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In the centre of this image behind the truck you can see workers diving for cover as the aircraft zooms overhead. The bunker remains there today, while the Juno Beach Centre now sits in the open field behind it. This is an example of the type of excellent intelligence photos available to the assault troops before the battle. This oblique photo was taken on March 24, , and shows the open expanse of Landing Zone W bounded by Ouistreham in the north, St.

The village was the scene of fighting throughout the first day of the battle and was finally captured in an assault by the 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment at 9 p. It has variously been described as a maternity hospital or a shelter for unwed mothers. It was occupied by the Germans at the start of the battle and its high roof offered an excellent vantage point of the battlefield.

Pegasus Bridge can be seen crossing the Orne Canal on the right side of the photo. This photograph was taken on March 23, , and used to plan the attack on the bridge. The Canadians were widely scattered in the drop, with many paratroopers drowning in the flooded area east of Drop Zone V. Only thirty men arrived at the rendezvous and they set out for the bridge under the command of Lieutenant Normand Toseland. Along the way they received unexpected help from a young French girl who offered to guide them to the bridge. When they did not show up, Toseland gathered the small quantity of high explosives carried by his group.

The pound charge he assembled was insufficient to do anything more than weaken the structure. Fortunately, a short time later the engineers, led by Lieutenant Jack Inman, arrived and successfully dropped the bridge into the river. The small party then made their way to the le Mesnil crossroads to join the rest of the Canadian battalion. The first stage of Operation Overlord — D-Day — was the landing of airborne troops in France early on the morning of June 6, The most interesting feature of this photo is Pegasus Bridge, visible in the bottom right corner.

D-Day planners had considered the early capture of the bridge crucial to their plan of holding and defending the high ground on the left flank of the invasion. They were expected to land their gliders as close to the bridge as possible, and they did. The impressiveness of this achievement is shown in this air photo, taken a month after D-Day, and shows just how close the gliders landed. This remarkable air photo shows the beginning of the Canadian assault on Juno Beach.

Pegasus Bridge and Ranville Cemetery

The attack on Mike Red Beach left of the harbour and Nan Green Beach right of the harbour has just begun as Sherman Duplex Drive Tanks have arrived on the beach after covering some 1, metres from their launch point offshore. Though some accounts say the tanks arrived after the infantry, this photo clearly shows the tanks engaging the German defences before the landing of the infantry. Unbeknownst to him all his training was to attack the Merville Battery in Normandy.

On the morning of 6 June, the parachutists were dispersed over a wide area, only around of the estimated men, with no heavy weapons or equipment arrived at the rendezvous point.

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This essentially meant becoming a soldier as well as a sailor. On landing Buster was put in charge of 12 prisoners of war to lay mesh on the beach to prevent tanks from sinking in the sand. By evening 20, vehicles had landed. Gliders were used. Role of History For many of the veterans D-Day was their first experience of battle.

The Bocage refers to the Normandy countryside, fields are flanked by high and impenetrable vegetation, making it difficult to see or travel any distance without using roads. Eric Downing operated the gun in the turret of a tank. He recalls the bombing of Caen. Statistics 7 million pounds of bombs. More than were lost. Role of Oral History One of the biggest benefits of oral history, the story of the individual experience is also one of its biggest stumbling blocks.

They flew on to bomb Caen, which was intended more as a distraction than as a serious attack. Wallwork relied on the compass and stopwatch of his co-pilot. Directly following were 2 and 3, containing the platoons of the Lieutenants Wood and Smith. Howard and his men were in 1 and prepared for landing. Wallwork got the bridge in sight and directed No. The landing was rough and launched the two pilots from the cockpit to the outside, where they became unconscious.

Yet they landed exactly on the spot that had been chosen. Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory named the event the best example of aviator work during the war. The German guard on the bridge heard the crash, but assumed that it was a fragment of a bomber, which occurred frequently. The men were unconscious for a few seconds. Then everyone unbuckled and worked their way out. Bailey rallied his men for their assault on the bunker.

Mission accomplished

Brotheridge did the same and went for the bridge. At that moment, 2, controlled by Boland, hit the ground. Wood and his men found Howard at 1 and were instructed to disable the trenches and bunkers on the other side of the canal. Upon landing 3, Medic Vaughan was thrown out of the plane. He hit something so hard that he passed out for half an hour. Smith had only half of his men to his disposal, the rest was still stuck in the glider. Meanwhile, Brotheridge stormed the bridge, followed by his men. The guards took to their heels, while fire was opened from two machine gun nests.

Brotheridge threw a grenade which eliminated one of the nests, before getting hit himself. Gray eliminated the other one with his Bren gun. Bailey's team had managed to disable the bunker. A mere couple of minutes later the British encountered only sporadic resistance from the other side of the canal. The trenches and bunkers however were captured. Wood was hit in the leg, Smith was wounded in the arm and Brotheridge was in bad shape.

Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944 Themes

Howard succeeded in capturing the bridge intact but lost all his platoonleaders. Presently, Brotheridge would die and thus be the first allied soldier to be killed on D-day. Priday himself was not present at the time. His glider had landed about fourteen kilometres further away, near a bridge across the river Dives. His pilot took that bridge for the Horsabridge. The others, the platoons of the Lieutenants Sweeney and Fox too, landed further away from the bridge than intended. Their attack on the bridge proved successful. The only resistance they encountered was a machinegun, but it was eliminated with a mortar.

The attack had gone virtually according to plan and Howard had control over the bridges. Now, however, his men had to hold out until Lord Lovat and his command brigade would arrive from Sword Beach.


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Half an hour later, paratroopers would land in the area behind the river bridge, but on the side of the canal bridge, large quantities of German forces and tanks were situated. The first contact with the enemy followed quite soon. Major Hans Schmidt heard shots and was eager to find out what was going on. He ordered his driver to drive his Mercedes to the bridge. They rushed past the first group, completely surprising the British who quickly recovered and then opened fire. The motorcycle made a rollover and landed in the canal. Schmidt's car was hit also.

Meanwhile, the dropping of the rest of the 6th Airborne Division had begun.

The troops landed, scattered over a wide area, rendering the 5th Para Brigade, who was to reinforce Howards troops at the bridge far from complete after the landing. More than an hour after landing Howard had his defensive line arranged as well as possible. The rumble of tanks was still audible and suddenly a few Mark IV tanks appeared from the direction of the intersection. They moved very slowly in the direction of the bridge, at a considerable distance from each other, wondering what awaited them there.

Billy Gray recalled: "I thought we'd had it. The news couldn't be better. As long as they were in Britain we couldn't get at them. Now we have them where we can destroy them.

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Following the initial landings, the beaches are now becoming crowded with activity. More and more soldiers are coming ashore, the wounded are receiving treatment and the wreckage of the morning's fierce fighting lies all around. Beachmasters are trying to bring order, while bulldozers are clearing pathways and engineers are removing German obstacles and mines. Allied planes are concentrating their firepower on German reinforcements around Caen.

Despite this, enemy tanks and infantry are moving up to threaten the Allied beach-head. The Allied forces have so far failed to capture Caen itself, which is a key strategic objective. Few civilians have left the city despite receiving Allied leaflets warning them of a massive aerial bombardment. In Caen prison the Gestapo are executing members of the French Resistance. Mulberry harbours facilitate the landing of troops, ammunition and supplies. The first sections of two artificial harbours code-named Mulberry are now heading across the Channel. These vast constructions of concrete and steel have been designed to help the Allies to resupply the invasion force, particularly in bad weather.

Meanwhile in Caen, hundreds of civilians have been wounded or killed in the Allied bombardment and parts of the city are ablaze.


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It is still in the hands of the Germans. By late afternoon they are in pitched battle. A few Germans managed to battle their way through to the coast by Behind the heavy cloud of our blood and our tears, the sun of our greatness is shining again. British patrols approach Bayeux, another major first day objective. The British 50th Division, which landed at Gold beach, is tasked with taking Bayeux but is roughly three miles short.

However, they have successfully joined up with their Canadian allies, who landed at Juno. BBC correspondent Alan Melville reports on the arrival of reinforcements as a tank battle rages. As night approaches, fighting continues and more troops are arriving by glider to join the battle. The Allies have landed along a 55 mile front and in some places have advanced several miles inland. More than , troops are ashore. But some German troops have successfully moved north and a few German units are still defending the beaches. King George VI broadcasts to his people and asks them to pray.

At this moment not one of us is too busy to play a role in a worldwide vigil of prayer. Jonathan Dimbleby on the extraordinary success of Allied troops on D-Day. By midnight, the Allies can take stock of what has been an extraordinarily successful day. Although they have failed to take Caen and suffered thousands of casualties, substantial gains have been made.

A foothold in France has been established from which the liberation of Western Europe will spring. Inside a year the Allies will have won the war and Hitler will be dead. This page is no longer being updated. BBC Iwonder. Getty Images. US paratroopers jumping from a Douglas C Skytrain. BBC correspondent Howard Marshall describes the scene on the beach.