforcement, the 1st Armoured Division from neighbouring IV Corps. It was his last role of the dice.
    Finally, on 30th June, after 22 days of continuous heavy fighting, the Germans called off their assault. The city of Den Haag was shattered and shrouded in smoke from countless fires. Both III and VIII Corps were exhausted. But the BEFís first battle had ended in a narrow victory.

  9. #29
    Colonel CptEasy's Avatar
    For the MotherlandHearts of Iron IIIHOI3: Their Finest HourSemper Fi

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    A powerful BEF-initiative indeed. That could give the French a little respite. Just don't lose any divisions due to being cut of - and be ware getting supply problems in Belgium. France is safer from that point of view. I see that axis already got the best of your convoys, that's dangerous - but good that you act accordingly with massive build-up

  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by timkoningskelp View Post
    This AAR keeps delivering.

    Great read about the battles in the North Sea and the fact the BEF is already being outflanked. Any hopes of restoring the French lines south of you position in Belgium by counterattacking with reserves from The Hague or the Brittish Isles?

    I'm actually quite impressed by the German AI which seems to realize the squadrons of the Kriegsmarine currently stationed in Wilhemshafen are too vulnerable there and need to withdraw to the Baltic. Also you screenshots seem to indicate Germany is using most of its armor and motorised infantry to force a breakthrough in southern Belgium, just where the Allied lines seem most vulnerable, instead of using their most potent divisions dispersed all along the front!

    Will be very interesting to see if you manage to save France and Belgium from the German onslaught!
    Thanks Tim,

    I just ran August last night and will post it later. But the AI has impressed me with it's decisions. This beats the hell out of HOI2

    Quote Originally Posted by CptEasy View Post
    A powerful BEF-initiative indeed. That could give the French a little respite. Just don't lose any divisions due to being cut of - and be ware getting supply problems in Belgium. France is safer from that point of view. I see that axis already got the best of your convoys, that's dangerous - but good that you act accordingly with massive build-up
    Thats a very real possibility. The supply situation is not brilliant and much depends on the French. I'd rather got the impression from other threads that the AI was not all that clever, but from what I've just seen it do, it's clearly capable of good gameplay decisions.

  11. #31
    Part 10

    A house made of straw

    July 1940

    Summer took hold over Europe as July began, with temperatures reaching 28 degrees across much of the continent. In Northern France, sporadic fighting continued along the full length of the front, as both sides drew breath. The Allied joint staffs met again on the 4th, and once again the French pressed the British for further troop reinforcement, and again the British deferred such action. As things stood, they had only 10 Infantry divisions in Britain, plus a few garrison divisions which had just completed formation. British industry was currently prioritising the production of merchant vessels, and although the loss rate appeared to be lessening recently, a significant shortfall existed which had to be replaced or Britain would starve.

    The only action at sea in those early days of summer saw the Navy sink another U-Boat flotilla. On the 9th, HMS Hood and Repulse returned to service after lengthy repairs following the battle damage they had received during the battles of early spring. Everyone respected the German navy, and although it had suffered serious losses, the RN knew it was still a potent force.

    Then the war suddenly widened without warning. On the morning of the 10th July, London received a message that two merchantmen had been torpedoed in the Mediterranean by Italian submarines. An hour later the Admiralty reported that 3 destroyer groups in the Ionian sea had been attacked without warning by a superior force and all of them had been lost. By midday, the Western Desert Force, soon to be renamed the 8th Army later that day, were reporting that Italian forces had crossed the border, attacked frontier posts, and were moving into Egypt. The French confirmed in the early afternoon that Italian forces had crossed into Tunisia, followed by reports from British East Africa and Somaliland that Italian troops had crossed their borders. Britain was now at war with Italy too.

    The British government and the people were angered by this sudden and unprovoked attack. The Admiralty immediately formed Task Force 77, consisting of the carrier Courageous, the Battleship Royal Oak and 2 light cruisers. These would transfer to the Mediterranean, escorting the transports taking Lieutenant General Ismay’s XI Corps to Alexandria, where they would bring 8th Army up to strength. With XI Corps gone, that left Britain with just 7 divisions for her own defence.

    The Navy in the Mediterranean were first off the mark, and Admiral Cunningham’s 2nd Battlegroup were at sea that evening. Throughout the following day reports came in from spotter aircraft that a large Italian naval force was at sea, but no contact was made. Finally, on the afternoon of the 12th, the two forces ran into each other off Cape Matapan, and a huge sea battle ensued. The Royal Navy suffered no losses while the Italians lost 2 destroyer groups, then withdrew heading south. Cunningham gave chase, shrewdly guessing that they were heading for Tobruk. He sent a coded signal to Admiral Forbes, then heading west with the 12th Carrier Group, with the new carrier HMS Victorious as well as the venerable old HMS Glorious and four light cruisers. “Turn south west and intercept off the coast of Tobruk”

    The plan worked perfectly. The following morning the Italians were caught totally unawares by the combined CAGs of 3 carriers off the coast of Bomba. Although the Royal Navy lost a further 2 destroyer flotillas, the Regia Marine lost the cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi, no less than 4 destroyer and 3 submarine flotilla’s. While all this was going on, British submarines sank another destroyer group back off Cape Matapan. The Italian’s had now lost almost half their entire destroyer fleet in less than 2 days. Not only that, but the Royal Navy had now managed to bottle up a damaged and significant portion of the Italian fleet in Tobruk, a port which lacked the facilities to repair that number of ships in any short time. It had been a great day of revenge. But more was to follow.

    1. Motorised Battalion of the 8th Infantry division, V Corps, waiting to move up to the start line, 13th July 1940

    2. Crusader I of 7th Armoured division, 26th July, 1940

    At dawn the next day, the 8th Army’s V and XXI Corps, which had been held back from the border region, counter attacked into the advancing Italians. V Corps veered south into EL Dabs while XXI Corps attacked into Sidi Barrani. The Italians had made a fatal deployment error before the battle had even started. They had badly underestimated British strength in the region, and, anticipating an easy victory, only half the meagre Italian force was motorised. On top of that, instead of deploying the slow moving Infantry on the coast and the motorised divisions on the open flank where they would be able to move more rapidly to counter any attempt to outflank them, they did the opposite.

    The whole British force was motorised, and V Corps contained the 7th Armoured division. O’Conner’s XXI Corps mounted a pinning attack against the Italian motorised element in Sidi Barrani, while Gott’s V Corps smashed into the single Italian Infantry division in El Dabs, brushed it aside, then sped on behind the Italian advance in a bid to cut them off.

    Meanwhile, on the 20th, the Kreigsmarine mounted a two pronged effort to break out of the North Sea. First a group including both Bismarck and Tirpitz tried to force the English Channel, surprised the small blocking force of heavy cruisers, but then ran straight into Sommerville’s carriers, and were driven off. Across the other side of the North Sea, a slaughter took place as the Royal Navy surprised and defeated a second German battlegroup that included the carrier Graf Zepplin again. Although HMS Newcastle was sunk, the Germans lost the relaunched heavy Cruiser Blucher, the Prinz Eugen, the Emden and the Konigsberg together with another 2 destroyer flotilla’s. It was a crushing victory.

    The following day, XXI Corps broke Italian resistance at Sidi Barrani,and by the 23rd had trapped 2 Italian divisions against the sea, while V Corps now joined with shattered Italian Infantry in a race for Tobruk.

    3. Italian prisoners of war after the battle of Sidi Barrani

    Then, on the 29th, the situation in Holland and France suddenly deteriorated. The German’s began a new offensive on Roosendal, which it quickly became clear was an operation to tie down British forces in the north, while a new thrust, with Italian help, began in France. While ferocious fighting continued in southern Holland, German spearheads penetrated the front around Neufchatel, and within two days had quickly shattered French resistance in the area. By the first days of August, German armour was all but in open country, the Maginot line had been outflanked, and the French were struggling to find reserves to plug the gap.

    The General staff met hurriedly on the evening of 2nd August to decide British options. Their worst fears about the fighting qualities of the French Army had been realised. It was clear now that a miracle might easily be needed to save the situation. If the French could not redeploy fast, the way was now open to Paris or to the coast. In a meeting that lasted until the early hours, various options were discussed.

    A counter attack by I and II Corps, together with the 2nd Armoured division was discussed. But if those formations were then attacked frontally, they would be pinned in place while German armour swung around behind the whole Allied position in the north. While Den Haag was under such concerted pressure, there was no chance of redeploying III Corps to the south. A counter attack would likely be unsuccessful, while proving only to delay the outcome rather than change it. The French had neither the forces in the area to counter, nor it appeared, the will to fight either. And the British had very little forces back at home with which to reinforce.

    The whole situation in France would now depend on the next few days of August.

    4. Abandoned Char Bis of 2nd DCR, Arlon, August 1st, 1940

    5. Pzkfw III of 3rd Panzer Division heading south east, France 1940

    Last edited by Redandwhite; 19-11-2010 at 00:49.

  12. #32
    First Lieutenant AUSTERLITZ's Avatar

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    In my dreams
    Entertaining stuff,u got caught unprepared vs the italians but the response was savage indeed.And even more bruising for the kreigsmarine.But the situation looks grim on land.
    Looking forward.
    My AAR on the use of the 3 brigade model for germany.
    Red baron's Revenge on the aar forums

  13. #33
    Part 11

    The finger in the dam

    August – September 1940

    While the fighting continued, the course of action finally agreed on by the General Staff was a bold one considering the situation. It was partly bought about by French assurances that they would plug the gap, and by Belgian assurances that they would hold their positions. For their own part, the British realised that if they failed to back the French now, France would almost certainly collapse within months.

    It had already been agreed to allocate X Corps to the East African theatre, and that formation was already on route to the Middle East, so it was a question of doing the best that could be done with the limited resources left. It was decided that the Belgians would take over responsibility for the defence of Antwerp, thus allowing the BEF to transfer the bulk of IV Corps south to protect its flank and support the French. 1st Armoured division would remain in the north, transferring to III Corps, while the formerly independent 2nd Armoured division would be attached to IV Corps.

    The British forces on the continent would now comprise

    The British Expeditionary Force

    I Corps
    1st Infantry division, 18th Infantry division, 54th Infantry division
    II Corps
    2nd Infantry division, 12th Infantry division, 44th Infantry division
    III Corps
    1st Armoured division, 3rd Infantry division, 41st Infantry division, 47th Infantry division
    IV Corps
    2nd Armoured division, 4th Infantry division, 61st Infantry division

    Independent forces

    VIII Corps (support defence of Den Haag)
    5th Infantry division, 46th Infantry division, 49th Infantry division

    Further, it was agreed that XVIII Corps, the only fully formed formation left in Britain, would be made ready to come across in support should it be needed. Further, the 9th Mountain division, which would become available during September, would also be allocated once ready.

    There was some good news. On the morning of 5th August, V Corps finally entered Tobruk, taking yet more Italian prisoners. The Royal Navy, waiting for the fleeing Italian fleet sank 3 more submarine and 2 more destroyer flotillas as they made their escape. The Italian escapade in Egypt had been a costly one.

    The next day, VIII Corps, along with supporting French forces, was forced off its positions on the Scheldt River. The Germans now had a foothold on the southern side of the river. During the distraction, a German battlegroup led by the Battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz managed to slip through the channel blocking force and was halfway through the English channel before it was discovered by British destroyers. They summoned help and a French force under Gensoul arrived just in time to prevent a breakout. The German force turned back east, and a running battle broke out with the Royal Navy all the way back to the Dutch coast.

    First Sommerville’s 5th Carrier group arrived too late to prevent the loss of 1st,2nd and 3rd Destroyer flotilla’s. Then Tovey’s 3rd Battlegroup managed to intercept the German force and a huge battle broke out off the Mouth of the Thames. Land based fighters from both sides joined in, and then bombers from RAF’s 1st Tactical wing, during which the German’s lost the KMS Leipzig before making their escape once again.

    Despite Belgian promises, British frontline units were now beginning to experience serious supply issues in Belgium. This was particularly acute in II Corps area, where both 2nd and 44th divisions in Leuven reported having received only 5% of the supplies needed during the previous 48 hours, compelling Lt.General Wavell to order the whole Corps to fall back on Brussels. The same day, Den Haag survived yet another assault by German forces, and British unit s of II Corps also came under sustained attack.

    1. Abandoned British equipment, Roosendaal

    Edmund, meanwhile, was sitting in on a meeting between the Foreign office and the IGS, which had received intelligence that France was preparing an offensive against the Italians on their southern border. Deverill was furious that the French would mount such an operation when his own forces, and those of the French themselves in the north, were under such sustained pressure. Edmund had been instructed by Eden to gather as much information about this as he could, and he had found that the French did indeed have such a plan, and further, intended to carry it. No amount of pleas would persuade them to postpone it, and the best that could be obtained was a promise that the French would also mount a counter attack against the German forces in the Ardennes breech. What no-one realised at the time, was that the forces for this French counter attack in centre were going to be drawn from the north. This would have serious consequences later. That same day, British forces in Libya began the race along the coast of Cyrenia, heading for Benghazi.

    All that week, Jakes unit pushed south, through roads congested with refugees, farm animals, wounded French soldiers and other units of various Allied formations all seemingly headed in differing directions. IV Corps had been given the responsibility of holding the southern shoulder of the BEF’s position, to pull the line back around Phillipville in order to prevent the Germans getting room to widen their penetration before the French had time to plug the gap.

    On the 18th, the Kreigsmarine had again attempted to break out, but was again stopped by the Royal Navy. In two battles, one off the Thames and the other off Norway, the Germans lost another Destroyer group and the heavy cruiser Lutzow, while the Royal Navy lost the cruiser HMS Durban. These constant battles were testing the Navy’s strength, for although they were winning these engagements, the damage caused to vessels was extensive, leading to ships being out of action for repairs for long periods.

    On the 24th, Leuven was overrun by the Germans, 2nd Division, despite valiant defence, being unable to hold on due to the worsening supply situation.

    This in turn, threatened the fortress of Liege with encirclement from two sides, compelling Gort to pull the 18th and 54th divisions back to Namur to cover I Corps rear areas, leaving only 1st Division in Liege itself. Later that evening, Gort signalled to GHQ that French forces in his area of operations were being thinned out without properly informing neighbouring British divisions what was going on. This left the defence of the region from the coast to a point south of Phillipeville in British hands, with the exception of the Belgians. It now became clear to Gort where the French had got their reinforcements from.

    With the worsening situation in France, the only good news came from North Africa. While V Corps by passed Benghazi and headed south, XI Corps invested the port and began an assault at the end of the month. It was poorly defended, and its capture would provide an airfield overlooking the central Mediterranean from where ports on the Italian mainland would be within strike range.

    3. Street fighting, Den Haag, early September 1940

    1st Division managed to hold on to Liege on the 1st September, despite being assaulted on three sides by 4 German divisions, and on the 3rd, XI Corps took Benghazi along with 9000 more Italian prisoners. The French offensive against the Italians in the south had gone ahead on 1st September, despite British protests, and made initial gains. However, it soon ran out of steam against the fortifications of Torino and in the face of concerted air attack. Nevertheless, the French were still determined to pursue it, despite the worsening situation in the north.

    On the 6th, X Corps left Alexandria bound for Port Sudan, covered by the carrier Courageous and 2 cruisers, to begin the recovery of Britain’s East African possessions. It arrived 4 days later, to find the port undefended and the three divisions landed unopposed.

    In Europe, things went from bad to worse when on the 11th, after being held against sustained attack since April, the port of Den Haag finally fell to the German advance. The northern flank was now in danger of being levered away from the coast, and the German’s were across the Scheldt in three places. Further south, German forces were now only 15 miles from Reims as French forces scurried to plug the widening gap. By the 18th the whole British position in the north was under severe pressure, and there were no further forces on hand. The French began their adhoc counter offensive against the Germans in the centre on the 23rd, and the following afternoon, XVIII Corps received orders to begin preparations to cross to France.

    4. German infantry crossing the River Scheldt, September 1940

    5. Becks "Mass of decision". The German Infantry, largely still unmotorised

    Real combat came to Jakes unit at dawn on the 28th September. 4th division held a series of low, undulating ridges in the centre of IV Corps line, centred on two villages. Concentrated artillery fire came down suddenly without warning at about 5.00am that morning, heavy calibre 105mm high explosive rounds which caused huge concussion. A lot of the men had now experienced being under fire, but nothing that came close to this. The fire fell mainly along the forward positions on Hill 211, as it was marked on the map, right adjacent to Jakes battalion positions. The terrifying explosions knocked the men temporarily senseless and one or two positions were obliterated by direct hits. As Jake cowered in his foxhole, he could hear screaming in the space between the shriek of incoming shells and the explosions. The ground shook with each detonation, and showers of earth, stones and metal fragments rained down all around. It went on for what seemed like an eternity, but was in actual fact less than 5 minutes before it lifted to move on to targets further back.

    After a few moments during which he was conscious of physically checking himself to make sure he had nothing missing, he was aware of a whistle being blown. He stuck his head up briefly, only to see the battalion Sergeant Major, aptly named Bullock, striding around shouting to the men to take up positions, checking for wounded, making sure everyone was accounted for. Jake was sh*t scared, his hearing had been numbed by the bombardment and he was shaking like a leaf. But the sight of this man walking around in the open, restoring order, giving comfort, drawing everyone back together into a fighting unit, stirred Jake into action.

    He jumped up himself and ran to the adjacent foxholes to check his section. He found everyone was ok, except Rackham, who had been hit in the neck by a shell splinter. Another of the section was dressing it, and Rackham refused permission to leave his position to get it seen to. Jake patted him on the arm, checked with his no2 that the Bren gun was still operational, then moved on the next foxhole. As he did, he ran into his platoon commander, Lieutenant Howard. He grabbed Jakes arm and told him to get back to his position. He motioned across the other side of the valley with his hand. Jake followed its direction, and after a few moments, he could make out small, almost antlike shapes, moving among the hedgerows on the ridge opposite about a mile away. He suddenly realised they were tanks. German tanks.

    Over 40 miles away to the north, Ghent fell the following day. Nearly 3000 men of III Corps had been killed during the battle. The whole BEF was now engaged on a front 60 miles wide. Deverill flew across on the 1st October to meet Gort to discuss the options open to them, including if necessary, the evacuation of the BEF. To all intents and purposes, Gort told Deverill, the battle was now out of his hands. It was now in the hands of the individual Divisional commanders as to which way it now went.

    6. Knocked out Cruiser A10 of the 2nd Armoured division, Bretigny, September 1940

    Last edited by Redandwhite; 22-11-2010 at 00:15.

  14. #34
    Colonel CptEasy's Avatar
    For the MotherlandHearts of Iron IIIHOI3: Their Finest HourSemper Fi

    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Dangerous German push close to Reims. Brits are covering a dangerously long section of the front against the individually superiour German divisions. Think you should try to narrow the British line and consolidate your strength in the battles you take part in. British manpower is still ok but will drop fast if you take part in to many losing battles.

  15. #35
    Hope he has remembered his anti-panzer gun our poor hero

  16. #36
    Part 12

    Desperate days

    Oct – Nov 1940

    By the morning of 2nd October, it had become clear to the General Staff that all French promises were going to come to nothing. The counter attack in the Ardennes had ground to a halt and the Germans had now penetrated the Maginot line as well. The French were in disarray.

    In the Mediterranean, the Royal Navy intercepted an Italian force off Cape Matapan and inflicted serious damage, sinking 2 more destroyer groups and the heavy cruiser Trento. On land, the 8th Army paused for breath at Benghazi, prior to preparing to push on towards Tripoli.

    From Jakes hillside position, he could see the German tanks advancing up the road towards the 2nd Durham Light Infantry, which occupied positions on his left, straddling the road towards Liege. But Cunningham had chosen an excellent defensive position, and the armour was forced to approach the ridge without sufficient infantry support because of the relatively open ground and the elevated British position. Each British battalion had an anti-tank company of six 2 pounder or Bofors 37mm anti-tank guns, and DLI had dug theirs into revetments, so they could fire obliquely across the hillside, while at the same time being covered from direct fire from in front. They waited until the Panzer MkII and 38T’s had approached to within 200 yards, then opened fire into the weak side armour of the German tanks. Jake had never heard the heart rending sound of high velocity AT rounds tearing into armoured vehicles before. The sound was primeval, frightening like the sound of primitive dinosaurs roaring. Within a few minutes, four German tanks were knocked out, one of them burning fiercely as its ammunition went up with the hit, smoking like a funeral pyre. After 15 minutes, the Germans were retreating, and a cheer went up from the British line. Round 1 to the 4th Infantry division. None of them knew this was simply a probe.

    The next day, the Italians attacked the British off Cape Matapan again, but this time there were no British carriers, which had all been withdrawn to reorganise. After a short but bitter fight, the Italians were driven off, but the honours were even. The Italians lost 2 cruisers, and the British also lost 2 valuable cruisers, HMS Coventry and HMS Cairo. Warship losses were, if not critical, were starting to become serious.

    By the 8th, the French position had got even worse. The Germans had driven their counter attack back to it start line and the Maginot line defences were starting to come unravelled. The following day, Chamberlain travelled across to France to meet with Reynauld. The press had not yet got hold of the worsening situation, but already there were those among Chamberlain’s own party who were muttering behind the scenes that his days were numbered. With France looking decidedly shaky, many began to realise that if she went, Chamberlain would go too. Deverill and Eden went with him on the visit, and where Eden went, Edmund now seemed to go too.
    The meeting was strained. The French began by making assurances again, which Deverill scotched. The Germans were now across the Maginot line and the French offensive in the Alps against the Italians, which the British had advised against, had failed. The counter attack in the Ardennes had been thrown back, and now the British were being expected to hold a front twice as long as they had forces for. What was to be done?

    The French could give no real answer. Reynauld begged Chamberlain to send more forces and the remainder of the RAF. Chamberlain replied that, even had he the forces to send, the answer would still be no. The Belgians were on the point of collapse and the French Army was not far behind. The British would try to shore up their front, but the situation might compel him to take other action.

    The “other” action went unstated. After several hours of arguing, reasoning and pleading, the meeting broke up without any real agreement. Neither side had anything left to throw in, and the unspoken truth was that while the British had a chance of escape, the French and the Belgians did not. A few words like “treacherous” and “foolish nature” were whispered under breath.

    In the car on the way back to their plane, Chamberlain instructed Deverill to make arrangements to start bringing the BEF home, “on his approval”. Deverill stopped the PM and told him that, approval or otherwise, it might not be possible to do that since the British forces were now so closely engaged. At any event, he did not believe all the BEF could be saved. Chamberlain went grey.

    By the end of that week, no-one in 4th Infantry division was cheering anymore. The first attack had been no more than a prelude. The Germans realised that the position held by 4th Division in particular was a good one, and the afternoon of the opening day bought systematic attack by Ju87b dive bombers. A near miss left Jake shocked and deafened and one of his section was killed. That was followed by a sustained mortar bombardment, while German infantry attempted to close with the DLI up the Liege road. For the first time, Jake fired his rifle in anger, the Bren gun open fire in support, along with most of the platoon. A long exchange took place before the Germans withdrew once again. This cycle was repeated the next morning, when the platoon lost 4 men and another of Jakes section was wounded. There were now only 6 of them.

    Nevertheless, 4th Division had been lucky up to now. The main weight of the German attack had fell on 61st Division, who held the flatter ground to 4th Divisions west. By the third day of the battle, 61st had suffered over 400 dead and 1100 wounded, and only by 2nd Armoured launching a counter attack in the direction of Bretigny was the situation saved.

    On the 19th, Gort received instructions from GHQ to begin evacuation of the BEF. The Bitish were battered and holding on, so that instruction was easier said than done. But it was what a sensible officer like Gort had been expecting for more than a week, so tentative preparations had already been put in train.
    With XVIII Corps arrived to support in the north, the plan was to evacuate the line by stages. At the end, it would require the brave stand of rearguard units to allow the bulk of the BEF to escape. II Corps had orders to hold Brussels until relieved by the Belgians, then to hold the area of Tournai until IV Corps could extricate itself from Phillipville and pass through II Corps position. In the meantime, I Corps with support from XVIII Corps, had orders to hold the Germans at Brugge and Kortrijk. First to go would be III Corps, who began crossing back to England on the 21st.

    Throughout the 20th, 21st and 22nd, 4th Division held their position on the ridge under tremendous pressure from the Germans. They came under almost constant air or artillery bombardment, followed by infantry attacks, all of which were repulsed with losses on both sides. By the 22nd, Jake and his men were desperately tired, had had little sleep and were almost out of rations and ammunition. Much of the battalion’s transport had been destroyed by air attack despite attempt to camouflage it. In the end, it was 61st Division’s position which cracked, meaning that the ridge had to be abandoned or be outflanked. There began the men’s ordeal.

    4th Division first withdrew in as orderly manner as possible, harassed by enemy air and artillery attack. KRRC were ordered to defend a village about four miles behind the ridge, but by then, due to combat losses and men getting separated from their units during the confusion, only around 300 arrived, some of which were not even from Jakes battalion. His section now comprised of only himself and 3 men. They were ordered to occupy a barn which overlooked a churchyard, near the road into the village from the south. The Germans attacked the following morning, and a vicious fire fight broke out. After 2 hours, the Germans managed to get around the side of the Churchyard and began pouring fire into the barn from the left. Jake’s no2 , Fellowes, was killed and the men were practically out of ammunition. When the roof of the barn caught fire, he had no alternative but to order them to abandon it and head for the battalion CP. Another of his section, a man from a completely different battalion, was killed as they tried to get away. That left two of them, Jake and Private Hodges. When they reached the CP, there was no-one there. Jake used his compass and they began to walk west. After a while they got picked up by a group of soldiers from 61st division in several trucks, but they had not gone 10 miles when the little column was strafed my two Bf109E’s and 6 men were killed, among them Hodges. Then they were back on foot. It was only at this point that Jake realised he had been hit in the upper leg by a splinter, but he had no choice but to grit his teeth and carry on.

    The group of about 10 men from various units eventually met a Royal Artillery officer, who gave them directions to St Quentin, where IV Corps had established a temporary HQ. He informed them that the only thing between them and the enemy was a brigade of the 2nd Armoured division fighting a rearguard action.

    Gort had no time for the French positions in the south. He was now fighting solely to get as many of his men out alive as possible. By the 25th October, he had managed to extract all of I Corps with the exception of the temporarily attached 1st Armoured, all of XVIII Corps, and parts of II Corps. IV Corps were straggling back behind Brussels where the Belgians were grimly holding on. The ports he was using to embark were Calais and Dieppe. A grim rearguard action was now being fought by elements of II and VIII Corps in Kortrijk, together with French units in Dunkirk.

    That bought time during the last few days of October for the remaining elements of II Corps to disengage and make for Dieppe, together with the last remaining totally disorganised elements of IV Corps. While all this was going on, the Navy sank the Italian Battleship Andrea Doria off Cape Matapan, and the Kreigsmarine attempted to interdict the evacuation in the English Channel. A force including the Bismarck was driven off, but not before causing serious damage to several Navy ships. On the 5th November, Kortrijk finally fell, and the final stand was to be made by Anderson’s 49th Division in Lille, which would allow the rest of VIII Corps to get away to the south.

    1. French tanks. No fuel.

    Here, 49th Division fought a brave battle against 4 German divisions until the 15th November, before finally giving up control of Lille to the enemy. This stand allowed all remaining British forces in France to make Dieppe, and by the 16th, only 49th Division remained, straggling back towards the port in the hope of rescue. French armour arriving to the south of the city on the 16th gave them the opportunity to get away too. The BEF’s excursion in France was at an end.

    2. French motorised column abandoned after air attack

    On the 20th, V Corps arrived outside Tripoli, but, right at the end of a very, very long logistic line, its supply situation was dire. An assault on the city was therefore out of the question, especially as Italian reinforcements were beginning to arrive. It seemed the opportunity to kick the Italians out of Africa was just out of reach for the moment.

    Jake had arrived back in Portsmouth on the 2nd November. There were literally thousands of soldiers milling around, and MP’s were trying to direct them to Regimental collection points, where they would be given fresh clothes, hot food and hand in their accounts of what had happened. From there they would be put on trains to take them to reforming points inland. KRRC’s was 15 miles outside the city, on a rugby football club pitch. He eventually got a bath, some hot food and a clean uniform, then was given a rail pass to Aldershot, where 4th Infantry division were forming up again. Once he got there, he was given a 72 hour leave, so he went home.

    The press were reporting the evacuation as if it were a victory, putting a positive spin on it and calling the men hero’s. So were the men in the local pub, and again, Jake didn’t have to buy a drink all night. A few asked what it had been like fighting “Jerry”. Jake had seen a few things he guessed they would never understand, so he just said it was alright and he was glad to be home. He didn’t feel like a hero at all. He slept for most of the rest of his leave.

    As November drew to a close, the French situation looked bleak. Several senior officers had been calling for a new BEF to be put into the Brittany peninsula as a “thorn” in the German side, but the General staff dismissed all such talk. The 4 Corps of the BEF and the VIII Corps were battered. Some divisions were at less than 50% strength and all were badly disorganised. The 2nd Armoured division was at less than 30% following its battering in the rearguard action at Phillipeville. The Army in Britain would need a month or two to recover before it went anywhere.

    Nevertheless, looking back over the events of late October and early November, the General Staff could allow themselves a little credit for the skilful way they had managed to organise the rearguard and evacuation, and congratulate themselves that all units had been saved, albeit badly mauled. Particular credit had to go to IV Corps, whose brave stand had been vital, for had the German Armour been able to break through in early October and circle behind the BEF, escape would have been all but impossible. Then the desperate stands by 1st Armoured, 2nd and 49th Infantry divisions to stop the tidal wave in the north had been equally vital. Finally, had it not been for a few brave French divisions who knew their stand was next to suicide, the rearguard would not have got home.

    On the last day of November the Soviet Union annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

    The cost of defeat

    Last edited by Redandwhite; 26-11-2010 at 00:17.

  17. #37
    Part 13

    The Fall of France

    December 1940

    1. Stack of British weapons abandoned at Calais, November 1940

    Belgium had surrendered on 30th November, and with the collapse of France now looking certain, the War Cabinet met on 3rd December. The situation could hardly have been worse than it was. Bitter words had been exchanged between the British and the French, and both blamed each other for the debacle that was now unfolding. Though air and naval missions were continuing, there was now little that could be done to help.

    But British attention was now shifting ahead of the inevitable events of the next few weeks. What would the Fall of France mean in practical terms. Deverill outlined the military implications –

    The Germans would now control the entire European coastline as far as the border with Spain, effectively tripling its hostile length at the same time as the French Navy was lost to the Allied cause. As for the French Navy itself, no one yet knew what would happen to it, but it didn’t bear thinking about. On land, the British had been ejected with no chance of returning any time soon. The inevitable question was “what would Germany do next”?

    Chamberlain asked what was the likelihood of a German invasion? Deverill gave his appraisal – The Germans had an Army estimated at over 120 divisions, against which the British Army at home now stood at 26 first line division’s together with 8 Territorrial or Local Defence divisions. However, the Navy felt confident that it had inflicted damage on the Kreigsmarine substantial enough to make an invasion foolhardy. At any event, any attempt would have to be confined to the south east of England, since the Germans would be unable to gain air superiority outside this area. It was therefore highly unlikely that an invasion would be attempted unless the Germans could make the English channel prohibitive for the Royal Navy to operate in. In any case, the winter weather would make such an attempt impossible until at least the spring of 1941. It was more likely that an attempt to gain air superiority would commence as soon as the weather permitted. Otherwise, the threat of an imminent invasion was remote.

    Backhouse then summed up the changed situation facing the Royal Navy. With the Germans likely to be in possession of the French Atlantic seaports, the dynamic of the convoy battles would be changed. The ASW destroyer groups operating in the Atlantic would now need protection from capital ships, since trying to keep the English Channel permanently blocked to German ships with the Luftwaffe able to operate from French airfields would now be impossible. Either the destroyers would have to be withdrawn, which was not an option, or the Navy would have to patrol the Western Atlantic AND the North Sea in depth. Whatever happened to the French Navy, it was not going to be fighting on the Allied side anymore, so the duties it had been performing would now have to be covered by the RN also. However, if all resources were made available, Backhouse was confident the Navy could do what was asked of it. He then handed over to Anthony Eden.

    Eden began by bringing the cabinet up to date on events in the Far East. Yunnan had been making threatening noises, and the perceived threat level from Japan was rising. Intelligence sources indicated that the situation in Europe with France gone might lead to Japan taking advantage in the Far East. French and Dutch colonies now lay undefended, and British forces were extremely weak. At any event, it was not expected that Japan would stay out of the war for much longer, and it was safer to plan for that eventuality occurring within the next three months. As yet, it was still unclear what the USA’s position would be in this event, nor was it clear what Japan’s stance toward the USA would be. That would have to be seen.

    Chamberlain summed up a sombre meeting with the words “challenging times, gentlemen”, then asked the General Staff to go away and come back with revised plans for the situations they had discussed. They would meet again at the end of the month.

    The surrender of Belgium had exposed the open French flank west of Lille, and with German forces now in open country west of the Maginot defences, Paris was doomed to encirclement. There were no longer enough French forces left to cover the front, and by the 8th December, German forces were across the Seine and had circled around Paris to approach from the south east. By the 14th, it was effectively over. France had already asked for terms, and the fighting effectively ended on the 19th December. It would now remain to be seen what happened to the Republic over the next few weeks.

    Back in Britain, the papers were full of the scandal of the Fall of France. Chamberlain went on the BBC Home Service to address the nation, mainly to restore calm, but also to reassure the people that Britain was still in the war and had not also thrown in the towel. The following day, Parliament passed a vote of “no confidence” in the Premier, and Chamberlains tenure was as good as over. The public were in no mood for demonstrations of good intent. They wanted action, and many held Chamberlain responsible in regard to what had happened to Poland and to France. That same day, reports came in that forces from Yunnan had crossed the border into Northern Burma. Japan remained ominously quiet.

    In Libya, the 8th Army had drawn up short of Tripoli, then been compelled to rationalise its line because of the poor supply situation. On Christmas day 1940, reinforcements arrived in the shape of the new 4th Armoured division, but intelligence also indicated that Italian forces released from fighting the French in West Africa were also beginning to arrive in Tripoli. The General Staff had plans for 8th Army, which would soon become the most powerful force in the British Army, but for the moment, everything remained quiet. Everyone was enjoying their Christmas in 24 degrees of heat.

    On Boxing day, the Germans arrived on the Channel Islands, becoming the first British sovereign territory to fall to an enemy since 1066.

    2. German fighters move onto an airstrip on the Channel Islands

    The same afternoon, Ethiopia surrendered to French forces still fighting on in East Africa. The newspapers were quick to jump on the story that, though France had fallen, its Army had not.

    As December and 1940 drew to a close, the situation for France was made clear. Germany had taken Northern France and the entire coastline under military law. The remainder of the country would fall under the control of Marshal Petain, with a government based in Vichy, Southern France. It was, of course, a government installed by and for the Germans. “Vichy” now became a word for collusion and treachery among the large group of Frenchman still fighting in East Africa. France was definitely down, but she was not yet out.

    On the 1st January 1941, after much lobbying by the British, the Americans passed the Lend-Lease bill, effectively making equipment and funds available to the Allies on credit. The USA had taken a step towards the democracies of the Allies.

    Last edited by Redandwhite; 26-11-2010 at 01:02.

  18. #38
    Sergeant Led Zepp's Avatar
    Hearts of Iron IIIVictoria 2

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    Jul 2010
    Nice AAR, Can i ask what your Fleet compostion is, Carrier and battleship fleets.
    ďI believe in one thing only, the power of human will.Ē

  19. #39
    Colonel CptEasy's Avatar
    For the MotherlandHearts of Iron IIIHOI3: Their Finest HourSemper Fi

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    Nov 2009
    Well, you still managed to keep France from falling in 1940 which is ok. Whatever GER chooses to do next, Soviet have had some time for the build up. Japan not in the war yet?

  20. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Led Zepp View Post
    Nice AAR, Can i ask what your Fleet compostion is, Carrier and battleship fleets.
    Thank Led Zepp (great band too )

    Against the German and Italian navies I use Carrier Groups of 2CV + 4CL and Battlegroups of 2BB + 1CVL + 4CL. I also have support groups of 2BB (old BB Is) + 2 CL, which are used as blocking groups or pickets, around which my Carriers and Battle groups are mobile. Almost all my destroyers are on ASW work.

    This will have to be revised gainst the Japanese Navy who have almost parity in carriers

    Quote Originally Posted by CptEasy View Post
    Well, you still managed to keep France from falling in 1940 which is ok. Whatever GER chooses to do next, Soviet have had some time for the build up. Japan not in the war yet?
    Indeed, CptEasy. My aim was to delay the Fall of France as long as possible. I could have perhaps delayed by another month or two at the most, but I felt the risk of losing precious divisions outweighted the advantage. It remains to be seen what the German AI decides to do about the Balkans as I am trying desperately to keep Greece out of the axis.

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