Known as one of the most famous actions of the British, 6th Airborne Division, on D-Day.
The capture of the Orne valley bridges, as part of Operation Tonga in the early hours of June 6th 1944, consisted of 181 men to seize the two crossing points over the River Orne and Caen Canal.
The objective of the mission was to capture the bridges intact, as they were vital crossing points between Caen and the coast. The mission relied upon a surprise ‘Coup de Main’ assault of 6 Horsa gliders, piloted by men of the Glider Pilot Regiment.
In early 1944 the ‘Coup de main’ assault party prepared heavily for the critical mission. Over one hundred men from the 2nd Bn Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry were in training using two nearly-identical bridges, outside Exeter, to carry out rehearsals over a three-day period testing out every eventuality. The planning responsibility falling to D Company commander, Major John Howard, the overall commander of the mission.
At the same time; 12 men of the Glider Pilot Regiment had also been selected and were carrying out their special training, on Salisbury Plain, flying 43 training missions to prepare them for the task under the guidance of Flt Lt ‘Tommy’ Grant and his team.
While the infantry and pilots practised, 30 men from the Royal Engineers were also trained for their part in the mission, their task was to deal with any explosives, as the Bridges were expected to be prepared for demolition.
The training all paid off, and the Bridges were taken within 15 mins of landing with only 2 killed and 14 wounded.
In 1962, the bridge become known worldwide after being the subject of the D-Day film, The Longest Day, directed by Darryl F. Zanuck, based on the book by Cornelius Ryan.
In the autumn of 1993 the original Pegasus Bridge was replaced, and is now on display within the gardens of the Memorial Pegasus Museum in Normandy, France.
What you’ll see with us
Put together by Geoff Baulk this fantastic exhibition of memorabilia, including personal accounts and artefacts from D-Day, tells the story of the formation from Britain’s Airborne forces to D-Day in 1944.
Pop along and take a look at all the fabulous items on display and learn more about this impressive operation where you’ll also be able to see recreations; of the first action at the bridges, along with the success code words ‘Ham & Jam’ being sent to those in 7th Para Bn who were tasked to relieve Major Howard’s Men.
Want to know more? Take a look at our friends
Memorial Pegasus – Museum of the 6th Airborne Division’s part in the Invasion of Normandy, located at Pegasus Bridge in France.
The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum – Based in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. The Museum details the military connection within the county of Oxfordshire.
The Army Flying Museum – Located in Hampshire, the Museum holds an extensive collection charting over 100 years of the British Army in the air, including original examples of the Gliders used at Pegasus Bridge.
The Glider Pilot Regiment Society – The society is a focal point for Glider Pilot veterans, their relatives, and those with a connection to the Regiment that aims to educate about the history of the Glider Pilot Regiment.