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Contents:
  1. We also recommend this article
  2. Oh no, there's been an error
  3. Commémoration de la Traite Atlantique à Ouidah

He rages and screams that we are on the way to ruin the whole campaign.

The Panzerkorps now slowed their advance considerably and put themselves in a very vulnerable position. They were stretched out, exhausted, low on fuel, and many tanks had broken down. There was now a dangerous gap between them and the infantry. A determined attack by a fresh and large enough mechanised force might have cut the Panzers off and wiped them out.


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The French High Command, already contemplatively ponderous and sluggish via its firm espousing of the broad strategy of "methodological warfare", however, was reeling from the shock of the sudden offensive and was now stung by a sense of defeatism. We are beaten; we have lost the battle. Reynaud was, however, inconsolable.


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  5. Churchill flew to Paris on 16 May. He immediately recognised the gravity of the situation when he observed that the French government was already burning its archives and was preparing for an evacuation of the capital. After the war, Gamelin claimed his response was "There is no longer any. Churchill asked Gamelin where and when the general proposed to launch a counterattack against the flanks of the German bulge. Gamelin simply replied "inferiority of numbers, inferiority of equipment, inferiority of methods". Some of the best Allied units in the north had seen little fighting.

    Had they been kept in reserve they might have been used in a decisive counter-strike. In a twist of irony, pre-war General Staff Studies had asserted the main reserves were to be kept on French soil, to resist an invasion of the Low Countries, deliver a counterattack or "re-establish the integrity of the original front".

    Despite having a numerically superior armoured force, the French failed to use it properly, or to deliver an attack on the vulnerable German bulge. The Germans combined their fighting vehicles in major, operational formations and used them at the point of main effort. The bulk of French armour was scattered along the front in tiny formations.

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    Most of the French reserve divisions had by now been committed. The 1st DCR had been wiped out when it had run out of fuel and the 3rd DCR had failed to take its opportunity to destroy the German bridgeheads at Sedan. The formation was overrun by the 8. Panzerdivision while still forming up and was effectively destroyed as a fighting unit. Colonel Charles de Gaulle , in command of France's hastily formed 4th DCR, attempted to launch an attack from the south at Montcornet where Guderian had his Korps headquarters and the 1. Panzerdivision had its rear service areas. During the Battle of Montcornet Germans hastily improvised a defence while Guderian rushed up the Panzerdivision to threaten De Gaulle's flank.

    French losses on 17 May were 32 tanks and armoured vehicles, but had "inflicted loss on the Germans". The defeat of de Gaulle's unit and the disintegration of the French 9th Army was caused mainly by Richthofen's air units. Although De Gaulle had achieved a measure of success, his attacks on 17 and 19 May did not significantly alter the overall situation.

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    It was the only French counter-attack on the German forces advancing to the channel. The Allies did little to either threaten the Panzerkorps or to escape from the danger that they posed. The Panzer troops used 17—18 May to refuel, eat, sleep and return more tanks to working order. On 18 May, Rommel caused the French to give up Cambrai by merely feinting an armoured attack toward the city. Gort replied that seven of his nine divisions were already engaged on the Scheldt River, and he had only two divisions left with which he would be able to mount such an attack.

    Ironside then asked Gort under whose command he was acting. Gort replied that this was General Billotte, the commander of the French 1st Army Group, but that Billotte had issued no orders for eight days. Ironside confronted Billotte, whose own headquarters was nearby, and found him apparently incapable of taking decisive action.

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    He returned to Britain concerned that the BEF was already doomed, and ordered urgent anti-invasion measures. The German land forces could not remain inactive any longer since it would allow the Allies to reorganise their defence or escape. On 19 May, Guderian was permitted to start moving again and smashed through the weak British 18th and 23rd Territorial Divisions located on the Somme river. The German units occupied Amiens and secured the westernmost bridge over the river at Abbeville. This move isolated the British, French, Dutch, and Belgian forces in the north.

    From there, they were able to see the Somme estuary and the English Channel. Five days later, Rommel resumed his advance along the Normandy coast, driving towards Cherbourg [17] Fliegerkorps , under the command of Wolfram von Richthofen , covered the dash to the channel coast. Heralded as the Ju 87s' Stuka "finest hour", these units responded via an extremely efficient communications system to the Panzer Divisions' every request for support, which effectively blasted a path for the Army.

    Radio-equipped forward liaison officers could call upon the Stuka s and direct them to attack enemy positions along the axis of advance. In some cases, the Luftwaffe responded to requests in 10—20 minutes. Oberstleutnant Hans Seidemann Richthofen's Chief of Staff said that "never again was such a smoothly functioning system for discussing and planning joint operations achieved".

    On the morning of 20 May, Maurice Gamelin ordered the armies trapped in Belgium and northern France to fight their way south and link up with French forces that would be pushing northward from the Somme river. He claimed his first mission as Commander-in-Chief would be to get a good night's sleep. Weygand was guilty of wasting valuable time, time which was needed to form a quick and powerful counter-attack.

    The situation demanded an all-out offensive on the corridor. On 22 May, Weygand ordered his forces to pinch off the German armoured spearhead by combining attacks from the north and the south. However, while the German position was far from safe, the opportunity had been lost. The delays had allowed the Germans to push more infantry divisions into the corridor and they had pushed further along the channel coast. The Belgian position on any offensive move was made clear by Leopold. As far as he was concerned, the Belgian Army could not conduct offensive operations as it lacked tanks and aircraft; it existed solely for defence.

    Gort doubted the French Army's ability to prevail in the offensive. On 23 May, making matters worse, Billotte was killed in a road traffic accident , leaving the Allied First Army Group in the pocket leaderless for three days. Billotte was the only member of the Allied armies thoroughly informed on the Weygand plan's details. The same day, the British decided to evacuate from the Channel ports. Major-General Harold Franklyn , commanding two tank battalions, had moved into the Arras area. Franklyn was not aware of a French push north toward Cambrai, and the French were unaware of a British attack heading south, out of the pocket, toward Arras.

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    Ignorant as to the importance of the operation, Franklyn assumed he was to relieve the Allied garrison at Arras and to sever German communications in the immediate area. He did not therefore want to risk throwing his main units, the 5th and 50th Infantry Divisions into the fight, especially if the objectives were limited.

    Only two infantry battalions and two tank battalions were made available for the attack. British armour numbers had dwindled owing to mechanical failures. However they still fielded 74 Matilda tanks and 14 light tanks. The resulting Battle of Arras achieved surprise and initial success against German forces which were stretched, but it still failed. Radio communication between tanks and infantry was poor and there was little combined arms coordination as practiced by the Germans. The French inflicted heavy losses on German armour as they retreated, but the Luftwaffe broke up the counter-attacks.

    Just 28 of the 88 British tanks survived. The French V Corps' attack at Cambrai also failed. Although this attack was not part of any coordinated attempt to destroy the Panzerkorps , the German High Command panicked even more than Rommel, who adamantly wanted to pursue the Allies. They thought that hundreds of Allied tanks were about to smash into their elite forces.

    It was unjustified panic. The operational and strategic effects of the British attack was out of proportion to its tactical achievements.

    Commémoration de la Traite Atlantique à Ouidah

    Panzerdivision to Calais, the 2. Panzerdivision to Boulogne and the Panzerdivision to Dunkirk. Panzerdivision s were reversed. The 1. Panzer was ordered to Dunkirk while the Panzer was to take Calais. Although De Gaulle launched some ineffectual counterattacks around Peronne on 19 May, the attack from the south was launched only on 23 May, when 7th DIC, supported by a handful of tanks, failed to retake Amiens. On 27 May, the British 1st Armoured Division, hastily brought over from England, attacked Abbeville in force but was beaten back with crippling losses.

    The next day de Gaulle tried again with the same result. But, by now, even complete success very well might not have saved the Allied forces in the north. In the early hours of 23 May, Gort ordered a retreat from Arras. Gort knew that the ports needed to supply such a foothold were already being threatened. That same day, the 2.