I'm writing a story set in an alternative history world but after some research I suspect the scenario I intend to use is unrealistic, so I would like to understand the likely outcome of Hitler’s operation Sea lion had it been launched. I am particularly interested in evidence based answers with reasoned explanations based on historic fact.

Assume that the air war against the RAF Fighter Command had remained focused on the airbases rather than being diverting to attack London, leaving fighter command further weakened.

Despite Hitler's reservations, assume that some other political event or serious public loss of face forced Hitler’s hand and he launched it anyway in a fit of rage.

  • $\begingroup$ Curious why the down vote? $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ In accordance with community discussion, voting to close as too broad. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 19:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The novel SS-GB might provide some insight. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ As in, for real, I have never read any alternate history novel where the Germans get a moment of clear thinking and decide to do over with the English nuisance before opening a second front. No, I've never heard of SS-GB, Dominion, the Small Change series, Resistance... $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ The answer is British naval superiority. An article published in History Today analysed the difference in naval capacity and decided the vessels the Germans needed to use to invade Britain. Mainly, river barges (vide @PhilipRowlands' answer) could be sunk by Royal Navy ships just sailing by them. There are several books (nonfiction) that examined Operation Sea Lion. The consensus is it would fail decisively. One part of the air campaign the Germans targeted the radar aerials, but failed to maintain this. Had they done so, this could have turned the tide on the Battle of Britain. [continues] $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 1:40

1 Answer 1


There was a wargame in the mid 70s which reenacted it, based on the known plans from both sides, and concluded that it would have failed. One of the assumptions was that the Luftwaffe would continue attacking air bases instead of cities, much like your scenario.

Other points in Britain's favour:

  • They were prepared to resort to chemical warfare if the Germans invaded.
  • Germany had almost no landing craft, apart from re-purposed river barges. These aren't exactly ships for raiding across the English Channel.
  • The German military heavily relied on horses for logistics. Horses panic a lot more easily than a truck.
  • The Germans had few, if any, spies in Britain - all of them were caught and turned into double agents.
  • $\begingroup$ "Horses?" Of all the reasons I've heard about WWII, I don't think I've ever heard about German war horses... $\endgroup$
    – Xen2050
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 10:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Xen2050 precisely because their main purpose was transporting supplies and field artillery - which isn't as "exciting" as tank-vs-tank battles, D-Day, etc... $\endgroup$
    – user7076
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Xen2050 Throughout the war, but especialy in the early years, horses were extensively used in transportation. The German armies initial plans called for more than 100,000 horses to be transported to England. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 18:45

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