- "Rolling bascule bridge" redirects here. For other
types of bridge referred to as "rolling" see rolling bridge.
Pegasus Bridge is a bascule bridge (a type of movable bridge), built in 1934, that crossed
Canal, between Caen and Ouistreham, in Normandy, France.
as the Bénouville Bridge after the neighbouring village, it was, with
the nearby Ranville Bridge over the river Orne, a major objective of Operation Tonga in the opening minutes of
the invasion of
Pegasus Bridge before its
A gliderborne unit of the British 6th Airborne Division
, commanded by
Major John Howard
were to land,
take the bridges intact and hold them until relieved. The
successful taking of the bridges played an important role in
limiting the effectiveness of a German counter-attack in the days
and weeks following the invasion.
In 1944 it was renamed Pegasus Bridge in honour of the operation.
The name is derived from the shoulder emblem worn by the British
airborne forces, which is the flying horse Pegasus
Battle for the bridge
night of 5 June 1944, a force of 181 men, led by Major John Howard, took
off from RAF Tarrant
Rushton in Dorset, southern England in six Horsa gliders to capture Pegasus Bridge, and
also "Horsa Bridge", a few hundred yards to the east, over the Orne
Pegasus Bridge in 1944
The force included elements of B and D Companies, 2nd
Battalion, Oxfordshire and
Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
, a platoon of B Company,
, and men of the
Glider Pilot Regiment
of this action was to prevent German armour from crossing the
bridges and attacking the eastern flank of the landings at Sword Beach.
Five of the Ox and Bucks's gliders landed as close as 40 yards from
their objectives from 16 minutes past midnight. The attackers
poured out of their battered gliders, completely surprising the
German defenders, and took the bridges within 10 minutes. They lost
two men in the process, Lieutenant Den
and Lance-Corporal Fred Greenhalgh.
Greenhalgh drowned when his glider landed. Lieutenant Brotheridge
was killed crossing the bridge in the first minutes of the assault
and thus became the first member of the invading Allied armies to
die in combat on D-Day.
One glider, assigned to the capture of Horsa Bridge, landed at the
bridge over the River Dives, some 7 miles off. Most of the soldiers
in this glider moved through German lines towards the village of
Ranville where they eventually rejoined the British forces. The Ox
& Bucks were reinforced half-an-hour after the landings by 7th
and linked up with the beach landing forces
with the arrival of Lord
One of the members of the 7th Battalion reinforcements was young
actor Richard Todd
who would, nearly
two decades later, play Major Howard in the film The Longest Day
Five years before his
death, Major Howard described the portrayal of the events
surrounding the capture of the bridges and his role in them as
Original bridge in the Pegasus Museum
- July 2005
Pegasus Bridge now resides in the grounds of the Pegasus Memorial
Museum. The museum was inaugurated by HRH
The Prince of Wales
on 4 June 2004and lies at the Eastern end
of the current bridge. The original bridge was replaced in 1994 by
the wider, stronger structure, built by Spie Batignolles
, that exists today. It had
been extended by 5 metres in the early 1960s to accommodate the
widening of the canal and remained in use until 1993. After its
replacement, Pegasus Bridge was left on waste ground. The bridge
was sold to the museum for the symbolic price of one Franc.
the soldiers killed in the actions of June 1944 are buried in the
war cemetery at Ranville.
Brotheridge's grave, which is located in the churchyard next to the
cemetery, has a commemorative plaque that was installed by the
family Gondrée, whose house near Pegasus Bridge was the first to be
liberated during D-Day. It still exists and nowadays contains a
café and a small museum shop that sells Pegasus Bridge related
material. Arlette Gondrée, who now runs Café Gondrée, was a small
child living in the home when it was liberated.
The replacement Pegasus Bridge built
Pegasus Bridge and the structure that replaced it in 1994 are
examples of a distinct subtype of bascule bridge, the "Scherzer
rolling lift bascule bridge" or "rolling bridge". Bridges of this
type do not pivot about a hinge point
roll back on curved tread plates attached to the girders of the
main span. This design allows a greater clearance of the waterway
for a given opening angle.
- Pegasus Bridge on Structurae database
- Ambrose, Stephen E. (1985; 2nd
print 1988). Pegasus Bridge. New York: Simon and Schuster.
- Edwards, Denis (1999). The Devil's Own Luck: Pegasus Bridge
to the Baltic 1945-45. Leo Cooper/Pen & Sword. ISBN
- Parr, Barry (2007). What d'ya do in the war, Dad?
Trafford Publishing. ISBN 9781425110734
- Norbert Hugedé, Le commando du pont Pégase (unreliable
on many points, but witness reports of local French civilians
- Historica Nr. 34: Normandie 1944 (publ.
- John Howard en Penny Bates, The Pegasus Diaries about
the military career of Major Reginald John Howard, commanding
officer of D Company Ox and Bucks who took both bridges
over the river Orne (Ranville) and the Canal de Caen (Benouville)
in the night before D-Day.
- Barber, Neil (2009) 'The Pegasus and Orne Bridges'. An in-depth
account of their capture defence and relief on D-Day. Pen &
Sword. ISBN 9781848840416.