Memorial Pegasus – The Pegasus Bridge Museum, Normandy
A Horsa glider near the Caen Canal bridge at Benouville, 8 June 1944. This is glider No. 91, which carried Major John Howard and Lieutenant Den Brotheridge with No.1 Platoon, ‘D’ Company, 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. It was one of the six gliders that carried 6th Airborne Division’s ‘coup de main’ force – commanded by Major Howard – which captured the bridges over the Orne and Caen Canal in the early hours of D-Day. Photograph: Sergeant Christie. No. 5 Army Film and Photo Section, Army Film and Photographic Unit Imperial War Museum Catalogue Number: B 5232
Pegasus Bridge, 9 June 1944. Vehicles including a Royal Signals jeep & trailer and a RASC Leyland lorry on ‘Pegasus Bridge’ over the Caen Canal at Benouville. The signallers are fixing telephone lines across the bridge. Photograph: Sergeant Christie. No. 5 Army Film and Photo Section, Army Film and Photographic Unit Imperial War Museum Catalogue Number: B 5288
On the night of 5 June 1944, six Airspeed AS 51 Horsa gliders carrying 181 men from the 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and 249 Field Company (Airborne) Royal Engineers departed RAF Tarrant in Dorset. Under the command of Major John Howard, their mission, code-named Operation DEADSTICK was to capture two road bridges near Normandy across the River Orne and the Caen Canal. This was the first action of D-Day in the British sector and would allow the allied troops landing on Sword Beach to exit and advance east of the Orne.
One of the six gliders went astray and landed a dozen kilometers from the objective, but the other five landed within meters of their objectives. The bridge over the Orne was guarded by only two German sentries and was captured without firing a shot. The more heavily guarded Bénouville bridge over the Caen Canal was taken after a short but intense firefight. Both bridges had been captured within 10 minutes. Reinforced by soldiers from the 7th Battalion Parachute Regiment during the night, Major Howard’s men held the bridge despite repeated counterattacks until they were joined in the early hours of the afternoon of 6 June, by the commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade, who had landed at dawn at Sword Beach.
Imperial War Museum Video – Operation Deadstick The Airborne Assault on Pegasus Bridge
Shortly after the engagement, on the 26 of June 1944, the Caen Canal bridge was renamed Pegasus Bridge as a tribute to the British airborne troops involved in the action. In 1974 the Airborne Forces Museum was opened on the west bank of the canal, opposite the glider landing site and close to the original Bénouville bridge but closed in 1997. A campaign started for a new museum and on 4 June 2000 Memorial Pegasus was opened by HRH Prince Charles, Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment.
Pegasus Bridge and memorial plaque to Lieutenant H.D. Brotheridge who was the first British soldier to be killed in action on D-Day when he led his platoon across the bridge. Photo: Julian Tennant
Fullsize replica of an Airspeed AS 51 Horsa Glider as used by the British troops in Operation DEADSTICK and the assault on D-Day. Photo: Julian Tennant
Glider Pilot of the Army Aviation Corps. Photo: Julian Tennant
Exhibits at the Memorial Pegasus museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
Heavily laden 6th Airborne Division jeep as transported by glider on D-Day. Photo: Julian Tennant
Objects relating to the Royal Ulster Rifles. The Dennison smock was worn on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy by Captain Bob Sheridan, Adjutant of the 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles. Photo: Julian Tennant
German parachutist’s Gravity Knife, rare British Beaded & Ribbed’ pattern Fairbairn Sykes commando dagger and other 6th Airborne Division objects on display at Memorial Pegasus. Photo: Julian Tennant
Spread over three acres, the museum grounds contain the original Pegasus Bridge, which was purchased from the French authorities for just one Franc in 1999, along with a full size replica of a Horsa glider. The main exhibition building features a very interesting selection of artifacts related to the British 6th Airborne Division and the D-Day landings. There are guided tours of the museum conducted in both French and English which last for about an hour and a half. These are worth doing in addition to taking your time to browse the exhibits. Visitors can also scan the QR code panels to get information about the exhibits in ten languages, French, English, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish and Czech.
British paratrooper kitted out for the jump into France in advance of the D-Day landings. He is wearing the British X-Type parachute over the 1942 Pattern Parachutist Oversmock and Mk1 Parachutist helmet. Photo: Julian Tennant
British military chaplain’s dress uniform. Note the bullion Glider Pilot qualification wing. Photo: Julian Tennant
Canadian Parachute Battalion soldier wearing the 2nd pattern Dennison smock and Canadian parachutist qualification wings. Photo: Julian Tennant
Cloth insignia of the ‘Forces Navales Francaises Libres” (Free French Naval Forces) worn on the sailors jackets and commando’s green berets until May 1944. Photo: Julian Tennant
Beret worn by Guy de Montlaur who served with the French No. 4 Commando. Photo: Julian Tennant
Avenue du Major Howard
Open:The Memorial Pegasus is open everyday from 1st February to 15th December. A visit, with guide, lasts about 1h15.
1st February to 31st March from 10.00 to 17.00
1st April to 30th September from 9.30 to 18.30
1st October to 15th December from 10.00 to 17.00
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