D-Day

How Gliders Helped Liberate Pegasus Bridge On D-Day

Pegasus Bridge was liberated by Allied troops in the early hours of D-Day.

In the early hours of D-Day, in the skies above Normandy, gliders were tasked with the liberation of Pegasus Bridge.

It had to be taken intact because the troops coming from Sword Beach needed to be able to cross to take up positions on the eastern flank.

Now, 75 years on from D-Day, the original bridge is still standing and it is part of a museum.

"The bridges had to be taken quickly and silently to stop the Germans blowing them up because the Allies were convinced they were mined," explained Mark Worthington, Curator of the Memorial Pegasus Museum in Normandy.

"The gliders brought the troops down in one place at one time and – more or less – silently."

Six gliders were used, three for each bridge. On each glider, there were 30 men – 28 troops and two pilots.

Far from the idea of two-seat gliders one often has, those used on D-Day weigh seven tonnes each.

Pegasus Bridge

The precision required for the mission meant there was a high margin for error.

"These pilots were good. They navigated with a stopwatch and a compass," Mr Worthington says.

The first glider landed next to Pegasus Bridge, 47 yards from the bridge.

The commander of the Air Force for D-Day, Lee Mallory, said it was almost certainly the most outstanding feature precision flying of the war.

Now thousands of tourists make their journeys here to pay their respects and to visit the café next to the bridge that was liberated.

However, they might not have been able to as there were plans to get rid of the original bridge back in the 1990s.

"The French had no idea of the significance of the bridge for the British veterans," says Mr Worthington.

British veterans themselves went to see the governor of Normandy and convinced him to save the bridge.

The bridge is a lasting legacy to the bravery of those who were willing to risk their lives to liberate mainland Europe.

The celebration of D-Day 75 is an important moment to remember the sacrifices that protected the freedom we still get to enjoy to this day.

For more on D-Day 75, click here.