WW2 plot to ‘seriously dent’ Hitler’s supply would’ve made him ‘think twice’ about France

Adolf Hitler's bunker had fifth escape route claims expert

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After the conclusion of the German-Soviet Pact in 1939, Britain and France became deeply concerned over Joseph Stalin supplying oil to Nazi Germany. They soon discovered more than 90 percent of oil extraction and 80 percent of refinement was located along the Caucasus – a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea – primarily Baku, Azerbaijan. War planners in London and Paris determined that the “interruption of oil supplies on any large scale” would have “far-reaching consequences” and could even result in “the collapse of all the military, industrial and agricultural systems of Russia”.

On January 6, 1940, the British war cabinet discussed bombing this “vulnerable” region and a month later, loose talk of Allied plans to go to war with the Soviet Union were picked up in Moscow.

And historian Sean McMeekin says there was genuine fear in the Kremlin.

He told Express.co.uk: “I think they were vulnerable in March and early April 1940, when the British were seriously looking into this – they took surveillance and studied the photographs.

“They were talking about how close together many of the oil derricks were right along the coast near Baku.

“I do think that the Soviets wised up to this and not only did Stalin have intelligence about Allied plans at the time, but a lot of documents were published by the Germans after they conquered France.

“I think by that summer, the Soviets had begun to strengthen – it would have been much harder after the installation of anti-aircraft batteries for the Allies to operate there.”

Despite initial opposition by some politicians, the French government ordered General Maurice Gamelin to commence a “plan of possible intervention with the view of destroying Russian oil exploitation”.

US Ambassador William Christian Bullitt informed US President Franklin Roosevelt that the French considered that air attacks by the French Air Forces in Syria against Baku to be “the most efficient way to weaken the Soviet Union”.

According to the report by General Gamelin that was submitted to the French Prime Minister on February 22, 1940, an oil shortage would cripple the Red Army, the Soviet Air Force and Soviet collective farm machinery, which would possible widespread famine and even the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Serious preparation by the British began after the end of the Winter War in March 1940.

Bombers were to be flown from bases in Iran, Turkey and Syria in “Western Air Plan 106”, which was codenamed “Operation Pike”.

Mr McMeekin detailed: “The Soviets were worried after learning the UK had war-gamed the possibility of bombing those oil installations under Operation Pike.

“The following summer they actually talked over the possibility of demolition teams going in to destroy those instillations to prevent the Germans from conquering them.

“Stalin responded by signing an early peace treaty with Finland on March 12, surprising everyone.”

Some scholars do not take the British plans of attack seriously and regard them as mere contingency plans.

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But not Mr McMeekin.

He reveals in his new book ’Stalin’s War,’ how the Iranian war minister at the time called in the British military attaché and told him that “the time had come for Iran and Britain to coordinate plans for war against Russia”.

He adds that Turkey was also ready to step up and “could cripple Russia”.

He explained: “I think Stalin perceived a genuine threat and later on your see venom towards Turkey and Iran for essentially green-lighting these operations. They definitely took it seriously.

“Stalin definitely saw the potential for Turkey to work with Britain and France.

“People today say it’s a fanciful idea that Britain may have gone to war with the Soviet Union – Stalin took this prospect deadly seriously.

“He was definitely concerned about the oil resources and using Turkey as a springboard to invade was worrying.

“Could this have ended the war in spring 1940? It would have put a serious dent in the capabilities of Stalin and Hitler and their war machines.”

The expert explained how it could have thrown a spanner in the work for Hitler during the early days of the war.

He said: “The oil coming from Baku accounted for three-quarters of petroleum production in the USSR.

“For the Germans, it wasn’t quite as much, a lot of theirs came from Romania.

“But it was still something like a third of the oil available to Germany after the British blockade.

“I think it would have put a serious dent in operations like the invasion of France.”

As the war unfolded, Operation Pike was pushed to the back of the pile.

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After the attack on the Soviet Union by Germany in Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, Pike was revived as a contingency plan to be invoked if German forces occupied the Caucasian oil fields.

Mr McMeeken added: “What determined things, in the end, was superior German initiative.

“Had Britain and France been quicker and carried out these operations it would have raised all kinds of problems with Soviet sabotages and other serious risks.

“They didn’t think they could cut off all the oil, but it would have been enough to make Hitler think twice about some of his offensive operations.

“It’s interesting, but it does run around on the fact that Hitler and Stalin were more proactive.”

‘Stalin’s War’ is published by Allen Lane and available to purchase here.

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