9. Jun, 2022


With everything done it was time to set out for our second stop - The Pegasus Bridge Museum (N49.242969° W0.271858°) www.memorial-pegasus.org . Again it wasn't too far, probably about an hour away.

Unfortunately when we arrived we found that the Museum car park had height restriction bars on the entrance and exit, so all motorhomes were forced to park on the grass verge. We touched lucky and managed to pull off the road and park next to another motorhome that was there.

So a bit about Pegasus Bridge:

Bénouville was the scene of the first - and possibly most vital - battle of the Allied invasion of Europe on D-Day, 6 June 1944 and the night before. From 12.15 am a reinforced company of glider-borne troops from the 2nd Battalion. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, led by Major Reginald John Howard, landed around the bridge over the Caen Canal at Bénouville in three Horsa gliders and captured it from the Germans in a swift and dramatic attack. Control of this bridge was vital to the success of the whole Operation Overlord invasion, because it would be the route of any German counter-attack eventually with their "Panzers" against the seaborne forces which were due to start landing a few hours later on Sword.

At the same time, another Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire glider-borne force of sixty men (one glider was wrongly released near Varaville at the Dives River) captured the neighbouring bridge over the River Orne - about a quarter of a mile away near Ranville - which was also of vital strategic importance. The Caen Canal bridge was later renamed Pegasus Bridge by Royal Engineers, in honour of the winged horse symbol of the Airborne Forces, while the River Orne bridge was many years later renamed Horsa Bridge, after the type of glider which carried the men to war.

Today, Pegasus Bridge and the nearby Café Gondrée are the scene of many pilgrimages and commemoration ceremonies, particularly around 6 June. Its wartime inhabitants were members of a local resistance group and passed the information on the canal bridge in to a cell in Caen and from there to England. A few hundred yards across Pegasus Bridge lies the modern Musée Mémorial Pegasus. As for the Café Gondrée, on D-Day itself, Monsieur and Mme Gondrée who lived in the café were woken up by the landing of the gliders. Monsieur Gondrée looked out of a window and saw black 'masked' troops running over the bridge, which he later learned were British paratroopers. In celebration, he also dug up some 99 bottles of champagne which he had hidden in the garden and in the morning of 6 June toasted his liberation with some of the men from the gliders.

The Gondrées had three daughters and one of them, Arlette, took over the café from her parents and maintained it as a memorial to the men who landed on 6 June 1944. (Her picture is in the Holt's Normandy Battlefield Guide Book published by Pen and Sword). To this day, it also remains a working café. For many years after the war Major John Howard could be found in the café for the 6 June anniversary and even today many veterans and current members of the Airborne Forces still visit Gondrée Café or one of the other bars in the immediate vicinity.

The entrance fee was eight Euros each, but it was worth it. The added bonus was they were just about to show the last English-speaking version of a ten or fifteen minute film explaining all about the operation to take Pegasus Bridge and why. The story is also told in the film 'The Longest Day'. This was very helpful to The Chef.

Within the Museum grounds was the original Pegasus Bridge. It was replaced with a new one in 1994, and moved the short distance to the museum.

Once we were done it was time to head for Honfleur, somewhere we'd been to before, but felt it would be a useful stepping stone to be nearer to Calais tomorrow evening. It was about and hour and a quarters journey which was fine. What wasn't fine was that although there were some spaces available in this giant 100 motorhome Camperstop, there just weren't enough hook-up points to go round and so we've paid twelve Euros for 24-hours parking including electricity, which we can't get access to.

In the end we went down the road for a pizza and fries, it was the easiest way to sort a meal for this evening. Roll on Saturday evening when we should be home.

To add insult to injury the Wi-Fi signal is weak. The Chef can use it for her iPad but it isn't strong enough to cope with the laptop and data. I'll have to try again later on, yet again.