A French solider sits on the Western Front during the Sitzkrieg, 1940.
At the onset of the WWII, after the initial terror of the Polish campaign, everyone expected heavy combat. The British Expeditionary Force landed in France, British children were sent to Canada or the countryside; various continental nations braced for invasion that did not immediately materialize.
The British press dubbed it the “sitzkrieg” — with the futile attempts by both sides to negotiate an end to the war that would not embarrass either side, the total war was delayed. Meanwhile, many opportunities were lost. The French did not fortify their border with Belgium, although it was proved to be vulnerable during war games in 1938. The troops in the Maginot Line did not mobilize. ‘The Twilight War’ as Winston Churchill called it, lulled many French and British citizens into a false sense of complacency, and an undue confidence in the deterrence of the Maginot Line.
In April 1940, the Allies and Germany came to blows over Norway. On May 10, 1940, the “Phoney War” came to a swift and terrible end with the invasion of France and the low countries. The Germans went around the Maginot Line, counting on its garrison to remain in place. The Phoney War was over; Total War had arrived.