What was Operation Sealion?
This was the German plan to invade the United Kingdom.
What was the context? In June 1940 Germany defeated France and the French were forced to surrender. The German Army was stationed all along the Atlantic Coast of France.
The UK was the last country in Europe fighting against the Third Reich (Germany). The UK had some allies – Australia, India and Canada for example but they did not produce many weapons.
Why did Germany make this plan?
Hitler knew that if he defeated the UK then he would be master of all of Europe. At that stage the USA was neutral. The Soviet Union was also neutral.
What did the plan consist of?
The Wehrmacht (Germany Military) planned landings at various places in the south and east of England. This was because these beaches were the closest places to France. Before the landings the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) needed to win air superiority. The German Army would land and storm London. They would then take over major cities. They estimated the British would surrender within a month.
What were the German plans for after the conquered the UK?
The German Military wrote Informationsheft England (”Information booklet about England”). It gave a very detailed plan for what to do once they beat the British. There was a list of about 10 000 people to be arrested including politicians and intellectuals. They wanted to kill the British Prime Minister Churchill right away. They hoped to find another British politician who would be willing to become Prime Minister and take orders from Hitler. Windsor Castle would be Hitler’s home whenever he visited the UK. The capital would move from London to Oxford.
Was the plan ever put into action?
No, it was not. It failed at stage one. The Germany Navy was not strong enough to beat the Royal Navy. The Germans gathered barges from all over Western Europe. These were not suitable for a sea crossing. The shortest point to sail across to England was only 30 km but a barge will easily sink in the sea. A barge is good for a canal only.
What about air superiority?
The Luftwaffe – German Air Force – attempted to win air superiority in September 1940. The RAF was more numerous than the Luftwaffe. The British aircraft factories built planes much faster than the German ones. The British also had radar which was top secret at the time. Therefore the RAF could see the Luftwaffe coming and shoot them down. The German Air Force suffered too many losses. They wasted their time bombing civilian areas and not attacking air bases and factories. Hitler then abandoned the idea of launching Operation Sealion.
Was this ever a serious plan?
Some people say it was never a serious plan. Hitler did not want to fight the British. He wanted to scare them into negotiating. Some British wanted to do a deal. Prime Minister Churchill refused to talk. Hitler’s real aim was to invade the Soviet Union. He started moving troops and planes towards the east in September 1940. His plan was to attack the USSR in the spring of 1940. Operation Sealion was just to trick the Soviets into thinking that the Germans were going to attack west and not east.
Would Operation Sealion have worked?
That all depends on air superiority and naval superiority. Without air superiority and naval superiority there is no way the German Army could land. But if they had landed there is little doubt they would have smashed the British. The Germans were more numerous and had better weapons. Every time the British and Germans fought it was the Germans who won.