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Operation Sealion   >   Barges


Barges in Operation Sealion

Unlike the British and American Navies, the German Navy, the Kriegsmarine, had no special purpose-built amphibious landing craft. Therefore, they were forced to improvise for Operation Sealion, and they planned to do so by adapting barges (principally used on Europe's inland waterways) into landing craft.

The obvious problem of course is such barges are not really suitable for use at sea - they are lacking in seaworthiness (so much so that they could be sank by the wake of a destroyer simply passing nearby even in good weather). Moreover many of the barges lacked engines, and so would have to be pulled by tugs.

Additionally, the Germans planned to build rafts, and pull these behind the barges - with their horses standing on the rafts! In testing, the rafts tended to fall to pieces, and it is unclear how the horses would have reacted.

Finally, as if this were not enough problems to contend with, the Germans also discovered they simply lacked enough personnel with nautical experience to sail all these barges. Ideally they, needed 20,000 men with suitable experience, but even after pulling away men from the fighting vessels of the Kriegsmarine, and looking everywhere they could find, they still only could find 16,000. This would have been that many of the barges would have had to sail without even one experienced sailor aboard!

Fleet of German Commercial Barges; Second World War, 1940
Fleet of German...

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In terms of the barges that they Germans collected, they classified them into two main types:
  1. The peniche which was about 125 feet (38.5 meters) long and could carry 360 tons of cargo. The Germans collected 1,336 peniches.

  2. The Kampine which was about 165 feet (50 meters) long and could carry 620 tons of cargo. The Germans collected 982 Kampines.
Of course, as the barges came from many different sources, they were not standardized. So small peniches were classified as type A1, and large peniches as type A2 for example.

The barges were then modified as follows:
  • Type A: peniche barges were modified by creating an opening in the bow and adding a wooden ramp for off-loading troops and vehicles, welding beams and braces to the hull to increase seaworthiness, and pooring concrete onto the floor of the barge so it could carry tanks. A type A1 barge (made from a smaller peniche) could carry 3 tanks, and a type A2 (made from a larger peniche) could carry 4 tanks.

  • Type AS: These were type A barges with additional protection (by lining the sides with concrete), and to carry assault boats. Type AS barges were intended to be used by infantry during the initial landing. 18 (later increased to 23) of these craft were ordered.

  • Type AF: Type A barges generally lacked their own power, so at the Luftwaffe's suggestion, some barges were outfitted with airscrew propulsion using surplus aircraft engines. These craft had limited range, very limited manoeuvrability, and were deafening for anybody on board, but nevertheless they could move under their own power. 128 of these barges were available at the beginning of October, and by the end of the month the figure had risen to over 200.

  • Type B: This was a type A barge modified further so as to be able to off-load submersible tanks (Tauchpanzers). 60 (later increased to 70) of these were ordered.

  • Type C: This was a barge converted to carry upto four Panzer II amphibious tanks (Schwimmpanzers). 14 of these were available by the planned invasion date.


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