Pegasus Bridge

Original Bridge                        Veterans D-day 2003                        Gondree Cafe

Before the D-day landings it was decided that bridgeheads be established at both ends of the landing beaches. This would be undertaken by airborne regiments. At the western flank it fell to the Parachute Infantry Regiments of the 82nd (All American) and the 101st (Screaming Eagles). Here at the eastern end the first task was to secure the two bridges crossing the River Orne and the Caen canal at Benouville. This was the only crossing between Ouistreham and Caen. The two bridges were of very different types, the river bridge was a lifting bridge and was replaced in 1994 by a very similar, but of larger dimensions. The original bridge is preserved in the museum dedicated to the events of D-day here at Benouville. The bridge over the river some two hundred meters away to the east, was a swing bridge, designed by Gustav Eiffel, of the Paris tower fame. The bridge was replaced shortly after the war when river traffic ceased. The British decided that stealth would be an advantage and decided to use six Horsa gliders (three for each bridge) each carrying twenty eight members of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, these were Airborne Troops. The gliders were towed by bombers and left England at one minute intervals. The two pilots navigated by compass, stopwatch and map. The slipped their tow aircraft some miles from the Normandy coast and headed towards the bridge. The three gliders heading for the canal bridge flew found the canal and then flew over the bridge. They then turned around the spire of the church at Colombelles heading back to the bridge. There were two reasons for this, firstly there was not suitable landing site on the seaward side of the bridge. The second reason was that by landing towards the bridge they would hopefully land nearer the bridge. The first glider carrying Major John Howard landed just sixty meters from the bridge. The second glider landed one minute later twenty meters from Major Howard's glider. By this time the troops from the first glider were in action on the bridge. The third glider landed between the other two. .A lone German sentry who might have sounded the alarm did not do so because he assumed that an aeroplane had crashed nearby. His mistake was costly. There were also Polish and French lookouts on the bridge. While one of Howard's squads crossed the bridge in a rush, taking a single casualty, others overran nearby pillboxes and trenches before the surprised Germans could man their positions. Within minutes, the bridge and its defences were in British hands.

Home Up Pegasus Bridge 2

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