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Post-Dunkirk
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Captain Bearcat Offline
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Post: #1
Post-Dunkirk
Today is the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of at Dunkirk.

We all know how some 330,000 Allied troops were rescued at Dunkirk from May 27th - June 4th, 1940. But the Fall of France was still three weeks away.

I thought I'd highlight some interesting parts about what happened after Dunkirk that few people today remember. These are from Winston Churchill's 6-volume history of World War Two.

Feel free to add your own!
05-27-2020 08:50 AM
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Captain Bearcat Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Post-Dunkirk
Churchill recounts how the Americans re-armed the men rescued from Dunkirk.

Within 2 months of Dunkirk 500,000 rifles, 80,000 machine guns, and 900 field guns from the USA were in the hands of the men who were rescued from Dunkirk.

Quote:(page 141, Book 2)
There was of course a darker side to Dunkirk. We had lost the whole equipment of the Army to which all the firstfruits of our factories had hitherto been given:
7,000 tons of ammunition
90,000 rifles
2,300 guns
120,000 vehicles
8,000 Bren guns
400 anti-tank rifles

Many months must elapse, even if the existing programmes were fulfilled without interruption by the enemy, before this loss could be repaired.

However, across the Atlantic in the United States strong emotions were already stirring in the breasts of its leading men. It was at once realised that the bulk of the British Army had got away only with the loss of all their equipment. As early as June 1 the President sent out orders to the War and Navy Departments to report what weapons they could spare for Britain and France. At the head of the American Army as Chief of Staff was General Marshall, not only a soldier of proved quality, but a man of commanding vision. He instantly directed his Chief of Ordinance and his Assistant Chief of Staff to survey the entire list of the American reserve ordnance and munitions stocks. In forty-eight hours the answers were given, and on June 3 Marshall approved the lists. The first list comprised half a million .30 calibre rifles out of two million manufactured in 1917 and 1918 and stored in grease for more than twenty years. For these there were about 250 cartridges apiece. There were 900 soixante-quinze field guns with a million rounds, 80,000 machine guns, and various other items. In his excellent book about American supplies Mr. Stettinius says, "Since every hour counted, it was decided that the Army should sell (for 37 million dollars) everything on the list to one concern which could in turn resell immediately to the British and French." The Chief of Ordnance, Major-General Wesson, was told to handle the matter, and immediately on June 3 all the American Army depots and arsenals started packing the material for shipment. By the end of the week more than six hundred heavily loaded freight cars were rolling towards the Army docks at Raritan, New Jersey, up the river from Gravesend Bay. By June 11 a dozen British merchant ships moved into the bay and anchored, and loading from lighters began.

By these extraordinary measures the United States left themselves with the equipment for only 1,800,000 men, the minimum figures stipulated by the American Army Mobilisation Plan. All this reads easily now, but at that time it was a supreme act of faith and leadership for the United States to deprive themselves of this very considerable mass of arms for the sake of a country which many deemed already beaten. They never had need to repent of it. As will presently be recounted, we ferried these precious weapons safely across the Atlantic during July, and they formed not only a material gain, but an important factor in all calculations made by friend or foe about invasion.

(skip ahead to page 271)

Letter from Prime Minister to Secretary of State for War, July 7 1940
I have asked the Admiralty to make very special arrangements for bringing in your rifle convoys. They are sending four destroyers far out to meet them, and all should arrive during the 9th. You can ascertain the hour from the Admiralty. I was so glad to hear that you were making all preparations for the unloading, reception, and distribution of these rifles. At least one hundred thousand ought to reach the troops that very night, or in the small hours of the following morning. Special trains should be used to distribute them and the ammunition according to a plan worked out beforehand exactly, and directed from the landing-port by some high officer thoroughly acquainted with it.It would seem likely that you would emphasize early distribution to the coastal districts, so that all in the Home Guard in the danger areas should be the first served. Perhaps you would be good enough to let me know beforehand what you decide.

Letter from Prime Minister to First Lord, July 27 1940
The great consignments of rifles and guns, together with their ammunition, which are now approaching this country are entirely on a different level from anything else we have transported across the ocean except the Canadian Division itself. Do not forget that 200,000 rifles mean 200,000 men, as the men are waiting for the rifles. The convoys approaching on July 31 are unique, and a special effort should be made to ensure their safe arrival. The loss of these rifles and field guns would be a disaster of the first order.

When the ships from America approached our shores with their priceless arms, special trains were waiting in all the ports to receive their cargoes. The Home Guard in every county, in every town, in every village, sat up all through the nights to receive them. Men and women worked night and day making them fit for use. By the end of July we were an armed nation, so far as parachute or air-borne landings were concerned. We had become a "hornet's nest." Anyhow, if we had to go down fighting (which I did not anticipate), a lot of our men and some women had weapons in their hands. The arrival of the first installment of the half-million .300 rifles for the Home Guard (albeit with only about fifty cartridges apiece, of which we dared only issue ten, and no factories yet set in motion) enabled us to transfer 300,000 .303 British-type rifles to the rapidly expanding formations of the Regular Army.
(This post was last modified: 05-27-2020 09:01 AM by Captain Bearcat.)
05-27-2020 08:59 AM
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Captain Bearcat Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Post-Dunkirk
Nearly the whole strength of the British Army was in northern France at the start of the war. When Hitler attacked Beligum, the British Army and elements of the French Army were sent to Belgium's aid. These divisions were all either destroyed in Belgium or brought back to Britain without any weapons.

The first thing Britain did after the Battle of France was to send its only two combat-ready divisions (a division was roughly 15,000 men) BACK to France.

They also sent 2 French divisions rescued from Norway on June 8th and the 140,000 French troops rescued at Dunkirk back to France.

Quote:(page 144, book 2)

The following scheme was devised by the Secretary of State and the War Office for reconstituting the Army in accordance with the directives which had been issued. Seven movile brigade groups were already in existence. The divisions returned from Dunkirk were reconstituted, re-equipped as fast as possible, and took up their stations. In time the seven brigade groups were absorbed into the re-formed divisions. There were available fourteen Territorial divisions of high-quality men who had been nine months ardently training under war conditions and were partly equipped. One of these, the 52nd, was already fit for service overseas. There was a second armored division and four Army tank brigades in process of formation, but without tanks. There was the 1st Canadian Division fully equipped.

It was not men that were lacking, but arms. Over 80,000 rifles were retrieved from the communications and bases south of the Seine, and by the middle of June every fighting man in the Regular forces had at least a personal weapon in his hand. We had very little field artillery, even for the Regular Army. Nearly all the new 25-pounders had been lost in France. There remained about five hundred 18-pounders, 4.5-inch and 6-inch howitzers. There were only 103 cruiser, 132 infantry, and 252 light tanks. Fifty of the infantry tanks were at home in a battalion of the Royal Tank Regiment, and the remainder were in training-schools. Never has a great nation been so naked before her foes.....

Apart from our last twenty-five Fighter Squadrons, on which we were adamant, we regarded the duty of sending aid to the French Army as paramount. The movement of the 52nd Division to France, under previous orders, was due to begin on June 7th (my note - this is 3 days after Dunkirk ended). These orders were confirmed. The 3rd division, under General Montgomery, was put first in equipment and assigned to France. The leading division of the Canadian Army, which had concentrated in England early in the year and was well armed, was directed, with the full assent of the Dominion Government, to Brest to begin arriving there on June 11 for what might by this time already be deemed a forlorn hope. The two French light divisions evacuated from Norway were also sent home, together with all the French units and individuals we had carried away from Dunkirk.

That we should have sent our only two formed divisions, the 52nd Lowland Division and the 1st Canadian Division, over to our failing French ally in this mortal crisis, when the whole fury of Germany must soon fall upon us, must be set to our credit against the very limited forces we had been able to put in France in the first eight months of the war.... We had still in France, behind the Somme, the 51st Highland Division, which had been withdrawn from the Maginot Line and was in good condition, and the 52nd Lowland Division, which was arriving in Normandy. There was also our 1st (and only) Armoured Division, less the tank battalion and the support group which had been sent to Calais. This however, had lost heavily in attempts to cross the Somme as part of Weygand's plan. By June 1 it was reduced to one-third of its strength, and was sent back across the Seine to refit. At the same time a composite force known as "Beauman Force" was scraped together from the bases and lines of communications in France. It consisted of nine improvised infantry battalions, armed mainly with rifles, and very few anti-tank weapons. It had neither transport nor signals.

The Tenth French Army, with this British contingent, tried to hold the line of the Somme. The 51st Division alone had a front of 16 miles, and the rest of the army was equally strained. On June 5 the final phase of the Battle of France began.... All this immense line, in which there stood at this moment nearly one and a half million men, or perhaps 65 divisions, was now to be assaulted by 124 German divisions.
05-27-2020 10:14 AM
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