Battle of France

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Battle of France
Part of the Western Front of the Second World War
Battle of France collage
Clockwise from top left: German Panzer IV tanks passing through a town in France; German soldiers marching past the Arc de Triomphe after the surrender of Paris, 14 June 1940; Column of French Renault R35 tanks at Sedan, Ardennes; British and French prisoners at Veules-les-Roses; French soldiers on review within the Maginot Line fortifications.
Date 10 May-25 June 1940
Location France, Low Countries
Result Decisive Axis victory and French surrender
 United Kingdom
Poland Poland
Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia
Italy Italy (from June 10)
Commanders and leaders
France Maurice Gamelin (until May 17)
France Maxime Weygand (from May 17)
United Kingdom Lord Gort
Belgium Leopold III
Netherlands Henri Winkelman
Poland Władysław Sikorski
Czechoslovakia Sergej Ingr
Nazi Germany Gerd von Rundstedt
Nazi Germany Fedor von Bock
Nazi Germany Wilhelm von Leeb
Nazi Germany Erich von Manstein
Italy H.R.H. Umberto di Savoia
Allies: 144 divisions[1]
13,974 guns[1]
3,383 tanks[1]
2,935 aircraft[2]
3,300,000 troops [citation needed]
Alps on 20 June
~150,000 French
Germany: 141 divisions[1]
7,378 guns[1]
2,445 tanks[1]
5,638 aircraft[3][4]
3,350,000 troops
Alps on 20 June
300,000 Italians
Casualties and losses
360,000 dead or wounded,
1,900,000 captured
2,233 aircraft

Total: 2,260,000 casualties
Germany:157,621 casualties

Total: 163,650 casualties

In World War II, the Battle for France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France on May 10, 1940, which ended the Phoney War.

Germany invades

France had declared war in September 1939 at the behest of the British who promised them substantial aid if they did so. All that came of this 'aid' was poorly equipped soldiers in the form of a Expeditionary Force. Meanwhile Germany did nothing in the west. This period was known as the Phoney War.

On the evening of 9 May 1940, the Germans had 2,350,000 troops with 2,700 tanks supported by 3,200 aircraft poised on Germany's western frontiers. Facing them, between Basel and the North Sea were 2,000,000 French troops, 237,000 British (plus the mobilised neutrals: 375,000 Belgians and 250,000 Dutchmen), with 3,000 tanks supported by 1,700 aircraft. Therefore only in the air did the Germans have a superiority. On the ground the Allies had a comparitively small numerical superiority.[5]

The invasion or '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 neutral Belgium. The retreating British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and many units of the French army were evacuated from Dunkirk. In the second operation, Fall Rot (Case Red), executed from June 5, German forces outflanked the Maginot Line to attack the France proper. Italy later declared war on France, on June 10.


The French government fled to Bordeaux, and Paris was occupied by the German Wehrmacht on June 14. On June 17, the Premier of France, Marshal Pétain, publicly announced by wireless that France would ask for an armistice. On June 22, the armistice was signed between France and Germany, to take effect from the 25th. For the Axis Powers, the campaign was a spectacular victory.[6]


France became divided into a German military occupation zone in the north and west, a small Italian military occupation zone in the southeast, and an unoccupied zone, the zone libre, in the south. The French State continued to administer civil law in all three zones according to the terms laid out in the armistice. They also had full control of their navy and a truncated army of 100,000 men; plus full control of the French Empire. In November 1942, the Axis forces were forced by the Allies invasion of neutral French North Africa to move troops south to the [[Mediterranean] for defensive purposes. This mean that the zone libre now also became part of occupied France (but not its empire) remained occupied until after the Allied invasion in 1944.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Maier and Falla 1991, p. 279.
  2. Hooton 2007, p. 47-48: Hooton uses the National Archives in London for RAF records. Including "Air 24/679 Operational Record Book: The RAF in France 1939–1940", "Air 22/32 Air Ministry Daily Strength Returns", "Air 24/21 Advanced Air Striking Force Operations Record" and "Air 24/507 Fighter Command Operations Record". For the Armee de l'Air Hooton uses "Service Historique de Armee de l'Air (SHAA), Vincennes".
  3. Hooton 2007, pp. 47-48: Hooton uses the Bundesarchiv, Militärarchiv in Freiburg.
  4. Luftwaffe strength included gliders and transports used in the assaults on The Netherlands and Belgium
  5. Barry, Major-General R.H., CB., CBE., "Military Balance - Western Europe May 1940" in Purnell's History of the Second World War, London, 1981, vol.1, pps:95-105.
  6. John Keegan: The Second World War, Glenfield, Auckland 10, New Zealand, Hutchinson, year=1989.

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