Was Runstedt incompetent in reducing the Dunkirk Pocket 1940?

Discussion in '1940' started by Peccavi, Oct 2, 2014.

  1. Peccavi

    Peccavi Senior Member

    I keep looking at the map below and just wonder if Rundstedt had prepared better on 27th May whether the Wehrmacht could have cut off the bulk of the BEF (and de Laurencie's French Forces) from the Dunkirk beaches.

    As a reminder, the Halt Order for the Panzers was issued at midday on 24th May - to halt on the Aa Canal - however Reinhardt's 8 Panzer was already across and their Reconnaissance had attacked but been repulsed at Hasebrouck by a very weak unit - woodforce. Guderian was over at Watten and in total 6 good crossings were in German hands. The Halt Order was lifted just after mid day on 26 May but the Panzer forces did not roll until morning of 27th May.

    And an explanation of the map which shows the situation on morning 27th May - the solid black arrows represent the line of retreat taken by I Corp and the dotted arrows II Corp - however on 27th May II Corp was South of Ypres - so please, for the propose of my question ignore this and the circled dots around 3Div and 112L further north.

    So what happened? Please look at map - running from north to south along the line of the Panzer divisions, I have indicated (in brown) the distance achieved by the Panzers before they were withdrawn on the morning of 29th May. The yellow line is the direction they probably would have taken if more successful or had more time.

    The French have a pretty solid line in front of 1 Panzer and benefit from numerous channels which assist strong defence.

    South at Watten only part of 2 Panzer was available since the remainder is still at Boulogne. There is open, flat country with no canals and only one British Brigade is in front of their initial objective Wormhout.

    Reinhardt's 6 Panzer is required to invest Cassel, low but dominating Hill (one of three low hills - the others are more or less in a line running East, Mont Des Cats and Kemmel)

    8 Panzer is well ensconced over the canal at both St Omer and Aire - faced by one Brigade and a depleted Division (44). The stated route is Hasebrouck , Mont des Cats to Kemmel.

    Then the are no less than four Panzer Divisions - 3, 4 5 and 7 Panzer in the small area from La Bassee to Estaires - these are successful in driving North East and forming a pocket around the French 1st Army. The British Divisions on the Belgian border from Ypres to Roubaix, 1, 3, 4, 5 and 50 all slip away from this advance.


    So it seems to me that if Rundstedt had used the "dead time" on 25 and 26th May to prepare a Schwerpunkt at St Omer\Aire (with 8 Panzer) or at Watten by re-assigning some of the Panzers (ie 3, 4, 5 and 7 Panzer) from La Basse, then there is every chance that an encirclement by joining Army Group B at Ypres could have netted the BEF as well as the French 1st Army.
  2. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day peccavi.sm.yesterday.10:16pm.re:was runstead incompetent?.you will never know.if you think about it,we had the great escape.and as a none general,i have always wondered how we got so many home.lets face it .it is food for thought.maybe the germans did not want to end the war,i had a brother came home via dunkirk.never spoke about it,.interesting,post,regards bernard85
  3. L J

    L J Senior Member

    I disagree ; Rundstedt was not incompetent/not more than the others.

    Your map has 3 big shortcomings

    1) it does not give distances

    2)it does not give the German strength :exemple : it is meaningless to indicate that 1 Pz was on day X on point Y :what is need is the combat power of 1 Pz:how much fuel,ammunition :,how much operational tanks and artillery,what about the infantry and the LW. ?

    3)it does not give the British/allied strength : how much men were opposing 1 Pz,how much fuel/ammunition,tanks,artillery,infantry,what about the RAF?
  4. L J

    L J Senior Member

    You have first to prove that a Schwerpunkt was possible,and than you have to answer the question : why should Rundstedt do it ?
  5. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    I seem to recall reading, albeit a Long time ago, that the German High Command believed that the BEF and French were pocketed and could be taken prisoner later.

    As the German Forces over ran Northern France, this thinking was flawed as it provided vital time for over 300,000 soldiers to be evacuated.

    As mentioned I do not believe that Von Runstedt was incompetent. He may have made mistakes, but as Napoleon said, the Best General is the one who makes the least mistakes in Battle.

    Von Runstedt was relieved of command twice but was reinstated, so he could not have been so incompetent.

    I think you could call him a proud and arrogant Person but he was loyal and obeyed his orders from what I have read.

    A lot is hyperthetical and " what if " which will not change the Historical Facts.

    There were more than 300,00 persons who lived to tell the tale, including an old friend of mine who passed away some years ago.

  6. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I watched a programme recently on this and 2 points come to mind:

    1. The German forces holding the pocket were basically armour with very little or no infantry, so they needed to wait for infantry support.

    2. The armour was in need of maintenance, repair and resupply after its rapid advance and also that the crews were in need of some rest and relaxation (sounds absurd but probably true). Supply lines at this time ( I guess) would have been fairly long.

    The other possible point was that Hitler was more interested in advancing into France at speed and reaching his goal of Paris rather than 'clearing' out a pocket - which as has been said earlier could be dealt with later and would not be able to 'breakout' and create a threat to his primary aims.

  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Was watching 'WW2 in Colour' tonight concerning Hitlers 'Operation Barbarossa' - and it appears the same problem as such happened in that the armour was so far ahead of the infantry, enroute to Moscow that they had to wait for it to catch up and also the fuel, munitions, and personnel supplies (food etc).

  8. JCB

    JCB Senior Member

    My thoughts-
    Vice Admiral Ramsay in charge of the evacuation and in full possession of the naval facts thought he would get 30,000 men away, maximum, with no equipment. The Germans most probably thought it would be less , so no great urgency at the time as they had them 'in the bag'
    Perhaps the miracle of Dunkirk was the fact that the BEF actually got there.

Share This Page