A World in Flames: A Short History of the Second World War in Europe and Asia, 1939-1945

By Martin Kitchen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The Battle of Britain and the Balkan Campaign (July 1940-June 1941)

After the fall of France, Hitler still hoped that the British Government would be prepared to negotiate a settlement which would leave him master of Europe but with the British Empire intact. If the British were unwilling to treat with the Germans, then they could be forced to the negotiating table by a bomber offensive and an intensified war at sea which would cut off essential supplies. Only if everything else failed would it be necessary to invade, but this was considered a last resort. An invasion across the Channel would be an exceptionally risky enterprise and if it were to fall it would result in a disastrous loss of German prestige. Even if it were successful, the British Government would probably move to Canada and continue the war from overseas.

OKW agreed with this analysis and called the invasion plan an 'act of desperation' which should be considered only if all other possibilities were exhausted. Britain posed no immediate threat to Germany, and planning could go ahead for the invasion of the Soviet Union, an operation which, it was felt, might be welcomed by anticommunist circles in Britain. Hitler believed that Britain refused his peace offers only in the hope that Germany and the Soviet Union would eventually go to war. The defeat of the Soviet Union would leave the British no other alternative but to sue for peace. Thus, his short-term aim of peace talks with Britain and his long-term aim of smashing bolshevik Russia and creating a Lebensraum in the east could be achieved in one final and decisive campaign.

At the beginning of July Hitler ordered his military planners to work out the details of an invasion of England, codenamed 'Sealion'. He was careful to point out that an invasion was possible only if the Germans achieved air supremacy over England, and underlined

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