Alan Brooke and the Brittany Redoubt

2 December 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ History,Short Factual Stories

General Alan Brooke with Winston Churchill

Alan Brooke and The Brittany Redoubt

The little known story of what happened next after the evacuation from Dunkirk

General Weygand wanted to create a Brittany Redoubt

General Weygand

Even after the miracle of Dunkirk, Winston Churchill, ever the protagonist, wanted to support Paul Reynaud, the French Prime Minister in a desperate attempt to keep France in the war.

Reynard and the French Commander, General Maxime Weygand had come up with a plan. The French army would hold Brittany as a redoubt against the Germans. Churchill immediately offered help in the form of three Divisions of troops (Find out about Army Divisions here).

So, by the middle of June 1940, only days after the evacuation from Dunkirk had been completed, Churchill sent General Alan Brooke to Brittany as the commander of three British and Canadian Divisions.

On arrival Brooke quickly went to meet with the 76 year-old French Commander, General Weygand. The British and Canadian troops would be under his over-all Command.

Weygand was now the Supreme Commander of the French Armies. He had replaced the dismissed General Maurice Gamelin as the Germans poured through the Ardennes into France only a month before. By that time, realistically, the French situation had already become untenable.

According to Brooke’s Diaries, General Weygand briefed him on the latest situation.  Paris had just fallen to the Germans and the French General’s map showed that the Germans were breaking through the French lines in numerous places. Clearly the French Army was in disarray and the Germans were pushing further and further south into France.

“I asked him,” says Brooke, “’What reserves do you have?” Holding his hands up in a gesture of desperation, Weygand replied, ‘Absolutely none, not a man, vehicle or gun left!’”

General Wegand’s Plan

Weygand then explained to Brooke that his plan was for a defensive line from the English Channel to the Bay of Biscay to create a Brittany Redoubt. From the map in front of him, Brooke calculated that the defensive line would be 150 Kilometres long or nearly 100 miles.  Weygand could not believe that the distance was so long.

Measuring the distance again, Brooke confirmed that it was correct. He said, “We will require at least 15 Divisions to hold this front against the Germans. Where are that number of Divisions to come from?”

General Alan Brooke argued that France did not have enough troops to hold a Brittany Redoubt

General Alan Brooke

Britain, even with the help of Canada, could only afford three Divisions. Most of the British Army needed re-equipping after Dunkirk.  They were also desperately needed for homeland defence in case of invasion.

There was actually a further British Division in France but it was already cut off and would soon be lost on the Maginot line.

Brooke Phones Churchill

Brooke could see immediately that the plan was hopeless. After the meeting he discussed the situation with the Prime Minister on the phone. He told Churchill that there was insufficient troops to make the Brittany Redoubt viable.

Churchill was persuaded and agreed to the withdrawal of all British troops from France with the utmost haste.

Fortunately as only one-and-a-bit Divisions had already been landed in France, an evacuation was achieved quickly without any further loss of men or equipment.

See Also:

Click here for the Best Pub Quiz Questions on the Second World War

Click here for the Best Pub Quiz Questions on Britain’s Great Military Commanders

The Deal Locators shop 10% cheaper than eBay