There has never been a successful defence of any island in warfare since “modern” aircraft took to the skies and the invader established air superiority or air supremacy over their invasion site. Fleets without air cover are nothing but fish in a barrel as for example the British proved at Taronto, the Japanese proved with the Prince of Wales and Repulse and the Americans proved with the Yamato. Corregidor and Guadalcanal in 1942, The Pacific Island Campaigns of 1943, Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945 are prime examples of this theory.
This is the premise behind Kenneth Macksey’s book, “Invasion, The Alternate History Of The German Invasion Of England, July 1940. This is a fiction book but do not look for the story to be told through the eyes of various protagonists and antagonist or for any real characters, heroes, villains or the like as you might find in Conroy’s 1901 to add life to the narrative. Rather this book is a lead up to the “what if” scenarios of the invasion of England by Germany in July, 1940. This is not to demean the book, however, it reads like a blend of an Army War College war game scenario and the US Army’s ubiquitous five paragraph field order with a touch of Clausewitz thrown in.
Macksey starts, like the war game scenario would, with the background situation. That is to say how the Germans come to be in a position to invade England in July, 1940. That history is history and cannot be changed. That the Germans were had a position to invade in July, 1940 is historical fact. Then, like the five paragraph field order, Macksey starts with the situation between the “friendly” and “enemy” forces, goes into the mission (invade and conquer), the execution of the mission, administration and logistics and finally to a lesser extent, command and control. The key element in the invasion would be, as noted in the introduction, the establishment of air superiority which the Germans never achieved although they came close in reality and probably would have established air superiority had they not abandoned their bombing of the radar towers and airfields to go after England’s cities.
Macksey has Germany do precisely that. They continue with the bombardment of the airfields and radar stations within the range of their fighters and bombers thus making an invasion feasible by establishing air superiority over the proposed landing Pretty dry premise so far and because Macksey does not have the story told by having individual characters and developing them it the book would not be for everyone but Macksey does make a scholarly effort in proving his theories by giving the reader a comparison of the opposing forces both in the air, sea and on the ground. One can clearly see that once a beach head was established the end result for the British was a forgone conclusion and Macksey using real historical data on the opposing forces drives home this result.
The British fleet would have had no significant impact on the invasion and on this point Macksey is dead on. They would have been slaughtered the way the Musashi was in Leyte Gulf or the way the Yamato was off Okinawa or the ships mentioned in the beginning of this review were. Macksey’s political estimates of the situation and the probably actions of the respective governments of England, Germany and the world follow the tempo and feelings of the time and his interpretations of their actions are believable.
All in all, if you are looking for an alternative history book that gives you a believable version of England could have been successfully invaded by the Germans in 1940 this book would be for you. It is believable and historically accurate as to the forces involved. You will be able to see how the Germans could get a beach head in England and make a successful invasion IF the Germans got air superiority. No air superiority. No invasion. If, however, you are looking for a “story” with the usual hero, heroines, and villains to narrate and bring a human aspect to the events you will be disappointed and should look elsewhere for your reading pleasure such as Higgin’s “The Eagle Has Landed” or Conroy’s “1901” and “1920”.