About Pegasus Bridge
Pegasus Bridge, originally known as Caen Canal Bridge, in Normandy, France, was a vital strategic position during Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of France.
On 6 June 1944, Allied forces landed on Normandy’s beaches, an event known as the Normandy Landings or “D-Day”.
Sword Beach was to be a landing point for British forces and, just to its east, was Pegasus Bridge, a small crossing over the Caen Canal. In order to protect the soldiers who would land at Sword Beach from German attack, a unit of the British 6th Airborne Division, led by Major John Howard, was tasked with capturing Pegasus Bridge.
They were also required to take the Merville gun battery in order to put it out of action. This would form part of Operation Tonga, in turn part of Operation Overlord.
On 5 June 1944, under cover of darkness, Major Howard and his men landed in gliders near Pegasus Bridge and proceeded to capture it intact within the staggeringly short time of ten minutes. This action was vitally important, preventing the possibility that German forces could attack the eastern flank of the soldiers arriving at Sword Beach.
The Merville gun battery and other bridges were also successfully taken by airborne forces. However, these victories came with heavy losses of around 2,000 men in all.
Caen Canal Bridge was renamed as Pegasus Bridge on 26 June 1944 after the winged horse emblem on the uniforms of the airborne division. The events at Pegasus Bridge and D-Day in general also inspired the 1961 film, “The Longest Day”.
There is currently a new bridge where Pegasus Bridge once stood, the original is now on display at the Pegasus Bridge Museum (just next to the bridge itself). There is also a plaque near the bridge setting out the events that occurred there.