Campaign in France


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Napoleonic Wars. External Websites GlobalSecurity. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Article Media. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Behind the leading duo, the traditional parties are presenting themselves in different shapes following the presidential election fiasco. Both want France to leave the European Union and drop the euro. The potential of these lists remains very uncertain. The extra candidates appear unlikely to persuade more voters to turnout.

High levels of abstention for the European elections are nothing new. With one month to go before the European elections, French voters are showing little interest in them and appear to have limited knowledge of top candidates. Churchill asked Gamelin where and when the general proposed to launch a counterattack against the flanks of the German bulge. Gamelin simply replied "inferiority of numbers, inferiority of equipment, inferiority of methods". Some of the best Allied units in the north had seen little fighting. Had they been kept in reserve they might have been used in a decisive counter-attack.

Pre-war General Staff Studies had asserted the main reserves were to be kept on French soil to resist an invasion of the Low Countries and deliver a counterattack or "re-establish the integrity of the original front". The Germans combined their fighting vehicles in divisions and used them at the point of main effort. The bulk of French armour was scattered along the front in tiny formations. Most of the French reserve divisions had by now been committed. The 1st DCr had been wiped out when it had run out of fuel and the 3rd DCr had failed to take its opportunity to destroy the German bridgeheads at Sedan.

The formation was overrun by the 8th Panzer Division while still forming up and was destroyed as a fighting unit. The 4th DCr de Gaulle , attempted to launch an attack from the south at Montcornet , where Guderian had his Korps headquarters and the 1st Panzer Division had its rear service areas.

During the Battle of Montcornet Germans hastily improvised a defence while Guderian rushed up the 10th Panzer Division to threaten de Gaulle's flank. French losses on 17 May amounted to 32 tanks and armoured vehicles but the French had "inflicted loss on the Germans". On 19 May, after receiving reinforcements, de Gaulle attacked again and was repulsed with the loss of 80 of vehicles.

The defeat of the 4th DCr and the disintegration of the French Ninth Army was caused mainly by the fliegerkorps. Gort replied that seven of his nine divisions were already engaged on the Scheldt River and he had only two divisions left to mount such an attack. Ironside then asked Gort under whose command he was acting. Gort replied that this was General Billotte, the commander of the French 1st Army Group but that Billotte had issued no orders for eight days.

Ironside confronted Billotte, whose own headquarters was nearby and found him apparently incapable of taking action. He returned to Britain concerned that the BEF was doomed and ordered urgent anti-invasion measures. The German land forces could not remain inactive any longer, since it would allow the Allies to reorganise their defence or escape. On 19 May, Guderian was permitted to start moving again and smashed through the weak 12th Eastern Division and the 23rd Northumbrian Division Territorial divisions on the Somme river.

The German units occupied Amiens and secured the westernmost bridge over the river at Abbeville. This move isolated the British, French, Dutch and Belgian forces in the north from their supplies. From Noyelles, they were able to see the Somme estuary and the English Channel. Fliegerkorps VIII covered the dash to the channel coast. Heralded as the finest hour of the Ju 87 Stuka , these units responded via an extremely efficient communications system to requests for support, which blasted a path for the army. The Ju 87s were particularly effective at breaking up attacks along the flanks of the German forces, breaking fortified positions and disrupting supply routes.

In some cases, the Luftwaffe responded to requests within 10 to 20 minutes. Oberstleutnant Hans Seidemann the Fliegerkorps vIII Chief of Staff , said that "never again was such a smoothly functioning system for discussing and planning joint operations achieved". Closer examination reveals the army had to wait 45—75 minutes for Ju 87 units and ten minutes for Henschel Hs s.

Before January: the March towards the Invasion of France

On the morning of 20 May, Gamelin ordered the armies trapped in Belgium and northern France to fight their way south and link up with French forces attacking northwards from the Somme river. Allied delays caused by the French change of command gave the German infantry divisions time to follow up and reinforce the panzer corridor and the tanks had pushed further along the channel coast.

Leopold announced that the Belgian Army could not conduct offensive operations as it lacked tanks and aircraft and that unoccupied Belgium had enough food for only two weeks. Leopold did not expect the BEF to endanger itself to keep contact with the Belgian Army but warned that if it persisted with the southern offensive, the Belgian army would collapse. Gort doubted that the French could prevail and on 23 May, Billotte, the only Allied commander in the north briefed on the Weygand plan, was killed in a road accident, leaving the 1st Army Group leaderless for three days.

That day, the British decided to evacuate from the Channel ports. Only two local offensives, by the British and French in the north at Arras on 21 May and by the French from Cambrai in the south on 22 May, took place. Frankforce Major-General Harold Franklyn consisting of two divisions, had moved into the Arras area but Franklyn was not aware of a French push north toward Cambrai and the French were ignorant of a British attack towards Arras.

Franklyn assumed he was to relieve the Allied garrison at Arras and to cut German communications in the vicinity and was reluctant to commit the 5th Infantry Division , 50th Northumbrian Infantry Division , with the 3rd DLM from the French First Army providing flank protection, in a limited objective attack. Only two British infantry battalions and two battalions of the 1st Army Tank Brigade, with 58 Matilda I and 16 Matilda II tanks and an attached motorcycle battalion took part in the main attack. The Battle of Arras achieved surprise and initial success against overstretched German forces but failed in its objective.

Radio communication between tanks and infantry was poor and there was little combined arms co-ordination as practised by the Germans. The French knocked out many German tanks as they retired, but the Luftwaffe broke up the counter-attacks and 60 British tanks were lost. The southern attack at Cambrai also failed, because V Corps had been too disorganised after the fighting in Belgium to make a serious effort. French and British troops fought the Battle of Abbeville from 27 May to 4 June but failed to eliminate the German bridgehead south of the Somme.

In the early hours of 23 May, Gort ordered a retreat from Arras. Gort knew that the ports needed to supply such a foothold were already being threatened. That same day, the 2nd Panzer Division had assaulted Boulogne. The British garrison there surrendered on 25 May, although 4, men were evacuated by Royal Navy ships. The RAF also provided air cover, denying the Luftwaffe an opportunity to attack the shipping. British reinforcements the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment , equipped with cruiser tanks , and the 30th Motor Brigade had been hastily landed 24 hours before the Germans attacked.

The defenders held on to the port as long as possible, aware that an early capitulation would free up German forces to advance on Dunkirk.

“Destination Paris”, a campaign to combat the decline in tourism

The British and French held the town despite the best efforts of Schaal's division to break through. Frustrated, Guderian ordered that, if Calais had not fallen by on 26 May, he would withdraw the 10th Panzer Division and ask the Luftwaffe to destroy the town. Eventually, the French and British ran out of ammunition and the Germans were able to break into the fortified city at around on 26 May, 30 minutes before Schaal's deadline was up. Around men were evacuated. The siege lasted for four crucial days. Some 60 percent of Allied personnel were killed or wounded. Frieser wrote that the Franco-British counter-attack at Arras had a disproportionate effect on the Germans because the German higher commanders were apprehensive about flank security.

Kleist, the commander of Panzergruppe von Kleist perceived a "serious threat" and informed Halder that he had to wait until the crisis was resolved before continuing. On 22 May, when the attack had been repulsed, Rundstedt ordered that the situation at Arras must be restored before Panzergruppe von Kleist moved on Boulogne and Calais. At OKW, the panic was worse and Hitler contacted Army Group A on 22 May, to order that all mobile units were to operate either side of Arras and infantry units were to operate to the east.

The crisis among the higher staffs of the German army was not apparent at the front and Halder formed the same conclusion as Guderian, that the real threat was that the Allies would retreat to the channel coast too quickly and a race for the channel ports began. Frieser wrote that had the panzers advanced at the same speed on 21 May as they had on 20 May, before the halt order stopped their advance for 24 hours, Boulogne and Calais would have fallen.

Without a halt at Montcornet on 15 May and the second halt on 21 May after the Battle of Arras, the final halt order of 24 May would have been irrelevant, because Dunkirk would have already been captured by the 10th Panzer Division. About 28, men were evacuated on the first day. The French First Army—the bulk of which remained in Lille —mounted a long defence of the city owing to Weygand's failure to pull it back along with other French forces to the coast.

The 50, men involved finally capitulated on 31 May. While the First Army was mounting its sacrificial defence at Lille, it drew German forces away from Dunkirk, allowing 70, Allied soldiers to escape. Total Allied evacuation rates stood at , on 31 May. The gap left by the Belgian Army stretched from Ypres to Dixmude. Nevertheless, a collapse was prevented and , British and , French soldiers were evacuated by sea across the English Channel , codenamed Operation Dynamo. Between 31 May and 4 June, some 20, British and 98, French were saved.

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Still, some 30—40, French soldiers of the rearguard remained to be captured. During the Dunkirk battle, the Luftwaffe did its best to prevent the evacuation. It flew 1, bombing and 1, fighter sorties. British losses totalled 6 percent of their total losses during the French campaign, including 60 precious fighter pilots. The Luftwaffe failed in its task of preventing the evacuation, but inflicted serious losses on the Allied forces.

A total of 89 merchantmen of , grt were lost; the navy lost 29 of its 40 destroyers sunk or seriously damaged. The Germans lost around aircraft confirmed destroyed, and the RAF fighters. Confusion still reigned.

After the evacuation at Dunkirk, and while Paris was enduring a short-lived siege, part of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division was sent to Brittany, but was withdrawn after the French capitulation. It was joined by the former labour battalion of the 51st Highland Division and was forced to fight a rearguard action.

At the end of the campaign, Erwin Rommel praised the staunch resistance of British forces, despite being under-equipped and without ammunition for much of the fighting. By the end of May , the best and most modern French armies had been sent north and lost in the resulting encirclement; the French had also lost much of their heavy weaponry and their best armoured formations. Overall, the Allies had lost 61 divisions in Fall Gelb. Weygand had only 64 French divisions and the 51st Highland Infantry Division available. The Germans had divisions to use and air supremacy except over the English Channel.

The French also had to deal with millions of civilian refugees fleeing the war in what became known as L'Exode the Exodus ; automobiles and horse-drawn carts carrying possessions clogged roads. As the government had not foreseen such a rapid military collapse, there were few plans to cope. Between six and ten million French fled, sometimes so quickly that they left uneaten meals on tables, even while officials stated that there was no need to panic and that civilians should stay.

The population of Chartres declined from 23, to and Lille from , to 20,, while cities in the south such as Pau and Bordeaux rapidly grew in size. While Italy declared war on France and Britain on 10 June, it was not prepared for war and made little impact during the last two weeks of fighting in the Italian invasion of France. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was aware of this and sought to profit from German successes. The Germans began their second offensive on 5 June on the Somme and the Aisne.

During the next three weeks, far from the easy advance the Wehrmacht expected, they encountered strong resistance from a rejuvenated French Army. About , French soldiers from Dunkirk were repatriated via the Normandy and Brittany ports. It was some substitute for the lost divisions in Flanders. The French were also able to make good a significant amount of their armoured losses and raised the 1st and 2nd DCr heavy armoured divisions. The 4th DCR also had its losses replaced. Morale rose and was very high by the end of May Most French soldiers that knew about the defeats and were now joining the line, only knew of German success by hearsay.

French officers had gained tactical experience against German mobile units and had more confidence in their weapons after seeing that their artillery and tanks performed better than German armour. The French tanks were now known to have heavier armour and armament.

Between 23 and 28 May, the French Seventh and Tenth armies were reconstituted. Weygand decided to implement defence in depth and use delaying tactics to inflict maximum attrition on German units. Small towns and villages were fortified for all-round defence as tactical hedgehogs. Behind the front line the new infantry, armoured and half-mechanised divisions formed up, ready to counter-attack and relieve the surrounded units, which were to hold out at all costs.

The 47 divisions of Army Group B attacked either side of Paris with the majority of the mobile units. German offensive tactics were crude and Hoepner soon lost 80 out of AFVs in the first attack. The 4th Army captured bridgeheads over the Somme but the Germans struggled to get over the Aisne. The German Army relied on the Luftwaffe to silence French artillery, to enable German infantry to inch forward. German sources acknowledged the battle was "hard and costly in lives, the enemy putting up severe resistance, particularly in the woods and tree lines continuing the fight when our troops had pushed passed the point of resistance".

On 10 June, the French government declared Paris an open city. The French resisted the approaches to the capital strongly but the line was broken in several places. Weygand asserted it would not take long for the French Army to disintegrate. The number of sorties declined as losses were now becoming impossible to replace. The RAF attempted to divert the attention of the Luftwaffe with sorties flown against targets over the Dunkirk area but losses were heavy; on 21 June, 37 Bristol Blenheims were destroyed.

After 9 June, French aerial resistance virtually ceased; some surviving aircraft withdrew to French North Africa. The Luftwaffe now "ran riot". Its attacks were focused on the direct and indirect support of the German Army. The Luftwaffe subjected lines of resistance to ferocious assault, which then quickly collapsed under armoured attack. The goal of the operation was to envelop the Metz region, with its fortifications, to prevent a French counteroffensive from the Alsace region against the German line on the Somme.

The French, meanwhile, had moved the French 2nd Army Group from the Alsace and Lorraine to the 'Weygand line' on the Somme, leaving only small forces guarding the Maginot line. German attempts to break open or into the Maginot line prior to Tiger had failed. One assault lasted for eight hours on the extreme north of the line, costing the Germans 46 dead and wounded, while just two French were killed one at Ferme-Chappy and one at Fermont fortress. On 15 June, the last well-equipped French forces, including the French Fourth Army, were preparing to leave as the Germans struck.

The French now holding the line were skeletal. They could call upon the I Armeekorps of seven divisions and 1, artillery pieces, although most were First World War vintage, and could not penetrate the thick armour of the fortresses. The Luftwaffe deployed the Fliegerkorps V to give air support.

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The battle was difficult and slow progress was made against strong French resistance. However, each fortress was overcome one by one. It was the most heavily shelled of all the French positions. Nevertheless, its armour protected it from fatal damage. It had artillery pieces bolstered by heavy artillery and mortars. Most units surrendered on 25 June, and the Germans claimed to have taken , prisoners.

Some main fortresses continued the fight, despite appeals for surrender. The last only capitulated on 10 July, after a request from Georges, and only then under protest. I Fliegerkorps was assigned to the Normandy and Brittany sectors. On 9 and 10 June, the port of Cherbourg was subject to 15 tonnes of German bombs, while Le Havre received 10 bombing attacks that sank GRT of escaping Allied shipping. Nevertheless, the Luftwaffe failed to prevent the evacuation of some ,—, Allied personnel. Discouraged by his cabinet's hostile reaction to a British proposal to unite France and Britain to avoid defeat, and believing that his ministers no longer supported him, Reynaud resigned on 16 June.

Hitler sat in the same chair in which Marshal Ferdinand Foch had sat when he faced the defeated German representatives. The armistice was signed on the next day at French time , by General Keitel for Germany and Huntziger for France. The armistice and cease-fire went into effect, two days and six hours later, at on 25 June, once the Franco-Italian Armistice had also been signed, at on 24 June, near Rome.

In , Ernest May wrote that Hitler had better insight into the French and British governments than vice versa and knew that they would not go to war over Austria and Czechoslovakia, because he concentrated on politics rather than the state and national interest. Hitler sometimes concealed aspects of his thinking but he was unusually frank about priority and his assumptions. May referred to John Wheeler-Bennett ,. May asserted that in Paris, London and other capitals, there was an inability to believe that someone might want another world war.

He wrote that, given public reluctance to contemplate another war and a need to reach consensus about Germany, the rulers of France and Britain were reticent to resist German aggression , which limited dissent at the cost of enabling assumptions that suited their convenience.

The decision for war in September and the plan devised in the winter of — by Daladier for war with the USSR followed the same pattern. Hitler miscalculated Franco-British reactions to the invasion of Poland in September , because he had not realised that a shift in public opinion had occurred in mid May wrote that the French and British could have defeated Germany in with Czechoslovakia as an ally and also in late , when German forces in the West were incapable of preventing a French occupation of the Ruhr, which would have forced a capitulation or a futile German resistance in a war of attrition.

France did not invade Germany in because it wanted British lives to be at risk too and because of hopes that a blockade might force a German surrender without a bloodbath. The French and British also believed that they were militarily superior, which guaranteed victory. The run of victories enjoyed by Hitler from to could only be understood in the context of defeat being inconceivable to French and British leaders. In January , Hitler came close to ordering the invasion but was prevented by bad weather. Until the Mechelen Incident in January forced a fundamental revision of Fall Gelb , the main effort schwerpunkt of the German army in Belgium would have been confronted by first-rate French and British forces, equipped with more and better tanks and with a great advantage in artillery.

After the Mechelen Incident, OKH devised an alternative and hugely risky plan to make the invasion of Belgium a decoy, switch the main effort to the Ardennes, cross the Meuse and reach the Channel coast. May wrote that although the alternative plan was called the Manstein Plan , Guderian, Manstein, Rundstedt, Halder and Hitler had been equally important in its creation. Liss thought that swift reactions could not be expected from the "systematic French or the ponderous English" and used French and British methods, which made no provision for surprise and reacted slowly when one was sprung.

The results of the war games persuaded Halder that the Ardennes scheme could work, even though he and many other commanders still expected it to fail. May wrote that without the reassurance of intelligence analysis and the results of the war games, the possibility of Germany adopting the last version of Fall Gelb would have been remote. The French Dyle-Breda variant of the Allied deployment plan was based on an accurate prediction of German intentions, until the delays caused by the winter weather and shock of the Mechelen Incident, led to the radical revision of Fall Gelb. The French sought to assure the British that they would act to prevent the Luftwaffe using bases in the Netherlands and the Meuse valley and to encourage the Belgian and Dutch governments.

The politico-strategic aspects of the plan ossified French thinking, the Phoney War led to demands for Allied offensives in Scandinavia or the Balkans and the plan to start a war with the USSR. French generals thought that changes to the Dyle-Breda variant might lead to forces being taken from the Western Front. French and British intelligence sources were better than the German equivalents, which suffered from too many competing agencies but intelligence analysis was not as well integrated into Allied planning or decision-making. Information was delivered to operations officers but there was no mechanism like the German practice of allowing intelligence officers to comment on planning assumptions about opponents and allies.

The insularity of the French and British intelligence agencies meant that had they been asked if Germany would continue with a plan to attack across the Belgian plain after the Mechelen Incident, they would not have been able to point out how risky the Dyle-Breda variant was. May wrote that the wartime performance of the Allied intelligence services was abysmal.

Daily and weekly evaluations had no analysis of fanciful predictions about German intentions and a May report from Switzerland, that the Germans would attack through the Ardennes, was marked as a German spoof. According to May, French and British rulers were at fault for tolerating poor performance by the intelligence agencies; that the Germans could achieve surprise in May , showed that even with Hitler, the process of executive judgement in Germany had worked better than in France and Britain.

May referred to Marc Bloch in Strange Defeat , that the German victory was a "triumph of intellect", which depended on Hitler's "methodical opportunism". May further asserted that, despite Allied mistakes, the Germans could not have succeeded but for outrageous good luck. German commanders wrote during the campaign and after, that often only a small difference had separated success from failure. Prioux thought that a counter-offensive could still have worked up to 19 May but by then, roads were crowded with Belgian refugees when they were needed for redeployment and the French transport units, which performed well in the advance into Belgium, failed for lack of plans to move them back.

Gamelin had said "It is all a question of hours. France was divided into a German occupation zone in the north and west and a "free zone" zone libre in the south. In response to the formation of a new political structure in France mandated by the Nazi government of Germany, De Gaulle, who had been made an Undersecretary of National Defence by Reynaud in London at the time of the armistice, delivered his Appeal of 18 June.


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Churchill's desire for American aid led in September to the Destroyers for Bases agreement that began the wartime Anglo-American partnership. The occupation of the various French zones continued until November , when the Allies began Operation Torch , the invasion of Western North Africa. This threatened to cut off German troops in western and central France, and most began to retire toward Germany.

The fortified French Atlantic U-boat bases remained as pockets until the German capitulation. On 24 August , Paris was liberated , and by September most of the country was in Allied hands. The Free French provisional government declared the re-establishment of a provisional French Republic to ensure continuity with the defunct Third Republic.

It was well equipped and well supplied despite the economic disruption brought by the occupation thanks to Lend-Lease and grew from , men in the summer of to over 1,, by V-E day , making it the fourth largest Allied army in Europe. The unit under his command, barely above company size when it had captured the Italian fort, had grown into an armoured division.

By the end of the war, some , French citizens had died 40, of these by the western Allied forces during the bombardments of the first 48 hours of Operation Overlord. Military deaths were 92, in — Some 58, were killed in action from to fighting in the Free French forces. Civilian casualties amounted to around , 60, by aerial bombing, 60, in the resistance and 30, murdered by German occupation forces.

Prisoners of war and deportee totals were around 1,, Of these, around , died in captivity. An estimated 40, were prisoners of war, , racial deportees, 60, political prisoners and 40, died as slave labourers. German casualties are hard to determine but commonly accepted figures are: 27, killed, , wounded and 18, missing.

A further 2, men suffered from frostbite during the campaign.

Brienne and La Rothière

The official Italian numbers were compiled for a report on 18 July , when many of the fallen still lay under snow and it is probable that most of the Italian missing were dead. Units operating in more difficult terrain had higher ratios of missing to killed but probably most of the missing had died.

According to the French Defence Historical Service , 85, French military personnel were killed including 5, Maghrebis , 12, missing, , wounded and 1,, prisoners including 67, Maghrebis. At least 3, Senegalese Tirailleurs were murdered after being taken prisoner. However, the tank losses are amplified by the large numbers that were abandoned or scuttled and subsequently captured. The British also lost ships to Luftwaffe bombing in Dynamo , including 8 destroyers and 8 troopships. Hitler had expected a million Germans to die in conquering France; instead, his goal was accomplished in just six weeks with only 27, Germans killed, 18, missing and , wounded, little more than a third of the German casualties in the Battle of Verdun during World War I.

If an increase in feeling for Adolf Hitler was still possible, it has become reality with the day of the return to Berlin", commented one report from the provinces. Workers in the armaments factories pressed to be allowed to join the army. People thought final victory was around the corner. Only Britain stood in the way. For perhaps the only time during the Third Reich there was genuine war-fever among the population. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Successful German invasion of France in Axis armies. Allied armies. Battle of France. Main article: Invasion of Poland.

Campaign in north-east France (1814)

Main articles: Saar Offensive and Phoney War. Main article: Manstein Plan. Main article: Mechelen incident. See also: French war planning — See also: Order of battle for the Battle of France. Main article: Battle of the Netherlands. Main article: Battle of Belgium. Main articles: Battle of Sedan and Luftwaffe Organization. Main article: Battle of Arras. Main article: Operation Dynamo.

Campaign in France Campaign in France
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Campaign in France Campaign in France
Campaign in France Campaign in France
Campaign in France Campaign in France
Campaign in France Campaign in France
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