I took the matter directly to Hitler, and requested his personal decision as to whether the invasion was to take place on the broad front envisioned by the Army or on the narrow front advocated by the Navy. I pointed out again my opinion that Operation Sea Lion should be regarded only as a last resort in case England could not be forced to negotiate for peace by any other means.
Hitler agreed, but wanted to speak again with the Commander in Chief of the Army, as the breadth of the invasion front might be a decisive factor in the whole ensuing land campaign. At this time the strength of the military forces in England was estimated to be in excess of a million and a half men. Of these 300,000 were seasoned English, French and Canadian troops rescued from Dunkirk and some 150,000 retrieved from other continental Channel ports. They had been rearmed. The would defend the island.
The opposing views of the Army and Navy as to the breadth of the landing front were reconciled temporarily by a compromise proposal for the Supreme Command of Armed Forces. Then Hitler made the final decision that the army had to arrange its operations in accordance with what the Navy believed its own forces could achieve.
It was still an open question as to whether the Air Force would actually succeed in attaining complete mastery of the air. At the end of August, according to the reports of the Air Force, the prospects seemed very good. In reality, however, the German Air Force had attained no significant superiority over the Royal Air Force, and although some weakening of the enemy's defences was apparent, the British fighters, bombers, and, most important, minelaying planes, were still everywhere in the sky. Our own anti-aircraft defence was not good enough to prevent continuous enemy air activity over the Channel ports, with the result that our congregating shipping and our embarkation areas were under steady observation and attack. On 13 September alone we lost 80 transport barges to enemy air attacks.