Thought it might be interesting to present a timeline of events from D-Day drawn from the official war diaries and reports. All are sourced. As an addition I've included at various points first hand veteran accounts. These come with the kind permission of Neil Barber, the author of the definitive account of the capture of the Pegasus and Orne Bridges. The Pegasus and Orne Bridges: Their Capture, Defence and Relief on D-Day: Amazon.co.uk: Neil Barber: Books The veteran interviews are from interviews by the author or have been drawn from the IWM Sound Archive. Thanks to our good friend Andy I've managed to obtain documents from units of the Paras, Commandos, Royal Engineers, RASC and the Royal Warwicks. I hope you find it of interest. THE COUP DE MAIN OPERATION 2/ OXF AND BUCKS From WO 171/1357 Held at TNA On Monday 5th June 1944 [at 22.56 hours] an Assault Party consisting of 'D' Company and 2 Platoons of 'B' Company under command of Major John Howard, took off in 6 Gliders from Tarrant Rushton Airfield. They were the first troops to leave England for the invasion of the Continent and had a coup de main task of capturing two vital Bridges intact, namely the Bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne at Benouville and Ranville respectively. Three gliders were briefed to land within 50 yards of each Bridge. Speed and dash on the part of the attacking troops was considered sufficient to overcome the German garrison of 50. At 0025 hrs. the first glider crash-landed within 20 yards of Benouville [Pegasus] Bridge. It contained No.25 Platoon, commanded by Lt. H.D Brotheridge, and the Company Commander. According to plan they immediately attacked and crossed the Bridge. Wally Parr, 2/Oxf and Bucks. I looked up and saw this damned thing towering above me, and my mouth went dry. I couldn’t spit sixpence! My tongue was stuck to the top of my mouth. I thought I was going to choke. Corporal Bill Bailey, 2/Oxf and Bucks. We ignored everything else left, right and centre and we went straight to the pillbox which was on the other side of the road. We moved up to the wall, pins-out and shoved them through. The second noise of the night was Wally Parr saying “Pick the bones out of that you bastards” or words to that effect. My mouth was absolutely dry. We used two ’36’ grenades there, that’s Wally Parr and myself, which we put through apertures and there was really a terrific explosion, simultaneous explosions almost. Bill Gray, 2/Oxf and Bucks. Tom Packwood, who was my number two, had got in front of me and he stopped and said “Come on Bill, you’re supposed to be in front of me” because of the Bren gun. My job, as the bren gunner, was to rush the right-hand side of the bridge. We dashed towards it and I saw the German sentry with what looked like a Verey light pistol in his hand. I fired and he went down, but at the same time he pulled the trigger af the Verey pistol and the bright light went up. I still kept firing going over the bridge and at the other side there was another German, he went down. While they took on the defences, the Sappers [249 Field Company, Royal Engineers] who accompanied the party cut wires and removed charges. Lt Brotheridge was unfortunately shot while crossing the Bridge and died two hours later, he gave a gallant display of brilliant leadership. The 2nd Glider, 24 Platoon commanded by Lt. D.J. Wood touched down a minute after 25, with 14 Platoon commanded by Lt. R.A.A Smith ½ minute later. While we took on the inner defences, 14 Platoon were ordered to reinforce 25 Platoon and start to form a small bridgehead to meet the first expected counter-attack. Both the Platoon Commander and the Platoon Sergeant of 24 Platoon were wounded in the initial assault, subsequent command falling on Corporal Godbold. On the Ranville Bridge only two gliders had arrived, 17 Platoon under Lt. D.B. Fox and 23 Platoon under Lt H.J. Sweeney. Little opposition was met and 17 Platoon soon had full control of the Bridge reinforced by 23 Platoon. Both Bridges were captured intact and consolidation effected after mopping up, within 15 mins of landing. The defence of the Bridges until our relief arrived, was expected to be a difficult task, within an hour some two or three tanks approached the Bridges from the WEST, the first tank was put out of action by a well aimed bomb from a PIAT fired by 17 Platoon. Sergeant Charles ‘Wagger’ Thornton 2/Oxf and Bucks [Dennis] Fox told me to get up and see the situation. I was trusted with this PIAT and off I went.. A PIAT is a load of rubbish really..the range is about fifty yards and no more...even fifty yards is stretching it. It was indoctrinated into your brain, you must never, never miss. If you do, you’ve had it. So I thought to myself, I’ll get about thirty yards from the ‘T’ junction. I don’t mind admitting it, I was shaking like a leaf... Sure enough, within three minutes this bloody tank appears, more hearing it than seeing it ‘cos the wheels were rattling away there. They hung around for a few seconds to figure out where they were. ..I made sure that I had him right in the middle. Anyway, although shaking, I took an aim and BANG, off it went. This Platoon was brought over from the River Bridge to form part of the bridgehead on the WEST bank. Our relief, 7th Bn. Parachute Regt. (Somerset Lt. Infantry) reached us 3 hours after our landing, 2 hours later than expected. Being relieved by the Somerset made the Bridge operation a Light Infantry show. Our first relief was intended to be 'C' Company 7th Para Bn. commanded by Major R.J.H. Bartlett of the Regiment, unfortunately his Company were dropped dispersed and unable to reach us as soon as expected. Soon after 1st light a Gun Boat moved up the Canal from the sea and shot HQ 7 Para Bn. but another well aimed PIAT bomb put this out of action. The assault force was still defending the Bridges when the Regiment landed and crossed the Bridges at 2300 hrs. The missing glider, 22 Platoon. under Lt. C.R. Hooper with the Company 2nd in Command, Captain B.C.E. Priday, landed near a Bridge on the River DIVES and had a lively fight with the Boche defending. Having discovered where they were, they set out and joined the Regiment at Ranville at 0230 hrs. 8/6/44. Total casualties 1 officer 3 O.R's killed, 2 Officers 15 O.R's wounded, 2 O.R's missing. THE SAPPERS From WO 171/428 held at TNA CRE was rightly called in for planning very soon after it started some three months before the operation took place. On grounds of security, no further RE planning staff was allowed until about a month later when the IORE [Intelligence Officer, Royal Engineers] was introduced to sift the vast amount of intelligence to be dealt with and assist with the stores side. One L/Cpl clerk was allowed three weeks afterwards. Unit Commanders and Adjutant, although warned earlier of the nature of unit tasks to enable final training to be specialised, were not allowed to know their detailed tasks, including places, until a month before the operation took place, i.e. about three weeks before the move to transit camps. The majority of the detailed planning was therefore done by CRE and IORE between them in order that demands for stores, both special assault and normal maintenance types, could be submitted in time. In this connection, it must be said that 6 Airborne Division was introduced to the plan considerably later than other formations, and it was no easy matter to prepare detailed stores demands before the final date allowed. The amount and quality of technical information available far exceeded our wildest hopes. Air photographs of the DIVES bridges in particular were excellent, comprising very clear obliques taken from 500 feet. As a result, models were made by the HQRE draughtsman of:- (a) the DIVES bridges at a scale of a quarter inch to one foot, and (b) the BENOUVILLE - RANVILLE bridges at a scale of one inch to ten feet, which proved most useful for briefing. A great deal of assistance was given by the SORE at the AIRBORNE FORCES DEVELOPMENT CENTRE over construction of special equipment and last minute clearance of special glider loads. 1. Coup-de-main party on BENOUVILLE - RANVILLE bridges:- (a) 3 gliders to land on each of Landing Zones B.1. and B.2. immediately adjacent to bridges at P-5 hours. (b) The whole force to comprise six platoons of 2 OXF & BUCKS, detachment of 249 FIELD COMPANY, RE and detachment of RAMC. (c) RE to consist of two officers and twenty eight other ranks distributed as five in each of the six gliders. (d) RE to carry scaling ladders, handaxes, small crowbars, pliers, etc. (e) RE task to neutralise demolitions coincident with the infantry assault, the three parties at each bridge all being briefed to search the same places on their bridge, or, if necessary, the other one. (f) Four gliders to carry on Mark II Assault Boat each to enable a small bridgehead to be established on the outer banks if the bridges were blown. 2 Platoon, 249 FIELD COMPANY, R.E. Captain NEILSON'S party of 5 Sappers in each of three gliders with the 52nd Light Infantry all landed within 100 yds of the BENOUVILLE BRIDGE as planned. Although no artificial obstructions were in fact in position, the LZ was rough and marshy, and great tribute has been paid by all concerned to the skill of the Glider Pilots. Even so, the shock of landing dazed most of the men for a few seconds. The Sapper work went according to the rehearsed plan and every man was at his appointed place searching for possible demolition charges within two minutes of touching down. The intended position of charges was indicated by paint and this enabled the bridge to be declared clear within 5 minutes. Sapper Cyril Haslett, 249 Field Company Royal Engineers It was just mud. [the canal bank] We had to scramble on as best we could, because the bridge came over the road, into the bank. Underneath, you had to feel your way around. Sapper Harry Wheeler, 249 Field Company Royal Engineers It was the only wire I could see. I didn’t know what it was; hoped for the best. It blew me off my feet, and the wire cutters, blew them out of my hands! I reckon it was for lifting the bridge; must have been, the amount of power that was there. Sapper Cyril Haslett, 249 Field Company Royal Engineers We discovered that somebody had disconnected the explosives, so all we had to do was take the leads off, leading to the explosives. The explosives were on the side, but the leads were still on the bridge, we had to cut this cordite cord. Major John Howard, 2/Oxf and Bucks The Captain of the Royal Engineers, ‘Jock’ Neilson, reported to me that there were no explosives under the Canal Bridge. A message came through by 38 Set that only one glider had landed at the RANVILLE BRIDGE. Capt NEILSON therefore took RE detachments to the bridge and was able to declare the bridge free just as Lt BENCE arrived. The latter's glider had landed some 500 yards away. The third glider landed in the marshes near the coast and EAST of the River ORNE, and the party did not arrive until the evening of D+1. The Sappers. then took up a position in the defensive layout covering the bridges and played their part in repelling the counter attack. A classification of both bridges was carried out at first light and the approaches verified as clear of mines. Recce of the footbridge was not possible before 1100 hrs owing to snipers who were extremely active in the neighbourhood. Of the four gliders with bridging equipment and the balance of the Platoon, three landed on various parts of the L.Z. about 0325 hrs. One was considerably damaged but the personnel unhurt and equipment serviceable. The CRE instructed that equipment should be guarded until transport could be made available from HQRE. Equipment was then to be dumped on EAST bank of the River ORNE for use in case the bridges subsequently went. In point of fact, one jeep and trailer was produced about 0730 hrs and two glider loads dumped at the specified site by 1130 hrs. The Platoon then remained throughout the day in a def position covering the bridge and assisted in the capture of a gunboat trying to dislodge the garrison.