Pegasus Bridge: In the words of those who were there.

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Jonathan Ball, Feb 26, 2013.

  1. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    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: 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.


    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.


    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.
    Old Git, Chris C, Drew5233 and 2 others like this.
  2. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I have the full description of the Pegasus operation from the Third Divs perspective
  3. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    This area is a personal favourite of mine and an important place in the ultimate Allied victory in N.W. Europe in WW2.

    It looks like this new book does justice to those who were there. They can tell the story in their own words.
  4. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    From WO 171/1239 held at TNA

    6th June 1944
    Place: Ranville

    0100hrs - Battalion completed drop but went into action with Companys at half normal strength due to some plane loads being dropped in wrong places and one load not dropping at all.

    Place: Le Port and Benouville

    0325hrs - Battalion occupied objective and held it against various counter-attacks "A" and "B" Coys being heavily engaged. Casualties - killed 3 Officers, Capt Parry (Padre), Lt Bowyer and Lt Hill, and 16 ORs. Wounded 4 Officers, Major TAYLOR, Capt WEBBER, Lt HUNTER & Lt TEMPLE & 38 ORs. Missing, 170 ORs did not R.V. after drop.

    1325 - Battalion of Commandos passed through battalion positions.

    2200 - Stick from a/c which failed to drop arrived by glider - included Major TULLIS and Lt THEOBALD and R.M.O. Capt YOUNG.

    2230 - Battalion of Royal Warwicks arrived and put in an attack on BENOUVILLE.

    Appendix to War Diary

    Action Fought at RANVILLE and BENOUVILLE bridges on night 5/6 June and day 6 June 1944.

    The role of the battalion was to seize and hold the bridges over the R. ORNE and the CANAL DE CAEN and to establish a bridgehead on the West bank of the CANAL until relieved by seaborne troops. The bridges were to be captured intact if possible. In addition a battery position at 105765 (thought to be abandoned) was to be neutralised and occupied.

    The battalion was to drop at 0050 hours (D Day) on DZ "N" and RV on the NORTH end of WOOD 112745. A pathfinder force, which included a small detachment from the battalion (Lt Rogers and 4 ORs), dropped 30 mins before the battalion.

    In order to try and secure the bridges intact a Coup de Main force landed as close to the bridges as possible at 0020 hours (D Day). This force consisted of a company and two platoons of the OXF & BUCKS LI (with certain attached troops), under MAJOR HOWARD (OXF & BUCKS LI) and was carried in six gliders. Lieut. MacDonald travelled with this force for liaison duties between Howard and myself.

    The Coup de Main operation was successful and as a result of this success it was not necessary for the battalion to cross the water obstacles by dinghies as had been expected.

    These dinghies were carried in kit bags, together with the necessary ropes for making the ferries, either on the legs of men or attached to bicycle chutes and thrown out by the number ones of certain sticks. 30 dinghies and 12 Recce boats together with a large number of ropes were carried in all.

    The dropping was not too accurate and, although the bulk of the battalion was dropped on the DZ, there were many who were put down several miles wide. Speed in forming up was an essential part of the battalion plan; this was difficult for the following reasons:-

    (1) The sticks were very scattered (the large number of kit bags undoubtedly slowed up the exits and resulted in some sticks being unduly long) and the aircraft seemed to come in from all angles, which confused those who were using the line of flight to get their bearings.

    (2) The enemy had manned positions on the DZ itself and there was a good bit of MG fire across the DZ which resulted on some casualties.

    (3) The heavy kit bags containing the boating material slowed the men up a lot. The normal drill of coming in to the RV at the double was quite impossible.

    Despite these difficulties however the men came in pretty well and by 0130 hrs I had about 50% of the riflemen and bren gunners in. There were no mortars, MMGs or wireless sets in though. I could hear Howard's success signal and knew that he had captured the bridges and that they were crossable so at 0130 hrs I set off with my initial attack force (A. B. C companies and the Adv Bn HQ. The plan was for Rear Battalion HQ to follow up in its own best time, so I left the 2 i/c (Steele-Baume) to collect in all he could and follow us up, choosing his own time for starting.

    As the bridges were intact I took my force over them with all speed and ordered them into their prearranged bridge head positions in BENOUVILLE (see OO for details). I had arranged in ENGLAND with Howard to do this if he should be fighting on the West of the CANAL when I arrived, my positions were outside the area he was likely to be in with his small force, and by working round into them I could not only assist him but would also save time. It was 0140 hours when I crossed the CANAL bridge with this force.

    The occupation of the bridge head positions called for some hasty decisions and reorganisation as no complete platoon (or even section) existed as such. It was only possible to gauge the positions of the companies by the sound of small arms fire as there was no wireless.

    When I judged that the positions had been occupied at about 0210 hours I ordered Howard (who came under my command at this stage) to withdraw his men over the CANAL bridge and made him responsible for the RIVER bridge and the area between the two bridges.

    Steele-Baume and Rear Battalion HQ which still included no mortars, MMGs or wireless, joined me on the West of the canal at 0220 hours.

    From then on it is not really possible to give a clear story of the fighting which was very confused and fierce and almost continuous. The loss of the wireless was particularly handicapping.

    "B" Company were much troubled by snipers in LE PORT and were also heavily attacked in their position on the wooded escarpment. Soon after daylight the lack of mortars and MMGs became uncomfortably apparent and a modification of the original dispositions was called for. The situation generally, at first light, was as follows:

    (1) "A" Company were fighting in their area but runners failed to reach them, no runners came back from them and there was no wireless. The company appeared to be surrounded because "B" company were on occasions attacked from the South i.e. their (B Coy's) left.

    (2) The RAP (in 'A' Coy area) had been overrun and the M.O (Wagstaffe of 225 Para Field Ambulance) was missing, the Padre (Parry) had been killed at the RAP. This was found out by the IO [intelligence Officer] (Mills), who had gone to try to contact 'A' Company. The Battalion M.O (Young) was also missing after the drop. He arrived by glider the next day together with his stick, which had not been dropped. This stick also included OC HQ Company (Tullis).

    (3) 'B' Company were finding it difficult to retain their hold on the wooded escarpment and had only been able to dominate the southern half of LE PORT.

    (4) 'C' Company was almost completely split up into battle outposts. I had altered the original orders to these outposts about the withdrawal as I could not communicate with them by wireless and did not consider runners reliable enough for such an important message. I ordered them to withdraw on their own initiative but only if under heavy pressure. None of them did so withdraw.

    (5) The rifle companies were at about 50% strength (less casualties which they were suffering at the time); a few personnel of the mortar and MMG pls were available but armed only with pistols. These I retained at my HQ to augment the counter attack force which consisted of 'C' Company (less two platoons and commander (Missing)).

    I decided to hold the enemy on the line of the road running North-South from LE PORT to BENOUVILLE. The plan was: 'B' Company was to infest the Southern half of LE PORT and the small wood on the North side of the road junction and to prevent any breakthrough to the bridge from the North. I held my counter attack force in the area of my HQ from which it could cover the small wood by fire and was well placed to launch a counter-attack. The gallant fight being put up by 'A' Company, I hoped would prevent any large scale attack developing from the South. If it did so develop however the country was fairly open to the South of the bridge itself and I placed one platoon of 'B' Company (Thomas) in this position and felt confident that he could at least delay any attack from that direction for sufficient time for me to be able to take any necessary action. In a real emergency I would have brought a portion of Howard's force back to the West side of the bridge.

    This plan worked well and during the course of the day's fighting the enemy launched eight separate attacks in addition to nagging constantly with small parties and occasionally armoured cars. My weak spot was the flank immediately North of my HQ i.e. an approach down the bank of the Canal or round the SW of LE PORT. This was covered only by Battalion HQ personnel and was continually threatened by small infiltrating parties of enemy and snipers. Excellent work was done by the mortar officer (Archdale) who led numerous small patrols to break up parties attempting to come in this way during the course of the day's fighting.

    I estimate that the organised attacks were delivered by about a company each time. The enemy showed little initiative and repeated the same attack time after time, fortunately the dispositions suited the approach he chose. He usually attacked from the North West or West. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy (many more would have been inflicted if I could have used mortars and MMGs) and all attacks were beaten off. No further closing in on the bridge end was therefore necessary. The snipers in LE PORT were a constant source of trouble and excellent work was done by 5 platoon (Poole) in dealing with them. At one time a PIAT (Cpl Killeen) was used most successfully against snipers in the tower of the church in LE PORT. The snipers too showed little initiative and twelve bodies were later found in the church tower.

    At 1200 hrs on D Day the piper of 1 Special Service Brigade could be heard in ST AUBIN. This was a pre-arranged recognition signal but I did not give the answering bugle call as this would have meant that the way was clear for the Special Service Brigade to come through. Until the whole of LE PORT had been cleared this was not the case. However the leading element of the Brigade (No.6 Commando) succeeded where the Germans had failed and found my weak spot. At 1330 hrs the first Commando troops entered my HQ area from the North having worked round the SW of LE PORT.

    The Special Service Brigade assisted in the clearing of clearing of LE PORT and the piper led the first part of them over the bridge at about 1400 hrs. Snipers returned to the Northern half of LE PORT after the Special Service Brigade had passed through and they were never completely cleared from there.

    Relief by 8th Infantry Brigade was expected not before H plus 5 hours i.e. 1225 hrs and all ears were strained for the pre-arranged bugle recognition call ("Defaulters") which was to be sounded from St AUBIN by the leading unit (E. YORKS) which was to relieve the battalion in its bridgehead position.

    Further attacks were launched on the battalion position during the afternoon. At one period, as a novelty, two gun boats came up the CANAL. Fire was held until they reached the bridge when one of them was put out of action by a PIAT fired by Howard's force from the bridge area. The second one turned round and made off quickly while the first one opened fire with its gun (which was remote controlled) and shot up my HQ area. There were several lucky escapes and only one slight casualty. The crew of the boat were taken prisoner.

    The same boats, or similar ones, had been shooting up the battle outpost at the battery position (Lieut Parrish). This outpost found that the position was, as thought, abandoned and so they occupied it themselves and remained there all day without incident other than the trouble with the gun boat. This trouble cost the outpost one killed and one wounded.

    About 1900 hrs the 2 i/c A Coy (Webber) appeared at my HQ and gave me the first real report of his company. The Company Commander (Taylor) was a stretcher case, Webber (himself wounded, but capable of movement) was commanding, the other officers were all casualties (one dead, one missing after the drop and one wounded but carrying on) and the company was, as suspected, surrounded and hard pressed but nevertheless intact and fighting back hard. A counter attack was clearly necessary to enable them to collect in their wounded and regroup. I detailed the platoon of 'C' Company who formed my counterattack force (Lieut MacDonald) for the job and replaced them temporarily with a platoon drawn from Howard. Webber led this platoon to 'A' Company area which involved working their way through the attacking Germans. The platoon was however not strong enough (it was only about 17 strong) to launch an attack that had sufficient effect on the attackers and in the end re-inforced 'A' Company and was itself surrounded. Its presence brought a little relief to the company however. 'A' Company had then been fighting for 17 hours, unassisted, against superior numbers of infantry supported by tanks and SP guns. 'A' Company destroyed one Mk IV Tank and one SP gun with gammon bombs. The company was in good heart but tired and further weakened by casualties.

    The position at this stage was not very comforting because, although I felt confident of holding off attacks for some considerable time to come, there seemed no prospect of relief for the battalion and I could not be certain how things would go during the night, especially if the enemy made a really determined attack with a large force.

    The GOC (6 Airborne Div) sent a special LO to GOC (3rd Inf Div) to explain the situation and to urge for relief for the battalion. GOC 3rd Inf Div immediately visited the area himself and ordered up the 2/ Royal Warwicks to take over. I understood that the 3rd Inf Div had been under the impression the bridges had been recaptured by the Germans and that a large scale attack by them (3 Div) would be necessary to get them back. This attack was to be put in the following morning.

    The E.Yorks had had heavy casualties on the beaches and were unable to reach St Aubin, much less relieve the battalion in BENOUVILLE.

    The Warwicks came up very quickly (arrived 2115 hrs) but the take-over involved an attack to relieve 'A' Company and evacuate their casualties.

    The battalion finally passed back over the bridge (CANAL) at 0100 hrs on D plus 1 day after handing over its positions to 2/Royal Warwicks

    The bridgehead had been held by the battalion then for 21½ hours.

    Casualties are difficult to estimate as the exact strength of the unit was not know at the time of move off from the RV and the fact that casualties were evacuated in two different directions i.e. either over the bridges by 225 Para Field Ambulance or back to the beaches by seaborne Field Ambulances; they were however estimated at the time as follows:-

    Killed: 18 (including 3 offrs i.e. Parry, Bowyer, Hill)
    Wounded: 36

    FIELD 29th June 44
    [Signed R.G. Pine-Coffin.]
    Lieut.Col. Commanding 7 (L.I.) Bn Parachute Regt.
  5. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    From WO 218/68 held at TNA

    3 Troop - VI Commando
    Report on D-Day

    At 08.45 hrs on 6th June 1944, 3 Troop of VI Commando landed from its L.C.I. on to its allotted beach without casualties. After getting clear of the beach as quickly as possible, amidst a certain amount of confusion, the troop took up its position as leading troop of the Commando, and consequently of the whole No.1 S.S. Brigade. It was noticed that no troops in 8 Infantry Brigade had penetrated further than the first lateral, at that time and place, as they considered that the area before them was under fire. The troop, however, proceeded to the Commando forming-up area, which was in the woods 086797; reaching it without casualties and undue incidents. As we ran inland shells from our ships were falling beyond and on to various enemy batteries; a six-barreled mortar was also seen firing fairly close although the bombs were landing to our rear. The ground up to this time had been very marshy and many deep ditches had to be crossed which were filled with water - the weight of the rucksacks carried making it no easier to get out of them.

    On reaching the Commando forming-up position, the Commanding Officer only gave the troop enough time to get into proper formation before continuing the advance inland. The country was by this time heavily wooded, and the troop stuck to fairly well defined paths, which were luckily going in the same direction as the line of advance. The enemy had stuck "Minen" signs all over the place which must have been bluff as no mines were encountered despite the fact the troop walked over many of the signed areas. Continuing in a southerly direction the troop soon came to the two pill boxes which had been allotted to 3 Troop to either attack or neutralize until the remainder of the Brigade had passed through. Although no firing was coming from these pill boxes at the time they could be seen quite easily through the trees - another strong point also being discovered in the corner of a field which was not shown on the photograph.

    The troop commander decided to attack all three positions and despatched No.2 Section to the more westerly and went himself with No.1 Section to the other two. No.2 Section attacked and found the position had been vacated at very short notice, and signs of bombing were evident everywhere. The section then returned to support No.1 Section in the event of their needing it. No.1 Section were formed into two parties and a third gave covering fire onto a hedge ahead whilst the attack went in from the flank. The first pill box was cleared by grenades after putting up minor resistance. The second pill box was attacked in a like manner and two prisoners were taken. Returning from this attack fire was turned on the section from a hedge in the rear. In the attack one man was severely wounded.

    No.2 Section then proceeded off to destroy the six-barreled mortar which had been firing fairly close all this time, in co-operation with two Sherman tanks which had by this time come up with some other infantry. On reaching the road in the area 084791 the section came under small arms fire from a distance. After penetrating a little further the mortar was nowhere to be seen and having gone somewhat over our boundary the section returned, and on the orders of the Brigadier continued the advance to Breville.

    The route that was taken was Colleville 083789, 083779, 094776, 101754, Benouville bridges, 116749, 128746, Breville, 134744. During the advance several snipers were contacted but they always fired and retired through the undergrowth. On reaching the Benouville area small arms fire was heard in the village so the Troop Commander decided to by-pass the village and make for the bridges which had been reported captured by the Airborne. On nearing the bridges a group of men were seen through a hedge 200 yards away and these were first thought to be Germans; on looking at them through the glasses, however, they were recognised as paratroops. The Troop Commander waved the Union Jack carried for this purpose and shouted us. On seeing us the paratroops cheered frantically and moved towards us. The party consisted of a paratroop Brigadier, Colonel Pine-Coffin and their H.Q. The Brigadier said to our Troop Commander "We are very pleased to see you". The Troop Commander characteristically answered, looking at his watch: "I am afraid we are a few minutes later, Sir!"

    Trooper Geofrrey Scotson, 3 Troop, 6 Commando
    We were in a hollow field...As we reached the edge of this field, on the other side a bloke blew a bugle. It was one of Pine-Coffin's men. Out of my pouch I took a Union Jack, which had been given to me the day before, and we all held it in front of us..and we met in the middle of this small field

    The troop then continued across the bridges and so on to Breville via Amfreville.

    Trooper Cliff Morris, 3 Troop, 6 Commando
    Everywhere was confusion, the area was still under heavy fire and all movement was made at the double or crawling, as Jerry snipers were taking a heavy toll and both Jerry and Airborne dead and wounded lay sprawled in the road and in the trenches. The whole area was pitted with shell and mortar holes and the air reeked of smoke and cordite

    Trooper Gordon Fleming, 3 Troop, 6 Commando
    When I myself went across the bridge it was still being fired at with small arms fire because you could hear the bullets pinging off the metal parts of the bridge. Once over the bridge we didn't hang about...There was no backslapping or anything else like that

    Small parties of paratroops were met on route, but the ground ahead of us was undoubtedly unclaimed territory.
    Just this side of Breville we met a civilian who informed us that Breville was held by Germans; this was odd as we marched into the village without being fired on at all and took up a position around a fairly large house which we discovered to be the H.Q. of the Officer and R.S.M. in charge of the local troops. Leaving a section at this house the Troop Commander decided to attack another house which the enemy were reported to be living in and from which they were sniping at us.

    The section tried to make its way round to the back of this house and take it from the rear in area 134744. It was at this point in the back garden of a house that the Troop Commander was killed, shot in the neck by a sniper. The section was then heavily mortared from the area 135745 and consequently withdrew to the position of the former house after having several casualties.

    Little did the section realise that they were within 200 yards of a troop of four German 105 Gun-Hows and a dual purpose 20 mm gun, situated in the orchard 135746. These guns had not fired a single shot whilst the troop had been coming up.

    Not being able to dig-in in the area allotted to the troop on account of enemy small arms fire the troop was ordered to dig-in in its present position. Not more than a half hour elapsed before heavy mortar fire descended on the troop area, also shots from the dual-purpose gun. Although the troop had dug-in as much as possible in the time, heavy casualties were sustained in the first two hours and the position was regarded as impracticable to hold against a determined attack. The troop was then ordered back to the area of Commando H.Q. 130748 where it dug in - the rest of the evening passing uneventfully.

    At the end of the day the Troop had suffered 21 casualties. The body of Capt A.C.H. Pyman, M.C., was recovered two days later and buried at Le Plein.
  6. Wessex_Warrior

    Wessex_Warrior Junior Member

    My timeline for the Coup de Main from speaking to Major Howard on the 50th Anniversary of D Day, from Ambrose Book "Pegasus Bridge" and quoted from Lt David Wood commander of the 2nd Platoon to land at pegasus Bridge has the timings as follows :

    00:16 1st Glider with Major Howard lands
    00:17 2nd Glider with Lt David Wood lands.
    00:26 Bridge secure

    This differs from the War Diary but nothing new there.
    I would be interested in reading Neil Barbers sources because I haven't yet got a copy of his book. As you say from the words of those who were there.


  7. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Hello Will

    Glad you found it of interest. The sources are what you would expect of this kind of work being from the National Archives and from the testimony of as many veterans as possible. As I've discovered myself Neil is a very approachable guy. You can contact him here:

    Pegasus Bridge

    The next set of dairies and reports I'm transcribing are those of 71 Field Company, Royal Engineers and features the words of their 2 i/c.
  8. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Jonathan, thanks so much for taking the time to put these entries and accounts together in one place. The Neil Barber book is just excellent of course and I like how he tackles some of the myths that have arisen over the years in the book's appendices.

    Will (Wessex Warrior) I hope you don't mind if I link to your encounter with an interesting group of people on the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. Thanks for sharing your memory.

    "... proudest moments in my life" - Wessex Warrior

    Regards ...
    Jonathan Ball likes this.
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    We are waiting ;)
  10. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    Had the pleasure of being among the group of paras at Pegasus Bridge on 6 June 1989 when Major Howard appeared and the gathered to tell the tale..

    Helped that mother in law had put on her Wren beret ... the old boys suddenly had a spring in their step.

    Pleased to say that son now takes his family to see the locations of D Day 1944

  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Had the pleasure of being among the group of paras at Pegasus Bridge on 6 June 1989 when Major Howard appeared and the gathered to tell the tale..

    Did he mention anyone smoking fags at the bridge when the Commando's arrived?
  12. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Here is the diary for 71 Field Company, RE for 6th June. They were part of 17th Field Group. I'll replace it with the transcription a.s.a.p



    And the orders for that day.


    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
  13. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    An interesting account from the Medic in Glider 1 - Leslie Chamberlain


    Attached Files:

  14. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    Pte Allwood - Glider No 4


    Attached Files:

  15. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    I've been enjoying a fantastic correspondence recently with a bonafide Pegasus Bridge Veteran. Pat Turner served with 14 Platoon, 'B' Company of Oxf and Bucks Light Infantry and was aboard Glider 93 which was the 3rd glider to land in the assault on the Canal Bridge. The following is from the letter he sent me.

    Until recently I never really understood how important this operation was to the overall success of the invasion and I doubt whether many of the other soldiers realised either. We had our orders, we had been superbly trained and when the time came, in common with thousands of others, we just did what was expected of us.

    I'm taking this opportunity to make the point that it is nothing, I repeat, nothing like a film. When the action starts, as it did here just after midnight, it was pitch black with just the occasional glint off the water and the vaguest of outlines of buildings, trees and of course the bridge. After the first flare went up from the Germans there commenced an intense period of guns being fired, stun and Mills grenades going off and lots and lots of noise, shouting and shadowy forms running about. The scene was lit eerily by the flicker of flares and muzzle flashes and possibly by distant explosions of our tow planes bombing Caen 6km away to the West, although to be honest I can't remember that exactly as I tended to be a bit busy at the time! Think of a crowd fitfully and intermittently lit up by fireworks display and you have a part of the picture.

    We had teft Tarrant Rushton airfield in Dorset that evening and after an hour and a half our pilots had 'cast off' over the coast and we in No.3 Glider headed for the canal bridge following the other gliders, not that you could see them, at 1 minute intervals. We became very quiet as we approached landing which was basically a semi-controlled crash at about 100mph as we were so heavily overloaded. I was typical of the other 28 men in our glider, my normal weight was ten and a half stone but with the extra ammunition and equipment I was carrying I weighed in at seventeen and a half stone that night.

    Just as we were about to land the order was given to "link arms" which we did, at the same time raising our feet from the floor. There was a huge crunching and cracking sound as the glider floor collapsed and the wing broke off. I don't remember much more until I found myself outside with the others with all the noise and commotion going on which I mentioned earlier.

    ​The sappers with us were given priority to search for demolition charges and when they announced "all clear" the rest of us gave them a cheer and as strange as it may sound, a round of applause. I later noticed a body in the swamp water and assumed it was a German, but it turned out to be my mate and No.1 to my No.2 on the Bren Gun, Fred Greenhalgh, possibly the first man to die on D-Day.

    ​After beating off several German counter attacks we were relieved later in the morning by the Commandos coming up from the beaches. I am not ashamed to admit it, that quite a few of us were emotionally upset by the relief from the tension and the knowledge that we had done it.

    In summary, I can only say that for me and I suspect for others, it was a night of confusion, intense feelings and stress but because of superb training, we made fewer mistakes than the enemy.

    Pat and Fred Greenhalgh

    PRADELLES, brithm and ritsonvaljos like this.
  16. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    We were rafting and br9dging at Pegasus. Oddly enough while we were there we hardly saw a soul. It was not a nice place to be. Now when you see Vets returning there ..... are a great many that were at Pegasus,,,,,,Being the enemy wanted it back there was a complete lack of spectators:)

    Colonel Tiger Urquhart RE forebade tanks crossing the bridge on the grounds it may collapse
  17. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Another snippet to add to the great information on this thread:

    WO171/2377 - 90 Company RASC (Armoured Brigade) - 27th Armoured Brigade

    6 June 1944
    ‘D’ Day.
    Major Cuthbertson (OC) and 1 OR landed of [sic] LCT 298 with 106 Br. Coy RASC at H + 2 (0925 hrs) and proceeded to agreed RV with 6 Airborne Div at Bridges over R.ORNE at BENOUVILLE (0974). No Airborne reps present at 1200 hrs.
    11 Vehs of ‘C’ Pln under Capt. E. Forman disembarked ex LST382 at 1430 hrs and reached Coy Harbour Area S.E. of COLLEVILLE-SUR-ORNE (0877) at 1600 hrs, carrying pre-loads of Ammunition for 6 Airborne Div. Contact established with 6 Airborne Div HQ at RANVILLE (1174) at 1800 hrs and Ammunition pre-loads delivered to Airborne Div Maint. Area in WOOD, RANVILLE at 2300 hrs. Fire from snipers encountered at numerous points on the roads during the day.
    brithm likes this.
  18. tmac

    tmac Senior Member

    Some more info to add to the Pegasus Bridge saga - an extract from the War Diary of 318 Battery, 92nd LAA Regiment, RA ...

    Wanstead Flats, June 1, 1944, 1800 hours: Waterproofing for Exercise Overlord completed.

    June 3, 0900: Embarkation of assault scale - 1) F Troop at Portsmouth in LCTs 406 and 408.
    2) Marching party of two officers and 58 men at Tilbury in LST 3203. 3) Equipments of D and E troops and remaining personnel and BHQ assault scale at Victoria in MT2.

    June 6, 1210: D-Day - MT2 hit by two shells from coastal batteries in the Straits of Dover.

    1245: Ship abandoned and subsequently sunk by Navy. Casualties suffered were one Sgt killed, four missing and 12 injured. Survivors landed at Dover.

    June 6 - June 9: F Troop land on Normandy beaches with assault forces to defend the bridges over the canal and River Orne at Benouville at H+6.

    During first four days, 17 enemy aircraft were destroyed by F Troop over the bridges. Approximately 5,000 rounds of ammunition were fired.

    One or two of the guns were used in a ground role over the first few days, against buildings and houses occupied by enemy snipers, with much success. It was done in co-operation with the Airborne Div troops.

    June 6 - June 15: During this period the troop was subjected to heavy shelling and mortaring and, in the early days, to MG firing. The gun sited nearest to the river bridge was knocked out in D+2 by enemy mortar fire.

    June 15: F Troop relieved on the bridges by Corps LAA. Moved to defend ALG Plumetot.

    June 15 - 30: Area around ALG and ALG itself shelled on several occasions. Sgt Fletcher sustained severe abdominal injuries during one of these shelling periods.
  19. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    On the eve of the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Coup de Main operation on the Bridges over the Orne River and Caen Canal I thought it would be interesting to add the Escape and Evasion report of Private Les Chamberlain of 25 Platoon, 2/Oxf and Bucks L.I who was aboard the first glider to land at the Canal Bridge at 0016hrs on 6 June 1944. His comments on Lt. Den Brotheridge (section 5 on page 2), commonly accepted as being the first British Soldier to be killed on D-Day make for particularly interesting reading.

    Chamberlain 3.jpg

    Chamberlain 4.jpg
    Cee likes this.
  20. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Years gone by.

    Always Remember, Never Forget.

    Attached Files:

Share This Page