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The Pegasus and Orne Bridges (Paperback)

Their Capture, Defence and Relief on D-Day

Military P&S History WWII > Battles & Campaigns > D-Day & Normandy

By Neil Barber
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 336
Illustrations: 100 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781473822740
Published: 31st May 2014
Last Released: 7th July 2021



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The glider-borne operation to capture Pegasus Bridge has an established place in the annals of warfare. Conducted by Major John Howard and his company of Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry it was a superbly daring, brilliantly executed 'coup de main' assault. Equally brave was the seizure of the Orne bridges by airborne forces and the defence against ferocious German counter attacks over a prolonged period.

The author who has a deep specialised knowledge of the area and period uses extensive personal accounts to tell this thrilling and inspiring story. He covers events and operations from Ranville in the East to Benouville in the West and this embraces the fierce fighting by 7th, 12th and 13th Parachute Battalions and reinforcements such as the Commandos, seaborne engineers and the Warwicks.

This splendid book will be enjoyed by those at home and those who are lucky enough to visit these historic sites.

"An excellent book greatly recommended as a most detailed wide ranging and accurate description of the battle for the bridges. The style of writing and presentation with a concentration on words from those there has made this a page-turner."

Reviewed by

Rob Barlett

The author has told this story very effectively and done full justice to the heroic actions by the fledgling airborne forces. It is a moving story and the specialist knowledge of the author of the area and the period is further elevated by the use of dramatic personal accounts that make this a memorable account of a thrilling and inspiring tale. Highly recommended.


Many books have attempted to describe the famous capture of the Pegasus and Horsa Bridges in the opening minutes of the Normandy Landings, but this volume surpasses them all. As with his previous book detailing the destruction of the Merville Battery, The Day The Devils Dropped In, Neil Barber strives to keep his own narrative to a minimum and instead allows the words of innumerable veterans to describe events, beginning with the formulation of the invasion plan in February 1944, and then the months of intense training, culminating in D-Day itself, the successful capture of the bridges, and the efforts of the 5th Parachute Brigade to defend them until finally relieved in the early hours of the 7th June. The result is an extremely readable and utterly comprehensive, if not definitive account of the actions around the bridges. Highly recommended.

Pegasus Archive

This book is rightly regarded as the authoritative reference of the actions in and around the Orne bridgehead. This is a timely release in paperback that includes revised information based on newly identified source material.

The Eagle - Journal of the Parachute Regimental Asscoiation

This book is a wonderful testament to those who fought to take and defend the bridges over the Caen Canal and the Orne River we owe them a debt of gratitude. This really is an important book to read and cherish.

Paul Diggett

Thoroughly depicted and superbly illustrated in this book are the events that took place in pursuit of the capture of the Pegasus and River Orne Bridges, as well as the follow-up occurrences from Ranville to Benouville involving Parachute Battalions and troops of the Airborne Division. The author himself appears deeply knowledgeable of the locations and its events, and provides several gripping personal accounts of the scenes which took place throughout his descriptions. The book is a genuinely enjoyable and educational read; its provision of intricate details in reference to the lesser-known supporting actions of the engineers and Commandos in their defence of German counter-attacks at Allied bridgehead is particularly intriguing. A must-read for anyone enthused by historical warfare.

Brian R

An excellent book that lets the words of the participants tell the story, with light touches of context from the author to pull it together. It works wonderfully and I am struggling to think of a better source book to use at Pegasus. Maps and photographs are very good. Recommended.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

This is a superb book that brilliantly chronicles the massive British Airborne attack which secured the eastern flank of the Normandy invasion area in the early hours of D-Day.

It tells in unprecedented detail the story of Major John Howard’s famous glider-borne coup de main force, which shortly after midnight on June 6, 1944, seized Pegasus Bridge and Horsa Bridge – the vital crossings across the Caen Canal and River Orne that had to be captured to prevent the later seaborne invasion being jeopardised.

But the book’s greatest achievement is to piece together the wider story of the huge force of British paratroopers who dropped shortly after the coup de main force and whose main task was to secure the villages of Benouville and Ranville, creating a bridgehead which would deny the Germans access to the invasion beaches.

The operation was complicated, confused and sometimes chaotic. But, through meticulous research and using extensive interviews with veterans, the author has produced a compelling narrative which is as easy to follow as it is thrilling to read.

For anyone with an interest in this aspect of the Normandy operation, such as myself, this book is a must-have and I am sure it will become the definitive account of the Airborne operations in the Orne bridgehead.

But it is also an excellent read in its own right and a fitting tribute to those brave young men who for a few fateful hours in the darkness of D-Day held the future of Europe in their hands.

Tom Mccarthy
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