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Sheepster
Post subject: Posted: October 1st, 2020, 3:01 am
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Battle Of The Ardennes, 10-12 May 1940

The most powerful German pincer force of Army Group A advanced almost unopposed through Luxembourg, meeting resistance only with the Belgian Chasseurs Ardennais. The bottleneck of transiting the massive Army Group through Luxembourg and the forests of the Ardennes led to traffic jams 250km long. This sitting target was attacked by AASF Fairey Battles with minimal effect and heavy losses, while the French bombers were committed, and savaged by the massed Luftwaffe, over the Netherlands – that concentration of German air power adding to the deception that the German focus was to the north. Believing that the Ardennes’ natural features and fortifications would preclude a major action, the French had no sense of urgency in reinforcing the sector, and German forces were able to reach the Meuse Line defences late on the 12th.

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With loses to the AASF, two additional squadrons of Hurricanes were dispatched to France on the 12th. Consideration was also given to sending Whitely or Wellington bombers, but this was quickly rejected with the potential for a future strategic offensive requiring them to remain in Britain.


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Sheepster
Post subject: Posted: October 1st, 2020, 4:42 am
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Elsewhere

In the semi-autonomous Netherlands East Indies a state of emergency was declared on the 10th when news of the German invasion reached Batavia.
Fleeing the advancing Germans, the Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg and her government fled to France.
On the 11th British and French forces moved into the Dutch possessions of the Caribbean.
French troops landed at Bjerkvik in Norway on the 12th, adding to the pressure that Norwegian and Polish forces had been putting on the Germans near Narvik.
On the 13th the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina and her family and the Dutch government departed the Continent to establish a government in exile in Britain. In Westminster, new Prime Minister Churchill gave his ominous “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech, preparing the British people for his vision of the war.
With the situation in the Low Countries looking ominous, on the 14th Britain created a civilian paramilitary defence force to counter a potential invasion; the Local Defence Volunteers.


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Sheepster
Post subject: Posted: October 2nd, 2020, 8:27 am
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Battle Of Hannut, 12-14 May 1940

On the morning of the 12th the German 4th Panzer Division reached Hannut, and came in to contact with the French amour. Overhead French bombers made several large attacks, but were overwhelmed by Bf 109’s, and by the afternoon the French air force had been withdrawn to support Sedan, giving command of the skies to the Germans. For the remainder of the day and that evening, both sides attacked and countered by foot and armour, with little movement and the French holding position.

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On the 13th heavy fighting led to the largest tank battles ever seen. Initially the French held the advantage of superior firepower and armour, but tactics eventually turned the battles. The French S35’s outmatched the Panzer I and II’s, and were able to hold their own against the III’s and IV’s. But the French tanks did not have radios, the planned upgrade had fitted them with antennas only and not progressed further, and the tank commander was also the gunner and loader, and so the panzers were more flexible in operation.
Finally on the evening of the 14th the depleted cavalry units disengaged, and the German forces advanced towards Gembloux.


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Sheepster
Post subject: Posted: October 2nd, 2020, 8:28 am
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Crossing The Meuse, 12-14 May 1940

The River Meuse was a natural defensive barrier, averaging 60m wide and with a swift flow, with the western banks being steep and wooded.
On the night of the 12th a motorcycle battalion of the German XV Corp discovered an unguarded footbridge and established the first crossing of the Meuse at Dinant in southern Belgium. and by the 13th had established a bridgehead on the western bank. This northern foothold was very tenuous, and by the morning of the 14th only 15 panzers had made the crossing to the western bank.
Just over the French border to the south the XLI Panzer Corps also managed to capture a small bridgehead at a loop in the Meuse at Monthermé, but strong French defence prevented the Germans being able to exploit it or advance any further.


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Sheepster
Post subject: Posted: October 3rd, 2020, 5:25 am
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Battle Of Sedan, 13-14 May 1940

On the night of the 12th German forces moved unopposed into the town of Sedan on the natural barrier of the Meuse River north of the Maginot Line. On the ridges behind Sedan French emplacements had been built, and more were only partially completed. French defensive forces were of poor quality, with little combat effectiveness as they were primarily middle-aged reservists having spent more time on construction than training.
With little artillery, the Germans strategy called for the Luftwaffe to provide the initial bombardment to weaken the French defences in preparation for the crossing of the Meuse. After having concentrated their actions to the north, the Luftwaffe now provided the heaviest aerial bombardment ever seen to the French positions. For 8 hours Stukas screamed down onto the French positions, while fighters swept over the positions strafing fortifications and cutting communication lines. The morale of the defenders was broken, and although casualties on both sides were minimal, 56 French killed and 6 aircraft downed, the psychological damage crippled the French defence, with French units deserting their positions and retreating south to the town of Bulson.

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The German assault plan consisted of 3 thrusts; the 2nd Panzer Division to force a crossing at Donchery, 5km west of Sedan, the 1st Panzer Division to cross at Gaulier, at the north of Sedan, and the 10th Panzer Division at Wadelincort, just to the south of Sedan.
With the end to the aerial bombardment at 4pm, the 1st Panzer’s rifle regiment moved forward to discover that the French positions were still effective and German 88mm guns were brought forward to knock out the bunkers and machine guns. The progress was slow as individual bunkers had to be cleared, but by 8pm they had penetrated to initial objective.
The 2nd Panzer was delayed through the Ardennes, and so only arrived at Sedan only after the other units commenced their assaults. Forced to advance over 3km of open ground to the River, they discovered that the French artillery and bunkers were a force strong enough to prevent any crossings. However once the 1st Panzer had consolidated their position they were able to turn and put pressure on the French positions, so that by 10:30pm 2nd Panzer was able to start crossing to reinforce the German bridgehead.
The 10th Panzer also struggled to afford a crossing. Eventually a single 11-man engineer team managed to cross and knocked out enough bunkers to enable further infantry units to cross by 9pm.
By 1am on the 14th, pontoon bridges had been erected to allow armoured cars and trucks to cross, and by 7:30am the panzers were crossing.


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Sheepster
Post subject: Posted: October 3rd, 2020, 10:19 pm
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The capture of Sedan and reports of the crossing of the Meuse finally galvanised the French Command, who called for a total effort against the bridgehead and the panzers, urging that the bridges be destroyed by air attack at all cost.
The AASF launched early morning sorties with squadrons of Fairey Battles and for the first time in combat Avro Manchester MkII’s. The Luftwaffe was conspicuous by its absence, and even though the Germans had a total of 303 anti-aircraft guns included in the massed forces at Sedan many were still in transport. As the AASF aircraft arrived over Sedan the German forces from both the 1st and 2nd Panzers were queuing their armour to cross multiple pontoon bridges at Gaulier, with the 10th crossing armour on bridges at Wadelincort.
The initial attacks by the Battles achieved no success with 1 aircraft being lost to groundfire. The unblooded Manchesters followed, with the lead aircraft’s crew earning the first RAF Victoria Crosses in the War. Running in over the pontoon bridges at Gaulier the lead Manchester was seen to cause damage to several of the bridges. Following the attack, the aircraft continued at low level over the German positions, drawing fire from the German gunners. With no bombs remaining the gunners turned the Manchester’s cannons onto the German positions and assembled vehicles, while the lone Manchester orbited overhead Sedan. The following Manchesters now pressed home the attack, knocking out all the pontoon bridges at Gaulier and causing significant damage to those at Wadelincort. The lead aircraft continued over Sedan even after its ammunition was exhausted, continuing to draw fire until the other aircraft of the force completed their attacks and returned to base. The aircraft was eventually brought down by the damage it had received, with the loss of the crew.

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While the British aircraft were rearming, a diverse French bomber force of the survivors of the battles over the Belgium escorted by an equally ragtag collection of fighters attacked Sedan. Included were obsolete Amiot 143 night bombers, pressed into daylight action for the first time. By the time the French aircraft arrived over Sedan the Luftwaffe had arrived in force, and after serious losses by both ground and air fire for negligible effect, the French bomber force was effectively eliminated.

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On the ground the German crossing was thrown in to a state of confusion. The bridging at Donchery had not been completed, which is what had forced 2nd Panzer to cross to the east at Gaulier. Significant damage had been done at Gaulier, most importantly to the Panzer III and IV’s which had been waiting to cross, with the shattered tanks and burning fuel impeding efforts to impose order. East at Wadelincort the crossing of the Meuse continued. The German forces had planned to push forward from their bridgehead towards the town of Bulson, but with the knocking out of the bridges the Germans were deprived of the bulk of their heavier armour, having mainly Panzer I and II’s in the attacking force. Knowing they were not strong enough to push forward, the Germans delayed until more armour could be crossed from 10th Panzer.
After having refuelled and rearmed the AASF Manchesters returned to Sedan after the French bomber force had been mauled. This time the British force included Hurricanes, but the Luftwaffe fighters were defending the bridgehead in significant numbers. The Hurricanes threw themselves in to the defence of the bombers, but were heavily outnumbered by the more experienced Messerschmitt pilots and suffered heavy losses. Likewise the Blenheims and Battles took heavy casualties, with few aircraft returning to base. The Manchesters though held their own against the Luftwaffe fighters, with the concentrated fire from their cannon turrets identifying them as dangerous targets and largely immune to attacks by single fighters.
The Manchesters pressed home their bombing attacks and effectively destroyed the remaining massed armour of 1st and 2nd Panzer. Damage to the German pontoon bridges was now sufficient to isolate the German bridgehead over the Meuse. With air superiority gained over the bridgehead, the Manchesters followed the lead of the first Manchester over Sedan and descended to low level to strafe the still massed German forces at Sedan. With the momentum of the advance broken, the remaining German forces in Sedan adopted a defensive posture and started digging in.
In the bridgehead, the isolated German forces consolidated into the forest on the Marfée Ridge between Bulson and Sedan, with the thin-skinned German armour hiding from the Manchesters under the trees. The French brought forward their slower but heavier Hotchkiss and Char B1-bis tanks to enter combat late in the afternoon. Meanwhile the airwar seesawed again as the British aircraft returned to their bases and the Luftwaffe arrived, this time with both fighters and Stukas. The exposed advancing French armour was hammered by the Stukas, and the French counterattack halted. As darkness fell and airpower left the battlefield, the isolated German troops dug in in preparation for further attacks the following day.

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Sheepster
Post subject: Posted: October 4th, 2020, 11:20 pm
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Surrender Of Rotterdam, 14 May 1940

In Rotterdam the German airborne forces brought in by seaplane had captured the Willemsbrug, but had not been able to force onto the northern bank of the Nieuwe Mass more than a couple of houses, as the Dutch defenders had not been able to dislodge them or destroy the bridge. On the morning of the 14th Hitler issued an order that Dutch resistance was to be broken as soon as possible, and Goring ordered carpet bombing of Rotterdam.
In Rotterdam, the German field commander planned a major offensive to take Rotterdam, and used the threat of destruction of the city to attempt to force a surrender of the defenders. After some prevarication negotiations commenced, but only as the bombers were heard approaching the city. After attempts to radio the bombers to abort the attack failed, red signal flares were fired by the German ground forces as the standard signal of friendly forces. The German force totalled 90 Heinkel He 111 bombers, split into a southern and a northern attack formation, with both groups descending down to only 700m for their attack runs in smoke and haze. The southern formation of 24 aircraft recognised the flares and aborted their attack only after 3 aircraft had already dropped their bomb loads on Rotterdam. The larger northern formation also noted the flares and aborted their bombing run but continued and overflew the city at low level.

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With the obvious indication of the German intent, the Dutch commander surrendered the city of Rotterdam.
Later that afternoon the Luftwaffe conducted a leaflet drop over the city of Utrecht, threatening that city too with destruction if the city was not surrendered. At a hurried conference with his general staff, the Dutch commander considered whether further resistance was justifiable. With British forces embarking for the Netherlands, the decision was made to continue fighting, but to withdraw all troops from Utrecht under the cover of darkness to fall back towards the Stelling van Amsterdam defences, while flooding the New Dutch Waterline and the Amsterdam Defence Line.
The Welsh Guards had sailed for Hoek van Holland, but with news of the surrender of Rotterdam, were redirected to the port of Flushing to reinforce the defence of Zeeland, arriving before dawn on the 15th. A Hurricane squadron was prepared for deployment to the Netherlands, to depart at sunrise on the 15th.

Oops, corrected the wing leading edge.


Last edited by Sheepster on October 26th, 2020, 10:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Vossiej
Post subject: Re: Manchester AUPosted: October 5th, 2020, 2:14 am
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Absolutely awesome stuff, and well written too! I was intrigued by the title ''AU'', but all the stories you tell seem pretty much close (or right on) the truth of events unfolding. I must say as a Dutchman I am familiar with the events unfolding during early May 1940, not as much certain with the other countries. Did you get your info from the following website by any chance: http://www.waroverholland.nl/ ?

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“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.”


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Sheepster
Post subject: Re: Manchester AUPosted: October 5th, 2020, 1:47 pm
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Thanks @Vossiej. Yes, a very good reference to the war in the Netherlands that got lots of hits from me!
Yes it is pretty much how events unfolded so far, the only differences are what builds up from the initial small change of the flying of the turret Manchester. As time passes, like ripples spreading out in a pond, the changes gain momentum and that critical point has been reached with the halting of the crossing at Sedan.
The Rotterdam blitz was a fluke of history, the German ground forces tried to stop the Heinkels. Frantic radio calls were not able to reach the bombers, and "friendly forces don't attack" signal flares were launched. In our alternity the southern flight of bombers were able to see the flares, but the northern flight were not able to see that signal. In this alternity the northern flight also sees the flares and doesn't drop. But the psychological effect of massed bombers at low-level has sufficient threat to lead to the Dutch surrendering the city, so effectively the same result as in our alternity but without burning the city down.
I was going to model the aircraft flown by the mission commander, who was the lead of the northern flight, but as he failed in our alternity I instead modelled the leader of the southern flight. By halting his flight's bombing run in both our world and this version Hohne became a hero.


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Sheepster
Post subject: Posted: October 5th, 2020, 3:34 pm
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Battle Of The Gembloux Gap, 15 May 1940

After delaying the German panzer attacks in Belgium at the Battle of Hannut, the French forces fell back to the principal defensive position along the Gembloux rail-line. Rather than the previous mobile battle, the Germans were now advancing the panzers in towards a defensive position. Fierce resistance from the French artillery and anti-tank fire prevented any advance being made by the panzers, although German air superiority allowed Stukas to attack the French positions, causing more psychological than physical damage.
Driven on by orders from senior command to advance the Germans prepared for an assault on the 15th.
With infantry leading, the 4th Panzer Division attacked the town of Gembloux itself, while further north along the rail-line the 3rd Panzer Division attacked at the hamlet of Perbais, and both attacks were immediately pinned down by French artillery and infantry fire. With massive losses of both men and machines the assault was halted by 11am. Stuka attacks on the French positions were called for over noon, but without effect on the French artillery, with orders for a withdrawal to the starting point beginning to flow from 2pm. As darkness fell the last of the German infantry disengaged and retreated. Fully one third of the armour of the combined German divisions had been destroyed. The attacking force had been so badly mauled and was now so depleted of resources that 6th Army headquarters instructed that any further German assault would need to be delayed until the 17th.

Central Belgium, 15 May 1940

With the French holding their defensive line along the railway from Namur through Gembloux, the British Expeditionary Force had also advanced to their defensive position continuing the line north to cover Brussels, with the Belgian army falling back to continue the defensive line to Antwerp. The German push had been through Fort Eben-Emael moving southwest towards the French defenders, and having dislodged the initial Belgian positions had not been directed towards the more northerly BEF positions.


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