Nightmare Scenario by Norman Longmate

Nightmare Scenario by Norman Longmate

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

First edi­tion, 1972

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….

Reprint edi­tion, 2012.

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.

Alternate History

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 Plot

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

Oper­a­tion Sea Lion (Ital­ian Wikimedia)

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.

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