The taking of Pegasus Bridge in the early hours of D-Day was a major triumph for the Allies. The control of Pegasus Bridge gave the Allies the opportunity to disrupt the Germans ability to bring in re-enforcements to the Normandy beaches, especially those that the British and Canadians were landing at – Gold, Juno and Sword. Even the most basic of delays in getting German troops to the beaches would have been important and the capture of the bridge that guarded the main road to Ouistreham and then on to the beaches further west was of great importance to the Allies. Control of the road, also meant that the 6th Airborne Division, that had been dropped to the east of Caen, could be supplied by Allied troops that had landed at Sword Beach. Without any control of this road, the 6th Airborne would have been starved of vital equipment.
Another important point is the simple fact that the Allies were landed behind enemy lines. This almost certainly was enough to spread confusion among the German defenders.
The first British troops to land in Normandy during D-Day were the men of D Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (part of the 6th British Airborne Division) who landed at Ranville-Benouville in the early hours of June 6th. Troops led by Major John Howard – landed by Horsa glider – captured the Caen Canal Bridge, later renamed Pegasus Bridge in honour of the cap badge of the 6th Airborne Division.
The bridge was guarded by German machine gun posts but by using gliders, the British landed with a degree of surprise and the bridge was captured with relative ease after a 10 minute fire-fight. Howard had time to set up his defences for the expected German counter-attack which came at 02.10 – about 2 hours after their landing. However, reinforced by paratroopers, Howard and his men were able to resist an attack by the 21st Panzer Division. Control of the bridge – and the nearby Orne Bridge – and the swift taking of the D-Day beaches meant that the 6th Airborne Division could protect the eastern flank of the entire landings.
- Major John Howard led the attack by the 6th British Airborne Division on what was to be called Pegasus Bridge. The task given to Howard…