LCMSDS Air Photo Collection – A look at Pegasus Bridge by Mike Bechthold

The Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies owns a remarkable collection of Second World War aerial reconnaissance photographs.  These photos cover many of the areas where First Canadian Army fought in Normandy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany during 1944 and 1945.  As a primary document, these images tell us much about the terrain, conditions and events that cannot be found anywhere else.  A great example of this are the photos of the tragic experience of Worthington Force in August 1944. 

This regular blog feature will examine individual photographs from our collection to share the richness of the imagery.  The first instalment shows elements of the airborne landings which took place as part of Operation Overlord – D-Day – on the early morning of 6 June 1944.  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.  To accomplish this task, D Company, 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, under Major John Howard was tasked to capture the bridge.  They were expected to land their gliders as close to the bridge as possible, and they did.  In what Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory called the finest feat of precision flying in the Second World War, the three gliders of Major Howard’s force landed within metres of their target and quickly captured the bridge.  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.

Roll Your Cursor Over the Image to Zoom In on Any Spot on the Map

There are numerous other interesting features in this image:

– A single glider can be seen near Horsa Bridge. This was one of three gliders tasked to capture the bridge over the Orne River.  The men of this glider accomplished their task easily as the bridge was undefended.

– In the top of the image is Landing Zone N where dozens of gliders landed.

– A pontoon bridge, built by Allied engineers, can be seen to the right of Horsa Bridge.  This was built to facilitate the transportation of supplies into the Orne bridgehead.

– A close look reveals significant evidence of the Allied presence.  Vehicles can be seen on roads; fields contain foxholes dug by troops for protection; vehicles, troops and supplies can be seen along many of the hedges, and villages are occupied by Allied troops.

For a detailed listing of our collection and its history click here



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  1. Doug Hedgley -  July 11, 2012 - 3:28 pm 763

    Fabulous, at long last a fresh photo of this action, well done to all. Our Uncle Pat Turner (still with us) was on glider 3, which is the middle one in your photo. He will, I’m sure, be interested to see this.
    Thank you very much.
    With Regards Doug H.

  2. OIC Oxon ACF Normandy Tour -  July 13, 2012 - 6:20 am 766

    The ‘Musee de Pegasus Bridge’ that posted a comment on 29 June 2012 is NOT the museum near Pegasus Bridge in Normandy. As far as I am aware, it is not an actual museum, but a website set up by Françoise Gondree.

  3. Philip Sweeney -  July 18, 2012 - 6:14 am 819

    I am the son of Tod Sweeney the platoon commander of the second glider at Horsa bridge. His glider can be seen further to the left of Dennis Fox’s glider. This is the first time I have seen this photo. Also I was born in Winnipeg in 1954 when my father was attached to the Canadian Army for two years.

    • Wichai -  August 11, 2012 - 12:04 am 853

      Late to the party on this one but when I was young I was amazed at what those guys did, wndneriog if I could but of course rather sure of it. It looked exciting. When I had kids I started wndneriog how the parents of those guys must have felt. It looked harder. When we visited Omaha Beach a few years ago I got a much, much clearer idea of what they were up against. Looked damn near impossible and yet they did it. Still not sure what’s inside people that comes out in the clinch, but it’s awesome in the full sense of the word. Are you going to lay there and get killed, or get up and do something about it?

  4. Andreas W.Van Gastel -  July 23, 2012 - 7:58 pm 830

    Great areal photoworks! I have a videogame called”call of duty” Old!. Part of it shows the gliders landing and the troops occupying and defending the bridge against german forces. I succeeded with many others in holding the bridge.Just for the fun of it! See You again in the fall sessions.


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