France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Pegasus Bridge, Normandy, France
A daring D-Day mission to capture a crucial bridge went just right—to the surprise of many of the battle's participants on both sides.

 
   

 

The story of Pegasus Bridge at Bénoueville, north of Caen, on D-Day is one of those tales of war that seems too good to be true.

The 181 British soldiers of Major John Howard's D company of the 2nd Batallion, British 6th Airborne Division, flying in six Horsa gliders, were tasked with capturing and holding the crucial bascule bridge so that German tanks could not roll across them to attack the British troops landing at Sword Beach in nearby Ouistreham.

Because of bad flying conditions, many D-Day glider landings ended in disaster and loss of all aboard, but five of Major Howard's aircraft landed perfectly, within 43 meters (47 yards) of the bridge.

Climbing out of their damaged—but disposable— aircraft, the British airborne troops surprised and overwhelmed the German defenders of the bridge, then held it until being reinforced by the 7th Parachute Battalion led by an officer with a name daunting for anyone going into battle: Major Pine-Coffin.

Interestingly, among Pine-Coffin's troops was a young actor named Richard Todd who, years later, would portray Major John Howard in the D-Day landings movie The Longest Day.

Originally built in 1934 and known as the Bénouville Bridge, the rolling bascule bridge designed to allow ships to reach the inland harbor at Caen was removed from service and placed in the Pegasus Museum at the eastern end of the bridge. A new bridge with an improved design went into service in 1994 with the name Pegasus Bridge in honor of Major Howard's force, whose shoulder insignia was of Pegasus, the wingèd horse of mythology.


Sword Beach

Juno Beach

Gold Beach

Caen

Main D-Day Sites

Short History of D-Day

About D-Day

About Normandy

 

Paris Girls Secret Society, a novel by Tom Brosnahan

 

Pegasus Bridge, a bascule bridge on the River Orne at Bénoueville, Normandy, France

The newer Pegasus Bridge, a bascule bridge on the River Orne at Bénoueville, Normandy, France. To the right is a modern observation tower.

       
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