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Pegasus Bridge

From Academic Kids

Pegasus Bridge before its replacement
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Pegasus Bridge before its replacement
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Pegasus_bridge_new.jpg
The replacement Pegasus Bridge in operation

Pegasus was the codename given to a bridge over the Caen canal, near the town of Ouistreham. The bridge was a major objective of the British 6th Airborne Division, which was landed by glider near it during the Normandy Invasion on the 5th/6th June 1944. It was given the permanent name of Pegasus Bridge in honour of the operation.

The main objective of capturing Pegasus Bridge was to secure the eastern flank of the invasion, preventing a counter attack from rolling up the entire invasion force.

The initial assault was carried out by 181 soldiers -- most of whom came from D Company, 2nd Ox & Bucks -- in 6 Horsa gliders, led by Major John Howard. They landed within fifty metres (164 feet) of Pegasus at 16 minutes past midnight on June 6th. The bridge was lightly guarded and was captured in just ten minutes, becoming the first objective seized on D-Day. One of the men killed during the operation was Lt. Dan Brotheridge, the first Allied soldier to be killed on D-Day.

A few hundred yards to the east, spanning the river Orne, stands another bridge known as Horsa Bridge. This was the second objective of the Ox and Bucks, and was assaulted by glider in a similar fashion the same night.

Further elements of the 6th Airborne landed by glider and parachute throughout the day to reinforce the defenders, and the bridge was successfully held until relieved by British ground units. The first relief was from 6 Commando, led by Lord Lovat, who arrived to the sound of the Scottish bagpipes, played by 21-year-old 'Mad Piper' Private Bill Millin. Later in the day units of the British 3rd Division arrived, and the bridges were secured.

A museum and memorial can now be found next to the site of the battle, on Major Howard road. The most prominent item on display is the original bridge itself. In 1993 it was replaced by a slightly larger, more modern bridge which emulated design of the original. The old bridge was too narrow and was not structurally suited to heavy modern traffic. The French originally planned to dismantle the old bridge, but British veterans' associations bought the bridge for a symbolic price of one Pound. The bridge lay out in the fields for six years while funds were being raised to give it a proper place on the museum grounds, where it is now located. Also part of the collection are in-depth details of the operation; uniforms and medals of men who took part in the operation; and the bagpipes of Bill Millin. The latest addition to the museum is a full-size replica of a Horsa glider.

The soldiers killed in these actions are mostly buried in the cemetery at nearby Ranville. Lt. Brotheridge's grave, which is also located at this cemetery, has a commemorative plaque that was installed by the family Gondree, whose house near Pegasus Bridge was the first to be liberated during D-Day. It still exists and nowadays contains a cafe and a small museum shop that sells Pegasus Bridge related material.

The events around Pegasus Bridge are depicted in the movie The Longest Day.

The World War II-based first-person shooter game Call of Duty also features a level about the Pegasus Bridge, although this depiction is not historically accurate.

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