Norman Longmate, If Britain Had Fallen: The Real Nazi Occupation Plans. Published 1972, reprinted 2012, available from Amazon in hardback, paperback and Kindle editions.
A recent kerfuffle over draping Nazi banners on beloved British icons reminds me that this has been going on a long time and is perfectly acceptable in examining historical possiblities. Take the late Norman Longmate, who offered a gripping pastiche about what might have happened in 1940. As a result, we have a glimpse of a possible alternative.
Longmate’s Yarn on the Worst Possibility
Later that afternoon with the Germans already in Trafalgar Square and advancing down Whitehall to take their position in the rear, the enemy unit advancing across St. James’s Park made their final charge. Several of those in the Downing Street position were already dead….
At last the Bren ceased its chatter, its last magazine emptied. Churchill reluctantly abandoned the machine-gun, drew his pistol and with great satisfaction, for it was a notoriously inaccurate weapon, shot dead the first German to reach the foot of the steps. As two more rushed forward, covered by a third in the distance, Winston Churchill moved out of the shelter of the sandbags, as if personally to bar the way up Downing Street. A German NCO, running up to find the cause of the unexpected hold-up, recognised him and shouted to the soldiers not to shoot, but he was too late. A burst of bullets from a machine-carbine caught the Prime Minister full in the chest. He died instantly, his back to Downing Street, his face toward the enemy, his pistol still in his hand.
This chilling vision is the highlight of the Longmate’s thriller. His fancied action of a successful German invasion in 1940 is thoroughly believable, and all the more frightening. Based on a BBC television film of the same name, If Britain Had Fallen was originally conceived by Lord Chalfont, Basil Collier and Richard Wade.
It is not the first book to contemplate a German invasion and occupation of the British Isles. There was Erskine Childers’ The Riddle of the Sands (1903), H.H. Munro’s When William Came (1913) and C.S. Forester’s If Hitler Had Invaded England (1960). But these works covered just one phase of the subject—preparations, landings, or subsequent campaigns. Longmate covered them all, and was the first author to do so.
The first four (factual) chapters describe German and British pre-invasion activities. The last thirteen describe in “an entirely non-fictional way what the German occupation would have been like.” The author uses captured documents to show how the Germans behaved in countries and areas they occupied. Of special note are the Channel Islands—the one part of Britain they did occupy.
Only three chapters are entirely fictional. The plot here hinges on the crux of the Battle of Britain: Hermann Goering’s decision to stop attacking military targets and bomb open cities from the air. In this book, Goering behaves the opposite way. (Longmate does not allow for the actual deciding factor—an infuriated Hitler ordering London to be leveled).
So Longmate has Goering order his pilots to redouble their efforts:
Knock out the radar stations, then the forward airfields, then the main fighter stations and sector and group headquarters. Every bomb and every bullet was to be aimed at an Air Force target. The renewed attack on the radar chain took Fighter Command by surprise and soon ominous gaps were appearing on the plotting boards at 11 Group Headquarters at Uxbridge and at Fighter Command at Bentley Priory, Stanmore. …And, final proof that the RAF was losing the battle, the Stuka dive-bombers again flew far inland and got safely home.
Operation Sea Lion
Longmate next refers to German documents on “Operation Sea Lion,” and mounts the Nazi offensive on “S-Day,” 24 September 1940, in the small hours under a bright moon. Landings are made from Dover to Lyme Regis, supported by swarms of Messerschmitts and Junkers 88s, which “ranged the skies over Britain at will.” Rapidly, the Wehrmacht seals off the Kentish coast and establishes a line from Margate to Brighton. Soon the entire peninsula from Woolwich to Southampton has been occupied. The Royal Family reluctantly leaves London—followed a few weeks later by the Downing Street scene described above.
The nightmare continues. Jews are rounded up; the fascist Oswald Mosley becomes Britain’s Quisling. But I am not going to give more away here. What happens to the King and the government? What would America have done in the event? Would Canada and Australia have come to the rescue? Would the British people have come to accept the occupation—even feel hostile toward resistance fighters? Would the deportation of friends, the flying of the Swastika over Westminster, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, incite docility—or resistance? Obtain a copy and find out. This is a non-essential but thought-provoking addition to the Churchill library.