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Norman redoubt

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by Emperor, Nov 2, 2014.

  1. Emperor

    Emperor Member

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    I've always wondered why the French considered Brittany for a national redoubt but not Normandy. Suppose they retreat to Normandy? They'd have an excellent port in Cherbourg. They'd be closer to air cover based in southern England. Shipping from southern England would have a very quick transit.

    A defensive line could be set up from Caen through hedgerow country and then to Avranches on the other coast. The terrain really favors the defense. In addition, naval gun support would be available from a combined British/French fleet.

    The Allies could set up radar stations in Normandy and tear up the German air force. Luftwaffe exhausting itself in 1940 all sorts of possibilities open up. Likely there never is fighting in Greece and North Africa remains French. Germany could bring many divisions to bear but in so few miles of front they'd be unable to maneuver effectively.
     
  2. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    In 1940, RAF fighters didn't have the range to operate over Normandy; to operate over the Fall Rot front line they had to fly on down to Rennes, refuel and re-arm, and fly back via the frontline to Eleven Group fields in Kent. In other words they'd have to LAND somewhere in normady and refuel/rearm there anyway...and the necessary fields weren't going to be cleared and developed in a few days.

    The French and British fleets were not going to operate in the Channel at a time when they did not enjoy air superiority; we lost quite a few destroyers and had hits on capital ships off Norway...and that was with plenty of room to manouver to avoid fall of shot from divebombers and level bombers.

    Shipping might have had a quick transit....but across the lower half of the Channel below the Narrows...where it was deep enough for uboats to operate. that was the part of the Channel the Kriegsmarine planned to daisy chain a line of uboats to protect the southern side of the invasion flotillas. Shipping departing the southern Channel ports and Severn Estuary ports, transiting the Western Approaches, and reaching the redoubt in Brittany from the south I.E. into Biscay and heading for Brest etc., were relatively safe from uboats because for uboats to get there they would have ahd to circumnavigate the UK first...as transit for uboats THROUGH the Channel narrows was next to impossible in the first year of WWII....unlike WWI!

    Fianlly - radar....didn't work so great over land at that time in the war, not only were there all the blank spots in Chain Home-style coverage that had to be blocked by Chain Home Low-style sets, the terrain would cause a lot of blank spots in coverage.
     
  3. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    There wasn't time to establish a Breton redoubt, and there would have been even less for Normandy. Rommel's 7th Panzer captured Cherbourg as early as June 19, just two weeks after the Germans resumed the offensive. The panzers were actually moving faster than the French troops falling back from the Weygand line, and even non-motorized German units were not far behind.

    As phylo noted, British fighters would be in the same position as the Germans in the Battle of Britain; they could barely reach Normandy and would have little fuel reserve for patrolling or combat. The alternative would to try to hastily establish bases in Normandy and to risk them being lost like the ground infrastructure of the squadrons based in France earlier. Dowding at Fighter Command was rightly reluctant to place additional squadrons in the path of the German onslaught and compromise the defense of Britain itself.

    Radars were not as portable as we think of today. Chain Home stations involved multiple fixed towers over 300' high, and their effectiveness stemmed from being tied in by landline to operations rooms and sector control stations to form an integrated air defense network. Radars were located along the coastline, searching over the open sea. German aircraft over land had to be tracked by the Observer Corps, which was also set up ahead of time and linked to the operations rooms. None of this could be improvised on the spur of the moment, especially in a foreign country.
     
  4. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Member

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    To be fair - that bit could. Clair Chennault managed it in China...giving his P.40s time to get off the ground and get the height advantage on better, faster and lighter Japanese fioghters for a "boom'n'zoom" attack...

    What was missing from the French set-up was any sign of a coordinated aand integrated air defence; at one point Dowding went to France for a conference and was shown the french equivalent of The Hole at Bentley Priory...

    Two poilus with a phone and a backboard at the bottom of a stairwell in the chateau he was visiting...

    There was something I missed earlier; a Breton redoubt could be resupplied across the Bay of Biscay from the French ports in Aquitaine - Bordeaux etc. But resupplying Normandy by sea from France meant rounding Ushant in coastal waters...NOT something any sailor has liked to do in a thousand years!
     

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