This pair of bridges were used before D-Day in training exercises by 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (part of 6th Airborne Division).
Led by Major John Howard, troops from this British unit landed in six Horsa gliders in the early hours of D-Day and seized two bridges, which were subsequently named Pegasus Bridge and Horsa Bridge. This daring operation by the first Allied troops to go into action on D-Day – would ensure that the Allies to control the crossings over the Caen Canal and River Orne, on the eastern flank of the Allied landings in Normandy. This reduced the risk of German attacks from that direction, and enabled the Allies themselves to attack on that flank.
For such a complicated and dangerous operation, the troops had to be well rehearsed at a location similar to the one where they would land on D-Day. The Countess Wear Bridges, a pair of bridges on the southern outskirts of Exeter, were chosen for their similarity to the real bridges in Normandy. The ‘Ox and Bucks Light Infantry’ practised attacking the bridges in daytime and at night, rehearsing a variety of scenarios in case the plan went wrong on D-Day. These practices, along with the troops’ bravery and excellent training, and the skill of the glider pilots in landing the gliders so close to the bridges, ensured that their attack on 6 June was a success.
Source: Winston Ramsay (ed.), D-Day Then and Now, Volume 1 (After the Battle, 1995).
|Address||Bridge Road, Exeter, Devon EX2, UK|
|Site Ownership and Access Information||Area can be viewed from public road (the A379).|
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