Thursday, December 16, 2010


From the millions of soldiers who served their country hardly anyone knew about what was being planned at the Supreme Headquarters or by their government. Even lower staffs had no such information. Each one of these planned operations had their code name such as "Barbarossa" for invading the USSR, now known to everybody. Operation "Seeloewe" (Sea Lion) for the invasion of the UK (which never happened), a.s.o..

But who knew operation FELIX?

When at the end of the French campaign Italy entered the war at the side of Germany it was evident that a Southern flank opened for the Reich which had to be protected or at least closely observed in spite of the Italian forces operating in the Mediterranean area.

In Vol. 2 of the document collection on German foreign politics, published by H.M.S.O. is disclosed what has been planned. The respective chapter refers to Operation FELIX, namely the planned conquest of Gibraltar by the German Wehrmacht. The author was a certain Helmut Greiner, keeper of the daily logbook of the Planning Staff of the OKW (Supreme Headquarters of the Wehrmacht). Thus, the plan was preserved in written form.
During the past five decades Gibraltarians became used to being besieged, though only economically. Interesting, however, is the only occasion, during which Gibraltar seriously faced an invasion during the 20th century. Professor Paul Preston describes that Franco's intention to decline Germany's proposals to encourage Spain to enter into the war are a fairy tail. In fact, Franco courted Germany and Italy with the objective to enlarge Spain's possessions in Africa and lastly to conquer Gibraltar. In the beginning Franco tried to convince Germany to supply to Spain food and raw material and then to attack Gibraltar with Spanish troops. Germany itself planned to conquer Gibraltar in order to have a better control of the traffic in the Mediterranean and to encourage Britain to enter into peace negotiations, thus avoiding an invasion of Britain by the operation Sea Lion (which, however, never took place). But Hitler was not very much impressed by the achievements of the Spanish troops and their officers during the Civil War and therefore, he was not prepared to encourage them to an attack on Gibraltar and the possible danger of a failure. The crucial point was that Franco did not want a transit of German troops through Spain because he feared it would be very difficult to get rid of them once they were in the country.

Adolf Hitler and Franco.
Hitler considered the conquest of Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, the Azores and the Cap Verde Islands as indispensable. But regarding the latter this appeared difficult because those were Spanish and Portuguese possessions. Those plans became a problem when Franco sent Serrano Suner to Germany with exaggerated demands for assistance. Hitler, on the other side, was hoping that France would help after the British had destroyed the French fleet at Dakar. (After the victory over France Britain demanded the surrender of the French fleet before it fell into German hands. When this was refused by the French, British ships opened fire). Mussolini was similarly unimpressed by Spanish demands and he as well as Hitler hoped to talk them out of them. In order to come to a conclusion a conference was agreed between Franco and Hitler at the Spanish border at Hendaye. The Spanish demands were not met and therefore Spain did not want to enter into the war at this time. Franco was right because Spain was still suffering much from the effects of the Civil War. Likewise, the transit of German troops through Spain could not be discussed. This was particularly annoying because Hitler wanted to deploy two divisions at the Portuguese border as a threat against a possible retaliation of Portugal in case of an attack against the Azores. After the negotiations Hitler allegedly remarked he would rather have some teeth pulled instead of negotiating again with Franco. Only after the occupation of Greece by German and Italian troops Hitler again planned this operation under the code FELIX. The German High Command was convinced the axis forces were able to take Gibraltar after Spain would join in the war. Troops were readied after the negotiations continued.
Dr. Oliveira Salazar
There is a chapter about the assault plans against Gibraltar contained in the report. It is interesting reading but it may be left to fantasy what the outcome of these plans would have been. The plans provided to deploy troops at the North side of the rock which would have been most difficult but appeared impossible under the fire of heavy artillery.

All this turned out to be an academic question because Franco strongly refused to enter into the war. Spain's economy was still too weak and German assistance was considered insufficient. In the end, troops provided for this operation were called off by Hitler and the High Command because they were needed for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR.

This was the only serious attempt during the 20th century to conquer Gibraltar which, however, ended as a failure.

  • Documents on German Foreign Politics, H.M.S.O.
  • Franco by Paul Heston
  • The Mystery of Hendaye by Paul Heston (Contemporary European History).

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