Pegasus Bridge, originally called Bénouville Bridge, is a crossing over the Caen Canal just outside of Caen in Normandy. In the early hours of D-Day the bridge was, along with the nearby Ranville Bridge over the Orne River, the objective of members of D Company, 2nd (Airborne) Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, a glider-borne force.
Five of the Ox and Bucks’s gliders landed as close as 47 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 Brotheridge and Lance Corporal Fred Greenhalgh.
Greenhalgh drowned in a nearby pond when his glider landed. Lieutenant Brotheridge was mortally wounded crossing the bridge in the first minutes of the assault and became the first member of the invading Allied armies to die as a result of enemy fire on D-Day.
Major Howard and his men held the bridges until the arrival of Brigadier Lord Lovat and the 1st Special Service Brigade around mid-day. Lovat lead his men from the front, accompanied by his piper, Bill Millin, and his first act was to apologise for being late.
Having Millin play as they approached the bridge let Major Howard and his men know that the seaborne landings had been successful and that reinforcements were close by.
The wartime bridge is now part of the Mémorial Pegasus museum, which is devoted to retelling the history of the British airborne assault. It’s use of models, artifacts, personal stories and memorabilia (including Bill Millin’s bagpipes) is outstanding.
The dramatised account of the Ox and Bucks taking the bridges is retold in the terrific 1962 film, The Longest Day.