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Operation Katharina: Question to Ricky, Armand, Stony...


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#1 Romantic Technofreak

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Posted 09 July 2017 - 04:58 PM

...and whoever it may concern: How would you have prepared for that? Especially in terms of air armament?

 

You know I am German and like to play "what if". This time I consider about a plan that does not see Germany as winner, but as very early looser.

 

"Operation Katharina" was a plan by Winston Churchill, at this time still First Lord of the Admiralty (you cannot successfully google for that plan, I tried already) of 1939. With Danish help, Germany was to be cut from Scandinavian ore supplies. The British navy had to enter the Danish straits and operate in the Baltic Sea to do so.

 

I want to extend that a bit (political goodwill always prerequisited): British an Danish troops perform a landing operation in East Pomerania. From the beachhead, they try to march forward in Southeastern direction to make contact with the Polish.

British and Dutch troops invade Germany north of the river Rhine, then march towards the (war-important) industrial area of the Ruhr, which is not far. French and Belgian troops invade Germany south of the river Rhine, then go westward. They may cross the river and approach their British and Dutch allies at the Ruhr.

 

Don't worry about your expectations. You will win anyway. The German Western frontier was virtually undefended in September 1939, and the German troops attacking Poland expect a lot of things, but not a thrust into their back. The war could have ended within weeks and with a complete German defeat.

 

So, I would like to hear your (constructive) comments about that! You could say: "If we will win anyway, we need no special preparation!" Right - but boring too. Please develop some ideas!

 

Best regards, RT



#2 Ricky

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Posted 09 July 2017 - 06:12 PM

[EDIT - I realise I haven't actually answered the question you posed... maybe later :) ]

Oh RT you always pose such interesting questions...

I'm assuming from context that this is taking place near or during the German invasion of Poland (1 September – 6 October 1939)
Also I'd have to assume it has been planned pre-war, otherwise it would never be achievable in the space of a month - obviously German forces would still be needed in Poland after the surrender, but not all of them, so redeployment would be a possibility.

My first question was whether the weather would be suitable - but apparently it is rather pleasant in the Baltic at that time of year.

So... Ideally you would need:

1) Denmark as the resupply base for the invasion force
2) Denmark as an aircraft base for the RAF
3) Good inter-allied communications
4) Enough men in the invasion force to be a help to the Poles
5) Enough supplies, and good logistics from Denmark to the beachhead (I'd assume we'd capture a port) and from the beachhead to the front
6) Enough men in the separate thrust from Denmark to the Ruhr
7) Ditto logistics

I do have a few concerns... The British had (roughly) 30 Divisions in the UK at the time, but would be unlikely to be able or willing to use all of these. I'd predict maybe 6 at most (more than were sent to France in total before Dunkirk happened). The Danes had 2 Divisions.
Any invasion force would be relatively small. British invasion forces of this era have a reputation for being able to get it a bit wrong ;)
Any Anglo-Danish force that bumps into the rear of the German army in Poland would be (after initial successes) taken apart pretty quickly. No air cover, laughable AA cover, laughable communications (even just within the British forces, let alone between English and Dane)... against a larger and better-performing German side with bounteous air cover? The best they would achieve is easing the pressure on the Poles for a short while.

British fighters even if based in Denmark could barely provide cover as far as Hamburg

The Belgians would never take the offensive
The French did try in reality, but were so scared of the Siegfried Line they stopped before they got to it. I can't see that changing.


The best option for me? British Forces (BEF) invade from Denmark (land-based) and drive into Germany, capturing Hamburg (Danish forces used to garrison captured territory and keep supply lines open). I'm not sure whether driving East to Berlin, West to link up with the French, or South to cut off the Ruhr is best. In a perfect world the French would attack, and cut off the Ruhr for us, but as I say I am sceptical. Unless the British attack is expected by the French to result in men withdrawn from the Siegfried Line (remember they thought it was jolly strong)...

The sticking points... the Luftwaffe could be quickly turned around to bomb the advancing British, probably quicker than the RAF air cover could keep up - particularly given the appalling inter-service communications at the time. This might delay the BEF enough for German reserves to be deployed... I have horrible visions of a BEF having to do Dunkirk from the Baltic. I also wonder about Sea and Air attacks on any British fleet.

Hmm... plenty of food for thought

#3 Armand

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Posted 09 July 2017 - 06:44 PM

Denmark was strictly neutral and would have fought the Brits like they did against the Germans at April 9th 1940.
Out of the same mindset wouldn't the Danish army couple up with the British occupying(!) force, as it likely didn't happen with the Germans!
Except from 1849 (win) and 1864 (loose (the area from Christiansfeld in the North and Hamburg in the south!)), have England actually been the traditional enemy (Lord Nelson destroyed the Danish Navy in 1801 and rocket-bombed Copenhagen in 1807), hence the picture of the Brits being allied is a post-war occurence, and the maneuvre would have been much more hostile than thought today, hence in Your what-If play!

#4 Stony

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Posted 09 July 2017 - 07:47 PM

RT,

One of the problems is, that the Dutch Forces were only trained in defending not to take on an offensive... They were poorly equiped and had a rather low morale.....

We had a pacifistic gouverment in the pre war years...so the armed forces were neglected..

And the Netherlands declared themselves neutral when hositilies began...

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#5 flying kiwi

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Posted 09 July 2017 - 10:51 PM

Churchill was great at inspiring people, but not quite so good at planning military operations. Kiwis remember Gallipoli. I expect this plan would have worked out pretty much the same. The RN was very bad at air defence early in the war, and the army was useless at amphibious operations. A simplistic overview suggests that the British need the first year, or more, to fire all their incompetent generals before they can make any progress. Dowding was an exception, as was Keith Park, but they were specialists in defence.

My verdict - this plan certainly could have ended the war earlier.



#6 Romantic Technofreak

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 08:45 AM

Thank you for your answers, friends, and once more for the laud, Ricky! :rolleyes:

 

For playing "what if", you must assume things having been a bit different than they were in reality. "Competent" British generals may have said: "The next war will see the need for operations over large territories, air communications and amphibic enterprises as well." Politicians did not need to be cowardish ass-holes [I mean nobody special], but they could have been sneaky and playing a comedy for the international audience. "Of course we are strictly neutral!" "Hosting British troops is only a temporary measure for exchange of experiences!" and so on. Morale would be boosted if expectations were good.

 

British and French troops could have been stationed in Poland from late spring of 1939, including a number of Hurricanes and Moranes. They might have been a bit worse than the Bf 109, but were serious opponents. The fighter cover for the Pomeranian beachhead had to be performed from Bornholm island, no matter if the local landlord complains about the noise. The history of the Western campaign of 1940 always leaves out that the British also had "cruiser" tanks, which were able to perform independent long-range actions like the Germans used to do. And the German tank force was of 1939 was lousy compared to the one of 1940, most of the tanks were still Mk. I and II. Although successfull, the German Poland campaign showed lots of educational deficits among the German troops (these were eliminated during winter 1939/40).

 

For the Kiwi force, I have a speciality. The Allies planned to take Salonika, like they did in WWI. From there, the New Zealanders would march through Yugoslavia, defeat Hungary and Slovakia, cross the Carpathian mountains and join the Polish form the South! This plan had to be postponed because the Australians were jealous and wanted to perform the action themselves. Inter-Oceanic discussion ended without result (*joke*).

 

Regards, RT



#7 flying kiwi

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 10:56 AM

Ah, Salonika. Your plan is now starting to make sense.



#8 Romantic Technofreak

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 05:30 PM

Ah, Salonika. Your plan is now starting to make sense.

You say otherwise it doesn't? I see! :)

 

When I have learned something from this, if I did not know it before, than it is that preparation is the most important thing!

 

Regards, RT

 






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