The Matter of Britain Series
Background notes to the Invasion and Occupation of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1940-41
This is a long-ish document which Eugene prepared looking at how a successful German invasion of Britain might have been mounted, how the rest of the world would have been affected and what life in occupied Britain would have been like.
The main problem that most historians have with the entire concept of a German invasion of Britain is that they don't believe it could have happened. Five reasons.
1. Hitler was noticeably reluctant to engage in a full-scale invasion; he gave the orders, but it was clear from all his behaviour at the time that his heart wasn't in it. Some historians argue that he never intended to invade Britain at all.
2. The German Navy was particularly hostile to the project: Admiral Raeder, commander of the Kriegsmarine (navy) didn't consider he had sufficient men and ships for the job. Many of the generals didn't much like the idea either. It has been suggested that some of these feigned interest in the detailed planning of an invasion of Britain in order to distract Hitler from what he really wanted to do - they fancied invading Russia a whole lot less than trying to invade England. It has also been suggested that Hitler wanted to so horrify the armed forces with the British undertaking that they'd happily acquiesce in his real intention - to, err, get them to invade Russia. Complicated, huh?
3. Most German commanders, even from wargames and staff plans from the 1920s and 1930s, had regarded the best way to deal with Britain as being close blockade by U-boats and air attack. These were thought sufficient to bring Britain to terms. Hitler certainly appears to have hoped as much.
4. Even assuming the destruction of the RAF, a seaborne invasion would still be an extremely hazardous undertaking. The Royal Navy would harass any crossing, and what we tend to forget nowadays is that the RN has a fine tradition of reckless bravery. Most naval captains would not have thought twice about sacrificing their ships and crews in suicide-attacks of they thought that the gains would be sufficiently worthwhile.
This difficulty was spelled out in detail by Raeder to Hitler, who listened, we are told, respectfully. It's important to remember that up to now, combined naval/military operations such as this had had a lousy track-record of success. The largest combined operation in living memory was Gallipoli, and look what happened there, A couple of years later, the Allies fucked up royally at Dieppe. The successful D-Day landings were achieved in the light of all this experience, with meticulous planning and with the use of overwhelming air and sea power, and with billions of dollars' worth of equipment specially designed for this purpose. And even after all that, the Americans almost got kicked off Omaha Beach until Robert Mitchum got the Bangalore torpedoes rigged up.
5. Then, after all that,
the Germans would have to fight their way up the beaches and through the
rest of the country. The British Army had withdrawn, intact but demoralised,
from Dunkirk, though it had left all its heavy equipment behind, including
tanks, artillery and motor transport. During the summer of 1940, Britain
was very short on tanks and heavy guns, so the army hastily constructed
a series of static lines of defence (hence all those pillboxes everywhere).
The quantity of troops and equipment needed to overcome all this were available
to Hitler, but he would have had to have gotten them safely across the
There are two scenarios I can envisage in which a successful invasion could have been mounted.
SCENARIO ONE - DUNKIRK
This could well have happened. The fact that it didn't is one of the greatest mysteries of the war. Hitler had two Panzer divisions close by which stopped and did nothing which the Navy got the BEF off the beaches. Nobody knows why he didn't press home his advantage. Various explanations are offered; first, that he did not believe that the Navy was capable of getting any of them out; or that he bought Goering's claim that the Luftwaffe would be able to finish them off; or that he believed that by not utterly humiliating the British he could persuade them to come to terms. Hitler, it has to be remembered was something of an Anglophile, and a great admirer of the British Empire, and he hoped that Britain would eventually join Germany as a junior partner in his new world order. Besides, if you put yourself in the position of a top Nazi, there is absolutely no rational reason why Britain should continue to fight Germany after being ejected from the continent without its heavy artillery. At the time of Dunkirk, Britain is not finished as a great power, but she has no capacity at all for waging offensive war and might as well give up.
We could construct a scenario in which Hitler captures most of the BEF's 250,000 or so men. This would effectively eliminate the British army. This could quickly be followed by limited-scale landings on the south or east coast of Britain, possibly using paratroops, combined with an all-out Luftwaffe offensive aimed at eliminating first the RAF and then the Navy.
If it is necessary for the sake of the novel, we can make this scenario work. However, I'm not mad keen on it as I don't believe that the Germans could properly conquer Britain without using tanks and artillery, and you can't fly them in. To transport tanks and guns you need to secure a reasonably safe sae-passage and a port on the other side, and I don't believe that the RAF and the RN could be eliminated that quickly.
A far bigger, problem, however, is that Hitler and his generals, knowing what they know at the time, would have been unwilling to undertake such a perilous project - and if it went wrong it would totally piss on their bright, shiny victory in France - when they believed that the British would negotiate once they've been kicked off the continent. Even if they didn't negotiate, they had no way of hitting back anyhow. Britain does not matter.
b) The Luftwaffe now join u-boats in an all-out offensive against the Royal Navy.
c) The Wehrmacht and Kriegsmarine have constructed a fleet of invasion barges to transport troops and equipment, and have successfully rehearsed how to handle opposed landings.
Sometime late in September the invasion fleet sails from ports in France. The fleet is protected on either side by a 'corridor' across the Channel of heavy minefields in an attempt at stopping the Royal Navy from getting close enough to molest it too seriously. The Luftwaffe fly in close support, attacking warships and coastal defences. The Kriegsmarine mounts a number of diversionary operations to draw the RN away, presumably using its capital ships - Tirpitz, Gniesenau, Bismarck, etc.
The Germans land on the South East Coast. According to actual German plans, the first objective was to secure a port and an airport quickly, and a paratroop division was earmarked to land at Folkestone and the nearby Lympne airfield.
The success of the German landing would require a huge amount of luck. However, once they had secured a beachhead and a usable port, it would be more or less over for Britain. The Germans would already have complete air superiority, as well as the facilities to bring in all the tanks and guns they needed. There would then be a few weeks of savage fighting with the ill-equipped Brits, some of whom would be incredibly heroic, some of whom would be disgraceful cowards. The Germans should, however, eliminate most organised resistance by Christmas. Sporadic resistance could certainly continue in remote areas with good natural cover, e.g. some parts of Wales and Scotland and the North of England.
With complete air superiority and steady supplies of equipment and ammunition, the Germans would not sustain massive casualties during the campaign. It is likely that half or more of the German losses would occur during the invasion and the first few days' fighting around the beachheads. The only other situation in which heavy losses would occur is in fighting for urban areas street by street. Likewise, British casualties would be unlikely to run into millions.
It would not be necessary for the Germans to land troops in Ireland, North or south, unless as some sort of early diversion from the main attack.
I don't think it's in any
way profitable to try and outline the actual details for the battle for
Britain at this stage. I do have the actual German plans in unbelievably
mind-bogglingly boring technical detail if they're needed. I hope they're
Given a successful German landing in Britain, and a six-month campaign to eliminate all organised resistance, there's no reason why Hitler could not proceed with his invasion of The Soviet Union in June 1941.
In the United States the Roosevelt administration would be dismayed at events in Britain. While in public, FDR would make noises about neutrality, he may be inclined to help British resistance on the sly. He would probably be inclined to warn the Germans off U-boat activity in the Atlantic, and be very wary of German interference in South and Central America (as in WW1). As time progressed, he is likely, however, to become more preoccupied with Japan. The USA, Australia and New Zealand would certainly be making very active plans to contain Japan. Canada and Newfoundland would fall into the US sphere of influence at once.
With Britain knocked out of the War, The British Empire would start to unravel. The Dominions of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Union of South Africa would all eventually go their own ways, although in 1940 a division of Canadian troops is stationed in Britain and if captured, their fate would have to be negotiated between Canada and Germany.
Most of the African colonies (Nigeria, Gold Coast (Ghana), Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, etc.,) would probably recognise whatever puppet government was installed in London, just as most of the French colonies went along with Vichy. The one unpredictable element in this is whether or not the governments of individual colonies fancy going it alone and declaring some sort of UDI. Possibly the one real contender for this is Kenya, which is run by expatriate British aristos down on their luck and out to re-create the world they'd once known. The atmosphere is captured reasonably well in 'White Mischief'. We could have some fun with this, but it's really a side issue.
It is just about possible that the Germans might require the return of the African colonies that they were deprived of at Versailles, especially Tanganyika and South West Africa (Namibia), though Lord knows what they'd want to do with them, though both have minerals and South West Africa, which is mostly desert, might be useful for testing atomic weapons. Hitler's imperialism was essentially a land-based vision and what he really really wants is vast amounts of Eastern Europe. He had no serious interest in African colonies.
Egypt and the Middle East are more complicated and would probably have a few small wars of their own. My guess is that Hitler would want to carry on controlling Egypt through his British puppets because of its immense strategic importance (Suez Canal, crossroads of three continents, etc.), but to be honest, the less we hurt our brains trying to think out what happens in individual bits of Africa, the better. Naturally we're going to have to figure out what to do with Palestine - currently British-controlled under League of Nations mandate - sooner or later, Hitler would want its Jewish inhabitants rounded up, though this'll not be at the top of his list of urgent things to do.
Interesting sideline about Africa: before the Final Solution was dreamed up, one of the plans the Germans actively discussed for dealing with the Jewish 'problem' was to dump them all in Madagascar, at this time a French colony. Eliminating the Royal Navy and gaining access to Britain's immense merchant fleet makes this plan viable.
Ireland. On some German invasion plans there were to be diversionary attacks on Eire, which is politically neutral, although in constitutional theory still a part of the United Kingdom, to lure British forces away from the main attacks. I don't believe, however, that the Kriegsmarine would have gone along with this as it would be an unnecessary and costly distraction of limited naval resources. My guess is that the Germans wouldn't attack anywhere in Ireland initially, and they'd let whatever's left of the British garrison in Ulster sit there and stew, gracefully accepting their surrender when it became clear to them that the rest of Britain had fallen and there'd be no point in fighting on. The Wehrmacht would also probably be opposed to invading Eire immediately as it would cost them and there's be no point.
The German ambassador in Dublin, Edouard Hempel, would become more and more influential in dictating the policy of the Eire government, however. If Eire stopped doing as it was told, or, more likely, it became a centre of clandestine supply for British resistance (and despite appearances, there are a lot of Pro-British Irish, not to mention a lot of old Protestant Ascendancy families still living there - most of the officer corps of the Irish Army, to start with), then the Germans might be tempted to invade. They would take the country with relatively few problems. Even more so than in Scotland and Wales, though, one suspects that the remoter bits of Ireland would be very hazardous for any German to enter without at least a battalion for company, especially in places where there's not much of a civilian population to massacre in retaliation. Assuming that our story is set in 1940-41 it would be useful from our point of view to have Eire still in that unoccupied "faith an' begorrah we're neutral on the German side now," state.
In this situation, the Irish government, whoever was running it (almost certainly still De Valera) would try to appeal to the United States government for help. Roosevelt does not have the freedom of movement to guarantee Irish neutrality, even though he's a Democrat and needs the Irish vote, but he'd certainly take several overt actions to make it clear to the Germans that he doesn't want to see the place invaded. He might also make gestures like sending warships on diplomatic visits to Irish ports, and possibly even supply the Irish military with modern equipment. Dublin, meanwhile, would turn into an intriguing cosmopolitan city full of spies and suspected spies, as well as refugees and adventurers. Sort of like 'Casablanca', only with Guinness.
India is run at this time by an unelected European government headed by a Viceroy, who is stand-in for the British monarch, the Emperor of India. The top jobs in civil administration are held by whites, but there is a class of educated, intelligent and ambitious Indians coming up the ranks. These are the same people who 50 years previously founded the Congress Party. When in 1939 the Viceroy declared war on Germany, Gandhi and his independence movement weren't the only ones to be outraged at what had been done in their name. Many ordinary Indians were, too. At this stage the independence movement has not yet split on Hindu/Muslim lines, although the fissures are apparent. After the conquest of Britain, the sahibs, too, would divide - between those who would obey the London collaborationist government and those who would want to do some kind of deal with Gandhi and co., declare independence and try to preserve some or all of the privileges of the white ruling caste.
Certain of the semi-autonomous rajahs and maharajahs might declare their own independence, though Gandhi's moral authority might just be able to hold the country together. India is incredibly complex and the less we think about it, the better. I'd propose some uneasy state of semi-anarchy while the government and nationalists tried to thrash out a settlement, which would be complicated even further by ...
Japan in 1940 has already been engaged in a war of conquest in China for some years She is actively preparing for war with other countries and has signed an alliance with Germany and Italy. All the momentum, both for Japan's industrial economy (dependent on imported raw materials) and of her military government is towards a war which she will present as a war of liberation from European colonial powers, but which in fact is naked imperialism. The question is not whether Japan will go to war, but when, and against whom.
By the summer of 1940, Prince Konoye's government is divided into two factions, both of whom want to wage aggressive war. The 'Strike North' faction wants to complete Japan's unfinished conquests in China and avenge the military humiliations which Soviet forces inflicted on Japanese ambitions in a now completely-forgotten undeclared war in Mongolia in 1939.
The 'Strike South' faction are pushing to take over the colonies of the European powers defeated by the Germans, particularly French Indochina and - most important of all - the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). The Dutch East Indies are rich in natural resources which Japan desperately needs, especially oil and rubber. At this time, Japan is heavily dependent on American oil imports and in the real world, an American oil embargo in retaliation for Japan's de facto annexation of French Indochina in July 1941 led straight to Pearl Harbour.
The defeat of Britain must reinforce the case of the Strike South group; not only would it remove a major naval and military obstacle to their ambitions, it also leaves a number of plums in South East Asia waiting to fall into Japanese hands, such as Malaya (with its rubber industry) and the huge naval base at Singapore. Even India might be there for the taking, though I'm not sure Japan would want to occupy it.
My scenario would be that Japan would carry on with her limited non-aggression pact with the USSR, leaving both countries with their backs semi-secure. Stalin would be free to devote most of his attention to Hitler, and Japan would embark on her vast adventure in South-East Asia and the Pacific. Indeed, in theory, there is nothing to stop Japan attacking sooner. Almost any Japanese aggression will be opposed by the USA, and war between them is more or less inevitable.
When it does break out, the United States will, of course, lose all interest in Europe. When at the time of Pearl Harbour Japan declared war on the US, her ally Germany did likewise. Mainly, this was Hitler making a matey gesture towards the Nips. He didn't believe that the USA was capable of doing him any harm. We must assume that when the US-Japan war breaks out, the Germans will join in, too, but they probably won-t be interested in contributing large forces, except possibly in the naval department. Hitler's big project is, has been all along, the invasion of the USSR.
The Soviet Union is still
officially chums with Hitler following the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact of 1939.
Most in the Soviet government know it's not going to last, although Stalin
never wanted to believe it was coming, even when he was warned by THE GERMAN
AMBASSADOR that Hitler planned to attack him. The USSR's main interest
at this time is to rebuild and modernise the Red Army, which has been decimated
by large-scale purges of its officer corps in the 1930s and the disastrous
'Winter War' with Finland in 1939/'40. The loner Hitler waits before attacking,
the better the USSR will be able to withstand him. Hitler knows this and
does not want to wait.
When Churchill says, "We shall never surrender", I think we have to take him at his word. Churchill would have gone down fighting, and quite literally at that. Norman Longmate, in the brilliant 'If Britain Had fallen' (BBC/Hutchinson, London, 1972) has him and Anthony Eden manning a machine-gun in Whitehall as the Germans fight their way in, and this is entirely in keeping with the Churchill both of fact and legend. If we decide that we want to keep him alive, then someone must chloroform him and forcibly carry him off to that warship leaving for Canada. On the whole, I think we're better off killing him off unless we've got some really good way of using him.
It is quite possible (and romantically preferable) that no member of his government would agree to sign a surrender document with Hitler in a railway carriage and that Britain would become Germany's by right of conquest alone. It is more likely, however, that the person taking Churchill's place would sooner or later sign the bit of paper to end the bloodshed once further resistance is obviously futile. Hitler would probably demand unconditional surrender, though he might be prepared to concede a few face-saving euphemisms or concessions to get the business over with.
The Germans would prefer to install a Quisling government; it shields them from unpopular decisions, is more likely to get the co-operation of local people and gives them a spurious kind of legitimacy. The big question is who'll head it and who'll be in it?
The only outright fascist in Britain of sufficient stature to head a collaborationist government is Oswald Mosley, and I'm not sure the Germans would want to give him the job. He always said that he'd never have anything to do with such a regime because he was a patriot. It is possible that he might have convinced himself to participate through the delusion/opportunistic claim that he would be 'helping' or 'protecting' his fellow countrymen from the worst excesses of German rule, as Pierre Laval, the Vichy Premier did after the War. At the same time, though, I think Mosley was too vain to accept anything other than the post of Prime Minister and I don't think Hitler rated him highly enough. I can more envisage Mosley in the Resistance than in Downing Street, which would be an interesting, though risky, subplot to play with.
Of the others in the British Union, which is only the largest of several right-wing nut groups current at the time (though most only have a handful of members), only John Amery, a lunatic with a penchant for pervy sex, and whose father Leo was Churchill's Secretary of State for India, might have been offered a prominent role. William Joyce was a frightfully vulgar little oik, though he fancied himself as a great political thinker. He might have been offered a prominent position, though he'd never ever have become Prime Minister. Other prominent British fascists include Arnold Spencer-Leese, an extremely influential Aryanist thinker and antisemite and Neil Francis-Hawkins, who had been Mosley's second-in-command in the BUF. Leese might well have accepted a leading role, as would Francis-Hawkins, who is an unimaginative bureaucrat almost stereotypical of many top Nazis. He might be Britain's Eichmann (See separate notes on British Fascism At the Time for more of this).
This leaves us with the problem of who's going to be our Laval, and the tricky thing is that if we use a real-life politico it's going to be nobody the average reader has ever heard of. It wouldn't be Eden or any of the Labourites (most of whom would have fled, or would be being rounded up by the Gestapo right now), and Chamberlain is by now a sick and broken man. It is possible that former Foreign Secretary (and appeaser) Lord Halifax might head a caretaker administration, though my belief is that he'd sooner shoot himself.
The Germans had a so-called 'white list' of 39 supposedly prominent Brits who were favourably-disposed towards Germany. It doesn't contain anyone you've ever heard of, except for Captain Maule Ramsay, a Scottish Tory MP and notorious anti-Semite who was implicated in a half-baked pro-German spy scandal. Mosley was not on the list.
Norman Longmate's candidate for Prime Minister is Sir Samuel Hoare, former Tory Foreign Secretary, and half of the shameful Hoare-Laval Pact which legitimised most of Mussolini's conquests in Abyssinia and which caused such outrage in Britain that he had to resign. At this time the British government had packed him off to be ambassador to Madrid, almost certainly to get him somewhere where he couldn't do any harm. But as Longmate says, it's no certainty that Hoare would have taken the job, and after him you really do have to look a long way for a contender.
My candidate, more on the grounds of the fun we can have with him rather than any historical certainty, is Brigadier-General JFC Fuller. I've been trying to do an Its A Fact on this guy for years and find it very hard to scope him out. In his time he was a prominent military thinker, one of the first proponents of tank warfare and later author of the seminal two-volume history, 'Decisive Battles of the Western World'. He was also a well-known Nazi sympathiser and rabid anti-Communist, which may be the reason why by 1940 he is on the retired list, even though he's not that old (50s, I think). But what is really interesting about him is that he's very prominent in English occult circles; he had been a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and for a while was an ardent admirer of Crowley. I think we can make this guy work for us, if not as puppet prime Minister, then certainly as a Premier League Quisling. I have to do a fair bit of research on him first, mind.
The alternative to a puppet PM is direct rule by a Nazi governor, probably someone holding the title of 'Reichskommisar', who would issue directives to the British civil service. Who this could be is a matter for debate; might be von Ribbentrop (and he's got an interestingly bad personality). Ribbentrop (the aristocratic 'von' is of highly questionable provenance) had been German ambassador to Britain in the 1930s and though he's now Foreign Minister, running Britain might apppeal to his inflated ego. More likely, though, the job would go to some underling. Ernst Bohle, a young official at the foreign ministry, had been promised the job of ambassador to Britain, so it might be him.
As far as possible, the Germans would rule through existing British structures and institutions, all the way down to parish councils. It is possible that many local councillors would stand down under German rule. for some, this would be for reasons of honest patriotism, but for most it would be to avoid having to be the people who implement extremely unpopular German decrees. The truth, of course, is that in extremis councillors aren't a bit necessary. The local government officials are all that the Germans need. The guy with the hardest job in every town will be the Town Clerk, the chief council executive who'll have to carry out the Germans' bidding. The post offers a great deal of dramatic potential, carrying as it does opportunities both for shameless collaboration and for clandestine resistance.
The Germans will, of course, send in the secret police. When invasion planning started, they began putting together their card indexes of people to arrest and of useful things to seize (military technology in particular). All planning was headed by - get this - SS Standartenführer Professor Doktor Franz Six, who would arrive in Britain in the Army's baggage-train with his little lists and about 40 men. The standard procedure was for 'Action Groups' to move into an area as soon as possible after its occupation and round up all likely enemies of the Reich before they have time to organise resistance. In Russia, for example, their equipment included all the necessary paraphernalia for mobile executions. In real life, Six was found guilty of war crimes in Russia at Nuremberg, imprisoned in 1948, but free by 1952.
Six, at this time aged only 31, was a protégé of Goering, who in some kind of backstairs deal had advanced him to the position of head of secret police in occupied Britain. This may well have been because he and Goering had a shared interest in art treasures, and it's been suggested that he promised he'd save the best stuff for Fat Hermann. One can imagine him driving around various museums and cathedrals to plunder them. (All the good stuff has been sent to various places by the British where he can conveniently pick them up; the National Gallery has 3,000 pictures at Penrhyn Castle, North Wales and at a disused slate quarry at Manod, 35 miles to the north. Most of the British Museum's treasures are in an airconditioned underground tunnel in Aberystwyth.)
Dr Six was short, bald, had sticky-out ears and thick glasses (and probably bad breath, too, by the sound of all this). He came from a working-class background, read history and political science at Heidelberg, joined the Nazis early on and probably resented the richer students. He became a doctor of philosophy in 1934, took up a teaching post at the University of Leipzig, was professor by 1937 at a remarkably early age, probably because of his party connections. In 1939 he was made head of the faculty of political science at the University of Berlin and taught Nazi philosophy. he was made head of the Cultural Branch of the foreign ministry in 1940, was sent to France in June, then was recalled to Berlin to prepare for the invasion of Britain. Up to now he had shown no particular interest in Britain, although he spoke fluent English. After the invasion was cancelled he got a loony academic post researching freemasonry, or early Christianity or something, but was eventually sent to Russia, probably to grab art treasures.
We last hear of Dr Six in 1961 when he offered to go to Jerusalem to appear as a witness for the defence in the trial of Adolf Eichmann.. The Israeli government talked him out of it, saying that they couldn't guarantee he wouldn't be torn to pieces.
Six would have set up HQ
in London, but the Gestapo also planned regional offices in Birmingham,
Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol and Edinburgh.
George VI would do a runner. The plans for this eventuality are well-developed, and whatever Georgie's inclinations, Liz would have made damn sure he was on that boat to Canada because they weren't to know what the Nazis might do to them. At the very least, they would be humiliated by the occupiers, at middling they would, by their very presence, be condoning the repression of their own subjects. At worst, they might be imprisoned or killed. But what if they missed the boat? What if they had been captured? We can certainly play with that scenario.
If the Germans played their hand correctly, Edward and Wallis would return to take the throne. I was originally sceptical about this scenario, but I'm gradually coming around to it.
Edward is a Nazi-sympathiser, his wife is possibly even more so, and the Germans worked on them. As Ambassador to London in the 1930s, Ribbentrop cultivated Wallis. When Edward became King, Hitler send Charles Duke of Coburg to London as an emissary; Coburg, one of Victoria's grandsons, had gone to Germany to take over Albert's duchy. In WW1 he sided with the Germans and was now an ardent Nazi. He was also a close friend of Edward's. When Hitler re-occupied the Rhineland it seems likely that Hitler knew Britain would not oppose him because Edward had told Coburg so. It's also commonly believed that Wallis passed state secrets to Ribbentrop, with Edward's knowledge.
The Abdication Crisis is far more complex than it would appear. This is not simply a case of stuffy old Britain not wanting a twice-divorced American commoner on the throne. It's also about Edward being a political loose cannon; no-one can prove it, but it seems highly plausible that Baldwin played the Crisis deliberately to get Edward off the throne because he was feckless and irresponsible. It is also true that Mosley saw the crisis as a possible opportunity to stage a fascist revolution.
After the Abdication, Edward continued his dalliance with fascism. He and Wallis were married in France at the chateau of Charles Bedeaux, a very wealthy businessman (he'd got rich out of pioneering time-and-motion studies, making him a major left-wing bogey, though he's nowadays forgotten). Bedeaux was a Nazi agent, though as much for business reasons as ideological ones. INTRIGUING ASIDE!! It was at Bedeaux's home that Edward and Walls met ERROL FLYNN. At this time MI5 suspected Flynn of acting as a go-between for the Nazis and the IRA. Flynn at this time also met Rudolf Hess and Martin Bormann, though what the hell he was up to I really couldn't tell you.
Late in 1937, Edward and Wallis visited Germany and met Hitler at Berchtesgaden. Their tour of Germany, accompanied by the boorish Robert Ley, minister of Labour, saw them being lionised everywhere. They met all the top Nazis and their old chum the Duke of Coburg. Plans for a tour of the USA organised by Bedeaux (almost certainly at the Nazis' prompting - "here's a European monarch who likes Nazis, you dumb Yanks") were cancelled at the last minute because of hostility from the American press and labour unions.
At the outbreak of the war, Edward and Wallis returned briefly to England, but left gratefully for France again because the other royals were being beastly to them, especially Wallis, who was not allowed to use the title 'Her Royal Highness'. Edward accepted a figurehead job on the staff of the British military mission at Vincennes with the honorary rank of Major-General - this was an out-of-the-way posting since nobody wanted the blabbermouth Duke and his Nazi wife anywhere near any military or political secrets in London. Nobody was bothered whether or not he did any work, but he wanted to make himself useful and wrote a report on the Maginot Line saying it was a waste of men and money, so he wasn't a total div.
After the fall of France the couple fled to Spain. In Madrid, they made several indiscreet remarks about how the Germans were going to win the war (Wallis said that the French lost because they were "morally degenerate"), prompting near-apoplexy at Buck House and Whitehall. Churchill cabled the Duke telling him to get his ass to Lisbon where a flying-boat would pick him up and take him home. If he didn't go, said Churchill, he would face a court-martial. As a serving officer in France, he had technically deserted his post.
Once in Portugal, though (itself a rightist dictatorship under the Anglophile but strictly neutralist Dr Antonio Salazar) they decided to spend a month (July-Aug 1940) living in a villa owned by a pro-Nazi banker named Ricardo Espirito Santo Silva next to a spectacular coastal rock formation called the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell) at the resort of Cascais, near Lisbon. This is an utterly intriguing period in the history of Edward. While he was there he was engaged in furious negotiation with HMG. Edward, who was smarter than his little brother (which admittedly wasn't difficult), refused to go until they gave him a job. If he had meekly showed up in Blighty, he knew he would become a forgotten and embarrassing relative of his ghastly family, living on an ever-diminishing pension and with his wife regularly being snubbed and humiliated by all the best people. He dug his heels in and said he'd be staying at the Mouth of Hell until Churchill and/or George gave him some way of being useful to his country. His arrogance, petulance and self-pity at a time when thousands of his former subjects were being killed, is astonishing.
Meanwhile, the Nazis were increasingly desperate to get their paws on him. Von Ribbentrop tried to lure him back into Spain (which was more neutral on the Germans' side than Portugal was) where he hoped to kidnap, seize or persuade him to work for Germany. Ribbentrop in the short run wanted Edward for propaganda purposes; he hoped that the Duke's considerable amour-propre would be tickled pink by the idea that he was 'negotiating' with the Germans on Britain's behalf (which Ribbentrop would get down on newsreel, of course). He also hoped that he could get Edward to make radio broadcasts to Britain, appealing for a negotiated peace.
In the end, all attempts by the Germans to get Edward to leave the Mouth of Hell failed, and Ribbentrop, with Hitler's blessing, initiated a plot to kidnap him, which was headed by Walter Schellenberg. 'Operation Willi' involved luring the couple into Spain to the house of some friends for a hunting trip. Here they would be 'escorted' away. Schellenberg had been authorised to offer the Duke 50 million Swiss francs for his collaboration. Had it been implemented, the plot would have been carried out with the collaboration of Franco's government, even though Spanish Foreign Minister Ramon Serrano Suner described it as "puerile", not least because everywhere the Windsors went they were accompanied - though they didn't know it - by a cloud of MI6 agents.
In an atmosphere of increasing fear and hysteria on his and Wallis's part, Edward and his wife left Lisbon on August 1 1940 to take up the post of Governor of the Bahamas, a post of limited prestige and several thousand miles from where he could do any harm. Churchill, who had once been a close friend of Edward's, remarked that the Bahamas were the least important of Britain's imperial possessions.
Edward remained at the Bahamas to the end of the war, hanging out with shady playboy types, and getting involved in highly illegal financial scams to boost his income. One of his business associates in later years was Meyer Lansky.
Initially I wasn't convinced
that he'd have taken the job of King Quisling I. He was smart enough to
know that people who had once adored him would turn on him as a traitor,
and that they would say terrible things about his foreign divorcee wife,
too. What's more, I don't think he was a convinced Nazi; he was far too
self-centred for that and he was shrewd enough to have realised that he
would be being used. Now, though, I think he would have done it because
he did everything Wallis wanted and Wallis would have wanted this. Wallis
would have wanted the palaces, the smart clothes and the jewellery and
the servants and people bowing and scraping to her. She is a Nazi sympathiser,
and taking the throne with her husband would have the delicious advantage
of annoying the hell out of those Royals who've been so horrid to her,
especially that Queen Elizabeth. Within days, or less, she would manage
to convince Edward that taking the throne was his duty to his country and
that furthermore he would be able to win concessions for his people from
the Nazis. Yes, he'll take the job. And she will be hugely unpopular with
Before the planned German invasion, all the British government's gold reserves and securities had shipped to Canada for safe-keeping. The plan was also for the royal family and several members of the establishment to get themselves off to Canada in the event of invasion. A big house in Ottawa was actually made ready to accommodate the royals, though it seems unlikely they'd have settled there for long. This is for all manner of tedious political reasons, but the main one is that Canadians would probably get to quickly disliking them for being there. Though Canada is a monarchy, Canadians aren't in the habit of thinking of themselves as subjects. Sure, the King's head is on their money and sure he's their head of state, but Canada, like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and the rest of the colonies, is used to going for decades at a time without seeing a crowned head in person (though Geo VI and the Queen had visited Canada in 1939 - the first reigning monarchs ever to do so). The presence of these alien creatures with their hundreds of titled hangers-on and penniless refugees passing through all the time would change Canadian politics in a way that most Canucks would perceive as for the worse.
Liberal (not in our sense; ALL politics in the Dominions are about agricultural tariffs and precious little else) prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King is a wily old operator and my guess is that sooner or later he'd ease the royals out. They'd likely head for some Caribbean Island where they can get on with their own thing unmolested. I'd nominate the Caribbean because that way they can sort of keep in touch with events in Europe. The alternative, the place which would be utterly delighted to have the King and Queen all to themselves, would be New Zealand. Assuming Kiwiland isn't overrun by the Japanese, the British royals will be welcome here for ever.
Wherever it is, a government-in-exile would be established. There's a wide choice of candidates to head it - favourites must be Eden, Attlee, Herbert Morrison or, if you want a colourful outsider at 100-1, Ernest Bevin. Beaverbrook, who had been born in Canada, might also be a leading member of the Gov't-in-exile. This would probably follow the royals around, though the royal family and government-in-exile are not at all the same thing and probably don't in fact need physical proximity to one another.
For this government to be of any influence at all, it has to be recognised as the legitimate government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by other governments, and this is where things begin to get complicated. Roosevelt might not necessarily have the freedom of manoeuvre to recognise a government-in-exile (assuming he'd want to). Mackenzie King in Canada might also have second thoughts about who he says is the proper government of Britain if there is a whole division of Canadian boys being held prisoner in Europe. The other complication is who gets that immense pile of gold and securities lying in the vaults of Sun Life of Canada?? The Germans would be demanding it on behalf of the new government of Britain, while the government-in-exile would also be lobbying for it. All this is the stuff of arguments which are going on at the time of the first story, with the Royals maybe in Canada, starting to find their welcome wearing a little thin.
Wherever it is, the government-in-exile would have some resources at its disposal. Financially, it would be supported by the governments of sympathetic colonies and dominions, and by wealthy individuals and companies. It would not have enough money to finance major military adventures, but would certainly be able to sustain a fairly elaborate propaganda effort and a shortwave radio station (though this might be of questionable value since few private individuals have shortwave receivers in Britain). It could also finance a large espionage and intelligence-gathering operation. Military resources would be more limited. We might assume that perhaps tens of thousand of military personnel can get out of the country, in addition to those already stationed overseas, particularly in India, the Far East and Middle East, but what they'd actually be used for is another matter. More pressing would be a shortage of equipment and materiel, which would have to be bought from sympathetic governments or on the black market. The government-in-exile would have several warships and submarines, but virtually no modern aircraft or tanks. In any event I think we can factor in an overseas British government with a significant cabability to annoy the Germans.
I see a big role for Earl
Mountbatten in the military side of things. Though for a time he had been
the Duke of Windsor's closest friend, he and his wife Edwina threw themselves
110% into the war-effort and were never pro-Nazi, if only because Edwina,
though C of E herself, was descended from the extremely Jewish Cassell
Rationing, Gestapo, girls going with German soldiers, etc. The best model we have is the German occupation of the Channel Islands which, horrific though many aspects were, was a damn sight less awful than what the Germans did to, say, Poland or the Ukraine.
In the racial hierarchy in Hitler's brain, Brits are very nearly as human as Germans and can expect comparatively lenient treatment, though of course everything's relative,
In his original invasion directive, Hitler ordered that ALL adult males of working age in Britain should be forcibly shipped to the continent to work in German factories. At this time, and for a couple more years yet, Germany isn't really on a war economy and Hitler always hoped that he could conduct his wars without German women having to go into factories, and without German living standards falling in any way. Hence the famous statistic about German war production not peaking until 1944, despite the fact that the Allies were bombing the country by day and night.
However, the notion of deporting every man in Britain is just plain daft, and one suspects that the threat was only ever made in a fit of pique, or as yet another little bit of frightfulness, trying to scare Britain into a negotiated settlement to avoid an actual invasion.
In another part of the invasion directive, it's made clear that Britain's industries and raw materials are to be put at the disposal of the Reich's war effort. Well, the Germans might, if they'd stupid enough, be able to move a British steel mill to the Ruhr, but they sure as hell can't move the coal mines.
The most likely scenario is that Hitler would do as he did with France and keep some or all of the British men captured in uniform in PoW camps on the continent as hostages. This has the added security advantage of making every male of military age who remains in Britain highly conspicuous to the occupiers.
After a few years, most of these men would be released, if only to man British - or German - factories - to produce stuff for the German war effort. To those males remaining in Britain, the Germans would probably also offer fairly attractive wages to those volunteering to go and work in Germany.
Life in Britain would become far grimmer than it already was. The Germans would have stripped it of every last thing which might be remotely useful to them, from fuel and raw materials to motor vehicles and intellectual property (especially scientific and technological), machine tools and, of course, weapons. Most, if not all, of the manufacturing production that remained would be for the benefit of the Reich.
In the short run, food supplies would not diminish that much since by the summer of 1940, the UK's agriculture is being well-run and has a good supply of labour, much of it female. The Germans also have adequate food supplies of their own. Britain would have to feed the army of occupation, of course, and while basic foodstuffs are unlikely to be exported, I don't fancy your chances of getting hold of a nice bit of smoked salmon, or Stilton, or Aberdeen Angus steak except on the black market (which will flourish). If Germany gets bogged down in a long war with the USSR, food will be appropriated from the occupied countries to free up German men to fight. The propaganda line will be that German men are giving their lives to save you from communism, so the least you can do is give up your lunch.
Domestic fuel will be in very short supply, with most British coal production going towards industry. Gas and electricity will probably be cut off for several hours each day, possibly even days at a time. Petrol will be an impossible luxury, since Britain has to import the stuff and cannot now afford to pay for it. The Germans will commander many vehicles anyway. They probably wouldn't take people's bicycles, though.
The moral, as with all wars,
is that if you want to avoid freezing and starving, don't live in a big
city. Be a farmer, grow your own undeclared eats and chop down the occasional
tree for firewood. But even in the country, life is rapidly going to become
a grim and joyless struggle for existence. In reading accounts of wartime
Britain, or of life in the occupied Channel Islands, it's amazing how often
you come across people mentioning the importance of "keeping cheerful".
'Cheerfulness' became a virtue which was elevated to something more important
than cleanliness, Godliness and singing the national anthem.
WHAT REASONS, THEN, TO
Perhaps the Cinema. The Germans would vet everything for its political and moral content, and Britain would suffer a large number of imported German films. The supply of films from the Hollywood might dry up if relations between Germany and the USA are cool, or if the German or British puppet governments decide they don't have the dollars to pay them. The British film industry, I suspect, might actually do well out of this; the resources that filmmakers need, apart from people and film stock, are not vast, and audiences starved of Hollywood and stuffed with German fare, would probably flock in huge numbers to see any old shit as long as it was British. The quality of this stuff would be very varied of course, but it's worth remembering that occupied France was capable of producing 'Les Enfants du Paradis'.
Radio. The Germans rather approve of Lord Reith's BBC, which will probably become even more boring.
Books. All public libraries will be scoped out for unapproved books for the big public bonfire. Since the traditional British librarian is a smart intellectual type, they'll see the Germans coming and hide the forbidden books well before bonfire time. This will lead to a substantial underground library or black market in subversive literature, possibly providing an infrastructure for the dissemination of anti-fascist propaganda and samizdat material.
Theatre. The Germans won't - can't - have someone there observing every am dram production at every parish hall. Between this and the need for keeping everyone's pecker up, the theatre, both amateur and professional, will flourish.
Church. There will be some increase in churchgoing. The Anglican church, especially, is a uniquely national institution and the Germans - who were always scrupulous in respecting everyone else's religious sensibilities (except for Jews, of course), would have a wee problem with this in that the head of the Anglican church is a person who is now in Canada or New Zealand or somewheres. On the channel Islands they permitted the usual prayers to be said for the King at each service.
Sex. If large numbers of British males are being held on the continent, there are going to be a lot of lonely women, plus a lot of young women reaching sexual maturity and finding that the only homegrown choices they have are between the village idiot and blokes with prostate trouble. That leaves German soldiers.
It's very important here
to distinguish between those opportunists who shag Germans for the chocolate,
the fags, the posh meals and the fast cars, and those who actually fall
in love with them. On the Channel Islands, a lot of the women who went
with Germans for the material things were denounces as 'Jerrybags' and
had a hard time of it after the war. Many of these women were equally notorious
as informers; only a little word in Oberst Fritzi's ear and you were on
your way to a concentration camp. Those who were actually in love with
their individual German, or got married to one, rarely encountered any
hostility from their compatriots.
Once the fighting has died down, the priority for most people is to get on with the difficult business of making a living. And if that means collaborating with the Germans, then almost everyone will go along with it. Others will take to the new regime as opportunists, seeking to improve their careers and living conditions. Naturally, lots of people will grass up their neighbours to the authorities, while others might well blackmail neighbours whom they know are breaking the law.
What I do not see, however, is any enthusiasm for Nazism on the part of the huge majority of the population, and I think this is a really important factor to get across. Through the 1920s and 1930s, most Britons saw fascism first as rather laughable, and later as distasteful. Mosley and his blackshirts (see separate notes) were, in hindsight, never a significant force in British politics, and Mosley's support was always extremely volatile. Certainly, one could only point to a handful of British fascists who, when the balloon went up, were actually unwilling to fight against Germany. The thing that always clinched the argument for me, though, was the story of the British Free Corps ...
The traitor John Amery toured prisoner-of-war camps trying to recruit men to join a unit of the Waffen-SS (because the Wehrmacht didn't recruit non-Germans) called the British Free Corps. Of the thousands of men he visited, and with all the resources the Germans gave him, and all the clever lies he told them, he succeeded in signing up FOUR men, despite promises that they'd only fight the Russians and all the obvious attractions of regular pay, better rations, leave, sex, and fighting for an elite unit. Of the four men who did sign up, one was an elderly Italian professor, one was of German parentage anyway and one was a confused 17-year-old educational underachiever who believed Amery was the British Foreign Secretary. From here on, the Waffen-SS took over the recruitment - the strength of the Corps never exceeded 27, and most of these had been tricked or blackmailed into joining.
Now in an occupied Britain recruiting men to fight on, say, the Russian front, they're going to do a little bit better than that, but not much. Certainly recruiting posters for a 'British Free Corps' or, say we call it, 'The Saint George Legion' or whatever, will be part of the urban landscape, but I think the numbers actually joining will be tiny, especialy when you factor in all the rumours that will naturally spring up about how horrible the Russian front is. The Germans found that France, Belgium and the Netherlands were comparatively fertile recruiting grounds, but not, I believe, Britain.
Some historians nowadays prefer to analyse the history of wartime France not just as an occupation, but as a civil war as well. I think this is a very useful tool. On the one hand you have the France of the Popular Front, of strong trade unions and socialist intellectuals in every urban cafe. On the other hand, you had the reactionary tendency, strong on traditional values, a mystic/nostalgic attachment to the countryside and la France profonde, the Catholic church and, of course, France's own homegrown fascists (Action Francaise was a far more significant force in French politics of the 1930s than the BUF was in Britain). It was the reactionaries who ran Vichy, complete with their own raft of third-rate intellectuals going on about their 'partnership' with Germany in making a new Europe, and about how they were building a purified France of deep and authentic Frenchness. The result was that in 1944, if the Allies hadn't (very reluctantly on Roosevelt's part) shipped in De Gaulle with a load of well-armed French troops as a ready-made head of government, the country would have collapsed into anarchy that would have gone well beyond the shooting of collaborators and shaving prostitute's heads.
While you have political
and social divisions in Britain which are every bit as serious as those
in France, I think that only a tiny handful of people will see any advantage
in embracing Nazism. You're going to get very few people going around saying
that Hitler he's allright, and we do need to eliminate the Jews and it's
a blimmin' good job he came and invaded us.
Even before Dunkirk, the War Office had established secret dumps of arms and explosives against the possibility of a German invasion. After Dunkirk, small bands of guerrilla fighters were organised and trained. They were recruited in great secrecy and usually for their local knowledge. Many members of these so-called 'Auxiliary Units' (the name was a bland and forgettable cover) were gamekeepers, woodsmen, farmers, etc. They were people who knew around their parts very well. They were established in tiny cells of four to six men (some women were also enlisted, usually as radio operators), and all were equipped with secret - usually underground - hideouts with bedding, food supplies, water, weapons, ammunition, etc. They were equipped with the very best materiel then available, including Thompson submachine guns and some of the first plastic explosives. They were all extensively trained in unarmed combat, sabotage and Lord knows what other skullduggery. The idea was that they were to carry on with their day-jobs until the balloon went up, when they would take to their hideouts. Most of them didn't even tell their wives what they were up to. If they needed any cover at all, they'd simply say they were in the Home Guard.
The myth that's grown up around the Auxiliary Units is that they would form the core of an underground or maquis movement once German rule had been established. This was not their purpose: their mission was to make themselves useful during the Battle for Britain by creating havoc behind the German lines by killing people and blowing things up while the fighting was still going on. It is therefore likely that many, perhaps a majority, of the Auxiliaries will have been killed or captured by the time the Germans have won.
It seems fair to assume, however, that a number of Auxiliaries will survive here and there. Some of them may still be in their holes in the ground, but most will have slipped back into their regular civilian lives. These guys will have access to some guns and explosives and may be tempted to use them from time to time.
It would be a huge mistake to pretend that anything approximating systematic armed resistance would go on for long after the conquest. The Germans have no qualms abut shooting civilians, or otherwise making life unpleasant for people, after any German soldiers have been killed. Most sensible Britons would see that for the time being there would be no sense in fighting back against the occupiers.
In your actual WW2, resistance in the occupied countries of Europe was based to some degree on people's belief that the British, the Americans or the Red Army would sooner or later come to drive the Germans out. Despite all that stuff about SOE and setting Europe ablaze, organised resistance didn't really get going in Western Europe until the Americans entered the war and it became clear that the Allies might win after all. Resisters were doing their bit to help things along, or, as in the case of the partisans in huge areas of the occupied Soviet Union, they were fighting because if they didn't they'd be massacred anyway. In our situation, even the most patriotic Britons and committed antifascists would regard killing Germans just for the sake of it as futile and bide their time. In the Channel Islands, for example, there does not appear to have been one solitary single episode of armed resistance to German occupation.
There would, of course, be the occasional acts of sabotage, the painting of anti-German slogans on walls, sundry bits of vandalism or the occasional 'disappearances' of collaborators, informers and profiteers. The Germans would massacre civilians for the death of one of their own, but they probably wouldn't be quite so bothered about, say, a Town Clerk who's been a little too assiduous in enforcing German laws.
A few individuals would also organise some sort of underground railway to get Jews, intellectuals, Communists, socialists and others at risk out of the country, while others would be actively spying for the Russians, the Americans or the British government in exile.
The major source of freelance resistance is the Communist Party, which at this time has - very, very roughly - around 15,000 members who tend to be concentrated in the industrial areas of South Wales, the North of England and Scotland. Until Hitler invades the USSR, British communists are supposed to be toeing the Moscow line, which is that Russia and Germany are the best of friends and that Britain's war with Germany is a disgraceful global capitalist conspiracy. None of this will stop the Gestapo rounding up every commie they can find and packing them off to concentration camps. Any halfway intelligent commie can see this coming and some of them will go underground. The middle class ones will try and flee the country.
Once Hitler is embarked on Barbarossa, Moscow will order its remaining cohorts in Britain to make life as hard as possible for the Germans. What commies are remaining to get the message will respond positively to this; the Soviet Union is the home of international socialism, and any action they can take in Britain ties down German troops which would otherwise be invading the motherland. In June of 1941, or whenever it happens, we can expect a small and ultimately useless outbreak of violence in defence of the home of socialism.
The British government-in-exile will be anxious to try and get all these various strands of underground activity onto some sort of organised basis, if only on the grounds that if it doesn't take control, the Commies will do.
We are used to thinking of the Gestapo, or maybe the SS, as the principal arms of Nazi tyranny, but the actual German secret police system is far more complicated than that, partly because Hitler wanted to set all his secret policemen at one another's throats so's none of them would plot against him. In practice, no Briton is going to meet any of these jokers unless they're suspected of something as serious as armed resistance (or maybe hoarding art treasures that Dr Six wants).
The first line of law and order will be the old-fashioned British bobby. Many individual coppers will take enthusiastically to the new bosses, while many - perhaps most - will turn a blind eye to petty acts of defiance. Likewise, the British court system will deal with most offences unless they have a serious bearing on the occupation or the German war effort.
In the latter case, they will be subject in the initial stages of the occupation to German emergency regulations as enforced by the Wehrmacht.
The Wehrmacht has been handed down to us as an essentially 'decent' institution staffed by 'good' Germans. This was a myth that the Americans and other NATO powers colluded in creating when the West Germans were setting up the Bundeswehr in the 1950s. All those atrocities were carried out by the SS weren't they? Bollocks. Naturally, there are a lot of nice young lads in Wehrmacht uniform, but the Wehrmacht can, and will, commit atrocities. If ordered to shoot civilians in reprisal for 'terrorist' killing of German soldiers they'll do it without any hesitation. Killing civilians was never merely the work of a handful of psychopathic SS troops or Eastern European collaborators. (There's a book about the SS which has a great title: 'The Alibi of a Nation')
The Germans will establish and run a number of concentration camps in Britain. These might be provisional - holding pens for those the Nazis have on blacklists pending shipment to camps in Europe, but one or two might be more long-term.
It's important to stress that these are not 'death camps' as such. The decision to formally undertake the so-called 'Final Solution' wasn't taken until the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in 1942, although massacres of Jews had been happening on a semi-organised basis in Eastern Europe since literally the second day of the war. Concentration camps, known colloquially in German as 'kozis' (from 'Konzentrationslager') at this time are primarily labour camps, and conditions in them tended to vary according to the nationality of the inmates and the whims of the Commandant. Many prisoners were worked to death, or died of starvation/malnourishment, or were beaten to death or shot. Conditions in the British camps would be pretty grim, but not nearly as lethal as those that Russian prisoners would later encounter.
In Western occupied countries, Jews were immediately disqualified and removed from public office and were subject to various petty humiliations, such as being forbidden to use public transport, or enter certain shops, restaurants, cinemas, etc. They would be registered, they'd have to wear the Star of David on their clothes and their property would sooner or later be confiscated. In Britain, they might be moved into ghettoes (though they weren't in France, Holland, Belgium or Denmark) and might be driven into labour camps after a year or two, and then shipped off for extermination in 1943-44. There were labour camps in Western Europe, but no extermination camps as such, and the Germans would be unlikely to build one in Britain. According to one source, all British Jews would have been sent to Treblinka, though I find this rather odd since it's the other side of Europe. Buchenwald, Belsen or Dachau would have been nearer.
The Nazis never really settled the question of what to do with people who were half-Jewish, or a quarter Jewish, or Jews married to Gentiles, or vice-versa. They played with the idea of sterilising the half-Jewish ones. In practice, some ended up in camps and some didn't. A lot depended on how Jewish you looked, and whether or not your neighbours were going to denounce you as a Jew. A lot of half-Jews got blackmailed.
While there is a considerable amount of anti-Semitism in Britain at this time, it's not nearly as ferocious as it is in Poland, or even in France, whose Dreyfus case lives on to this day as the epitome of European anti-Semitism. Most British Jews would die, but on the whole your chances of surviving in/escaping from German-occupied Britain would be slightly better than they were in France, but not quite as good as they were in Mussolini's Italy, which never really bought into Hitler's racial ideas, and not nearly as good as they were in Denmark, where virtually the entire Jewish population survived thanks to the actions of thousands of ordinary people engaged in an organised campaign to get them out to neutral Sweden and safety before they were due to be rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. Denmark is the example against which all other occupied countries have to be weighed, and my guess is that while dozens of individual Britons would risk their lives to save Jews, the country on the whole would be found wanting.
© Kim Newman & Eugene Byrne 1999.
Site last updated: August 2006. We figured we'd leave it on the web, but make it look a bit less messy.