BY FRITZ HESSE
Author, Hitler and the English
‘RAF smashes Nazi plan’: Guardian report on German intent
According to an air ministry news service bulletin, reports received from reliable sources leave little doubt that the day chosen by Hitler for his invasion of England was 16 September. The factors in his favour were the harvest full moon (brightest of the year), high tides, a powerful air force, and an enormous fleet of barges and other vessels. Against him was the RAF.
On 15 September, the Nazi air advance guard, in massed formations, attempted raids on a colossal scale. The RAF’s reply was to bring down at least 185. A report now reaching official quarters in London states that on 16 September many German troops were embarked at invasion ports, but were later taken off the ships. The RAF began its own offensive against the Channel hideouts of the would-be invaders, and the invasion plans, it is now learned, were not adopted because of the “sustained offensive of the RAF”.
Other reports indicating the damage caused by the RAF raids over Germany tell of a railway journey taking three days instead of 12 hours and of travellers changing more than a dozen times on what was formerly a through run. In Berlin, several factories employed in producing vital war material are said to have been partially wrecked.
Transport on the German waterways has also been dislocated. At Hamburg, during another raid, five ships are said to have been sunk in the harbour. The aluminium works at Bitterfield was closed for some weeks after a heavy raid, and in the Rhineland and Westphalia electricity works have been so badly damaged that it will be some time before they come into full operation again. Manchester Guardian, 19 October 1940
Invasion seen as ‘dubious’: Hitler’s diplomatic adviser on Britain remembers
While Hitler frittered away whatever small chances there might have been of coming to terms with England, he also threw away the military chances of forcing a peace upon her. He was dominated by two assumptions: that we must not defeat her and that we must save up all we had for the Russian campaign.
British propaganda twisted the fact that Hitler failed to invade England into a proof of England’s invincibility. The truth, however, was, as I can testify, that Hitler never went ahead with his plan for the invasion but regarded it as dubious from a technical point of view and politically undesirable.
The preparations for the invasion were so extensive that it seems hardly possible that they could have been against Hitler’s wishes. Nevertheless, it seems to have been so. But in my opinion the reasons that decided Hitler against the invasion were political rather than military.
For the reader to understand this, I must repeat that Hitler, according to my own observations, was inspired by a strange love-hatred of England. He admired the British empire and repeatedly pronounced it the greatest wonder-work every wrought by God. He was convinced the British were permeated through and through by Germanic conceptions of honour and that they would be his allies some day. He attributed the hostility that they felt towards Germany and his own person, and, in particular, towards the National Socialist party, to American and Jewish machinations.
Even while we were working on the peace proposals, Ribbentrop [Germany's foreign minister] asked me if I thought the British would fight on if the invasion succeeded. I told him I was convinced that the British would fight to the last man. It seemed to me that Churchill could never be forced to give way even by a successful invasion. From the reports of our agents, I gathered that, if the invasion succeeded, Churchill would transfer the government to Canada and continue the war.
I also told Ribbentrop that, in my opinion, the invasion might lead to intervention on the part of the US, so that it would be no more than a pyrrhic victory and perhaps not worth the sacrifices it would cost us. I expressed the view that only a war of attrition, lasting for years, with ever-renewed willingness to come to terms, could, in the end, compel the British to recognise our ascendancy on the continent and make peace with us.
Edited extract from Hitler and the English by Fritz Hesse, translated by FA Voigt (1954). Hesse was a press attaché and diplomat at the the German embassy in London.
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