Operation Sealion Impaired by Nazi Intelligence

Plan of battle of Operation Sealion, the cancelled German plan to invade England in 1940
Plan of battle of Operation Sealion, the cancelled German plan to invade England in 1940

During the Second World War, Hitler tried to enact Operation Sealion, in which his forces were to take Britain by storm. Before this mission could commence, however, the Nazis needed to undertake Operation Lena. This was a much smaller operation, which was to utilize a smaller number of men in making the invasion much easier. Unfortunately for the Nazis, Operation Sealion was put at risk by the German officers in charge of picking men for Lena.

Lena began with twelve spies who encroached upon British soil, each of them equipped with a number of supplies. While they were adequately prepared in terms of basic equipment, there was one major handicap suffered by each of the spies. This handicap is that none of them were particularly skilled with the English language. This put Operation Sealion at risk, as it would be difficult for German spies to make way for an invasion when their capture was alerting the British to the Germans’ plans. Most of the spies involved in Lena were arrested quickly, usually due to blunders that showed a complete lack of knowledge regarding proper British behavior.

Many have wondered why such seemingly uninformed spies would have been deployed to Britain in the first place. It seems like a major oversight by German intelligence, but now it turns out that might not have been the case. The spies sent to make way for Operation Sealion may have actually been selected specifically for their incompetence rather than in spite of it. This theory is based on the belief that some of Hitler’s own officers might not have agreed with his strategies, The Guardian reports.

Some of the head intelligence officers at the time of Lena’s failure included Herbert Wichmann and Wilhelm Canaris, men who are related to a failed assassination of Hitler as well as the mending of ties between Germany and Britain at the end of the war. Operation Sealion may have therefore been sabotaged by these men, as Wichmann did not want relations between Germany and Britain to become so broken that they could not be mended after the conflict.

There is also speculation that Wichmann wanted to sabotage Operation Sealion due to the fact that it was poorly planned, and it would have hurt Germany to go through with the invasion. These theories can be explored deeper in a new book by German historian Monika Siedentopf, which is entitled Operation Sealion: Resistance Inside the Secret Service.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE