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  • 1940 France fights on in North Africa

    I did a quick search and didn't find one on this topic, so...

    Just cursorily thinking of this, it does seem possible that the French Government (as I believe Paul Reynaud wanted to do?) could have fled to North Africa with significant elements of the French Army and government. The wehrmacht had to regroup after Dunkirk before their drive on Paris and the French were able to hold off Mussolini's feeble efforts so an effective French withdrawal might well have been achieved. Assuming it was (picture De Gaulle and other young ticked off officers leading an aggressive defense)
    then you'd have a highly motivated exiled government. Makes you wonder how Hitler would handle such a situation- really harshly or with even more kid gloves on the French mainland. While Hitler would probably argue the war was still effectively over the generals might fear a three front war if the Soviet Union was invaded (Russia, England, the French/British in North Africa and much of the mediterranean).

    Such a scenario would, I think, significantly have changed (and perhaps not all to the good of the allies) the direction of the war. Several hundred thousands of French troops, the bulk of the French navy, and at least some of the French air force with the British would, in would seem, quickly take over Italian colonies and assure no Africa Corp expedition. Might even Corsica be held and Sardinia captured? Given the overwheming British-French naval dominance It would seem very vulnerable. perhaps leading to either German dominance/occupation to defend Italy or Italian suing for peace and/or ousting Mussolini.

    Would the actual situation in the Balkans (including Crete) play out the same?
    Last edited by Tuor; 17 Jun 11, 14:12.

  • #2
    It would have been bad for the French left behind all of France would have been occupied.

    The Nazi's punished countries who resisted eg Denmark kids gloves, Netherlands much less so.
    Cymru am Byth

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    • #3
      France didn’t the logistical or industrial infer-structure to continue the war in North Africa. What would have happened is they would have moved into the world’s largest self-imposed POW camp.
      Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy. -- Ernest Benn

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      • #4
        The Germans would have had to have continued on through Tunisia and then west to Morocco or simply taken Tunisia and then cordoned of Algeria along the Atlas Mountains. The Fench would have had to have pooled whatever resources they had remaining in Africa with little in the way of help from the British until at least October. The French Fleet would have spared a lot of British ships for use elsewhere. Of course, all the French needed to do was organised 6 or 8 divisions and they could have stopped the Italin army and whatever German support could struggle its way forward.


        German difficulties would have been mainly logistical as they were by no means prepared to carry the battle into north Africa in July 1940 although with bases in Sardinia they could have closed the eastern ports to French naval traffic. However, much like the barges drafted for Sealion had to be returned to their economic role so did a large portion of the German truck fleet hauling supplies for the army in France. Much of it was drafted civilian transport (and their drivers) and by late June many of the trucks were on their last legs and had to be sent back to Germany for repair and then returned to civilian economy.

        The focus of the campaign would shift to Tunisia for most of 1940 until the British moved in Cyrenaica and then you would likely see two Axis campaigns in Africa. The Algerian front supplied through Tunis and the Egyptian front supplied through Libya. Considering Hitler's view of the Mediterranean as a tertiary front it is unlikely the Germans would commit more than 'just enough" to hold the front in 1941 with the advent of Barbarossa.
        The Purist

        Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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        • #5
          It propably would mean the 100% German forces concentreted on east front which could end up with Soviet Russia defeated. Good for French state honour and national morale though.
          Kosovo is Serbian.
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          • #6
            Purist,

            I would argue that germany doesn't get the chance to move into Africa. Assuming a longer fight in France - perhaps with a strong rearguard down the Rhone valley & another Dunkirk in Brittany - Germany is going to take a while to get frontline units ready for combat again.

            French units will also be in rough shape, but it is possible that fresher units in NA might even launch attacks on Libya (and the Brits on Cyrenacia) before France falls. Certainly quite a bit of air power was shifted to NA in OTL. Granted, the equipment is going to struggle after a while with access to parts & ammo cut off, but by the time this starts to hurt France & Britain may control all of NA.

            With the French Fleet intact Italy is going to have a LOT of trouble resupplying, let alone reinforcing her colony. Germany might be able to fly troops in, but I'm wondering if anything heavier than what can be flown ever joins them. Italian NA may either fall over or be effectively unreinforcable by the time Germany is ready to send troops.

            Also remember that a decent chunk of German air power was tied up over England at about this time. Perhaps Italy doesn't send any units to the BoB at all. Granted, they contributed little, but every plane the Axis don't send is a plane that the RAF don't have to counter - putting more pressure on the resources actually deployed.

            Once French equipment becomes difficult to maintain it will slowly get replaced by US equipment. There were already US planes on the way to France in 1940, they might even arrive in NA in time to fight. If they don't they will form part of a new French Airforce Armee de l'air.

            I'll need to have a bit of a think about the wider consequences of all this, but I suspect one of the bigger ones will relate to Japan. With Africa Allied from top to bottom & a return to Europe unlikely in the immediate term Britain & perhaps France can reinforce Asian colonies. This may not save Indochina & parts of Malaya, but the fight on the Malay Penninsula was a close run thing. Better air cover, a few more experienced troops & some armoured formations might just have altered the outcome.
            Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one - Hunter S. Thompson

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Draco Borealis View Post
              It propably would mean the 100% German forces concentreted on east front which could end up with Soviet Russia defeated. Good for French state honour and national morale though.
              Draco,

              I would argue that it would be more likely to see more German forces tied up in occupying France & fighting an Anglo-French force in the Balkans during the lead up to Barbarossa. I think the ultimate result would be the same, but more forces tied up for longer & suffering greater attrition won't shift the balance of forces in Russia any further in Germany's favour.
              Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one - Hunter S. Thompson

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              • #8
                A good question actually - and one which really requires a strict delimitation between what would probably have occurred and what we - as armchair generals - would do.

                First, obviously, the Germans would have to continue their advance all the way to Bordeaux, Marseilles and the Spanish border - not all too difficult considering the French military collapse. After that, everything remains speculative.

                First speculation: considering that Italy's position in the Mediterranean faces a British-French naval superiority, while the Italian position in Libya faces a two-front situation with the British in Egypt and the French in Tunisia. Thus, I consider it reasonable to suggest that the Italian invasion of Egypt - a half-hearted effort to begin with, is cancelled, with the Italians remaining on the defensive in the Western desert, while going on the offensive in Tunisia.

                Second speculation: the possibility of French and British naval interdiction of the Italian supply lines to Libya and a realisation that he faces a stronger combined Allied force in this theater, would probably have Mussolini requesting German support earlier than it occurred historically. Considering IMHO that Hitler's support of a German invasion of Britain was always tepid to begin with, this may give Hitler enough of a reason not to bother with the Battle of Britain and to send German air assets into the Mediterranean instead to support his Italian ally.

                Third speculation: that Britain, freed from facing a possible onslaught of the Luftwaffe and an immediate German invasion, starts transporting air and land assets into North Africa.

                In short, North Africa becomes a major theater of war much earlier.

                More remote speculative possibilities
                1. German realisation that the Malta bottleneck must be addressed in 1940 in order to split the Mediterranean and cut British-French communications as well as secure Italian-German reinforcements to Libya.

                2. Despite the appearance of British military assets in Algeria and possibly Tunisia, their position is weakened by the fact that there is little economic infrastructure to maintain and supply the Allied forces in this sector, with almost all supplies coming by ship from Britain. Without the appearance of the American liberty flotillas, this supply will be difficult to maintain - especially considering the toll of British shipping at the hands of the U-boats in 1940.

                3. After initial logistical difficulties in bringing in German forces into North Africa, once Malta has been dealt with and air superiority achieved, the Germans and Italians should slowly be able to achieve the advantage and begin offensive operations in Tunisia-Algeria.

                Final speculation: German-Italian conquest of Algeria, Tunisia. German air bases at the entrance to the Mediterranean. The possibility of an airborne drop on Gibraltar or at the very least the neutralisation of this location as a British naval base due to its now exposed position. British position in Mediterranean severely weakened by late 1940-early 1941 compared to the historical record. Possible undermining of British influence in the Balkans and Yugoslavia especially. Potentially, no Yugoslav "revolt" against Germany in 1941. Once the Germans have already committed themselves to the Mediterranean in 1940, the potential for a more serious German attempt on Egypt in 1941 just to finish the job. Luftwaffe in a much stronger position due to the Battle of Britain not occurring.

                In short - potentially a benefit to the Germans.

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                • #9
                  I think some consideration would have to be given to Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps. Althought the enemy I have to give them credit for the job they did in the North African desart with Hitler being so obsinent and not giveing Rommell all the supplies he needed . One American Lieuteant used his tacatics in the Gulph War and out foxed the Iraquis so Rommels tactics were still taught even today .

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tuor View Post
                    I did a quick search and didn't find one on this topic, so...

                    Just cursorily thinking of this, it does seem possible that the French Government (as I believe Paul Reynaud wanted to do?) could have fled to North Africa with significant elements of the French Army and government. The wehrmacht had to regroup after Dunkirk before their drive on Paris and the French were able to hold off Mussolini's feeble efforts so an effective French withdrawal might well have been achieved. Assuming it was (picture De Gaulle and other young ticked off officers leading an aggressive defense)
                    then you'd have a highly motivated exiled government. Makes you wonder how Hitler would handle such a situation- really harshly or with even more kid gloves on the French mainland. While Hitler would probably argue the war was still effectively over the generals might fear a three front war if the Soviet Union was invaded (Russia, England, the French/British in North Africa and much of the mediterranean).

                    Such a scenario would, I think, significantly have changed (and perhaps not all to the good of the allies) the direction of the war. Several hundred thousands of French troops, the bulk of the French navy, and at least some of the French air force with the British would, in would seem, quickly take over Italian colonies and assure no Africa Corp expedition. Might even Corsica be held and Sardinia captured? Given the overwheming British-French naval dominance It would seem very vulnerable. perhaps leading to either German dominance/occupation to defend Italy or Italian suing for peace and/or ousting Mussolini.

                    Would the actual situation in the Balkans (including Crete) play out the same?
                    Interresting, and I'm much on line with BF69. What parts of the FAF that was flown to NA were their more modern-equipped units. Among them Hawk 75's which performed very well against the Luftwaffe. Being US-made these could probably have been technically upheld in some way.
                    Saving MacArthur - a book series - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...ies_rw_dp_labf
                    River Wide, Ocean Deep - Operation Sealion - https://www.amazon.com/product-revie...owViewpoints=1

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Yankee View Post
                      I think some consideration would have to be given to Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps. Althought the enemy I have to give them credit for the job they did in the North African desart with Hitler being so obsinent and not giveing Rommell all the supplies he needed . One American Lieuteant used his tacatics in the Gulph War and out foxed the Iraquis so Rommels tactics were still taught even today .
                      Don't quite know how to break this to you, but TheSaintedRommel lost. Indeed TheSaintedRommel couldn't beat a British force getting supplied via the cape. How is he going to do against that force & an even larger French force beinf supplied direct through the Atlantic? Actually, how is he going to get any tanks & fuel to Africa when the RM faces a naval force double the size it did historically and the Allies can use Tunisia to challenge Axis air power? There is a pretty good chance that Libya falls while The SaintedRommel is still refitting in France.
                      Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one - Hunter S. Thompson

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by skoblin View Post
                        Final speculation: German-Italian conquest of Algeria, Tunisia. German air bases at the entrance to the Mediterranean. The possibility of an airborne drop on Gibraltar or at the very least the neutralisation of this location as a British naval base due to its now exposed position. British position in Mediterranean severely weakened by late 1940-early 1941 compared to the historical record. Possible undermining of British influence in the Balkans and Yugoslavia especially. Potentially, no Yugoslav "revolt" against Germany in 1941. Once the Germans have already committed themselves to the Mediterranean in 1940, the potential for a more serious German attempt on Egypt in 1941 just to finish the job. Luftwaffe in a much stronger position due to the Battle of Britain not occurring.

                        In short - potentially a benefit to the Germans.
                        In my opinion - an excellent analysis - except maybe the last part (above). France continuing together with Britain would give them much the same position in the US as the UK in the OTL. With other words, supplies. They had US-made fighters and medium bombers. Many on orders which hadn't been delivered, too. Problem is, would they have money to pay for them?
                        Saving MacArthur - a book series - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...ies_rw_dp_labf
                        River Wide, Ocean Deep - Operation Sealion - https://www.amazon.com/product-revie...owViewpoints=1

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                        • #13
                          I just want to know if the French even had the transport capability to get all their stuff down there. And even if they could, there was so little infrastructure. How could they fight a war down there? All their supplies would have to come via Britain or North America and land in Morocco. German U-Boats could wreck a lot of havoc on those supply lines.
                          A wild liberal appears! Conservative uses logical reasoning and empirical evidence! It's super effective! Wild liberal faints.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by BF69
                            Once French equipment becomes difficult to maintain it will slowly get replaced by US equipment. There were already US planes on the way to France in 1940, they might even arrive in NA in time to fight. If they don't they will form part of a new French Airforce Armee de l'air.
                            I'd forgotten about that. Yes, I think U.S. opinion (even while still largely isolationist) would have sympathized with the "plucky French" fighting on and backed continued sending of planes to the NA French government. That plus some Spitfires/Hurricanes could lead to B/F aerial balance if not dominance.

                            And given the aggressive British actions against the Italians in the real world scenario, I'd think Churchill would have pushed for an early effort to secure all of North Africa so I'm rather dubious that the Germans could have secured NA, especially if fighting a two-front NA war with very limited resources coming in (and don't forget interceptions of supplies using ULTRA).

                            P.S., how might Churchill's rather quixotic British/French union proposal have fared? Maybe leading to a type of EU after the war.

                            P.P.S. Somewhat seriously, what's the timeline with the French NA military and government fighting on and the movie Casablanca coming out? Talk about great French p.r., with, of course, some significent rewriting called for.
                            Last edited by Tuor; 18 Jun 11, 13:43.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by leandros View Post
                              In my opinion - an excellent analysis - except maybe the last part (above). France continuing together with Britain would give them much the same position in the US as the UK in the OTL. With other words, supplies. They had US-made fighters and medium bombers. Many on orders which hadn't been delivered, too. Problem is, would they have money to pay for them?
                              I have been trying to find info on the location of the French gold reserves. I believe it was sent overseas. Some reference it being in Dakar therefore the attempted British-Fighting French invasion. Other sources place it in the Caribbean, on Martinique, transported there by the aircraft carrier Bearn. Any other info or links would be welcomed.

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