20th May 1940

Stories from A Blunted Sickle
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Pdf27
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20th May 1940

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At 7am Paul Reynaud telephones Churchill, and when asked to describe the situation replies “La France a perdu une bataille, mais la France n'a pas perdu la guerre”. Reynaud goes on to beg for all the troops and aircraft which can be spared for “this fight for Paris, the most critical battle of the war”. He, along with the rest of the French government, then departs for Tours. Gamelin says he will follow “shortly”, although given the extent of the breakdown in communication between him and his armies he is rapidly fading into an irrelevance.

After the “Halt Order”, General von Kleist flies out to Guderian to berate him for ignoring it. Guderian promptly offers to resign, which von Kleist accepts on the spot. He is then ordered to remain in position by von Rundstedt after he signals HQ what has happened, who instructs him that Colonel General List (commander of 12th Army) is on his way. List then explains that the halt order came from OKH and the Fuhrer (something that von Kleist didn’t find it necessary to explain) and must therefore be obeyed. However, a “reconnaissance in force” is agreed to on the understanding that the Corps HQ remains where it is. Guderian agrees to this, and then promptly goes on to command his Panzers from the Tac HQ instead.

The effect of the halt order is in fact minimal – Guderian and Rommel’s Panzers badly needed refuelling and ammunition replenishment in any case, which would have required a halt of similar duration. After the advance resumes, the Panzers split into two prongs. Rommel and von Wietersheim attack to the North of Paris, while Guderian and Reinhardt are attacking to the south. By the end of the day Rommel has reached Saint-Witz while Guderian has reached Brie-Comte-Robert.

General Victor Bourret, the 5th Army commander realises early in the day that he is in fact attacking into the flank of a German advance, rather than being in front of it. He orders his troops to start digging in, and spread out to rebuild a continuous line. Of particular concern to him is that there is apparently a gap between his forces and the Maginot line to the east, inviting a German attack through it. In doing so he is largely unmolested by the Germans, who are doing much the same thing themselves.

Further north, the Cavalry Corps and II Corps of the BEF launch an attack on the German flank, with 1st (French) corps concentrated around Laon to reinforce the attack if needed. This is very successful, with the advance reaching the edge of Reims by the end of the day. There are signs of panic among the German infantry, whose standard anti-tank weapons have limited capability against the French S35 tanks, and none at all against the British Matlidas. The Germans manage to stop the rot for a short time in the middle of the day with a small number of 88mm anti-aircraft batteries operating in their secondary anti-tank role, but they are rapidly taken out by a combined infantry/artillery attack and the advance is resumed. The Germans suffer heavy casualties in the course of the day, with around 5000 troops being taken prisoner. Dead and wounded on both sides are broadly similar.

While the German troops are reacting better than the French did at Sedan, it is becoming clear that the Landsers are by no means immune to the same “tank fright” which was responsible for so much of the collapse at Sedan. General Blanchard sends a message to GQG that he intends to continue the advance and believes he can completely cut off the German corridor with assistance from 5th Army, but this message is lost in the chaos around Paris and 5th Army will remain unaware of Blanchard’s success.

East of Paris, the last sections of the Chauvineau line are breached by soldiers from the SS division Totenkopf, capturing positions held by the 25e régiment de tirailleurs Sénégalais. The SS troops separate the African and French soldiers from one another, but Colonel Bouriand refuses to leave his troops (perhaps thinking they will not be mistreated if he is present), and he is shot alongside them when the Germans open fire with machine-guns. Around 250 men will die in the massacre
War is less costly than servitude. The choice is always between Verdun and Dachau. - Jean Dutourd
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Pdf27
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Re: 20th May 1940

Post by Pdf27 »

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War is less costly than servitude. The choice is always between Verdun and Dachau. - Jean Dutourd
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jemhouston
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Re: 20th May 1940

Post by jemhouston »

Nasty
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Pdf27
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Re: 20th May 1940

Post by Pdf27 »

jemhouston wrote: Fri Jan 20, 2023 2:49 pmNasty
There was a lot of that in 1940. This is a cross between the massacres at Wormhoudt and Chasselay. In OTL these were more or less brushed under the carpet given everything else that was going on - ITTL that may well not happen.
War is less costly than servitude. The choice is always between Verdun and Dachau. - Jean Dutourd
craigr48
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Re: 20th May 1940

Post by craigr48 »

General Prioux and General Brooke should really be coming into their own with the right infantry and armor. If the notoriously bad communications can get word to the 5th Army it sounds like a real problem for the Germans. 8-)
Belushi TD
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Re: 20th May 1940

Post by Belushi TD »

With any luck, those responsible will end up at the end of a rope. However, if the war goes for Germany the way it went in @, the odds are very good they'll all be dead before being brought to trial.

Belushi TD
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