I have been to Pegasus Bridge. That trip brought tears to my eyes. The picture above is a photo I took of the bridge, now resting as a museum piece, a few hundred meters from its original position.
The British paratroopers climbed out of glider planes that had landed on French soil in the pitch dark of night, a very short distance from the bridge in 1944. Their bravery helped them seize the Pegasus Bridge, allowing troops to cross the canal and move inland shortly after D-Day.
But my Remembrance Day story is of a little know event that involved Canadian soldiers two years earlier.
In 1942 Canada created its First Parachute Battalion. They trained in the USA, then in the UK. They were committed to active service on D-day, 1944.
Their first job is to seize the Drop Zone and blow up canal and river bridges. The second priority is the need to protect other units which are going off to attack the Merville Battery. This Battery could threaten the fleet.
They were entirely successful on both counts in their first operational jump.
Unfortunately from the 6th of June to the 24th of August they were used as infantry.They had their berets tucked into their tunic, ready for some parade at the end. Of the 543 soldiers, 367 were killed or wounded.
They were basically torn to pieces.
The entire unit had to be rebuilt, and they were not operational again until December 1944.
While we stand in awe of the brave soldiers who charged across Pegasus Bridge – I have put my fingers into the bullet indents all along the Bridge – we should remember the men of the First Parachute Canadian Battalion who landed near Pegasus Bridge and played a vital role in the first hours of D-Day.
That is quite a story. But even the word ‘story’ seems to trivialize the details. Those who died, or were wounded or suffered for years with aftereffects need to be remembered for their courage, loyalty, and sacrifices.
I will remember you. And for those people and events before my time, I will think and reflect.
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And my thanks to St. Albert Seniors Association: 780-459-0433 for making this Blog possible.
Also, I want to thank Valour Canada for providing the background details for this Blog.
Photo by Glenn Walmsley