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PEGASUS BRIDGE

Wednesday 10 January 2001

The taking of the bridge at Benouville was the first action of the invasion . It had to be, as the bridge was wired with explosives and if the german guards realised that there was an invasion on , they’d destroy the bridge. The only means of taking the bridge intact was by complete surprise.

It was decided that the best way of getting 60 in the right place at the right time was by landing in gliders. A parachute drop tends to disperse the men and might loose them the surprise.

The plan of attack was devised by Major John Howard, who led the assault. In the months preceding the invasion he and his men perfected their attack routine on a mock up bridge in England. His idea was for the first of three gliders to crash land right through the barbed wire fence surrounding the bridge. The other two would land just behind.
As D day approached , aerial photos shewed that posts were being erected in the vicinity of the bridge. These were an idea of Rommel and designed to make an,aircraft landing impossible. Howard pointed this out to his pilot. "That’s just what we need " his pilot repleid " The posts will break of the wings and slow us down."

The three gliders left England at 11 o’clock on the evening of the 5th towed by bombers. At a quarter past midnight while still 10 Km from the target, they cast off, and 5 minutes later, by faltless navigation, the leading glider crashed through the barbed wire and came to rest 50 Yds from the bridge.

The sentry on the bridge heard the crash and assumed it was a bomber shot down. He could hear what he took to be routine bombing and had been watching the anti air craft fire from the coast. When a group of men with blackened faces rushed out of the wreckage he was completely taken by surprise, and dived into the trenches.

Within three minutes the resistance was overcome and the bridge was in British hands. Although taking the bridge went so smoothly, Howards troubles weren’t over. The garison guarding the bridge was barracked at Benouville, a few hundred yards away. Howards unit had to defend the bridge against a german counter attack untill reinforcements arrived from the main parachute drop. According to the plan they were to be further reinforced by a special commando unit landing by Sword beach and led by Lord Lovat. They were suposed to arive at 2.00 P.M. but at 2 there was no sign of them . They arrived at 2 minutes past two led by the famous bagpiper. George Millin
The original bridge still bearing the scars of the battle was replaced in 1993 by a wider copie to allow large ships to go up the canal to Caen. The bridge can now be seen by the museum, opened in 2000 by Prince Charles.

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