Orchard Dump
Webmatters : The Battle for France May/June 1940

May 1940

Military Hardware

1939 — the Polish cavalry gallantly charge the German Panzer tanks. 1940 — those same Panzers appear in photos and news footage.

The all powerful German war machine.

And yet, following a sudden turn from pacifism towards national security the Western Allies were far from lacking in military might.

France, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands were able to put almost as many soldiers into the field as the Germans so a certain parity can be seen in the numbers of men available.

Whilst Britain still pretty much ruled the waves, there was no doubt that over France it would be the Luftwaffe which would rule the skies. The French Air Force had about half as many machines available as Göring had on call, and they badly lacked fighters and medium bombers.

As for anti-aircraft guns, the equipment that the French army possessed was totally insufficient given the known capacity of its opponents.

France herself was capable of fielding more tanks — and often better tanks — than the Wehrmacht, but, for example the B1 Tank had an endurance of only 135km and required refuelling twice a day. Because French military doctrine consistently looked towards supporting the infantry in a defensive role, little thought had really been given to the idea of an armoured riposte.

Perhaps the French Tank formation’s greatest weakness was its lack of radios. Only the command vehicle was equipped with one.

Hitler’s Third Reich was severely constrained by its economy. The State did not possess enough money to pay for everything that it needed and the grey shadow of a second depression was quite capable of becoming a reality.

Unable to purchase materials from the United States, Germany turned to the Soviet Union for important supplies.

A 1917 situation started to develop. Then, the Allies were anxiously awaiting the US troops to become available by the million in 1919, and Germany following the collapse of Russia had a temporary numerical superiority for 1918.

In the late thirties as the French and British began to galvanise themselves it became apparent to Hitler that time was running out. The Western powers would soon overtake Germany’s military output.

Hitler ordered that the country push itself to the limit in preparing for a war that he needed to start as quickly as possible.

It is easy to think of the German war machine as consisting of nothing but Panzers and Stuka bombers and yet not all the steel manufactured was used in making tanks. Barbed wire and bunkers had not been put aside and at times consumed more raw materials than the tank factories.