German Invasion

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SEVENTY YEARS ago this summer, Adolf Hitler’s general staff drew up detailed plans to invade Ireland. In June of 1940, Germany’s 1st Panzer Division had just driven the British Expeditionary Force into the sea at Dunkirk.

The Nazis, intoxicated by their military victory in France, considered themselves unstoppable and were determined to press their advance into Britain and Ireland. Germany’s invasion plans for Britain were codenamed Operation Sealion. Their invasion plans for Ireland were codenamed Unternehmen Grün or Operation Green.

Like Operation Sealion, Operation Green was never executed. The Nazis failed to achieve air superiority over the English Channel that summer. By the autumn of 1940 the Battle of Britain had been won by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Hitler postponed his British and Irish invasion.

Some military historians also believe that the plans for Operation Green, drawn up in minute detail, may have been a feint to divert British resources away from Germany’s invasion of southern England. However, had the RAF been overwhelmed that summer by the German air force, the Luftwaffe, Operation Green gives a sobering insight into what fate neutral Ireland would have suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

Operation Green was conceived under the scrutiny of Field Marshal Fedor von Bock. Bock had a fearsome reputation as an aggressive campaign officer – well versed in the concept of Blitzkrieg. Bock had been commander of Germany’s army group north during the invasion of Poland in 1939 and army group B during the invasion of France in May of 1940. Nicknamed Der Sterber, or Death Wish, by his fellow officers, von Bock was ultimately given responsibility for Germany’s planned assault on Moscow (Operation Typhoon) during Germany’s subsequent invasion of Russia.

In the summer of 1940 however – before Hitler had turned his attentions towards Russia – von Bock was preoccupied with invasion plans for neutral Ireland and assigned responsibility for it to the German 4th and 7th army corps, army group B under the command of General Leonhard Kaupisch.

If these German army units in particular had reached Ireland’s shores in 1940, the consequences for Ireland would have been tragic and would have profoundly altered the course of history for the Republic and its citizens.

The German 4th army corps in particular had a brutal reputation in battle and inflicted many civilian casualties as they secured the Polish corridor to Warsaw during the invasion of Poland in 1939. Later in 1941, the 4th army corps, equipped with its own motorised infantry and Panzer tank divisions, would play a crucial role during Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of Russia. The 4th army corps, earmarked for service in Ireland in the summer of 1940, conducted brutal operations the following summer as they took Minsk and Smolensk on their advance to Moscow in June and July 1941.

Had the 4th and 7th been deployed to Ireland in 1940, their tactics would have been brutal and their advance rapid – up to 100km per day.

The Nazis allocated 50,000 German troops for the invasion of Ireland. An initial force of about 4,000 crack troops, including engineers, motorised infantry, commando and panzer units, was to depart France from the Breton ports of L’orient, Saint-Nazaire and Nantes in the initial phase of the invasion.

According to Operation Green, their destination was Ireland’s southeast coast where beach-heads were to be established between Dungarvan and Wexford town. Once they had control and airstrips had been established (negligible armed resistance was expected) waves of Dornier and Stuka aircraft would have started bombing military and communications targets throughout the Irish Free State, as it then was, and Northern Ireland.

In the second phase of the invasion (to start within 24 hours of the first landings), ground troops of the 4th and 7th army corps would have begun probing attacks, initially on the Irish Army based in Cork and Clonmel, followed by a thrust through Laois-Offaly towards the Army’s Curragh Camp base in Co Kildare.

Their rate of advance would have been rapid, with some units reaching the outskirts of Dublin within 48 hours of landing in the southeast.

The capital city was identified by the Nazis as one of six regional administrative centres for the British Isles had occupation taken place. Dublin’s Gauleiter was to have sweeping executive powers and would have had instructions to dismantle, and if necessary, liquidate, any of Ireland’s remaining indigenous political apparatus, her intellectual leadership and any non-Aryan social institutions such as the trade union movement or the GAA, for example. Irish Jews would have been murdered en masse.

Hitler’s generals were aware that their operations in Ireland would have to be self-sustaining given that their troops would be operating far from the continental mainland in Europe’s most western region.

Adm Raeder described the German force in Ireland as one which of necessity “would be left to its own devices” in order to execute its mission of conquest. Therefore, Operation Green envisaged that German troops here would administer martial law and curfews, commandeering shelter, food, fuel and water from the civilian population. The plans even contained an annex with the names and addresses of all garage and petrol station owners throughout Munster and the midlands.

This policy of predation on the civilian population would have inevitably led the Germans into direct conflict with civilians as they confiscated livestock, food, fuel and used forced labour to support their advance northwards. As was the case in continental Europe, Irish civilians would have borne the brunt of the casualties in an invasion, either through the vagaries of war, punitive actions by the Germans or through the almost inevitable counter-attack by Britain.

In military terms, the Irish Army would have been wholly ill-equipped to challenge a German invasion in the summer of 1940. In 1939, there were approximately 7,600 regulars in the Army with a further 11,000 volunteers and reserves of the Local Defence Force, forerunner of the FCA. By May 1940, this number had dropped by 6,000 due to financial constraints. The Irish government’s recruitment campaign only began to bear fruit by the autumn of 1940.

Had the Germans come ashore in the summer of 1940, they would have been met by an Army with no experience of combined arms combat and capable only of company- sized manoeuvres, involving a maximum of about 100 men. In addition, the Irish Army was poorly equipped, possessing only a dozen or so serviceable armoured cars and tanks. In terms of small arms, the Army did have plenty of Lee Enfield rifles – of first World War vintage – but had only 82 machine guns in total for the defence of the entire State.

Many Irish units also moved about on bicycles – referred to at the time as Peddling (or Piddling) Panzers. Had they been engaged by the Wehrmacht, the Irish would have been slaughtered.

Ironically, the Germans were not the only foreign power making plans for the invasion of Ireland in the summer of 1940. In June of that year, Gen Montgomery drew up plans for the seizure of Cork and Cobh along with the remainder of the Treaty ports.

When Britain’s prime minister, Winston Churchill, became aware of Operation Green, the British military set out detailed plans to counter-attack the Germans from Northern Ireland. Codenamed Plan W, it envisaged Irish Army units regrouping in the Border areas of Cavan-Monaghan and being reinforced by British troops moving south from Northern Ireland. In this scenario, the Irish and British armies would have fought alongside one another to repel the German invasion.

Had this happened, it is hard to see that widespread casualties, military and civilian, would not have ensued.

Of course, neither Operation Green nor Plan W were implemented. Ireland survived the war almost entirely untouched by it, thanks largely to its neutral status being respected by the combatants and the crucial role played by the RAF in the summer of 1940.

Were it not for the sacrifices of the 544 British, New Zealand, Czech, South African, Canadian, Polish, Australian, French and some Irish who fought and died with them during the Battle of Britain, who knows what flag would now fly over Leinster House.

Tom Clonan is Irish Times Security Analyst.

Matt
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And straight I will repair
To the Curragh of Kildare
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #1 on Jun 29, 2010, 5:09pm » [Quote]
Hi Matt,
Yet again another well constructed piece of history, with a big question, what if either party had followed through??.

Andy
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #2 on Jun 30, 2010, 2:57am » [Quote]
Hi Matt and All:

The article raises interesting questions and hypothetical “what ifs.” When you factor in the fact that over 50,000 Irish men and women fought on the British side (WWII) emphasizes the inextricable connection we have between our neighbors, rather than the polarized mindset of many. I served with three brothers in the Engineers whose mother was a Captain in the British Army in WW II. There were so many as we know from WW I i.e., 200,000. Like thousands of others, my grandfather fought in the Great War and I am d**n proud of him for doing so.

Fundamentally I think what Ireland wants is premised on a paradox i.e., they want to remain neutral, yet to be fully fledged members of Europe economically, socially and politically but NOT militarily. You can’t have it both ways! It is imperative for the army to sustain and grow, it must be a fully fledged member of the European rapid deployment force AND to continue to be a fully participant in UN missions. To do otherwise, the army is destined for disintegration.

Having said that, I will continue to criticize the lousy management decisions of the senior brass and the politicians who are willing to let the defence forces disintegrate before our very eyes.

Regards,

Brendan
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #3 on Jun 30, 2010, 7:29pm » [Quote]
Well said that man. I agree100%
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #4 on Jul 4, 2010, 10:18am » [Quote]
Hi Matt.
What a great article by Tom Clonan from the Irish Times.
Dev kept a steady hand on the rudder to steer us through stormy waters to remain neutral.
The pressure to hand over the Irish ports to Britain was immense but he held firm in spite of many threats from Winston Churchill .
A big IF but i think at the time if we got the six counties we would have joined Britain in the war.
I hate to think what would have happened if Nazi Germany had invaded Ireland.
The red brick buildings on the Curragh might have been used as a ready built concentration camp and how easy it would have been to enclose it for their inhuman deeds.
I hope you can join me in giving a salute to our great Hero of the time the Longfellow Eamon De Valera up Dev.
We must also never forget all those brave souls who died to keep us free from Nazi rule may they R.I.P
Regards
Anthony
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #5 on Jul 4, 2010, 9:33pm » [Quote]
Re:PLANNED GERMAN INVASION OF IRELAND:
Hi all
The first Nation to engage in sporting activities with the defeated German nation was the Republic of Ireland in soccer, played in Dalymount Park amidst the call to boycott the match by the head of the Catholic Church, and the game went aheadunder fierce critisim, and the band played the old German Anthem there was blue murder,this incident was to be brought up again in EURO 88 When we were able to point out this matter to the German Fans and played a blinder to help ourelves and them get on very well throughout the Tourament, when all others wanted to kill/riots with each other as the clashed throughout the tourament, and thats when we as Irish were called the best behaved Fans in the World, bye for now Johnny
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #6 on Jul 5, 2010, 3:54am » [Quote]
Hi to All:

I would like to pay a tribute, and say a prayer for the the tens of thousands of Irish men and women who lost their lives and, and to those who returned broken, physically and mentally at the hands of the German machine in both wars.

God Bless them All.

Brendan
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #7 on Jul 5, 2010, 10:23am » [Quote]
Hi Brendan.
I would like to join you in paying tribute and prayer for all the Irish People who lost their lives in their fight against Nazi Germany in the War.
I would also like to remember the Jews who were led like lambs to the slaughter to the gas chambers Men Women Young Children & Babies whose heads were shaved and bodies burned .The haunted look in their eyes as they were led for so called showers and how they trampled on each other as they tried to grasp for breath as they tried to escape at the locked metal airtigh doors.
Anthony.
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #8 on Jul 5, 2010, 7:56pm » [Quote]
Hi all,

As we are in the if mode,

RTE 1 at 1040 tonight "If Lynch had invaded," worth a look am fairly sure it is a repeat of an earlier programme, regardless, it was a very serious situation at that time in Nothern Ireland.

Andy
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #9 on Jul 5, 2010, 8:00pm » [Quote]
Hi Tony

Did not the same longfellow cause some amount of bother by sympatising over the death of Adolf, caused a bit of a stink as did Adolf.
Andy
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #10 on Jul 5, 2010, 11:49pm » [Quote]
Hi Andy.
Yes you are right but he also refused the German offer of a deal on partition ,when their victory seemed certain in 1940,he acted to principle.
His greatest wish was to end the partition of Ireland.
He wrote a personal letter to Bob Brennan in Washington to explain his point of view on why he paid a formal call of condolence to a German minster and it made him very unpopular in Britain & America at the time in 1945.
IN THE LETTER HE WROTE THE FOLLOWING.
I have noted that my call on the German minster on the announcement of Hitler's death was played up to the utmost .I expected this.I could have had a diplomatic illness but, as you know ,I would scorn that sort of thing..
So long as we retained our diplomatic relations with Germany ,to have failed to call upon the German representative would have been an act of unpardonable discourtesy to the German Nation and to DR Hempel himself. During the whole of the war, Dr hempel's conduct was irreproachable.He was always friendly and invariably correct -in marked contrast with Gray.I was certainly not going to add to his humiliation in the hour of defeat.
Dev was between a rock and a hard place and had the bottle to do what he thought was right at the time. Gray & Churchill made many threats to invade Ireland at the time if Germany had them by the throat.
I m sure if he knew that Germany had planned to attack Ireland he may have acted differently.
To me he will always be a hero and i remember my Grandmother and Grandfather telling about Dev he was one brave man who would have laid down his life for his Country.
What the SS did was terrible but you can't hold all the German people Responsible for their actions.
Regards
Anthony
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #11 on Jul 6, 2010, 4:20pm » [Quote]
Hi Tony,

Not to detract from your heroic vision / version of Dev, he does not fall into that category for me,

Did he not play the American card when he looked for the chop or at least de mammy did on his behalf.
Did he not set up a dynasty from funds gathered in the US for other reasons,
Did he not send Collins to obtain what he could not and then castigate him for it
Did he not give that terrible power to the church.
I think he was a bit dodgey especially with his comely maidens dancing at the crossroads.
I will concede that he dismantled the treaty and all that it stood for.

The Big Fellow would be more my style, and the finger of suspicion must be pointed at Dev for his short stay on this earth.
just my thinking on the subject either or neither can be right or wrong.

Each to his own I will stick with the Cork lad,


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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #12 on Jul 6, 2010, 5:42pm » [Quote]
Anthony:

I'm with Andy here. There are so many what ifs. I am convinced that Dev's stance was selfish. His decision, or more correctly, his indecision set Ireland back a generation and more. I also agree that he set our first General up sending him to London.

Things would have been a lot different if Michael Collins was running the show.

It's healthy to have a difference of opinion.

Brendan
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #13 on Jul 7, 2010, 1:47pm » [Quote]
Hi Andy.
I love your spirit its the purple & gold that runs through your blood.
Well about the big fellow he could be brash at times a great leader and planner.
He is also one of my heroes The Great Michael Collins a little hasty in signing the treaty .
Do you believe Dev was behind the ambush ?
I agreed Dev gave the church too much power in Ireland and they abused it but this was happening in many other parts of the World .
He was slow to make decisions and stubborn to negotiate with .
The thing to remember at the time Ireland was flat broke and relied on loans from America.
During the war because the agricultural policy brought about by Dev we were almost self sufficient.
Not too sure but did he die a wealthy man ?
Cheers
Anthony.
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Re: Planned German invasion of Ireland during WW I
« Reply #14 on Jul 7, 2010, 5:08pm » [Quote]
Hi Tony,

Why oh why do I get the sneaky feeling that I am walking into my own Béal na mBláth regarding this subject,

These are my opinions ,only, to your questions

As for the purple and gold afraid no Emperors or Cesar's in my family, or blood, well as far as I know at least.
As for the Big Fellow he may have being brash at times, but a great leader, planner, intelligence gatherer and ruthless for the cause of that there is no doubt.
He was in no way hasty in signing the treaty and he was not the sole signatory of that document.
I feel that Dev was or had some hand in the ambush though not present at the time.
Dev should have known better re the church all he had to do was read up on Henry the 8 .
Dev was slow to make decisions especially in regards to retiring.
I know that Ireland was broke but not quite flat as the emigrants of that time were exporting foreign currency home wards but I take your point re funding from the American people, some of which was channeled into setting up his own newspaper shades of ?
Dev did not bring Ireland out of the poor house that title falls to Sean Lemmas.
Did Dev die poor or wealthy I do not know that, it depends on ones perception of wealthy.
Things he did not have to worry about i.e bills for food,drink the fags ,health care, insurance, education for the family homes, holliers even his funeral ,cars drivers etc and what to spend his meager salary on? that must have being hard to work out, so maybe he died poor maybe not but his legacy lives on in business and government

As I said Tony just my opinion, same criteria could apply to those in power today no matter which table they have their feet under
Cheers Tony.
Andy
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