France 1940

In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and surround the Allied units that had advanced into Belgium. During the fighting, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and many French soldiers were evacuated from Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo.

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Military Balance – Western Europe May 1940

On the evening of May 9, 1940 – the day before the German onslaught on western Europe – there were 2,350,000 Germans with 2,700 tanks and supported by 3,200 aircraft poised on Germany’s western frontiers; facing them between Basel and the North Sea were 2,000,000 Frenchmen, 237,000 British, 375,000 Belgians, and 250,000 Dutchmen, with 3,000 tanks and supported by 1,700 aircraft. The Germans therefore had considerable superiority in the air and the Allies a comparatively small numerical superiority on the ground. But, as often happens, statistics alone are misleading; there were major differences between the two sets of forces. In fact, two differing concepts of land warfare stood opposed. This was the governing factor and from it stemmed the majority of the differences in organisation, equipment, and planning.


Major-General R.H. Barry
taken from History of the Second World War
[Phoebus Publishing Ltd in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum