From the anti-tank gun walk back to the road (D514) and head east towards Horsa Bridge. Just before the bridge on the left-hand side of the road is a memorial. The field directly behind the memorial is LZ Y, also known as EUSTON II, (see Maps 1 & 2) where glider chalk marked No. 96, containing No. 17 Platoon B Coy, led by Lieutenant Dennis Fox, landed 170 yards (155m) away at 0020hrs. Glider chalk marked No. 95, carrying Lieutenant ‘Tod’ Sweeney’s No. 23 Platoon D Coy, dropped in an air pocket and came down, one minute later, some 700 yards (640m) short of the LZ. In glider chalk marked No. 94, due to a navigational error by the tug pilots, Staff Sergeants Lawrence and Shorter landed their glider east of Varaville at a bridge over the River Dives, leaving No. 22 Platoon D Coy, led by Lieutenant Charles Anthony ‘Tony’ Hooper, and Major Howard’s 2ic, Captain Brian Priday, over 7 miles (11.27km) from their LZ (see Battleground Europe book Merville Battery & The Dives Bridges Ch. 8, A).

Walk towards the north-west corner of the bridge and look across the bridge. On 6 June 1944, the west side of the bridge had, for protection, two open machine-gun posts on the left side of the roadway and, on the right side, a camouflaged pillbox. Two obstacles, probably tree trunks, lay alongside the road to be used as road blocks if required.1 Turn right and cross the road and position yourself facing west (looking back towards Pegasus Bridge) at Point B (Map 2 p.60). You now stand near where the sentry, at his machine-gun post, was, when Staff Sergeants Roy Howard and Freddie Baacke landed glider chalk marked No. 96 in the field (now obscured by the hedgerow and trees) just over 170 yards (155m) away to your right. This time there were no casualties when the glider landed and made a textbook stop.

‘You’re in the right place, Sir!’ I shouted to Lieutenant Fox who seemed both happy and surprised at the same time as, with a drumming and crash of army boots along the floor of the glider, he disappeared into the night to shoot up the Germans guarding the bridge.

It was up to Fred and me to unload the rest of the stores but now we received a shock as we climbed out through the door of the glider into the field. Where were the other gliders? We had been No. 96 and should have been the third glider to land in our field. Yet, apart from a herd of cows which had panicked in front of us as we landed, we were quite alone...alone in front of the whole invasion force which was not to land on the beaches 6 miles away until daybreak, and ahead of the main parachute drop by half an hour.




Staff Sergeant Roy Howard.

Because of the noise coming from the canal bridge the German sentries were on full alert at their machine-gun posts. The British assault troops scrambled from their glider and then formed into their respective sections. Lieutenant Fox noticed that the corporal of his leading section was standing still, looking towards their objective. The corporal reported that he could see a machine gun by the bridge. Unperturbed, Lieutenant Fox decided to lead the troops to the bridge himself. He had only walked a few paces when the German sentry opened up with an MG 34. The burst of machine gun fire sent the men sprawling and diving for cover. Sergeant Charles ‘Wagger’ Thornton, though, had stayed behind in anticipation of enemy fire and immediately returned fire with his 2in (50.80mm) mortar.

Dear old Thornton had got from way back in his position a mortar going, and he put a mortar slap down, a fabulous shot right on the machine-gun, so we just rushed the bridge, all the chaps yelling, ‘Fox, Fox, Fox, Fox’.


The assault troops reached the bridge just in time to see the remaining German sentries running away from their posts. An NCO from the lead section jumped into their machine-gun post and turned the MG 34 on to the retreating guards. These were the only shots fired in the battle to capture the River Orne Bridge. The men spread out and again the sappers went to work removing detonation wires and searching for explosives. However, like the canal bridge, none had been put into their chambers and the explosives were later found at a house nearby that had been used by the Germans as a billet.

A minute after Fox’s glider had landed, Staff Sergeants Stan Pearson and Len Guthrie landed glider chalk marked No. 95 just over half a mile (0.80km) away from the bridge. Lieutenant ‘Tod’ Sweeney assembled his men and set off, at the double, towards their objective. The only ‘casualties’ were those who never saw the drainage ditches and fell full length into the water. When the men finally reached the river bridge, Sweeney, sodden and soaked and leading from the front (he had been one of the first into a drainage ditch) was unnerved by the calm of the situation and the lack of opposition. Leaving one section on the west bank, he accompanied his two other sections on to the bridge.


RAF reconnaissance photograph showing the glider next to Ranville (Horsa) Bridge.

I hadn’t cottoned on to the fact that the bridge had been seized at all. As I was beginning to go across, I thought that someone was in fact there before me, but you still had that awful feeling as you went over the bridge that it might go up under your feet. I went racing across with my heart in my mouth, eventually coming to a halt, a bit disappointed... We were all worked up to kill the enemy, bayonet the enemy, be blown up or something.


They got to the bridge and ‘Tod’ led his platoon, charging across it, not, of course, meeting any opposition. And there on the other side was nothing more than the unmistakable figure of Dennis Fox. Sweeney rushed up to him. ‘Dennis, how are you? Is everything all right?’

‘Yes, I think so,’ replied Dennis. ‘But I can’t find the bloody umpires!22



Back at the canal bridge at approximately 0026hrs Major Howard had finally received the message he had been waiting for: Lieutenant Sweeney reported that the bridge over the River Orne had been captured intact. Howard was exhilarated by the news. They had captured both bridges in only ten minutes! He immediately ordered Sweeney to secure the bridge and to send Fox’s platoon over to join the others at the canal bridge in anticipation of a counter-attack from Bénouville. Finally, Howard told Corporal Tappenden to send out the two prearranged code words on his wireless set to notify 5 Para Bde HQ and their relieving force, 7 Para, of his troop’s success. HAM and JAM was transmitted ceaselessly over the airwaves in the direction of DZ N near Ranville.

Later, back at the east side of the river bridge where there was a small, lone, country house, Sweeney greeted the old couple who lived there and explained to them why his men were there; Pour la liberation de la France. But four years of Nazi occupancy couldn’t be forgotten so quickly. Suspecting a German ruse and ever fearful of a visit by the Gestapo the elderly couple kept themselves to themselves. When the little old lady realized what had really happened later that day she made amends by greeting Sweeney with a kiss.3

The River Orne Bridge with the German sign still in position.



Lieutenant Henry ‘Tod’ Sweeney.

Sometime after capturing the river bridge the sound of a patrol was heard approaching from the tow path, on the east side of the river, from the direction of Caen.

They were challenged by the section on that side of the road. They shouted back something that sounded German, so the section opened fire and killed them all. We found them there the next morning. Unfortunately, one of the people in that bunch was a [British] paratrooper.


The paratrooper, gagged by his captors, turned out to be a pathfinder from the 22 (Ind) Para Coy. He had been captured by a patrol from 21 Panzer Division, who were on anti-invasion manoeuvres in that area, and was evidently being taken back to their headquarters for interrogation.4

By this time the German garrison commander of the bridges had been alerted to the disturbance at the bridges and had set off, in haste, from Ranville to investigate the trouble. On the east side of the River Orne Bridge Lieutenant Sweeney’s men were alerted again to a sound approaching the bridge.

We heard the grinding of gears and the noise of what sounded like a very heavy vehicle coming round the corner... I thought, ‘Well, here we go. This is the first tank attack’. And I got everybody ready. Around the corner came low dimmed yellow lights and the grinding of gears with the sound of a track running. So I sent a message over the air. Down the road came an open half-track – an officer’s vehicle – followed by a motorcyclist. We were all down in the ditches on the side of the road so we were looking up and as it passed everyone opened fire.


Hitting, but not stopping, the vehicle, the troops on the east side of the bridge had more luck with the motorcycle. The Bren gunner killed the driver, causing the motorcycle to fly off the roadway and into the river. The staff car, however, carried on across the bridge. Sweeney, who at this time, was with his guard section on the west bank, opened up with his Sten gun. The driver, hit and badly wounded, lost control. The vehicle careered into a ditch. Sweeney’s men surrounded the car and dragged out the occupants. Among the wreckage the men found empty wine bottles, dirty plates, face-powder, rouge, stockings and lingerie!5 Major Hans Schmidt had returned to his post. Lieutenant Sweeney had the wounded Germans put on stretchers and transferred to the temporary Regimental Aid Post (RAP). This had been set up by Major Howard, some 150 yards (137m) down the road, towards Pegasus Bridge.

From where you now stand follow the road west back towards Pegasus Bridge. This is the same route along which Sweeney’s men carried the two Germans to the RAP. At the small lane to your right, some 410 yards (375m) from Pegasus Bridge stop (at what is now a roundabout) Point C (Map 2). It was near here in a ditch and along a bank that the wounded were brought and tended to by the medical orderlies and their medical officer, Captain John Vaughan. By 0700hrs Captain Vaughan would have several dead and fifteen wounded personnel at his RAP.

Captain Vaughan had soon regained consciousness as the battle raged for the capture of Pegasus Bridge. His first concern had been to help a man still trapped in the wrecked glider hull. Unable to free him, he had given him a shot of morphia from a syrette and reassured him that he would find a stretcher-bearer. He then staggered off in search of his medical orderlies. On his way Captain Vaughan met his medical corporal – who had been sent by Major Howard to find him – as he stumbled into the roadway between the two bridges. A few minutes later, after a swig from Major Howard’s whisky flask, Captain Vaughan set off to find and treat his casualties.

I found Den [Brotheridge] lying near a low stone wall at the west end of the café. He was looking at the stars, bewilderment on his face and a bullet hole in the middle of his neck below the chin... All I could do was give him a shot of morphia. By then I had got some medical orderlies together and we carried him back to the RAP... David Wood I found near the anti-tank gun pit, his thigh shattered by machine-gun bullets. He had no thought for himself but kept on asking how Den was getting on.




Captain John Vaughan.

Twenty-six year old Lieutenant Brotheridge died shortly thereafter. Major Hans Schmidt, by the time he reached the RAP, had recovered from the initial shock of being wounded and captured. He harassed Captain Vaughan while his wounds were being treated.

He harangued me about the futility of this Allied attempt to defeat the master race. We were undoubtedly going to end up in the sea he assured me with complete conviction... He ended his lecture by requesting me to shoot him. This I did – in the bottom – with a needle attached to a syringe of morphia. The effect of this, it seemed, induced him to take a more reasonable view of things and in about ten minutes he actually thanked me for my medical attentions.



He was unable to help Schmidt’s sixteen year old driver though. Without the use of proper medical instruments or supplies, Captain Vaughan amputated one of the driver ’s legs with a pair of scissors, the bone having been already shattered by the impact of the bullets. But with no blood to carry out a transfusion the young German died within half an hour. From this point onwards Captain Vaughan and the medical orderlies were kept busy.

The commander of Panzerjäger Abteilung 716 of 716 Infanterie Divison, equipped with mobile Hotchkiss 7.5cm (2.95in) Pak 40s on tracked chassis, had already prepared the first of their counter-attacks on Pegasus Bridge.

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