Raeder initiates a study of an invasion of England

Grand Admiral Raeder, Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine, gives an order for "the possibility of invading England to be examined" as he thought Hitler might suddenly ask him for an invasion-plan at some point.

After consultation with Admiral Saalwächter, Reader sets up a small special staff for the preliminary work to study an armed conflict with Britain. The studies were the responsibility of Vice Admiral Schniewind, Chief of Staff of the Naval War Staff, and Rear Admiral Fricke, Chief of the Operations Department - both considered by Raeder as among his most competent advisors.

There were to study the possibilities of an invasion of England from the specific technical problem of transport, in addition to the overall naval and military problems. Extreme care was taken to keep the knowledge of this study limited.

The Navy would be the ones who first had to determine weather, and under what conditions, it could be carried out.

Hansjürgen Reinicke, Raeder's operations officer, reports back five days later outlining the following prerequisites:

  • Eliminating or sealing off Royal Navy forces from the lanidng and approach areas.
  • Eliminating the Royal Air Force
  • Destroying all Royal Navy units in the coastal zone.
  • Preventing British submarine action against the landing fleet.

Two weeks later a seaborne assault "on a grand scale" across the North Sea "appears to be a possible expedient for forcing the enemy to sue for peace". The Heer, and later the Luftwaffe, were uncompromisingly sceptical and it wasn't passed to the OKW.

The study is based on Hitler's Directive No. 6 which gives an objective of capturing sections of the Dutch, Belgian and French coast. The report concludes that if the conditions could be set up the British would be so demoralised that an assault would not be necessary. A landing from the North Sea on the east coast of England is preferred, though less advantageous than capturing harbours. There is no mention of a unified command or timely provision of amphibious equipment.

Raeder records:

Up until now my main endeavour had been to convince Hitler and the armed forces command that this war on commerce should be carried out on to the maximum extent of Germany's warpower and armament. Hence, any diversion of our already inadequate naval forces for some other objective would materially impair out naval campaign against the British enemy. Only if such a landing in England could be achieved without too much risk or too much difficulty - and that was highly improbable - should we deviate from our original plan.

[Date TBC]

Hitler issues Directive No. 9 Principles for the Conduct of the War against the Enemy's Economy

The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces
Berlin, 29 Nov. 1939
OKW/WFA Nr. 215/39 g.Kdos. Chefs. Abt.L I
Eleven copies
Top secret

Directive No. 9 Principles for the Conduct of the War against the Enemy's Economy.

  1. In the war against the Western Powers, Great Britain is the driving spirit and the leading power of our enemies. The conquest of Britain is, therefore, the prerequisite for final victory.

    The most effective means to achieve this is to paralyze Britain's economy through interrupting it at critical points.

  2. The development of the situation and progress in our armament may, in the near future, create favorable, conditions for extensive warfare against the foundations of British economy. The necessary provisions must therefore be made as early as possible for striking a destructive blow at the British economy by concentrating suitable weapons of our Armed Forces on the most important targets.
    The non-military means of warfare, complementary to the measures of the Armed Forces, will be put into effect according to special instructions.
  3. As soon as the Army has succeeded in defeating the Anglo-French field army and in occupying and holding a part of the coast facing England, the task of the Navy and the Air Force of carrying on warfare against the economic structure of Britain will become of prime importance. Cooperation of the sabotage and fifth column organizations is desirable.
  4. To the Navy and Air Force will fall the following joint tasks, enumerated here in the sequence of their importance:
    1. Attacks on the main British ports of transshipment by mining and blocking the approaches to the harbors and by destroying vital port installations and sea locks.
      In this connection the role of the mine-laying planes will be a very important one, especially with regard to the harbors. on the west coast of Britain, in narrow waterways, and estuaries.
    2. Attacks on British merchant shipping and against the enemy fleet protecting it.
    3. Destruction of British supplies of oil and of food in cooling plants and grain elevators.
    4. Interference with British troop and supply transports to theFrench coast.
    5. Destruction of industrial plants, the elimination of which is of decisive importance for the conduct of the war; above all of key-plants of the aviation industry and the factories producing heavy ordnance, anti-aircraft guns., ammunition, and explosives.
  5. The most important transshipment ports in the British Isles, which handle 95% of the foreign trade and could not be adequately replaced by others, are:

    • London
    • Liverpool
    • Manchester

    for imports of food, timber, and oil, and the processing therof.

    These three harbors, handling 58% of England's peacetime imports, are of decisive importance.

    • Newcastle
    • Swansea
    • Blyth
    • Sunderland
    • Barry
    • Hull

    for the export of coal.

    The following may be considered alternate harbors, but to a limited extent and for certain goods only:

    • Grangemouth
    • Leith
    • Middlesbrough
    • Grimsby
    • Southampton
    • Glasgow
    • Holyhead
    • Bristol
    • Belfast
    • Newport
    • Goole
    • Dundee

    It will be necessary to watch continuously for any possible shifting in the use of these harbors. Besides it will be important gradually to compress and shift British foreign trade into channels which are within easy range or our naval and air forces.

    French harbors will be attacked only insofar as they play a role in the siege or Britain, or if they are or importance as debarkation points for troops.

  6. In harbors which cannot be blocked effectively with mines, merchant shipping is to be paralyzed by sinking ships in the roadsteads and by destroying vital harbor installations. Special emphasis is to be laid upon the destruction or the great canal locks at the harbors or Leith, Sunderland, Hull, Grimsby, London, Manchester (Ship Canal), Liverpool, Cardiff, Swansea, and Bristol-Avonmouth. Particularly on the west coast these locks are very important in regulating the water level and, through it, the harbor traffic.
  7. In preparing these actions it will be important to do the following:

    1. Continually to check and supplement the basic data available on British harbors, their installations and capacity, as well as information on the British war industries and supply depots.
    2. To rush the development or an effective method enabling planes to lay moored mines also.
    3. To provide a large supply or mines, sufficient for the increased demands or the Navy and Air Force.
    4. To coordinate the strategy of the Navy and Air Force, as to time and location.

These preparations are to be made as soon as possible. I request the Commanders in Chief of the Navy and the Air Force to keep me constantly informed about their plans.

I shall decide later as to when the restrictions still in effect in the naval and air war will be lifted. This probably will coincide with the start of the big offensive.

signed: Adolf Hitler

Heer issues Nordwest study paper on the invasion of Britain

The army issues its own study paper and solicited oppions from the Kreigsmarine and Luftwaffe.

It outlines an assault on the east coast between The Wash and The Thames by 100,000 troops transported and protected by the Kreigsmarine from ports in the Low Countries and suppored by airborne troops.

The Kreigsmarine could not envisage taking on the Royal Navy and said it would take a year to organise troop transports.

Goering respoded in a single page letter:

[A] combined operation having the objective of landing in England must be rejected. It could only be the final act of an already victorious war against Britain as otherwise the preconditions for success of a combined operation would not be met.

[Date TBC]

Hitler reacts negatively to Seelöwe plan

When presented with it, Hitler's reaction to Seelöwe is unfavourable. This is probably the first time he has been presented with plans to invade England as it has not been presented to the OKW. At this stage the plan is a landing on the East coast.

Raeder:

The Führer and the Commander-in-Chief, Navy, discuss in private details concerning the invasion of England, on which the Naval Staff has been working since November.

Seeking guidance on U-boat strategy Raeder asks Hitler if the war was going to be decided quickly, or was it wiser to assume that it would "last some time"? Hitler favours the second assumption.

Hitler promises that, after the "main operations in France" are finished he will concentrate on the submarine and Ju 88 construction programs.

Raeder names air superiority over the Channel as the first condition of any invasion:

Rader:

I named absolute mastery over the Channel by our air forces as the first condition of any landing attempt.  Furthermore, this German air superiority had not only to achieve mastery of the air, but also would have to damage the British Fleet tremendously even if it could not completely prevent its appearance on the scene.  Anything less than this would make the risk too great and the invasion unjustified.  The diversion of a huge percentage of Germany's ocean, coastal and river shipping for transport of the invasion troops, I pointed out, would greatly impair Germany's domestic economy.

Hitler listed to all that I said, but expressed no views of his own at the time except to order that for the time being no preparations for a landing be made. But in any case Hitler had now been warned that any landing in England would have to be carefully studied first, and then just as carefully planned.

Reader brings the invasion plan to Hitler to forestall it being suggested by "some irresponsible person" and Hitler jumping to the idea which would mean the Kreigsmarine would be faced with impossible tasks.

All my experience with Hitler had convinced me of the importance of giving him our own opinions of a situation before less qualified people could gain his ear.

Furthermore, we had just completed a most successful amphibious operation, over wide waters, against Norway, and many people might get the idea that a similar move could be equally successful against England.

At first glance, the jump across the Channel, whose opposite shore could easily be seen from France in good weather, would seem far less dangerous that the Norwegian landings. But any experienced naval leader would know that just the opposite was true. A long and careful preparation was absolutely necessary.

Such a landing would be extremely difficult and attended with the gravest risks. However, the development of the aeroplane for both combat and and transport purposes had brought a new element not present in previous wars, and hence the possibilities of a successful invasion were not so infinitesimal as formerly. A powerful and effective Air Force might create conditions favourable for an invasion, whether it could was not in the Navy War Staff's province.

Generals Keitel, Jodel, Commander von Puttkamer (Hitler's naval adjutant) were present at the conference.

Halder records in his diary:

The overall picture of the day shows that the big battle is in full swing.

Hydrofoils and floating bunkers with caterpillar tracks that could climb beaches are mentioned as landing craft by Raeder.

Chiefs of Staff report to the Prime Minister

The main conclusion is that, while the RAF was in existence, the Royal Navy and Air Force in unison probably have the power to prevent seaborne invasion. If, however, the Germans gain air superiority, the navy would not be able to stop landings ‘for an indefinite period’. Then, German land forces would get ashore and the British Army would be ‘insufficient to deal with a serious invasion’.

Source: COS Paper No 168 of 1940

Invasion Warning Sub-Committee is convened

This is an inter-service body, under a naval chairman, and holds its first meeting in the Admiralty. The committee is one of several intelligence agencies and will scrutinise all evidence available in London which might seem to have a bearing on the enemy's intentions. It was one of several intelligence agencies that advised the Chiefs of Staff via daily direct reports.

Invasion of England is not mentioned at Raeder's interview with Hitler

This is the first meeting since the invasion was initially proposed. It has not been disclosed outside Raeder's own headquarters.

Hitler states it is his intention "to dcrease the size of the Army when France has been overthrown and release all older men and skilled workmen" and primises the Navy and Luftwaffe will have "top priority".

Merchant Shipping Division sends a letter to Naval High command discussing transports

Rhine ships can be available in fourteen days to three weeks. Ten motor passenger vessels, 200 motor tugs, 85 powered barges, 12 motor tankers, 2,000 barges. Rhine vessels are not considered very suitable for transport of troops and equipment due to their lack of seaworthyness and low longitudinal strength.

OKW assess invasion of Britain

Warlimont (Jodel's deputy chief of the OKW's Operations Staff) notes that:

With regard to a landing in Britain, the Führer … has not up to now expressed such an intention, as he fully appreciates the unusual difficulties of such an operation. Therefore, even at this time, no preparatory work of any type has been carried out at OKW.

Only the Kriegsmarine has begun provisionally earmarking shipping and collating topographical intelligence about the coast between The Isle of Wight and the Wash.

Raeder raises invasion of England with Hitler

Raeder urges the Luftwaffe to start "vigorous air attacks on British bases in order to destroy ships under construction and repair". Hitler replies he is contemplating "taking such action soon".

The preparations for an invasion of England … the locality chosen for landing … mines … shipping … special craft … air supremacy.

Raeder records no comment from Hitler but does talk about a plan to settle Jews on Madagascar and complains about a "rude telegram" from Göring sent him about a plan to invade Iceland code-named Icarus - Raeder says it will require the entire Navy.

Heretofore, apparently, no one outside the Navy had given the matter any thought. But shortly after my second report of 20 June the Supreme Command of Armed Forces suddenly began to show an unexpected interest. After the fall of France it was obvious that it would be a pertinent question as to what direction the war should take now. The last Norwegian defenders capitulated on 10 June. Norway was now in our hands. On the same day Italy entered the war on our side, and with the signing of the armistice with France on 21 June the only opponent left was England.

Keitel explains "that the demands made by the Navy have been approved at this very moment."

General Jodel produces a study entitled "Continuation of the War against England"

It views a sea strike against Britain as a last resort but prepartions should be made to exert political pressure on Britain to remain Inactive.

Hitler approved these plans and formalised them in Directive 16.