Invasion of France and the Low Countries
|Invasion of France and the Low Countries
Adopting von Manstein’s plan as Case Yellow, the Germans invaded the Low Countries at 0430 hr on 10 May 1940. Knowing that they could not afford to be delayed by the Dutch and Belgian border fortifications or the numerous rivers and canals, the Germans landed assault parties by glider and parachute to seize key positions. The Dutch and Belgians did their best to resist but their plans were badly dislocated by the loss of the border fortifications, which they were expecting to buy time for their troops to deploy. One mechanised French army and the British Army swung north from the French border heading for the Dyle Line to assist the Belgians. Another mechanised French army crossed Belgium racing to aid the Dutch. The Meuse River opposite the Ardennes was covered by reserve divisions of a secondline French army. The German plan was working perfectly.
|While the Allies were distracted by the attacks in the Low Countries, the bulk of the German armoured divisions were racing through the Ardennes almost unopposed, reaching the Meuse River on 12 May. The French reserve divisions barely slowed the German thrust, and by 15 May the Germans had a large bridgehead across the river. A day later the German spearhead was through the French defences and far behind the Allied front line. The German tanks reached the coast at the mouth of the Somme River on 20 September, cutting the British and French armies off from their supplies.
|Marching on half rations, the British and French
fell back, mounting a fighting withdrawal as they tried to close their
wide-open flank. Sporadic attempts to re-establish contact with the rest
of the French Army failed, leaving evacuation the only alternative.
Between 27 May and 4 June the Royal Navy evacuated 200,000 British
troops and 140,000 Belgian and French troops from Dunkirk, leaving
30,000 French behind holding the beachhead to the end.
|With Case Yellow completed more successfully than anyone could have imagined, the time had come to take Paris and subdue France in its entirety. The plan for this was Case Red. With half of the French Army and 90% of the British Army destroyed, Case Red was much simpler than Case Yellow’s sickle stroke. All that was required was simultaneous attacks along the entire front line to secure crossings over the Somme River, then an all-out pursuit to ensure that the French could not form another defensive line.
|The German success in executing this plan
conceals the determination with which the French and British opposed
them. Stunned by the defeat in Belgium, many French soldiers felt they
had been sucker punched in Belgium and were determined to stop the
Germans from going further. Most of the French troops evacuated from
Dunkirk were reformed into divisions, re-equipped with the latest
weapons rolling off the production lines and sent back to the front
eager for vengeance. The British sent divisions to France as fast as
they could be prepared for combat.
|When the Germans crossed the Somme on 5 June, they were initially stopped cold. The French were fighting their type of battle and were determined to win. Unfortunately they were badly outnumbered and no longer had a reserve, so when the Germans finally broke through they were unstoppable. Paris fell on 14 June, and a week later France surrendered.
|Want To Know More About Blitzkrieg?
Over the past few months we have added a massive range of articles
about Blitzkrieg to the website, to make it easier for people to find a
specific article we have put together this handy place.
Find out more about Blitzkrieg and Early-war here...
Last Updated On Friday, October 1, 2010 by Blake at Battlefront