In 1940 Britain held its breath, bracing for what seemed the inevitable invasion of our island by the mighty German Army. ‘Operation Sealion’ was certainly on the cards, but ultimately failed to materialise. That the invasion never came is thanks to a mixture of Hitler’s own poor judgement, the omnipotence of the Royal Navy, which dictated that whoever controlled the skies would win the day, and the great and heroic deeds of our airmen in both Fighter Command and Bomber Command during the Battle of Britain.
Norman Longmate explains in his ‘If Britain had Fallen’ that Hitler only began to seriously plan his invasion 2 days before his speech to the Reichstag in mid-July. This demonstrates not only his emotional attachment to Britain, but also his arrogance. Britain’s best generals spent 2 years planning their D-Day amphibious invasion, crafting and perfecting the arrangements. Having swept through Europe more rapidly than he could ever have imagined, Hitler plainly expected to be able to mount a similar invasion extremely quickly, since bad weather would make it unfeasible to invade from mid-September onwards.
Reading Hitler’s words regarding Britain, the curious mixture of respect and condescension, affection and brutal anger, plainly demonstrates just how torn up by indecision the normally forceful Führer was when it came to invading the United Kingdom:
Hitler on the British people
(From the memoirs of Field Marshal Kesselring) “I recall an interview with him in 1943 when, on my appraising the military achievements of the English, Hitler threw back his shoulders, looked me squarely in the eye, and commented, “Of course, they are a Germanic people too!””
“I make no secret of the fact that, in my eyes, the life of a single German is worth more than twenty Britishers!” (September 1942)
Hitler on the future
“I am fully aware that this continuation of the war will end only in the complete shattering of one of the two warring parties. Mr Churchill may believe this to be Germany. I know it to be England.
“And when I now turn to speak of the future, I do so not to boast or brag; this I can well leave up to others who are in greater need of it, as for example Mr Churchill.”
Hitler on the invasion
“It almost causes me pain to feel that I should have been selected by fate to deal the final blow to the structure which these men (Churchill and his cabinet) have already set tottering.” (19th July 1940)
“When people are very curious in Great Britain and ask, “Yes, but why does he not come?” we reply, “Calm yourselves! Calm yourselves! He is coming! He is coming!” (4th September 1940)
Hitler on his feelings of guilt:
“In this hour I feel compelled, standing before my conscience, to direct yet another appeal to reason in England. I believe I can do this as I am not asking for something as the vanquished, but rather as the victor. I am speaking in the name of reason.” (19th July 1940)
“Mr Churchill may well belittle my declaration again, crying that it was nothing other than a symptom of my fear, or my doubts of the final victory. Still, I will have an easy conscience in view of things to come.” (19th July 1940)
Hitler on Europe
“If Mr Churchill or any of the other warmongers had but a fraction of the responsibility that I feel towards Europe, they could not have played so perfidious a game.” (19th July 1940)
(After threatening to make British prisoners live with the Russians) “This would make an excellent measure, to which their only counter would be to make our prisoners live with the Italians.”
Hitler on the Channel
“The invasion of Britain is an especially daring undertaking, because even if the way is short, this is not just a river-crossing, but the crossing of a sea which is dominated by the enemy!” (21st July, 1940)
“We are divided by a ditch 37 kilometres wide and we are not even able to get to know what is really happening there.” (1941)
Hitler on the feasibility of an invasion late in the year
“A successful landing followed by an occupation would end the war in a short time… the operation will not be renounced yet!”
(According to Heinrich Greiner) “He took an optimistic view and said that in the present favourable situation he would not think of taking such a great risk as to land in England!” (13th September 1940)
Nobody would have been more relieved that the invasion hadn’t taken place than those whose names were in ‘Hitler’s Black Book’, the list of those most wanted by the Gestapo. Find out more about Hitler’s hit list, and browse it in full, absolutely free of charge, now.
‘Prisoners of the Reich’ by David Rolf
‘Invasion 1940’, Walter Schellenberg, with introduction by John Erickson
‘Operation Sea Lion’ by Peter Fleming