Did the Germans invade England in 1940? They certainly planned to under the codename Operation Sealion, and much ink has been spilt on those plans along with many counterfactuals on what would have happened had the Germans succeeded. Martin Bowman posits in Hitler’s Invasion of East Anglia 1940 An Historical Cover Up? that they did, or at least maybe they did. He explains in considerable detail how the Germans would have proceeded, deploying the invasions of Belgium and Holland to provide illumination. Bowman discusses spies, Brandenburgers operating behind the lines, paratroopers, commandos, gliders, the Home Guard, fire weapons, mysterious corpses washed up on beaches, co-op drivers, and much more. He throws everything and the kitchen sink at demonstrating that something happened, probably in Suffolk or just off the coast, and that the government covered it up and still does. But ultimately Bowman comes up short, resorting to his imagination to fill the hole all that evidence still leaves open.
Bowman’s assemblage of evidence serves him well, though perhaps not how he intended. The sections on Holland and Belgium are very informative, as is his dissection of Operation Sealion. He also adds to our understanding of German clandestine operations as they set up their blitzkriegs. Indeed, there is not much Bowman misses in synthesizing larger works from other historians into a coherent narrative and analysis of events in 1940. More footnotes would have been nice, however, particularly in a book that slides into fiction for the crucial reconstruction of the German attack – some readers might want to know how Bowman pulls all this together. A more judicious editor might have been helpful too in parts of the book that felt tacked on and not germane to the thrust of Bowman’s argument; for example, the stories of British commando operations in Norway seemed unnecessary.
The biggest failing, however, is in the argument that the British covered up what must have been a morale-boosting victory after the woes of Dunkirk and the Blitz. An accident, or disaster, is understandable, as would be weapon testing, but where is the benefit in covering up a significant victory, particularly when the British were spreading rumours designed to affect German morale, stating exactly what Bowman contends happened? Surely the British public would want to hear about dead Germans on the beaches, not have them carted away in civilian trucks and everyone sworn to secrecy? Unfortunately, I do not buy the German invasion theory, which is a pity because there is much to commend Bowman for in this entertaining and thought-provoking book. 7/10.