CHAPTER SIX

Memorial Tour of Battlefield No. 1

Pegasus Bridge – Horsa Bridge

Distance between stops by vehicle: 0.2 miles (0.32km) 

Total walking distance at stops: Approx 3 miles (4.83km) 

Recommended time allowed for tour: 2 to 3 hours

For convenience the tour is best started at Pegasus Bridge, first and foremost because this was the scene of the first battle on that morning. It is also the most well known, and today most easily found, of the objectives that 6th Airborne Division were tasked with taking on D-Day. An added benefit to starting here is the famous Café Gondrée. When you arrive it would be a good idea to have a drink in the comfortable surroundings of Madame Gondrée-Pritchett’s terrace café. Spend a few minutes reading the following section to familiarize yourself with the immediate area and then begin your tour. A look inside the café, at the memorabilia, weapons and uniforms, will also help give you a clearer picture of what life was like for the airborne soldiers as they embarked upon their mission of liberation.

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Madame Arlette Gondrée-Pritchett outside the Café Gondrée.

If your arrival in France is by ferry at Ouistreham then Pegasus Bridge can be found by taking the D514 to Bénouville. Alternatively, if you are approaching from Caen, take the D515 (signposted for Ouistreham car ferry) until you see the sign for Bénouville on the D514. Take this road, go straight on at the roundabout and you will see the new Pegasus Bridge in front of you. Park in the car park on the right-hand side, just before the Café Gondrée, and walk around to the front of the café and stop just before you reach the bridge (for a more detailed explanation of the battle and tour of the battlefield, refer to Chs. 2, 3 & 4).

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A. Pegasus Bridge & Horsa Bridge

To the right of Pegasus Bridge is:

1) Pegasus Bridge signpost. This bears the now famous emblem and name. This sign was presented to the inhabitants of Bénouville in June 2003 by the Gloucestershire branch of the Parachute Regiment Association. This replaces the sign renovated by the Airborne Assault Normandy Trust in 1996, which is now situated in the Memorial Pegasus Park (see Ch. 6, B11). The original sign was designed and made in the workshops of 286 Fd Pk Coy RE here in June 1944. The idea for the sign came about after the arrival in France of the 51st Highland Division who had been nicknamed the ‘Highway Decorators’ for their habit of daubing their insignia HD on the walls of any place they had fought. Lieutenant Colonel Frank Lowman decided to seek the permission of Major General Gale for his men to build and erect their own insignia sign by the canal bridge. Permission was granted and two signs were erected. The second sign stands at the opposite end of the bridge near the lane leading to the Memorial Pegasus Museum (an original sign is in the museum). These signs were officially unveiled in front of local dignitaries on 26 June 1944.

The original Pegasus Bridge was replaced in the winter of 1993, six months before the fiftieth anniversary of the D-Day landings. Many thought, not least the veterans and locals, that the decision to replace the bridge at that particular time was both insensitive and thoughtless. But the powers-that-be felt that the work – to widen the Caen Canal so that larger ships could reach the Port of Caen – could not wait. When one eighty year old veteran crossed the original bridge for the last time he graciously conceded:

My biggest thought walking across the bridge today is this is the last time. But they need a new bridge and that’s that. We can’t stop progress.

MAJOR JOHN HOWARD, 2 OXF BUCKS

The original Pegasus Bridge now forms the centrepiece to the Memorial Pegasus Museum Park (See Ch. 6, B24). Pegasus Bridge gains its name in honour of the British 6th Airborne Division, and the name and sign was adopted from the divisional flash of the British airborne forces in the 1940s. Chosen by Lieutenant General Sir Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning in 1941, when he was appointed to raise the airborne forces, the flash was later designed, in May 1942, by Major Edward Seago. The flash was to be worn on the upper arm of all airborne troops. Sadly, the distinctive flash was withdrawn from the airborne forces on 1 September 1999, after a reorganisation of the British armed forces in a strategic defence review in which 16 Air Assault Brigade was formed. This was contrary to the feelings of most veterans and serving troops of The Parachute Regiment who wished to retain the emblem; along with the tradition and pride that helps maintain the esprit de Corps of fighting units. Today, The Parachute Regiment still holds onto the tradition of Pegasus as the name for their regimental journal and their regimental mascot, a Shetland pony.

Pegasus Bridge was originally referred to, back in 1944, as Bénouville Bridge or the Caen Canal Bridge and was the first bridge captured on D-Day. This was by the men of B and D Coy of 2 Oxf Bucks, a detachment of Royal Engineers from 249 Fd Coy and the men of the Glider Pilot Regiment. Also situated on the south-west bank of the Caen Canal, just to the right of where you now stand is the:

2) Café Gondrée. Situated on the south-west bank of the Caen Canal near the new Pegasus Bridge, it was the first house to be liberated in France and above the entrance you will see a large white marble plaque:

3) First Liberated House in France Plaque. You will also notice that the sign reads that the house was liberated in the last hour of 5 June. This suggests that the local time was not adjusted for summer time and, as the Allied forces used double British Summer Time (BST) for their operations in Normandy; French time was thus one hour behind British time. Hence Allied records show the first landings taking place in the first hour of 6 June and French records show them taking place in the last hour of 5 June.

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Out with the old and in with the new. In 1999 Pegasus ridden by Bellerophon was replaced with an eagle.

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Paratrooper with ‘Pegasus’, mascot of The Parachute Regiment.

Below the white plaque there is a granite plaque:

4) 7 Para Plaque. This commemorates the relieving of Major John Howard’s men by 7 Para and their CO Lieutenant Colonel Richard Geoffrey Pine-Coffin DSO, MC. The plaque records the time that 7 Para arrived as 0130hrs. 7 Para war diary records this time as 0140hrs. To the right, there is a granite plaque:

5) Aid Post Plaque. This was presented by the Glider Pilot Regimental Association in 2009. This memorial commemorates the use of the Café Gondrée as an aid post, from the night of 5/6 June, where shelter and medical treatment was given to casualties.

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Georges Gondrée (left), Major John Howard (centre) and Lt David Wood (right) at Pegasus Bridge.

The café is now owned by Madame Arlette Gondrée-Pritchett who witnessed the battle as a four year old girl while living with her parents and her older sister, Georgette, in the café. Her parents Monsieur Georges and Madame Thérèse Gondrée worked actively for the French Resistance passing on vital information during 1944. It has also been said that Georges had received word on 5 June that his presence was required at the café for the next few days. Early next morning he realised why.

You will find the atmosphere of the café is particularly memorable as this is the only building or place around the new Pegasus Bridge that has been preserved in its original condition. Today the café is looked upon as a shrine by many of those who fought around here and over the years a wealth of memorabilia has been donated by 6th Airborne Division veterans. There is a good selection of souvenirs, books, maps, pictures and postcards for sale, the latter of which can be posted at the café, as well as the usual pleasant services offered by the traditional French café.

An additional bonus to your visit may be the chance to meet the charming Madame Arlette Gondrée-Pritchett herself, as she is often present at the café and is more than welcoming in answering any questions or posing for photographs outside for the thousands who visit her establishment throughout the year. One polite request made by Madame Gondrée-Pritchett is that no photographic or video recordings are taken inside the café. This continues a tradition started by her mother, with the sentiment that if anyone wishes to witness the unique collection of memorabilia inside the café, they can do so only by visiting and showing their respect in person.

It is worth noting that the café is generally closed out of season between the last week of November and the first week of March. Outside and back in the car park alongside the west side of the café is:

6) No. 1 Special Service Brigade Memorial. This unit was commanded by Brigadier Simon Fraser The Lord Lovat, and with him his Piper Bill Millin. The well known film The Longest Day shows Piper Millin playing his bagpipes while they crossed Pegasus Bridge for the first time. In reality this did not happen due to mortar and sniper fire in the area. However, despite still being under fire from the Germans, Piper Millin did play his pipes as they crossed Horsa Bridge. The plaque shows the time when the commandos joined forces with the airborne troops as 1202hrs 30 secs making the first link-up between the British airborne and seaborne troops on D-Day. However, 1 SS Bde HQ and 3 Cdo war diaries record the crossing of the bridges at 1230 hrs. Set back from the Café Gondrée, on your right is the:

7) Café Gondrée annexe. This is an extension of the café/museum dedicated to the 6th Airborne Division. This annexe includes more memorabilia, as well as a conference and briefing room which may be used by visiting school parties, official organisations or military staff colleges. All information concerning the café and annexe can be obtained from Madame Arlette Gondrée-Pritchett Tel/Fax: 0033 (0)2.31.44.62.25. or Mobile Tel: 0033 (0)8.02.40.13.28. It was opened on the fifty-fifth anniversary of the landings in June, 1999. To the right of the entrance of the Café Gondrée car park, behind you, there is the:

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Café Gondrée. Situated on the south-west bank of the Caen Canal.

8) Pegasus Bridge Café Gondrée Signpost. It was presented to Madame Arlette Gondrée-Pritchett, on 6 June 2002, by the Gloucester branch of the Parachute Regimental Association. The plaque also acknowledges the Café Gondrée as the first house in France to be liberated by the 6th Airborne Division, and its use as a Regimental Aid Post during the fighting for Bénouville. It was presented here to replace the original sign that was made in June 1944 by the Royal Engineers of the 6th Airborne Division and which is now in the Pegasus Memorial Museum.

Walk back towards Pegasus Bridge and, on the east side of the café, walk along the towpath, which follows the south-western bank of the Caen Canal, for approxiamately 600 yards (549m). On the left of the towpath beside the canal is:

9) First Bailey Bridge Memorial Plaque. Dedicated to 17, 71 and 263 Fd Coys RE. This stone marks the site of the first Bailey Pontoon Bridge that was built in France. This particular bridge was a 224ft (68.28m) Bailey Pontoon Class 40 Bridge. This signified that it could withstand 40 tons (40.64 tonnes) in weight.

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First Bailey Bridge Memorial Plaque.

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The same site in 1944.

In total some five Bailey pontoon bridges would be built across the Caen Canal during the Normandy campaign. The first was called LONDON I and was completed on 8 June 1944. The original marker (whereabouts unknown) has been replaced with this brick and granite memorial. The other bridges over the Caen Canal were given the names of TOWER I and YORK I, between Ouistreham and Bénouville, and TAY I and CALIX, between LONDON I and Caen. On the opposite side of the towpath approximately 300 yards (274m) further south is:

10) Bénouville Château. Back in 1944, this eighteenth century château was being used as a maternity hospital and orphanage run by the fifty-four year old Madame Léa Vion. During June and July some eighteen children, reportedly all girls, were born in the château. Madame Vion had also helped the French Resistance and had offered sheltered protection to shot down Allied pilots and members of the French Resistance who were on the run from the Germans since the start of occupation.

Bénouville Château.

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On the 6 June she also protested vehemently with the Germans when they at one point during the battle attempted to use the château rooftop to site one of their machine-gun posts. After an artillery shell had hit the château the Germans decided to vacate the building for the rest of the battle.

This was also the building Corporal Wally Parr fired upon with the captured German anti-tank gun sited on the south-east corner of Pegasus Bridge. Not knowing that the château was being used to house women and children, Corporal Parr had suspected that the Germans were actually using the building as an OP. Years later Corporal Parr was amused to learn that someone else had received the blame for his bombardment. As he recalls:

I was reading an article in Post, an American magazine. I was glancing through it, and there on one of the pages was a picture of Pegasus Bridge. I thought, that’s the bridge I captured in Normandy so I started to read the article. The story included a passage that told how the cowardly Germans, in their retreat from the bridge, had deliberately shelled a château that was being used as a maternity hospital. This was the first and only time I had shelled pregnant women and newborn babies.

CORPORAL WALLY PARR, 2 OXF BUCKS

Walk back towards the bridge and turn left, just past the Café Gondrée. Walking away from Pegasus Bridge along the path and at the end of the car park there is, on a white concrete plinth, a brass marker:

11) Airborne and Commando Memorial Marker.

Continue along the road up to the roundabout for approximately 220 yards (200m). This was originally a T junction in 1944 between Bénouville, le Port and the road leading to Bénouville (Pegasus) Bridge. This square is known as Place de la liberation and to your left is:

12) Bénouville Mairie (Town Hall). There is a marble plaque, on the wall to the left of the entrance door claiming it to be the first Mairie to be liberated in France in 1944. You will notice that the time inscribed on the plaque of 5 June 1944, 2345hrs refers to local time. However, 7 Para war diary shows that the battalion did not drop onto DZ N until 0050hrs, and Lieutenant Colonel Pine-Coffin did not cross the canal bridge until 0140hrs. In front of the Mairie is the shattered remains of Bénouville’s:

13) First World War Memorial. This was damaged during the fighting for Bénouville during the Normandy campaign. The memorial now has, on the front, memorial plaques for those killed in 1944.

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Bénouville Mairie and First World War Memorial damaged in 1944.

Cross the road opposite the front of the Mairie and on the corner of the junction there is:

14) 7 Para Bn Memorial. This memorial is dedicated to all ranks of 7 Para who, as part of 5 Para Bde, were the first reinforcements for Major John Howard at Pegasus Bridge. 7 Para then went on to take and secure this area around Bénouville and le Port. The fighting for Bénouville was fierce and there was the ever present danger of sniper fire for anyone in the vicinity.

One officer who landed with 7 Para on D-Day was the now famous actor and movie star Richard Todd (right). He later went on to play the role of Major John Howard in the film The Longest Day. There was no depiction of Richard Todd’s D-Day experience in the film.

By dawn we had a few mortar men and a few machine-gunners... their machine guns and mortars had gone. All they carried were pistols as side arms. The CO asked me to form a patrol out of these ex-mortar men and machine-gunners. The first thing he asked us to do was to go and look at C Coy which was further up towards the mouth of the canal towards Ouistreham. I went to the canal edge and a little further up I saw a helmet. You could just see it and the glint of a weapon – presumably a rifle – in a good covered firing position right up ahead of us. It was all open ground so I got the platoon to stop and take cover while I tried to go down the bank of the canal to see if I could come along behind it. I eventually did. It was one of our own chaps, dead. He was just lying there with his rifle and he had a little black hole just there in his forehead – dead as mutton with this rifle still in the aim.

LIEUTENANT RICHARD TODD, ADJUTANT, 7 PARA

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The Commanding Officer of 7 Para, Lieutenant Colonel Richard G. Pine-Coffin, had left England with 640 men, but by first light on 6 June he only had 210 men. Sixty of these were accounted for as killed or wounded, while the rest were still missing after the drop. 7 Para were eventually relieved that evening by 2 Warwicks who had landed on SWORD Beach with the 3rd Infantry Division. 7 Para was then ordered back to the DZ and held in reserve. But the fighting was not yet over for 7 Para and by the end of the Normandy campaign their total casualties amounted to 452.

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Reverend George Parry.

Continue along, past the 7 Para memorial and into le Port (which is still part of Bénouville), and stop after 400 yards (366m) at:

15) Bénouville Church and Churchyard. In the grounds of this church rest twenty-three men, the majority of whom were with the 6th Airborne Division and killed on 6 June. Amongst them is the padre for 7 Para, twenty-nine year old The Reverend George E.M. Parry. During the morning of D-Day the padre was helping tend the wounded in one of the RAPs that had been set up in a house in Bénouville. At one point some Germans, on patrol, entered the building in which The Reverend Parry was tending the wounded and a fight broke out. During the fighting a number of the wounded and medical staff were killed along with the padre.

Walk back towards Pegasus Bridge until you come to the café, restaurant and shop:

16) Les 3 Planeurs. Inside you will find photographs of the landings on the restaurant walls. Next door to the restaurant is a souvenir and bookshop. Outside, between the bookshop and Caen Canal, there is a:

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17) Centaur IV (A27L) tank. This had been used by the Royal Marine Commando armoured support units that came ashore with 3 Inf Div on SWORD Beach. This one was recovered from the beach at la Brêche d’Hermanville, in 1975 and was then restored by 60 Station Workshop REME, and placed here in 1977. The base upon which it stands was constructed by 34 Sqn RE.

Cross over the road and walk along the right-hand footpath over Pegasus Bridge. Stop on the east bank of the Caen Canal just before the end of the bridge. On your left, mounted on the railings is a brass:

18) 2 Oxf Bucks Commemoration Plaque. This was erected by the Royal Green Jackets.

Continue walking and turn right onto the gravel covered east bank. This area is known as:

19) Esplanade John Howard. Named in honour of Major John Howard. To your right you will see the only remaining original piece of German military hardware in this area, it is an anti-tank gun:

20) 50mm (1.97in) Kwk anti-tank gun. Mounted in its Tobruk pit this weapon, originally from a tank, was sited here as a static defence. However, it was moved a few yards to the east, away from its original position, when the Caen Canal was widened back in 1994. Between the row of flagpoles and the canal bank is a large stone:

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21) Comité du Débarquement Monument. This is one of many monuments erected by the Comité du Débarquement (D-Day commemoration committee). These monuments are situated at various points along the Normandy landing beaches and drop zones. The committee, founded by Monsieur Raymond Triboulet, was set up on 22 May 1945. It is a non-profit association and is dedicated to preserving the memory of the Normandy invasion and tasked with managing the commemoration of the D-Day landings. This marker commemorates the glider landings here at Pegasus Bridge. Approximately 10 yards (9m) farther on is:

22) ‘The Pegasus Trail’ Orientation Table (1), one of three such tables (see Ch. 7, A) that form part of The Pegasus Trail; an audio tour and booklet that was compiled by Lieutenant General Sir Michael Gray, KCB, OBE, FBIM, in 1989. He was also then the Chairman of the Airborne Assault Normandy Trust before becoming Joint President with Major Jack Watson MC.

This orientation table is one of three in the area of operations for the 6th Airborne Division.

Walk across to the other side of the flagpoles, and to the footpath that leads from the esplanade down to the glider memorials. At the top of the footpath to your left there is:

23) OVERLORD l’Assault Marker. This is one of many markers of a route called OVERLORD l’Assault (OVERLORD, The Assault). On each marker there is a brief explanation in both French and English of what happened in this particular area. This forms just one of eight such self-guided trails, provided by the Comité Departemental Du Tourisme Du Calvados (CDT Calvados), CDT Manche and CDT Orne, that covers the whole area of Normandy that is associated with the Normandy campaign. A free information booklet/map called The D-Day Landings And The Battle For Normandy can be picked up at most museums and tourist information outlets in Normandy. The first marker on this particular trail is situated at the Merville Battery (see Battleground Europe book Merville Battery & The Dives Bridges see Ch. 5, D2) and finishes at the Musée Mémorial de la bataille de Normandie (Memorial for The Battle of Normandy Museum), in Bayeaux.

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Now walk down the footpath that leads from the esplanade to the three glider landing memorials and stop at:

24) Bronze Bust of Major John Howard. This bust, the first of three sculptured by Vivian Mallock (see Ch. 7, B11 & Battleground Europe book Merville Battery & The Dives Bridges Ch. 5, D33) was presented to the mayor and people of Bénouville by the Airborne Assault Normandy Trust and the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Association in 1994. To the left of the bust is:

25) First Glider Landing Marker. Approximately 80 yards (73m) from the bridge, this is one of three monuments and plaques that mark the exact position where the gliders came to rest in LZ X, aka EUSTON I. These replace the original lectern-like markers that were vandalised in the spring of 1998. The plaque on the marker gives the exact time of 0016hrs of when the first glider landed. One of the most compelling pieces of evidence for the accuracy of this time is Major John Howard’s watch, which was broken on landing and had stopped at 0016hrs precisely. The first glider to land was glider No. 1 (667) which had the chalk mark of No. 91 written on the side of the fuselage. The chalked number was to help ground crews when hooking the gliders up to their tow. The glider’s serial code was PF800. This had been towed over to Normandy by a Halifax bomber, serial LL355-G, from 298 Sqn 38 Group, piloted by Wing Commander D.H. Duder, DSO, DFC. There were also five more aircrew (for full roster of tug crew, glider crew and assault troops for coup de main, see Appendix F).

Also on the plaque are the names of the glider pilots, Staff Sergeants Wallwork and Ainsworth, and the names of Major John Howard and Lieutenant Den Brotheridge, the two officers of 2 Oxf Bucks who were in the glider on landing. Lieutenant Den Botheridge, after succumbing to the fatal wound he received while crossing over Pegasus Bridge (see Ch. 3 & 4), is recorded as the first British fatal casualty, as a result of enemy fire, on French ground during D-Day. He is now buried in Ranville churchyard (see Ch. 7, B4). In total there were twenty-eight troops (including five engineers) on board plus the two glider pilots.

Continue along the footpath until you come to the:

26) Third Glider Landing Marker. Approximately 130 yards (119m) from the bridge, it marks the spot where glider No. 3 (663), with the chalk mark No. 93, landed. The time was 0018hrs. The glider’s serial code was LH469. This had been towed by a Halifax bomber, serial LL218-N, from 644 Sqn 38 Group, piloted by Warrant Officer J.A. Herman. There were also five more aircrew.

It was in the pond, directly behind the memorial, that Bren gunner Lance Corporal Fred Greenhalgh was thrown into on landing. Trapped by the wreckage of the glider, and most likely unconscious as a result of the impact, he is subsequently recorded as having drowned in the pond. He is thereby acknowledged as the first recorded British soldier to die on French soil on D-Day. He now rests in la Déliverande Commonwealth War Cemetery, Douvres (plot V, row C, grave 4). On the plaque the glider pilots, Staff Sergeants Barkway and Boyle, are mentioned along with the officers Lieutenant R.A. ‘Sandy’ Smith, 2 Oxf Bucks, and Captain John Vaughan (aka Jacob), RAMC, who were in the glider. The total complement on this glider was twenty-eight troops (including five engineers and one medical officer) plus two glider pilots. At the end of the path is the:

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Early photograph of the bridge and German gun position.

27) Second Glider Landing Marker. Approximately 165 yards (150m) from the bridge the time of landing for glider No. 2 (661), chalk mark No. 92 was 0017hrs. The glider’s serial code was LW943. This had been towed by a Halifax bomber, serial LL335-K, from 298 Sqn 38 Group, piloted by Warrant Officer A.K. Berry. There were also six more aircrew.

On the plaque the glider pilots, Staff Sergeants Boland and Hobbs, along with the officers Lieutenant David J. Woods, 2 Oxf Bucks, and Captain H.R.K. ‘Jock’ Neilson, 249 Fd Coy RE, are commemorated. Again the full complement was twenty-eight troops (including five engineers and one medic) plus two glider pilots.

Return to the bridge and turn right, due east, onto the D514 and walk approximately 540 yards (494m) to the bridge, across the River Orne, which is now known as:

28) Horsa Bridge. Previously known as Ranville Bridge or the River Orne Bridge, this bridge is now named after the type of glider used during its capture, the Airspeed (AS) 51 Horsa Mk I. Like Pegasus Bridge this is not the original bridge. The original, a steel lattice swing bridge, was replaced in 1971.

Walk onto the bridge and look south; at low tide – approximately 100 yards (91 m) away on the banks either side of the River Orne – you can see the remains of the original bridge supports:

29) Bridge Support Remains. As the River Orne is a tidal river these remains are only visible for up to twelve hours each day. At low tide you will be able to see wooden support poles. These once formed part of one of the many temporary bridges that were built over the River Orne during the Normandy campaign. This one was codenamed LONDON II. In total some seven Bailey bridges were built by British engineers between the mouth of the River Orne and Caen. These were given the names, from north to south, of: TOWER II, YORK II, EUSTON, LONDON II, TAY II, BUNCH and LAYR. Five additional bridges were also built in Caen itself after it was liberated. The names of these, again from north to south, were: REYNOLDS, CHURCHILL, MONTY, TICKELL and BARRET. For further information see the Bailey bridge exhibit in the Pegasus Memorial Museum (see Ch. 6, B20).

Walk across the roadway to the north-west corner of the bridge and to your left is:

30) Horsa Bridge Memorial. This memorial is dedicated to the glider pilots and troops of the two gliders who successfully landed near the bridge. Closest was glider No. 6 (664), chalk mark No. 96, with the serial code PF791. It landed approximately 170 yards (155m) from the bridge only minutes after Major John Howard had landed at Pegasus Bridge. The area behind the memorial is LZ Y, aka EUSTON II, where the glider landed. The glider had been towed by a Halifax bomber, serial LL350-Z, from 644 Sqn 38 Group, piloted by Flying Officer W.W. Archibald. There were also five more aircrew. The other glider that managed to land nearby, approximately 850 yards (777m) from its objective and farther north, was glider No. 5 (660), chalk mark No. 95, with serial code LJ326. This had been towed by a Halifax bomber, serial LL406-T, from 298 Sqn 38 Group, piloted by Warrant Officer G.P. Bain. There were also five more aircrew.

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The memorial has inscribed the names of the glider pilots, Staff Sergeants Roy A. Howard and Frederick W. ‘Freddie’ Baacke and the names of Lieutenant Dennis Fox of 2 Oxf Bucks and Lieutenant Jack Bence of 249 Fd Coy RE, who were in glider No. 96. It acknowledges them as the officers leading the platoon and engineers to capture the bridge. The full complement of glider No. 96 was twenty-eight troops (including five engineers and one medic) plus two glider pilots.

Also mentioned on the memorial are the glider pilots, Staff Sergeants Stan Pearson and Len Guthrie and Lieutenant Henry J. ‘Tod’ Sweeney of 2 Oxf Bucks, all on board glider No. 5, chalk mark No. 95. The memorial acknowledges these troops as the second platoon to arrive and reinforce the troops at the bridge. The full complement for glider No. 95 was twenty-eight troops (including five engineers and one 7 Para liaison officer) plus two glider pilots.

There is no mention of the third glider, No. 4, chalk mark No. 94, as this was released by its tug too far to the east and landed just over 7 miles (11.27km) from its objective, next to a bridge over the River Dives in the area of the Commune de Périers en Auge(see Battleground Europe book Merville Battery & The Dives Bridges Ch. 8, A). This bridge is located some 2 miles (3.22km) to the east of the bridge over the River Divette, at Varaville. The Varaville Bridge being one of the six bridges the airborne engineers were tasked with demolishing.

Now walk back over Pegasus Bridge to your vehicle. Drive back over Pegasus Bridge and take the first left-hand turn onto Avenue du Major Howard. Park in the car park some 50 yards (46m) on your right, alternatively, if full, park in the car park some 100 yards (91m) further on to your left. The building here is the:

B. Memorial Pegasus Museum (Musée Mémorial Pegasus) Through the main entrance, and into the entrance hall of the museum, you will see a number of exhibitions, photographs and paintings on the walls. To your left is a souvenir shop (that you will pass through as you exit the museum). In front of you is the desk at which you will need to pay an entrance fee to enter the museum to your right.

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Musée Mémorial Pegasus.

The main exhibition hall of the museum contains a large collection of exhibits in the many display cases and open areas. There is a wealth of information and items of interest to be seen, including many photographs of the battlefields in 1944 and of the men who took part in those battles.

It is worth taking the time to go into the amphitheatre, situated in the centre of the exhibition hall, and watch the archive film, introduced by HRH The Prince of Wales. In the centre of the amphitheatre there is also a detailed model of this area of Normandy. A museum guide, at regular intervals, will explain the operations for the 6th Airborne Division using the model.

Amongst the many interesting objects in the exhibition hall is Major John Howard’s steel airborne helmet, worn by him on D-Day. The bullet holes that can be clearly seen in the helmet were made when a German sniper fired at Major Howard while his unit was fighting in the village of Escoville on 7 June (see Battleground Europe book Merville Battery & The Dives Bridges Ch. 6, G). Fortunately, the bullet only grazed the top of his head. Also on display are Major Howard’s D-Day red beret, his silk escape map, and his medals. These are: Distinguished Service Order (DSO), 1939-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45 and French Croix de Guerre. In the same display case there is also the hip flask which was being carried by Lieutenant Den Brotheridge when he made the assault across Pegasus Bridge.

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Memorial Pegasus Plan.

In another display case there is the green beret of Brigadier The Lord Lovat’s piper, Bill Millin, along with his famous bagpipes. Also in the exhibition hall are the original two copper plaques, one of the Pegasus emblem and the other with the simple inscription ‘6 JUNE 1944’, from the memorial cross to the 6th Airborne Division that is located in Ranville Commonwealth War Cemetery (see Ch. 7, B2).

The rest of the exhibits in the exhibition hall cover nearly every aspect of the airborne landings in Normandy, including: the preparations for the airborne landings, the capture of the bridges, the southern flank, the Merville Battery, resupply missions, the bridges over the River Dives and Divette, the eastern flank, advance towards the River Seine and other information on equipment, the gliders, parachutes, medical services and communication equipment.

After you have finished looking at the exhibits in the exhibition hall exit the building into the Memorial Pegasus Park. If you follow the footpath around to your left, this will lead you to many memorials and exhibits. First, on your left-hand side against the museum building is:

1) 12 Para Memorial Plaque. This brass plaque, fixed to the top of the backrest of one of the bench seats, is dedicated to all ranks of 12 Para who gave their lives in Normandy. Next, along the footpath is a second bench seat. On the backrest is a brass plaque:

2) 6th Airborne Division Plaque. Dedicated by the family of Placid R.P. Gonzales, 9 Para, to all ranks. Down a path, a short distance on your left is:

3) 5.5in (139.7mm) Medium Gun. Used by most of the medium regiments of the Royal Artillery in the Second World War, the 5.5in (139.7mm) calibre gun could fire two to five rounds per minute. Rounds were made up of either 80lb (36kg) or 100lb (45kg) charges. Maximum ranges were 18,100 yards (16,551m), some 10.28 miles (16.55km) for a supercharged 80lb (36kg) shell, with a velocity of 1,950ft (594m) per second. For the 100lbs (45kg) shell, maximum range was 16,200 yards (14,813m), some 9.2 miles (14.8km), with a velocity of 1,675ft (511m) per second.

The gun’s weight in action was 13,646lbs (6,190kg), some 6.09 tons (6.19 tonnes) and was usually towed by a Matador vehicle that would also carry the ammunition and essential mechanical spares and tools. Manned by a crew of ten men, a well trained crew could have this gun firing on target within three minutes of taking up firing positions. The accuracy, at 9 miles (14.48km), was within 6ft (1.83m). When used as an anti-tank weapon the crew would often fire a 100lb (45kg) shell, minus the fuse, but with the transit steel plug still in place. This would, with accurate fire, lift the tank turret from its mount. By the end of the campaign in north-west Europe, between 6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945, 21 Army Group fired 2,610,747 rounds with their 5.5in (139.7mm) medium guns.

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Crew of a 5.5in. (139.7mm) in action.

Back on the main path, to your left is a third bench seat. On the backrest is a brass:

4) 6th Airborne Division Memorial Plaque. Dedicated to all ranks by St James’ Place Foundation. On the fourth seat bench along the path the backrest has a brass:

5) 3 Para Bde Memorial Plaque. Dedicated to all ranks who gave their lives from this unit. Next along the footpath is the:

6) Brigadier James Hill DSO MC Bronze. This bronze statue was first unveiled, on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary, on 5 June 2004 by HRH The Prince of Wales. At this time

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Brigadier James Hill DSO MC.

Brigadier James Hill was the highest ranking surviving D-Day officer of the 6th Airborne Division. The statue was originally positioned in the small park at le Mesnil crossroads (see Battleground Europe book Merville Battery & The Dives Bridges Ch. 6, E), near the site where Brigadier Hill had his main headquarters on D-Day for 3 Para Bde (hence the description on the bronze plaque about ‘this area’). After some unfortunate acts of vandalism, the statue was moved here to the memorial park for protection. Brigadier Hill passed away in March 2006 aged ninety-five years. Next along the footpath is:

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7) 2 Oxf Bucks Memorial Plaque, situated on the backrest of a fifth bench seat, it is dedicated to all ranks of the 2 Oxf Bucks who fell whilst serving with the 6th Airborne Division. On the opposite side of the pathway, a few steps on is:

8) Memorial to Lieutenant H.D. Brotheridge, This bronze plaque is dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Den Brotheridge and acknowledges him as the first British fatal casualty of enemy fire on D-Day (see Ch. 3 & 4, Ch. 6, A25 & Ch. 7, B4). Next, to your left, along the path is:

9) 25pdr Field Gun. The standard field gun used by the British and Commonwealth forces. This field gun weighed 3,968lbs (1,800kg), Some 1.77 tons (1.80 tonnes), in action and had the capability of firing a standard 25lb (11kg) high explosive (HE) shell 13,400 yards (12,253m), just over 7.6 miles (12km). It was also capable of firing smoke, incendiary, flare, star shell and armour-piercing shells. The latter had a velocity of up to 2,000ft (610m) per second and could penetrate 2.75in (69.85mm) of armour at 400 yards (366m). A six man crew was needed to operate the gun to its full firing capacity, although a four-man crew could readily keep the gun in operation. The gun was towed by a four wheel driven vehicle that would also carry ammunition and essential mechanical spares and tools.

British Artillery 25pdr team engaged in a battery shoot at night.

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Just behind the 25pdr, to the right on the grass, is a sixth seat bench, the backrest has a brass:

10) RAF Memorial Plaque, dedicated to all ranks of the RAF who gave their lives in the battle for Normandy. Back towards the path there is:

11) Pegasus Bridge signpost. This signpost was renovated by the Airborne Assault Normandy Trust in 1996 and was originally in position near the Café Gondrée next to the new Pegasus Bridge. After it was removed and placed here in the museum park a new sign, donated by the Gloucestershire branch of the Parachute Regiment Association, was erected in June 2003 next to the Café Gondrée (see Ch. 6, A1). The original sign, from 1944, can be seen in the museum exhibition hall.

Further along, on the grass, is a seventh seat bench, on the backrest there is:

12) 8th Parachute Battalion Memorial Plaque, dedicated to all members of 8 Para who gave their lives while serving with 3 Para Bde. Further along on the grass area is an eighth seat bench, on the backrest is:

13) Lieutenant General Sir Napier Crookenden KCB DSO OBE DL Memorial Plaque. Dedicated to Lieutenant General Sir Napier Crookenden, by his friends and family, the plaque acknowledges him as commanding officer of 9 Para. On D-Day Major Napier Crookenden was the Brigade Major of 6 Airldg Bde and landed, in a Horsa glider, on DZ/LZ N on the evening resupply mission at 2100hrs on 6 June. To boost the morale of his men he brought along with him copies of that day’s late edition of the Evening Standard which proclaimed the landing of airborne troops in France. Lieutenant Colonel Terence Otway, CO of 9 Para on D-Day, was wounded near the Château St Côme on 12 June 1944, by the 19 June, he had succumbed to those wounds and was evacuated. Major Napier Crookenden then assumed command of 9 Para. He continued to command 9 Para through the rest of the Normandy campaign, through the Ardennes German offensive in December 1944; and during the last Allied airborne assault in north-west Europe as part of the crossing of the River Rhine in March 1945, for which he was awarded the DSO. Lieutenant General Sir Napier Crookenden passed away in October 2002 aged eighty-seven years.

Go back to the path and continue along until you reach:

14) Replica Airspeed (AS) 51 Horsa Mk I Glider. No complete original Horsa glider survives today as all were either destroyed or used as salvage by the armed forces or by the local inhabitants for building material. Mèmorial Pegasus decided to commission the building of a full-size replica from the original plans used by the de Havilland aircraft company (now succeeded by BAE Systems). It has been given the serial code PF800, the same as the first glider to land at Pegasus Bridge. This glider was unveiled by HRH The Prince of Wales as part of the sixtieth anniversary celebrations on 6 June 2004. During the occasion the Prince also met and sat in the cockpit with Jim Wallwork, the pilot of glider No. 91 at Pegasus Bridge. Jim Wallwork was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) for his action on D-Day.

The Horsa glider was built by Airspeed Limited (founded in York, England in 1931). The company was subsequently acquired by de Havilland in 1940, but retained its own identity. Today its successor is BAE Systems plc. The Airspeed (AS) 51 Horsa Mk I had a length of 67ft (20m), a wingspan of 88ft (27m) and a height of 19ft 6in (6m). Its loaded weight was 15,500lbs (7,031kg), some 6.9 tons (7.03 tonnes). It could carry two glider pilots plus: twenty-eight assault troops, or combination of troops, a jeep and trailer, motorcycles, artillery or other supplies. It had a tow speed of approximately 150mph (241kmh) and gliding speed of approximately 100mph (161kmh).

To the front, right-hand side of the glider, at the base of the tree, there is a:

15) Memorial Plaque to Tom Packwood. This marble plaque is a memorial to Lance Corporal Tom Packwood, who was in No. 25 Platoon of D Coy 2 Oxf Bucks and landed at Pegasus Bridge in glider No. 91. Tom Packwood passed away in May 2006 aged 84 years. To the rear of the glider, near the hedgerow is a ninth seat bench, on the backrest is:

16) Sergeant Ken J. Henesey Memorial Plaque. Dedicated to Sergeant Ken Henesey who landed with Major General Richard N. ‘Windy’ Gale on to DZ/LZ N in the early hours of 6 June 1944. Sergeant Henesey was part of the 6th Airborne Division Headquarters Defence Platoon (HQ Def Pl). They landed with Major General Gale in glider chalk marked No. 70, piloted by Major Billy Griffith, of English test cricket fame, and Staff Sergeant Major Mew. With Major General Gale were eleven other members of 6th Airborne Div HQ along with a Jeep and two motorcycles. Their tug pilot was Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) pilot Wing Commander ‘Frank’ MacNamara VC, flying with 295 Sqn RAF. A few yards to the right of the seat is a display case containing an:

Horsa Mk I Glider.

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17) Original Horsa Glider Fuselage Section. This middle section of a Horsa fuselage was donated by The Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop, Hampshire, England (www.flying-museum.org.uk). Other cabins at the end of the park contain other exhibits and information about the gliders and Bailey bridges. To your right there are a number of exhibition huts. In the first, featuring details and information about the gliders and glider pilots, there is a brass:

18) Memorial Plaque to Corporal Ted ‘HAM & JAM’ Tappenden. Corporal Tappenden was the wireless operator who landed in glider No. 91 with Major John Howard. His job was to relay the code signal Hello FOUR DOG, HAM and JAM, HAM and JAM to signify that the bridges had been captured intact. This memorial is placed here, as it is near this spot that Corporal Tappenden sent that message in the early hours of 6 June. Beyond the other exhibition huts, is a tenth seat bench, on the backrest is:

19) Royal Engineers Memorial Plaque. Dedicated by the Airborne Engineers Association, in June 2007, to the memory of the Royal Engineers who gave their lives in Normandy. To the right of the seat bench is an:

20) Original Section of Bailey Bridge. This exhibit is part of one of the original bridges built in this area in 1944. In 1950 French civil engineers dismantled the bridge and moved it to form a crossing over the River Dives in the Commune de Beaumais between Falaise and St-Pierre-sur-Dives. In January 2001 it was replaced by a new bridge and the Commune de Beaumais donated the Bailey bridge to the Mémorial Pegasus where it was rebuilt in 2002. After the Bailey bridge, follow the footpath around to the right. On the grass to your right is an eleventh seat bench, on the backrest is:

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Corporal Ted Tappenden.

21) 13 (Lancashire) Para Memorial Plaque. Dedicated to all ranks of 13 Para who gave their lives while serving with 5 Para Bde. Next along is a twelfth seat bench, on the backrest is:

22) 2 (Airldg) Oxf Bucks Memorial Plaque. Dedicated to all ranks of 2 Oxf Bucks who served with the 6th Airborne Division. As the path snakes around there are six large white sandstone plinths at the end of which is a plaque telling you about:

23) The Men in Gliders Memorial. This memorial (below) was unveiled on 6 June 2009 by General Sir Richard Dannett, GCB CBE MC ADC Gen Chief of the General Staff. On each of the six stone memorials are the names of tug pilot, glider pilots and troops for each of the gliders that formed the coup de main assault teams for the attack on Pegasus and Horsa Bridges. The memorial was built by funds raised by the trustees of Project 65 and the members, friends and families of The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (43rd and 52nd). It was done to help preserve the memory, some sixty-five years after the event, of ‘the men in gliders’.

On the plinth dedicated to the men of glider No. 3, chalk marked No. 93, you will see the RAMC officer referred to is named Captain Jacobs. Jacobs was the birth name of Captain John Vaughan. During a meeting at Bénouville in 1992 with Mark Worthington, now the Memorial Pegasus curator, Captain Vaughan explained that he adopted his ancestral surname, during his service in the war, so that he would not be mistaken for a Jew if taken prisoner (for the complete list of names for the men in the gliders see Appendix F).

Walk back along the path, past the memorial stones on your right, and turn right at the end of the path and walk onto the:

24) Original Pegasus Bridge. As mentioned previously, this bridge was moved just before the fiftieth anniversary, for several years it was left rusting in a nearby field until funds were raised to preserve it and move it here into the Memorial Pegasus Park. Shrapnel and bullet marks can still be seen today on the superstructure and along the sidewalls of the bridge. Halfway along the bridge there is a:

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25) Pegasus Bridge Memorial. Dedicated in 2011, in honour of all those who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Pegasus Bridge. Return to the path and turn right, on the grass area to your right is a:

26) 40mm (1.58in) Bofors Anti-Aircraft Gun. Used by light anti-aircraft regiments of the Royal Artillery during the Second World War. The 40mm (1.58in) Bofors weight in action was 4,368lbs (1981kg) some 1.95 tons (1.98 tonnes) and was manned by a crew of eight men which could fire up to 120 rounds per minute. Firing a standard 2lbs (0.91kg) HE shell the maximum horizontal range was 10,800 yards (9,876m), just over 6.14 miles (9.87km). Maximum ceiling was 7,860 yards (7187m), just under 4.47 miles (7.18km). If fitted with a tracer-igniter the maximum ceiling, until the self destruction of the shell, was either: 3,400 yards (3109m), some 1.93 miles (3.11km); or 5,500 yards (5029m), some 3.13 miles (2.86km), dependent upon which type of tracer-igniter was fitted. However, at this height, only harassing fire was possible. Accurate aimed fire, restricted by the predictor and sighting system, was only possible up to a range of approximately 1,600 yards (1,463m), 0.91 miles (1.46km).

The gun was towed by a four wheel driven Bedford QLB (Quad, Long, Bofors), that had been specially adapted to carry a gun crew of eight plus the driver, ammunition cases and other essential equipment. A well-trained gun crew could set up the Bofors on its stabilisers and be ready for action within two minutes.

It was the men of F Troop (Tp), 318 Battery (Bty), 92 (Loyals) Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery (92 LAA Regt RA) that were tasked with protecting Pegasus and Horsa Bridges from aerial attack after their capture by Major John Howard’s men. Landing on SWORD Beach on 6 June along with the 3rd Infantry Division, F Tp had made its way to Bénouville by the evening of D-Day. At first light the following day they set up their six Bofors gun positions, covering the area from Bénouville across to the east side of Horsa Bridge. The troop was brought into action by 0730hrs when the Luftwaffe launched an aerial attack. For five days they fended off many more air attacks and were credited with seventeen of the German aircraft that were shot down in that area.

Maurice Segal next to a Bofors 40mm (1.58) Anti-Aircraft Gun today and in uniform in 1944.

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On 13 June 123 (London Rifles) LAA Regt RA landed on the Normandy beaches and moved up to take over the air defences around the two bridges. During their landings the unit suffered some casualties after being strafed by a German bomber. The unit were also under regular shell and mortar fire while stationed near the bridges, as veteran Gunner Maurice Segal recalls:

I was in the open when mortar shells were landing around me. I was approaching two graves. Two soldiers had been laid on the ground and covered with earth. I did not know them; they were not of my unit. Sticks had been crudely fashioned into crosses and stuck in the ground. A steel helmet with a hole through it was perched on top. I threw myself between the graves for protection.

When the shelling subsided I put my hands on the grave and said thanks fellas and went my way. The next day a stretcher party arrived, uncovered the bodies, laid each on a stretcher, and then covered them with blankets leaving just their boot exposed. I can still see in my mind’s eye the boots receding into the distance and I feel guilty over my flippant remark.

GUNNER MAURICE SEGAL,

B TP 405 BTY 123 LAA REGT RA

Further along the path on the left-hand side is a thirteenth seat bench, on the backrest is:

27) 1 RUR Memorial Plaque, dedicated to all ranks of 1 RUR who fell while serving in the 6th Airborne Division. Next along the path, to your left is:

28) Quadruple 12.7mm (0.50in) Anti-Aircraft Gun Mounting. This would have originally been mounted on the rear of a half-track. Next along the path, also on the left is:

29) M3 A1 Half-Track. The A1 suffix indicates that the vehicle can be fitted with a ring-mounted 12.7mm (0.50in) calibre machine gun just above the cab. All vehicles had four-speed gearboxes and were fitted with two-speed transfer boxes and drive to both the tracks and front axle. Fuel consumption was an average of 2.73 miles per gallon (1km per litre). There were many variants widely used by the Allied forces. In total some 41,170 were built and put into service during the Second World War.

Continue along the path until you come to the fourteenth seat bench, on the backrest is:

30) RAMC Memorial Plaque, dedicated to all ranks of the RAMC who served with the 6th Airborne Division. Next, along the path to your left on the grass up against the museum building is a fifteenth seat bench. On the backrest is:

31) 1 Cdn Para Memorial Plaque. Dedicated to all ranks who served with 1 Cdn Para Bn of 3 Para Bde.

From here, at the end of the path, you can make your way back into the museum. To your right, after you enter the exhibition hall is the exit that will take you into the book and gift shop.

When you have finished your tour around the museum, return to your vehicle. The tour can be continued by following the directions in the next chapter.

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