Upon arriving at Le Mémorial Pegasus, it is clear the museum is one of the smaller in the region. Despite this, the venue is surprisingly spacious and boasts an extensive collection of D-Day memorabilia.
Everyone at the reception gives Kate and I a warm and friendly welcome. Behind the desk is a striking selection of original photographs taken during the Battle of Normandy from June to September 1944. A commanding albeit small statue of a winged Pegasus also greets visitors and there is even a seating area, which I instantly take advantage of! I unload all my camera equipment and take a seat.
It’s 9:30am but the museum is already playing host to a few dozen visitors. While we wait, a few couples wander through the turnstiles, as do a group of French men dressed in military uniforms.
As I sit down, to my left, there’s a quaint gift shop and I notice there’s also a visitors book that’s already crammed with comments.
Soon after our arrival, the museum’s charming curator Mark Worthington greets us and kindly offers to give us a tour. As I have explained in a previous post, Le Mémorial Pegasus is dedicated to the men of the 6th Airborne Division and this is evident throughout our visit. It is obvious Mark is passionate about educating visitors on the sacrifices made by the Airborne forces during the Battle of Normandy and he couldn’t be more helpful.
The museum tells the story of the vital part played by the 6th Airborne Division in the Allied Invasion of Normandy and the Liberation of France. Because Le Mémorial Pegasus has such a specific focus, the museum is able to provide a clearer understanding of individual case studies and gives visitors more intimate and personal details on specific soldiers such as Lance-Sergeant Charles Liddell Rutherford MclIhargey and Sergeant Henry Edward Eagle.
Although space is limited, the museum itself has an open plan design and guests have the freedom to wander around.
The weather could not be better and the garden behind the museum looks truly breathtaking. A path has been constructed to guide visitors around the renown Pegasus and Bailey Bridges. There are also several monuments and military vehicles on display.
The sheer size of the Pegasus bridge is staggering. As I wander around the structure, it is pointed out to me that the damage caused by the 6th British Airborne Division during the early hours of D-Day is still visible towards the back of the structure. I am also told that each night, members of the French Resistance would sneak up to the bridge and attach bombs to the base in case of an Allied invasion. German soldiers guarding the bridge would be forced to check the area regularly to remove them.
Another incredible site worth viewing in the grounds of le Mémorial Pegasus is the Horsa glider. Mark kindly let Kate and I have a look into the glider, which was unveiled by Prince Charles on 5 June 2004, as part of the 60th anniversary commemorations.
Jim Wallwork, who sadly died earlier this year aged 93, was the pilot of the first glider to land in the coup-de-main on D-Day. In his later life Wallwork often attended reunions at Le Mémorial Pegasus. The gliders were towed by Halifax bombers at 6,000 feet and released over the Normandy coast.
I’m shocked at how small the cockpit is and how flimsy the structure seems to be when sat inside! To think these vehicles could carry up to 28 soldiers or a jeep and trailer of a jeep and 6 pounder gun is incredible!
Le Mémorial Pegasus only opened in June 2000. The story of the 6th Airborne Division on 6th June 1944 is fascinating and the museum is, without doubt, definitely worth the visit!
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