Fall Of France Pt 4

While the Allies reeled in shock, the Germans took a few days off, taking the opportunity to refuel, eat, sleep, and get some more tanks into working order. The French seemed incapable of pulling themselves back together after the initial shock. On the 19th General Ironside, British chief of staff, conferred with Lord Gort, in command of the British Expeditionary Force, and learned that the commander of the French Northern Army Group, General Billotte, had not given Gort orders for eight days. Ironside confronted Billotte and found him apparently incapable of taking decisive action.

Meanwhile the Germans had gained some confidence. The Panzer Corps again moved forward, taking the Somme valley and isolating the Belgian, French, Dutch and British forces still fighting in the north. Ironside at this point asked Gort if he could attack south to attempt to link back up with the main body of French forces, but Gort pointed out that he had only two divisions left able to conduct such an operation. Now convinced that the BEF was doomed, Ironside returned to the UK, and advised Churchill to ready anti-invasion defences.

On 20th May, Gamelin was finally dismissed by the French government and replaced by General Weygand. The Allies were beginning to get their collective act together, as General de Gaulle's forces near Paris attacked the German spearhead the day before, and the British geared up for an attack at Arras to relieve their forces there and perhaps cut off the far tip of the German advance. Near Arras the British Matilda tanks proved their worth, the German 37mm antitank guns proving ineffective against them and a panicked Erwin Rommel reporting that he was being attacked by "hundreds of tanks" even though there were only just over a hundred present in the entire battle. The Arras attack delayed the German advance for a day but the Matildas were eventually driven off by 88mm guns in the antitank role. The German High Command in fact panicked a lot more than Rommel did, fearing an ambush and expecting hundreds of Allied tanks to crush their elite forces. Two days later the French assaulted near Arras again but by now German reinforcements had arrived and they were driven off more easily.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.