From: My Mother, although my Father had some small part.
I even think their planned Scandinavian adventures held some merit in the circumstances.
I completely agree that 'sparing on the flanks' was a sensible idea. But what form that sparing took was the problem.
To be fair there was only one thing wrong with the Allied (largely British) plans for Norway; they were complete, total and utter sloblocks.
One of life's great ironies, Chamberlain lost his job, and Churchill became PM, because of the total horlicks that Churchill (the driving force behind action in Scandinavia) made of Norway. Who ever said life was fair?
Hey! Churchill sent your namesake to Narvik and devastated the German Destroyer force for the rest of the war! The RN also damaged virtually every big ship the Germans had at the time, and persuaded the Germans to damage a couple of their own (Prinz Eugen vs Leipzig). The FAA sank Königsberg and the Norwegians sank Blucher. It was no picnic for the Germans either.
Yes but a few operational successes don't mask the fact that the whole affair was one of muddle, confusion and indecisiveness. Yes the Germans lost a lot of their navy in undertaking an operation to obtain bases for their navy (as Buckrock says it was a stinker of a plan).....but it could - and should - have been so much worse for the Germans.
But let's stick with the British stinker for the moment.
I won't bother to go into the tortuous diplomatic process from start to finish - it's too long and frankly at times absurd, genuinely absurd (coalition warfare at its finest). But by the time action was decided upon, the winter was over (so iron ore would be travelling through the Baltic) and Finland had surrendered anyway (Daladier wanted to help the Finns purely to aid his chances of staying in power and Churchill wanted to pretend to help the Finns so he could occupy the Swedish ore fields - the Swedes apparently had no say in this)....
As said the French wanted the operation to happen and so the British (who would take on the bulk of the operation) asked the French to mine the Rhine. The French said no to the latter because... the Germans might retaliate (fair enough as obviously France and Germany weren't at war at that time - no wait .... and Churchill didn't push it because he wanted the landings in Norway - so Norway went ahead but not the mining of the Rhine....
So what happened? Well the allies were told to **** off by the Norwegians and the Swedes (strange that) but thought lets do it anyway. And here is the really ahem... 'clever' bit. The British would mine Norwegian waters so that the Germans would react. Then, when the Germans had reacted - and so were the aggressors - the British would land in Norway....
Except.... If the Germans didn't react (and no one actually laid out what a 'reaction' was) then the British would land anyway. The orders given to the commanders as to how to deal with any Norwegian reaction was - like the operation itself - confused, muddled and a receipe for disaster. If anyone is still following this cobblers, then its pretty clear by now that the allies would have invaded a neutral country....
The troops chosen for the operation were largely territorial troops, insufficient in numbers, ill-equipped and without air cover or AA weaponry... or skis.... or maps.... good job there is an all-weather highway into Sweden..... no wait (part II ). The lack of aircraft and AA weapons would really come home later.
When the allied troops were eventually landed they had been beaten to it by the Germans who had time at least some to deal with the Norwegians and prepare. Allied landing orders were changed at the last minute for some troops which were diverted to different destinations... but some of those ships still had the equipment and supplies for the original destination, leaving the troops landed at that original destination somewhat in the lurch.
But there's more....
The British mining operation was all about getting a German reaction. But as soon as the Admiralty knew the Germans were actually at sea, they assumed a breakout into the Atlantic and seemed to forget that the Germans might be heading for Norway themselves.... so what did they do? Well they CANCELLED the landing operation and positioned for a breakout..... numerous chances to smash at least three of the troop packed Marinegruppen, BEFORE they had landed, came and went. So the British got the reaction they wanted from the Germans, but they were in no position to take advantage because their troops were still in the UK when, with the Germans having just landed, the Germans could otherwise have faced a pretty nasty reception.
A total balls up literally from start to finish.... and we haven't even got to the land and air operations and the poor RN having to put itself in harms way (it would not be the last time) to help the army. The land operations went as well as could be expected with ill-equipped, ill-trained and understrength troops. Then there was the spiffing wheeze, belatedly and hurriedly put in place, to provide air cover. What did the top brass think would be a sensible force to hold back the Luftwaffe? Well how about a squadron of Gloster Gladiator biplanes? Er...right... And where shall we base them? Well how about a frozen lake with no cover or facilities?.... Mmmm I wonder how long they lasted?..... That was a rhetorical question - it was two days.
It's been a while since I have been to Hendon, but IIRC they had one of the Gladiators from this ill fated mission on display that had been raised from the lake bed.
A zombie Gladiator!
Seek peace but keep your gun handy.
I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are missing!
“Illegitemus non carborundum est (“Don’t let the bastards grind you down”).”
― Julia Child