It’s June of 1940. The Wehrmacht has just crushed the armies of Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. The British Army has escaped across the Channel from Dunkirk, and they’ve left a lot of equipment behind, not to mention a goodly number of soldiers. Germany has to get their act together in France, prepare for occupation of those conquered territories, and then there’s the thought of what to do about England.
This book is not the usual Osprey book we review here at IPMS USA. It is mostly text, with only a few pictures thrown in. It covers the period from June 1940 to July of 1941. After this, Sea Lion became a moot point, as the Wehrmacht had their hands full in the Soviet Union.
- Chapter 1: Strategic Setting, June-July 1940
- Chapter 2: Improvising an Invasion Force
- Chapter 3: Diplomacy, Espionage and Intelligence
- Chapter 4: Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe Capabilities Against England, 1940-41
- Chapter 5: Countdown to Sea Lion
- Chapter 6: British Anti-invasion Capabilities, 1940-41
- Chapter 7: Feasibility of S-Tag, 25 September 1940
- Chapter 8: The Isle of Wight Gambit
- Chapter 9: Siege Operations against Great Britain, October 1940-May 1941
- Chapter 10: Sea Lion Redux, May 1941
- Chapter 11: Hidden Benefits of Sea Lion: Germany Gains an Amphibious Capability for other Theatres
- Chapter 12: The Reckoning
It’s common knowledge that the reason Sea Lion never happened was that the Luftwaffe never achieved air superiority over southern England. Another thought, espoused by a wargamer’s magazine of 25 years ago was that Sea Lion would go ashore, and the Royal Navy would then show up and arrest them all for trespassing, and it would all be over.
This book brings out facts that are conveniently overlooked by most historians. The Luftwaffe almost achieved air superiority by reducing Fighter Command’s available aircraft to a minimum.
The Royal Army was still training for trench warfare, and had lost much of their equipment in France. Before Dunkirk the Army had about 650 tanks. After they had about 200. The Territorial Army, the reserves, were poorly led, underequipped, and had no transport capability.
The Royal Navy had their hands full protecting convoys in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans against submarines and commerce raiders. Without the Navy’s protection, it’s likely that there would have been large food shortages as well as raw materials to make weapons and ammunition. Therefore there would not be enough battleships or cruisers to stop the invasion.
There are a lot of “what ifs” involved in this book. If the Germans had invaded Britain, the Royal Army probably would have contained the invasion, but not been able to completely defeat it. Which would have led to the British not being as active in North Africa against Rommel, and the bombing campaign against Germany would have been less effective, as the RAF would have been very busy at home.
RECOMMENDED. This is a pretty detailed read, but it’s well written. It took me a while to get to the end, but I never felt that there were flights of fancy or wishful thinking about Sea Lion. And my take on why the invasion never came off… Admiral Raeder and Feldmarschall Goering weren’t for it. And without the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine, it wasn’t going to happen.
Many thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review book, and to IPMS USA for the chance to review it.