The bridge at Benouville which spanned the Caen canal was one of two bridges where prior to D-Day was deemed to be one of extreme importance as they provided the only exit eastwards for British troops landing on Sword beach.
This was to stop a German flanking attack on the landing area. It was decided to land the 6th Airborne Division, take and hold the bridge and wait for commandoes and infantry advancing from the British landing zones. Failure meant they would be cut off and German armoured divisions could then cross and attack the British landing Zones.
On the night of D-Day, six gliders (towed) took off from Dorset in England with 181 men of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire light infantry, led by Major John Howard. The gliders were released and sailed down towards their objective in complete silence. Three of the gliders landed just yards from the bridge, and even though they were destroyed when they landed the men were able to get out and took the German defenders completely by surprise.
After a short fight the bridge was in allied hands with the loss of only two men, one of these men Lance Corporal Fred Greenhalagh was the first man who lost his life on D-Day. The call sign ‘Jam’ and ‘Ham’ was put out that the mission had been a success. At midday commandos and infantry moving up from the landing beaches reached the bridge and reinforced the paratroops. The bridge was renamed Pegasus bridge after the operation, a name that came from the shoulder emblem that was worn by all British airborne units.
The New Museum was opened in June 2000, it replaced the old one which had been beside the Pegasus cafe. It contains many artifacts, uniforms, weapons and vehicles. The main attraction is the original Pegasus bridge which is preserved outside along with parts of a Horsa glider as well as an exact replica of a real one.