Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pegasus Bridge

I was rather intrigued by these large scale battalion games and the detail of command structure. This game caught my eye as it was recreating the attack on Pegasus bridge, by the local Ox's and bucks regiment. Keeping history alive in miniature, good to see.


Scutatus said...

Pegasus Bridge! And Horsa bridge of course. :) Brilliant! This is one of my favourite scenarios from WWII. The so called "Coup de Main" raid.

At sixteen minutes past midnight on the 6th June, the first opening engagement of the D-Day campaign begins. Employing Horsa Gliders six platoons of the elite Airbourne D company, 2nd Battalion, Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, land in France, beginning the D-Day invasions.

Catching the Germans off guard, 151 men of the Oxs and Bucks, assisted by thirty Royal Engineers and commanded by Major John Howard, seize and secure the Benouville Bridge over the Caen canal (Pegasus) and Ranville Bridge over the river Orne (Horsa) all in a matter of just ten minutes. Their orders are to take and hold these bridges, until relieved.

In those first opening moments of combat, Lt.Den Brotheridge receives a mortal wound while handgrenading a machine gun nest. Shortly after he succumbs to his wounds, the first allied soldier to die in action on D-Day.

The company dig in and proceed to defend the bridges and surrounding town of Benouville. With little more than hand weapons, PIATS and sticky bombs they fight up close and personal street fights against infantry, artillery, snipers, self propelled vehicles (including rockets), half tracks, tanks and even gunboats.

Reinforced by men of 7th Parachute Battalion (Somerset Light Infantry) Howard's men fight on in the streets and houses of the town, holding out through dawn, day and into dusk. The situation becomes ever more grim and desperate as the Germans get their act together, but they fight on.

By 1300 things are looking dire; the perimeter has shrunk considerably, the pounding from the enemy is intensifying and the noose is fast tightening around the tired necks of the Airbourne. But they've done enough. To the incredible wonderful sound of the bagpipes, Lovat's commandos make a very timely arrival from the beach landings and cross the Benouville bridge. This eases the pressure on D Company and 7th Battalion. Resistance continues sporadically but by 18.00, after eighteen hours of continuous fighting, relief arrives. Air drops and further glider landings resupply the tired soldiers and not long after that vehicles from the beaches begin to arrive. D Company and 7th Battalion have done it, they have held until relieved.

Finally, just after midnight, Howard's D Company hand the bridges over to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and move out, job well done.

Just 181 men from five gliders took the bridges (a sixth glider and platoon got a bit lost). Even after reinforcement by the Paras little more than 500 men in all were involved in holding the strategically vital water crossings, alone and unsupported for most of the day against the best the German Weremacht had to throw at them.

Taking and holding the bridges on the east flank of the Allied landings allowed the Allies to establish themselves securely without fear of counter attack. It also provided a secure link with the operations of the 6th Airbourne, who without the bridges would have likely been utterly cut off. Furthermore, without D company, Panzer forces that were tied down at Pegasus Bridge would have been free to join the German counter attack, an attack that nearly reached the bridgehead beaches as it was. Reinforced with more armour the Germans may well have rolled across the Landing Zones at will and the invasion of Europe would have been over as soon as it began.

Without the actions of Major Howard's D Company, 2nd Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, and those of the contingents of 7th parachute Battalion (Somerset Light Infantry), the story of the D-day landings could be a tale of disaster and defeat rather than victory.

Major Howard and his D company deserve all the fame and glory bestowed upon them, if for no other reason than they were the first to liberate French streets from the Germans. In thanks for this, the French have bestowed D Company with honours. Taking the Pegasus emblem of the Airbourne formations, Benouville Bridge was renamed Pegasus Bridge in their honour. Similarly Ranville Bridge was named Horsa bridge after the gliders. The street that crosses over Pegasus Bridge was renamed Esplanade Major John Howard. Naturally there were also medals.

Good old John Howard. Ham and Jam! Ham and Jam!

Bravo D Company. Up the Oxs and Bucks! Hold until relieved. :D

Justin said...

Hi - would you mind letting me know who made your Pegasus Bridge please?

Is it 15mm?