Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Normandy 2011 - Day Three 28th March

After a quick visit to the Super U super Market to buy lunch (mmmmm.....) and rations for the forthcoming "Come dine with me" experience, it was off to Pegasus Bridge.
The original Pegasus Bridge in the Museum grounds
This proved to be a truly excellent museum with highly knowledgeable staff.

The building is shaped to look like the Parachute Regiment's cap badge and contains high quality exhibits of British Para uniforms and equipment. In the centre of the museum is a scale (approx 15cm/mile) model of the entire right flank of the Overlord landings.  A staff member talked us through the entire operation of night of the 5/6th June 1944 befgore we watched a 15minute film.

Outside there was the original bridge displayed with a replica Horsa Glider.
Full size replica Horsa Glider
Replaced in 1994 (just in time for the 50th anniversary - how thoughtful the French can be!!!) the original bridge still bears it's bullet scars.
The bridge sides display various bullet & shell splinter grazes
 There was also an example of a Bailey bridge and a selection of military vehicles and artillery pieces in the museum's grounds.
Example Bailey Bridge
Various Military vehicles resided in the grounds. Amongst them were a 40mm Bofors Gun, Maxon (4 x 0.50"HMG) turret from a M16 Anti-Aircraft vehicle, an M3 Half-Track, 5.5" Field Gun and a 25pdr Field Gun
Afterwards we crossed the road to have our picnic in the area where the three gliders landed.
The new Pegasus Bridge (Now two lanes wide) taken from the area where the first glider landed. Behind the bush is still an emplaced 50mm Anti-Tank Gun.
Across the road is the Cafe Gondre - the first building to be liberated on D-Day. It only seemed right that we should have a cup of coffee while we were here?
Cafe Gondre viewed from the bridge
On the plus side we were served by Arlette Gondre who as a little girl lived through the battle for Pegasus Bridge to be one of the first French citizens to be liberated. The down side was it cost Greg and I 3.50€ each for the pleasure of a lukewarm cup of instant coffee! I think she saw us coming.
Greg doing his best to savour his coffee!
I can now see why the cafe across the bridge next to the preserved Royal Marine Centaur was far busier!
95mm armed R.M. Centaur. Originally intended to be used from landing craft as close support (they were at the time engineless) the vehicles were later refitted with their Liberty engines and accompanied the Marines inland. This example is now showing the effects of being out in all weather, though the turret markings to aid target indication are still visible. The vehicle appears to be displayed on one half of a scissors bridge.
Onward from Pegasus Bridge we crossed the Orne river bridge (also captured on D-Day) and headed for the Merville Battery. Roland's linguistic skills and his overall charm paid off once more when he succeeded in negotiating a group discount again!!

The museum had rather unexpectedly, a C47 Dakota on show amongst the bunkers.
C47 Skytrain - or as we know it the Dakota
Again a good museum with some interesting displays inside the bunkers. Our favourite was the light and sound display recreating the para's assault on the complex.
One of four completed casemates at Merville

As we discovered at a number of sites we visited, many of the Normandy strongpoints were not quite completed when the allies invaded. Merville is a case in point, where among the impressive casemates there are still the far simpler concrete lined pits that originally housed the artillery pieces.
Concrete lined gun pit alongside the new casemate.

Once we were finished there we doubled back to the CWGC Cemetery at Ranville. Ranville was the epicenter of the 6th Airborne Division's D-Day landings so many of the cemetery's occupants are Paras.
The tranquil setting of Ranville CWGC alongside the village church and civilian cemetery.

We saw the graves of Lt. Den Brotheridge, the first British casualty to die at Pegasus Bridge, Pte. Robert Johns, the youngest Para to die (only 16 yrs), Pte. Emil Corteil the para who is buried with his Airborne dog Glen and my Great Uncle Sgt. David McKirdy of 13 Para.
Greg & I behind David McKirdy's gravestone

By now it was time to head home so we followed the coast road along firstly Sword beach. Then Juno and finally Gold beach. Along the way we stopped to take a look at a 50mm strongpoint at St Aubin that appears in a famous picture of Juno beach with a crashed P47 amongst the general beach debris.
50mm Anti-Tank gun emplacement on the sea front at St Aubin. Positioned to provide enfilading fire up and down the sea wall while protected from naval bombardment and direct fire by 3 metres of re-inforced concrete wall that faces the sea!
The view from the above gun emplacement later on D-Day itself. The crashed P47 and a destroyed Sherman are in evidence.

Finally home to the gite for 8pm .......... Now waiting for Dave and James "Come Dine With Me" specials!


  1. Robert Johns died 16 lied about his age to avenge his older brothers death in 1940