Monday, March 02, 2009

'Pegasus Bridge', D-Day, 6 June 1944

This is me standing beside the modern 'Pegasus Bridge', Bénouville
[Personal photograph collection]

The first company to go into action in 'Operation Overlord' (the Allied invasion of N.W. Europe) on D-Day, 6 June 1944 was D Company, 2 (Airborne) Battalion, Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Regiment (Ox and Bucks). Their specific role was a 'coup de main' action to take, and hold until relieved, the Bénouville bridge over the Caen Canal and the Ranville Bridge over the River Orne in the French Calvados department.

The canal bridge was later renamed ‘Pegasus Bridge’ in honour of the 6th Airborne Division, whose insignia was Bellepheron astride Pegasus the winged horse (from Classical Mythology). Although the 1944 bridge has been replaced, the present bridge is still known as ‘Pegasus Bridge’. This is the one seen in the background of the above photograph.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

In 1944 the 2nd Battalion (Ox and Bucks) formed part of the 6th British Airborne Division. The Commanding Officer of D Coy, 2 (Ox and Bucks) was Major John Howard. For the 'coup de main' airborne assault on the night of 5 / 6 June 1944 D Coy were supported by two platoons of B Coy, 30 Royals Engineer sappers and a wing of the Glider Pilot Regiment. The force went into Normandy by Horsa glider.

After arriving in France, the bridges were taken as required and held until relieved by Lord Lovat's Special Commando Troops. The latter marched across the bridge behind Lord Lovat and his piper, Bill Millins playing the bagpipes. By this time there were German snipers who had been firing at the British troops on the bridge for some time and although Major Howard warned Lord Lovat of this situation, marching the commandos across the bridge behind the piper led to about a dozen casualties.

The original 'Pegasus Bridge' was replaced following the 50th anniversary commemorations. However, it was removed a short distance away, together with the original 'Pegasus Bridge' sign, to a new Airborne Museum nearby. Originally, the bridge was to have been re-sited in the grounds of the Memorial Museum for Peace at Caen. However, these plans were later changed after protests from many former WW2 veterans, historians and some locals.

Although the 2nd Battalion (Ox and Bucks) were an airborne battalion they also guarded the eastern perimeter to of the Allied bridgehead in Normandy for several weeks, moving onwards when the Allies finally broke out and moved eastwards. They were withdrawn back to the UK in September 1944. On 24 March 1945 glider-borne troops of 2 Ox and Bucks and the rest of the 6th Airborne Division went into action again, crossing over the Rhine into Germany. By then, there had been many changes in personnel from those who had gone into action on the night of 5 / 6 June 1944.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this article, I do not have a complete list of those who served with 2 Ox and Bucks while it was an airborne battalion in WW2. However, I believe the Pegasus Bridge Museum (situated across the bridge from where I am standing in the above photogreaph) does have a fulll list of those who served in Normandy in 1944.

Monday, 02 March, 2009  
Anonymous said...

My father 410900 John Thomas Butterworth was at Pegasus Bridge he did not metion much about it but for years he wore the Pegasus badge with pride that is why I am writing to find out how much he was involved

Thursday, 10 May, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Hello Peter,

Thanks for your comment, and it is good to hear you are the son of one of the liberators of Pegasus Bridge.

If all goes to plan, I am hoping to re-visit the Pegasus Bridge Museum and surrounding area in the near future. I will keep a look out if they have anything that refer to your Dad. Do you know if your Dad was with the 2nd Ox & Bucks or another unit (Glider Pilot Regt, RAMC etc) by any chance?

Thursday, 10 May, 2012  

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