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What if the Germans started building a bridge through La Manshe in 1940?

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  • What if the Germans started building a bridge through La Manshe in 1940?

    I know this sounds a bit crazy, but hear the facts
    What if Germany decided in august 1940 instead of preparing the feeble and uncertain Sealion to start crossing the english channel with a slowly creating a bridge. (I mean creating by trowing earh and stones in a prepared 'A' concrete shapes).
    Even if the bridge would have taken more than couple of years the very fact of it's unstoppable building would have placed immense pressure on the brits to seek peace.
    For general information: The channel at it's narrowest point is 34km wide and ~45 meters deep - so if taken as a serious project by a powerful entity as the germany it would have been done in a couple of years.
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    If you doubt, you go without.

  • #2
    I suppose the major thing is how wide is it? Would give your forces a very narrow entry point and not much of a surprise where they were going to land. Also, you would be blocking off a major trade route.

    Prehaps a better idea would be a tunnel!!
    Wolster

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    • #3
      Of course the bridge will not be used for the actual attack - The landing and the establishing of the beachhead should happen even before it is finished. The bridge's main purspose is to provide a non stop flow of supplies to the invading army - not depending on navy, nor on air force. Such flow will mean that against the mighty wehrmacht the british do not stand a chance.
      As to the trading route - well ,that is something that could have been dealt with later - after the conquest is completed. opening a part of the bridge or making a section high with channel passable for ships.. there are many solutions.
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      • #4
        You'd have to have absolute superiority to maintain such a link, of course. One bomber getting through your air cordon could cause absolute chaos, blocking the roadway for hours: one submarine or destroyer could ram it and necessitate hours of repairs. Don't underestimate the French Resistance, either: not just placing bombs in German supply vehicles, but adulterating the concrete so that the whole thing collapses after a short period of use.

        Rather than having a multiplicity of supply routes across the Channel, you focus all the energy of the Royal Navy and RAF into a single axis that's, at best, a mile wide? You're also missing the point that ships are far more efficient freight carriers for bulk cargoes than road vehicles: 3-ton trucks versus perhaps 10,000-ton cargo freighters. Building a bridge across the Channel would have been a massive waste of resources that would have made the Maginot Line look like a child's sandcastle in comparison.
        Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt

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        • #5
          Originally posted by robcraufurd View Post
          You'd have to have absolute superiority to maintain such a link, of course. One bomber getting through your air cordon could cause absolute chaos, blocking the roadway for hours: one submarine or destroyer could ram it and necessitate hours of repairs. Don't underestimate the French Resistance, either: not just placing bombs in German supply vehicles, but adulterating the concrete so that the whole thing collapses after a short period of use.
          Robcrauford , mybe you do not understand what I mean - I am not talking about a nice bridge hanging between supporting columns ,but rather about an embankment created by trowing huge amount of stones and dirt in the sea - the same way that the artificial islands are built. - No bomber can do any real damage to it , besides, there can be easily placed AA and naval guns on it each kilometer, which will make the bomber and naval missions almost suicidal.
          Also do not forget that over the channel the germans could provide much better air cover than deep inside england (becouse of the closer distance to airbases)

          Originally posted by robcraufurd View Post
          Rather than having a multiplicity of supply routes across the Channel, you focus all the energy of the Royal Navy and RAF into a single axis that's, at best, a mile wide? You're also missing the point that ships are far more efficient freight carriers for bulk cargoes than road vehicles: 3-ton trucks versus perhaps 10,000-ton cargo freighters. Building a bridge across the Channel would have been a massive waste of resources that would have made the Maginot Line look like a child's sandcastle in comparison.
          That's exactly the beauty of it - the RAF and the RN will be compelled to constantly attack that road with all their might even if there isn't a single truck on it, while submitting themselves to harrasment by Luftwaffe and the shore naval guns placed on it. However it will be almost impossible to disrupt - how do you disrupt a pile of rocks?? most of them lying on the sea bed?
          The effectiveness of the bombers will be the same as them hitting on a dirt road.
          As to the capacity of the ships vs. trucks that is true only when :
          a) Nobody is sinking your ships.
          b) You have available ports
          Both of them are major problems for operation Sealion, hence my suggestion.
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          If you doubt, you go without.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by leopold View Post
            Robcrauford , mybe you do not understand what I mean - I am not talking about a nice bridge hanging between supporting columns ,but rather about an embankment created by trowing huge amount of stones and dirt in the sea - the same way that the artificial islands are built. - No bomber can do any real damage to it , besides, there can be easily placed AA and naval guns on it each kilometer, which will make the bomber and naval missions almost suicidal.
            I understand what you mean: you're talking about a giant mole or causeway, of the kind Alexander uses at Tyre. What you don't seem to understand is that you can't just "throw stones in the sea": a bridge of that sort won't hold any weight at all, let alone the sort of logistical effort needed to support an invasion of Britain. You need concrete and steel foundations, and miles of paved roadway strong enough to resist the tides of the Channel. Just "throwing huge amount of stones and dirt in the sea" won't do anything: it'll wash away almost instantly.

            As for your point about the missions being suicidal: look at HMS Glowworm ramming the Admiral Hipper. Furthermore,there's no need to get within range of these naval guns: they'll be out-ranged by the battleships of the Royal Navy, who can pound them, and the roadway, into splinters.

            Also do not forget that over the channel the germans could provide much better air cover than deep inside england (becouse of the closer distance to airbases)
            But without radar, which the Germans don't have, how are they going to scramble in time to prevent the RAF causing havoc on the bridge?

            That's exactly the beauty of it - the RAF and the RN will be compelled to constantly attack that road with all their might even if there isn't a single truck on it,
            If there isn't a single truck on it, then you've spent two years building a causeway which fulfils no useful function. To build the bridge, you'd have to drive the Royal Navy and RAF out of the Channel and keep them out, otherwise your engineers are vulnerable. You'd also have to protect against commando raids and sabotage attempts.

            However it will be almost impossible to disrupt - how do you disrupt a pile of rocks?? most of them lying on the sea bed?
            How do you drive a three-ton truck over a pile of rocks? You need a proper, paved roadway, which if it's hit once, becomes unusable.

            As to the capacity of the ships vs. trucks that is true only when :
            a) Nobody is sinking your ships.
            b) You have available ports
            Both of them are major problems for operation Sealion, hence my suggestion.
            So the Germans have two choices.
            1) Gain air superiority over Southern England, thus preventing either the RAF or Royal Navy from sinking these ships
            2) Build a giant roadway across the Channel, protecting it 24 hours a day from attack.

            I know which one I'd find easier.
            Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt

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            • #7
              Originally posted by robcraufurd View Post
              I understand what you mean: you're talking about a giant mole or causeway, of the kind Alexander uses at Tyre. What you don't seem to understand is that you can't just "throw stones in the sea": a bridge of that sort won't hold any weight at all, let alone the sort of logistical effort needed to support an invasion of Britain. You need concrete and steel foundations, and miles of paved roadway strong enough to resist the tides of the Channel. Just "throwing huge amount of stones and dirt in the sea" won't do anything: it'll wash away almost instantly.
              .
              I was trying to visualize my suggestion - didn't mean "just trowing rocks at sea" obviously some engineering work should be done - there are many options, including prebuild floatable shallow concrete slabs, which are dragged to position and sunk in front of the embankment.

              Originally posted by robcraufurd View Post
              As for your point about the missions being suicidal: look at HMS Glowworm ramming the Admiral Hipper. Furthermore,there's no need to get within range of these naval guns: they'll be out-ranged by the battleships of the Royal Navy, who can pound them, and the roadway, into splinters.
              What exactly you think was the range of the biggest RN guns - no more than 40 km(for the biggest ships). That means that you must have several of those in an area which is quite narrow(~40km) and in complete view of german naval radar (which was quite operational at that point) - Yeah, they would be able to bombard for a while no question about it - until they will be sunk one by one by the Luftwaffe - how fast the almost blockaded England could replace them??
              Mind you that the kriegsmarine need not participate in this operation at all!
              Meanwhile all the damage they can do is easily fixed by adding some more rocks.
              You must understand that the basic idea aims at making the time working for the german side - it is not an idea of a blitz strike, but more of a slow strangling of the oponent. (At least until the wehrmacht lands its boots on the island!)

              Originally posted by robcraufurd View Post
              But without radar, which the Germans don't have, how are they going to scramble in time to prevent the RAF causing havoc on the bridge?
              Again - becouse the area is ~40km it can be protected the same way that airfields were - by constant patrolling of several fighters. The RAF will cause some havoc-so what?? more rocks - maybe some more trucks, meanwhile RAF will also suffer losses - less planes. What is more expensve - rocks and trucks ot planes?

              Originally posted by robcraufurd View Post
              If there isn't a single truck on it, then you've spent two years building a causeway which fulfils no useful function.
              What I meant is that the troughput of such bridge is high enough so you do not have to have a constant trail of trucks in it - even if it's disrupted from time to time - there is no problem to wait. Besides, do not forget that the bridge is the MAIN supply line. Who said it necessarily excludes using ships?!?

              Originally posted by robcraufurd View Post
              To build the bridge, you'd have to drive the Royal Navy and RAF out of the Channel and keep them out, otherwise your engineers are vulnerable. You'd also have to protect against commando raids and sabotage attempts.
              That's the strongest point against my idea so far.
              However, I somehow think that in such narrow waters the RN will have a serious problem and will slowly bleed itself agains a constant Luftwaffe attacks -analogically the RAF. At the end their attacks will become less and less powerfull, while the bridge can only go one way -forward. How much time will it take to finish it under such conditions?? - that is the question...

              Originally posted by robcraufurd View Post
              How do you drive a three-ton truck over a pile of rocks? You need a proper, paved roadway, which if it's hit once, becomes unusable.
              Correct, that is why there must be a well protected forts (with AA,naval guns and engineers ready to fix the road) each 1,2,3?? km

              Originally posted by robcraufurd View Post
              So the Germans have two choices.
              1) Gain air superiority over Southern England, thus preventing either the RAF or Royal Navy from sinking these ships
              2) Build a giant roadway across the Channel, protecting it 24 hours a day from attack.

              I know which one I'd find easier.
              a) 1) and 2) are not mutually exclusive.
              b) Protecting the bridge has the byproduct of slowly exterminating the RN
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              If you doubt, you go without.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by leopold View Post
                I was trying to visualize my suggestion - didn't mean "just trowing rocks at sea" obviously some engineering work should be done - there are many options, including prebuild floatable shallow concrete slabs, which are dragged to position and sunk in front of the embankment.
                If you were intending a true causeway, then you're drastically underestimating the amount of work involved. A few years back they decided to connect the islands of the Outer Hebrides with causeways. One section of this- the Eriskay causeway- took two years and 9.5m pounds to build a roadway ten metres wide and half a kilometer long. For your six-lane motorway, with AA and naval guns and now, apparently, barracks for engineers? You'd bankrupt the Reich.

                What exactly you think was the range of the biggest RN guns - no more than 40 km(for the biggest ships). That means that you must have several of those in an area which is quite narrow(~40km) and in complete view of german naval radar (which was quite operational at that point) - Yeah, they would be able to bombard for a while no question about it - until they will be sunk one by one by the Luftwaffe - how fast the almost blockaded England could replace them??
                I used battleships as a counter to your naval guns; in fact, you wouldn't need anything of the sort. A single torpedo boat or a minature submarine would be much more effective in penetrating the Kriegsmarine's defensive net, and could play havoc with the construction before slipping away, causing damage all out of proportion to their cost. Why bother using heavy bombers- which will be mercilessly bombing the cities of the Reich, denied their concrete bunkers and protective Flak guns- when a single Mosquito can bomb construction then fly away, chased by fighters whose speed it is more than capable of matching? I say nothing of British railway artillery and costal-mounted heavy guns, which would have enjoyed the practice of firing on the slowly-advancing construction works.

                You must understand that the basic idea aims at making the time working for the german side - it is not an idea of a blitz strike, but more of a slow strangling of the oponent. (At least until the wehrmacht lands its boots on the island!)
                There's only one combatant that would be strangled by this plan, and it's certainly not Britain.

                Again - becouse the area is ~40km it can be protected the same way that airfields were - by constant patrolling of several fighters. The RAF will cause some havoc-so what?? more rocks - maybe some more trucks, meanwhile RAF will also suffer losses - less planes. What is more expensve - rocks and trucks ot planes?
                Several fighters on constant patrol? Wow, that's going to burn up kerosine- good job Germany isn't short of petrol, isn't it? And the British can still throw overwhelming force against these fighters, bomb the bridge, and return to Britain before German support has scrambled.

                What I meant is that the troughput of such bridge is high enough so you do not have to have a constant trail of trucks in it - even if it's disrupted from time to time - there is no problem to wait. Besides, do not forget that the bridge is the MAIN supply line. Who said it necessarily excludes using ships?!?
                If you're using ships, then the bridge is utterly futile. You'd have been better ploughing your resources into building ships, instead of a concrete folly in the Channel. And I like the way that your bridge would split the Kriegsmarine into two, so that forces in the eastern Channel can't reinforce those in the west.

                However, I somehow think that in such narrow waters the RN will have a serious problem and will slowly bleed itself agains a constant Luftwaffe attacks -analogically the RAF.
                Historically, the Luftwaffe cannot establish air superiority against the Royal Air Force. The Kriegsmarine refuses to act against the Royal Navy without air support. Yet suddenly, they're able to defend a mid-Channel construction site from every single attack the British can throw against it for two years- at the very lowest estimate, that is.

                At the end their attacks will become less and less powerfull, while the bridge can only go one way -forward. How much time will it take to finish it under such conditions?? - that is the question...
                There's only one way the bridge is going, and it's not forward. It's down.

                Correct, that is why there must be a well protected forts (with AA,naval guns and engineers ready to fix the road) each 1,2,3?? km
                A 15 inch German naval gun weighs 80,000kg. A 88mm Flak gun weighs 7840kg. A concrete fort, big enough to house engineers, multiple naval guns and flak guns? I have no idea how much it'd weigh, and even less how you'd install it in the Channel under constant threat of attack.

                a) 1) and 2) are not mutually exclusive.
                Exactly. You gain precisely nothing from building the bridge, because at the end of the day you've still got to have total superiority to build it.

                b) Protecting the bridge has the byproduct of slowly exterminating the RN
                No, it doesn't. Germany cannot afford to rebuild the ships and aircraft lost in protecting the bridge, prepare and launch a seaborne invasion of Britain and build your collossal causeway at the same time. It stretches them thin for no reason. You may as well spend the money building a 600ft statue of Hitler on the Channel coast and surround it with AA guns, in the hope that the British will find it an irresistable target, and waste the strength of the RAF in futile bombing missions against it.
                Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt

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                • #9
                  Not quite Hitler's style

                  Wait did I read someone suggesting a bridge across the Channel? Why on earth would you bother?! The counterfactual should surely focus on something realistic, not some fanciful idea that would be nigh on impossible to achieve in wartime. Such a construct would take years. Hitler, you may have noticed, is not the most patient man. Trying to get his support for a protracted building project that would take far longer than a naval invasion doesn't strike me as a real goer for the Fuhrer. If you need evidence of this impatience look at the swift changes in focus during the battle of Britain or the fact that Hitler fails to heed Raeder's advice and wait until 1945 to start the war, by which time their surface fleet could rival the Royal Navy. The whole idea seems a bit too vulnerable; to the resistance, to commandos, to Royal Navy or Royal Air Force attacks.

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                  • #10
                    I actually think it is feasible. Certainly it is more feasible than the actual sealion plan. It will cost less than invading Russia and losing.

                    Lets scope out the problem a bit: such a causeway might be 20000m long, 1000m wide and 50m high to get a reasonable height above sea level. That means the German engineers would have to move 1 billion (thats 1000 million for you Brits) cubic meters of rock. Assume its 1 ton per cubic meter so the job is to move 1 billion tons of rock.

                    Lets assume we have 1 million French/other allied POWs and 1 million German soldiers available as a labour force. If we have 100,000 1 ton trucks we can move 100,000 tons of rock per day. It would take 1000 days to move that much rock. So about 2.5 to 3 years.

                    Of course Germany would have to strip every piece of heavy construction equipment from occupied Europe. They would probably need to design and build armoured earth movers for the final stages. Railways would have to be built to facilitate the construction.

                    From an engineering perspective it is possible to do so.

                    Germany would have to avoid war with Russia for the duration of this project (which is not likely given the Nazis) and devote most of its economy towards its completion.

                    The interesting question is could the project be continued in light of British countermeasures and what would those countermeasures be?

                    I think massed British land based artillery would make the final completion impossible. They could install a land based battery of 16 inch naval guns that would just devastate the engineering units working on the bridge. As the land bridge gets closer and closer more and more artillery gets brought to bear by the Brits.

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                    • #11
                      Hmmm the meeting at HQ will be fun

                      I actually think it is feasible. Certainly it is more feasible than the actual sealion plan. It will cost less than invading Russia and losing.
                      Sealion is not the best plan in the world, I will say that. Crossing the channel in canal-boats etc doesn't really sound like a smooth ride to me. But it is within the realms of possibility. The bridge idea is unbelievably ridiculous, I don't quite know how to get this across but its going to take years and years. Russia, however, is, in the German mindset, that old rotten building. With hindsight the bridge may cost less, but to work counterfactually it HAS to be a reasonable option to those at the time. Did any Nazi suggest a bridge? I doubt it. Why? Because it would be too expensive, too laborious and too vulnerable.


                      It would take 1000 days to move that much rock. So about 2.5 to 3 years.
                      Germany would have to avoid war with Russia for the duration of this project (which is not likely given the Nazis) and devote most of its economy towards its completion.
                      You see, you do understand some of the Nazi mentality, and you are right, it is unlikely to see them halting the Russian invasion. Hitler will not wait until 1942 to launch Barbarossa, and you suggest 3 years to build. It just isn't happening. I can't stress this enough. It really is a white elephant. Rommel, Guderian and Manstein would laugh it out of HQ and anyone supporting it would be demoted and sent home to think on their mistake.

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                      • #12
                        OK, from what i understand the bridge would require not just air superiority but air supremecy during construction. Also, it is assumed the invasion has taken place and atleast South East England is secured. By the time the bridge is finished then the whole of south England is secured, the British have surrendered and any remaining forces have been pushed up into Scotland.

                        Therefore, all the Southern ports have been captured with probably heavy damage to the ones in the South East but lighter damage to the South West and North.

                        Why not just use the resources available to repair the lighter damaged ports and build more merchant ships? Quicker, cheaper and less costly. In the mean time the German's are fighting the Russians.
                        Wolster

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by MLCrassus View Post
                          Sealion is not the best plan in the world, I will say that. Crossing the channel in canal-boats etc doesn't really sound like a smooth ride to me. But it is within the realms of possibility. The bridge idea is unbelievably ridiculous, I don't quite know how to get this across but its going to take years and years. Russia, however, is, in the German mindset, that old rotten building. With hindsight the bridge may cost less, but to work counterfactually it HAS to be a reasonable option to those at the time. Did any Nazi suggest a bridge? I doubt it. Why? Because it would be too expensive, too laborious and too vulnerable.
                          .
                          I am not discussing the probability of germans choosing it,but wheather it is their viable option.
                          While such project will be labour costly, don't forget that it wouldn't require that much of the more precious resources - steel, specialists in ship building etc. etc. It will require a looooots of POWs doing unqualified work.
                          As to the british artillery pounding from the shore - that is true ,however don't forget that the invasion may start BEFORE the bridge is finished - say when there are ~ 5 km left. Then the invading force may dug in in the immediate area around the future bridge connection and hold out disallowing any direct artillery assault. Such force will be much easier to supply since it will be close to the bridge head, and will not require any tanks or much gasoline (some anti tanks guns can be transported and positioned even before the bridge is done)
                          Of course that force will have to hold out for several months.
                          I agree that if the project takes more than an year and a half, the russians may attack and it will be too late. However the sheer psychological pressure on the brits of a slowly advancing inevitable death may be enough for them to seek peace even before any actual attack. Besides , I made some calculations and if the bridge is around 20m wide and the Germany puts veery high priority on the project it may have been done in an year and a half.
                          Of course I'm not an expert on such bridges, but I was hoping somewone else here is?
                          Originally posted by MLCrassus View Post
                          You see, you do understand some of the Nazi mentality, and you are right, it is unlikely to see them halting the Russian invasion. Hitler will not wait until 1942 to launch Barbarossa, and you suggest 3 years to build. It just isn't happening. I can't stress this enough. It really is a white elephant. Rommel, Guderian and Manstein would laugh it out of HQ and anyone supporting it would be demoted and sent home to think on their mistake.
                          Hmm, Rommel and Manstein weren't calling the shots at this point in HQ. Guderian would have been consulted with, but he was more of a tank specialist than on overall strategy.
                          Still considering the grandioso and megalomanic thinking of Hitler there exist a slight possibility that making the british island an european peninsula migh have sparked a enthusiasm in his head.
                          If you believe, you receive.
                          If you doubt, you go without.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by leopold View Post
                            I am not discussing the probability of germans choosing it,but wheather it is their viable option..
                            No it isn't.
                            The minimum length this causeway would be, is 21 miles, and the depth of the Channel in this area is around 120 to 180ft. The channel is also tidal, so it would have to built strongly with high sides above the water-line to cope with surges in the water and winter storms.
                            All the time, the construction would be under fire from protected shore based 16 inch or similar naval guns.
                            It can't be done.
                            Last edited by redcoat; 14 Nov 06, 07:26.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by leopold View Post
                              I am not discussing the probability of germans choosing it,but wheather it is their viable option.
                              Choosing to finish off Britain before turning on Russia was a viable option, yet in the end it wasn't chosen. The German mindset is just as important in deciding whether a project is viable as logistics. It doesn't matter if it's feasible- which this isn't- if it's something that would never be chosen.

                              While such project will be labour costly, don't forget that it wouldn't require that much of the more precious resources - steel, specialists in ship building etc. etc. It will require a looooots of POWs doing unqualified work.
                              Building a causeway requires just as much specialist skill as building a normal bridge. Both need, in essence, the same foundations and the same basic structure. You can't just have prisoners of war; you need experts, architects and builders. By the way, if the Germans aren't going to war with Russia, where is this handy store of able-bodied male slave labour coming from?

                              As to the british artillery pounding from the shore - that is true ,however don't forget that the invasion may start BEFORE the bridge is finished - say when there are ~ 5 km left.
                              If you invade before the bridge is started, you need a port. If you have a port, why have the bridge? If you don't have a port, why the hell are you dumping your men on the Dover coast and leaving them to die?

                              Then the invading force may dug in in the immediate area around the future bridge connection and hold out disallowing any direct artillery assault.
                              This small pocket of resistance is going to be the target for every piece of artillery the British can muster. It would be Stalingrad multiplied by Falaise. There would be absolute slaughter. The whole point of a naval landing is that you get off the beach-head as soon as possible.

                              Such force will be much easier to supply since it will be close to the bridge head,
                              So those trucks are just going to roll right off the end of the bridge and over the sea bed? How does the unfinished bridge make anything any easier? Unless you're now adding a dock with the capacity of a major Channel port to your concrete forts and naval guns.

                              However the sheer psychological pressure on the brits of a slowly advancing inevitable death may be enough for them to seek peace even before any actual attack.
                              Because the psychological pressure of the Germans massing across the Channel poised to invade caused them to surrender, right? Every single time the bridge is bombed, every succesful sabotage attempt, every time a torpedo boat manages to delay construction is going to revive British spirits.
                              Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt

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