The fall of France

The Battle of France (also known as the Western Campaign or the Fall of France), refers to the German Invasion of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, which occurred on the 10th of May 1940, and after six weeks of fighting, resulted in a German victory on the 25 June 1940.

After the German Invasion of Poland in 1939, Britain and France had declared war on Germany and after an extended period of not very much actually happening – the Phoney War – the peace on the Western Front was suddenly shattered.

The New York Times reporting on the German invasion.

Fall Gelb

The Germans launched Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) their revised plans for the Invasion of France and sent the bulk of their powerful panzer divisions through the lightly defended Ardennes, whilst a diversionary attack was launched further north. This resulted in Allied units being cut off and surrounded and forced back to the coast. Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands all fell to the mighty German Blitzkrieg relatively quickly, their relatively small militaries no match for the immense forces at Hitler’s disposal.

The Germans execute Erich Von Manstein's plan for Fall Gelb. Armoured divisions cross the Meuse (16 May), (principally in Dinant) and Sedan and the Ardennes. The Ardennes is just at the east of the red shading which marks the extent of the German advance. On 16 May General Maurice Gamelin said he could no longer protect Paris because he had lost the Ardennes.

The History Department of the United States Military Academy

Do 17 Z-2s over France, summer 1940 bombing French and British strong points to support German spearheads.

Wiki Commons

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) escaped to fight another day – the bulk of its troops escaping back across the English Channel – evacuated to safety thanks to Operation Dynamo – although at the cost of a significant amount of its military equipment which was left abandoned on the beaches of Dunkirk.

British troops evacuated during Operation Dynamo arrive back in England.

France, itself both a considerably larger country – both geographically and in the military sense – than Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg, continued to fight on but it’s outdated doctrines and – at times – poorly led armies, were no match for the well-equipped and rapidly moving German forces, using modern combined arms tactics.

 The Wehrmacht advances further, particularly accelerating through the Gembloux gap northwest of the Ardennes, in the week of 21 May (red shading), quickly reaching Abbeville, near the English Channel. This cut off the Allied troops of the North (some French divisions, the Belgian Army and the British Expeditionary Force). With this, the German armies won the first stage of the Battle of France.

The History Department of the United States Military Academy

Fall Rot

The second part of the German plan – Fall Rot (Case Red) started on 5 June 1940 with the objective of mopping up the remaining sixty French and two British divisions. Despite brave and tenacious efforts to hold their ground, combination of the German armoured mobility and air superiority proved decisive. The Italians declared war on France on 10 June and launched their own invasion in southern France, the Maginot Line was outflanked, the French capital Paris fell on 14 June and the French government soon collapsed.

A member of a German Luftwaffe Flak Artillery Unit stands by a broken down (hooked up for recovery) French Hotchkiss H-35 Nº5 (40099) of the 4th Cuirassiers, 1ère Brigade Légère Mécanique, 1ère Division Légère Mécanisée. Meanwhile, passing him are French refugees with all their worldly possessions. / Doug

German commanders met with French officials on 14 June to discuss an armistice and on 22 June 1940, the Second Armistice at Compiègne was signed by France and Germany, bringing hostilities to an official end. This led to part of France being partitioned – one part occupied by German, the other set up as a puppet regime – Vichy France, its government led by the First World War French hero Marshal Philippe Pétain.

Victorious German troops hold a parade after the surrender of France.  Royston Colour