On this day - 6 June - in 1944, part of the British 6th Airborne Division hit French soil at 00:16; the first Allied soldiers had arrived for the
D-Day invasion of occupied France. The objective was Pegasus Bridge, over which the German’s could move armoured vehicles and tanks to reinforce defenders on the beaches as the invasion hit proper later in the day.
Through some damn good flying, three Horsa gliders were landed in extremely close proximity to the target, as can be seen in images 3-5; appearing bottom right (in the photograph) in the latter. If you wish to view that rather large image in detail, right click and select ‘open image in new tab’ - at the top of the image sits the bulk of the force. As it happened, men from those aircraft secured the bridge within 10 minutes, suffering two fatalities in doing so; Lieutenant Den Brotheridge and Lance corporal Fred Greenhalgh. These men were the 2nd and 3rd Allied casualties of what would be a bloody day. The 1st occurred after the second glider to land at 00:17 broke in half on impact and came to rest on the edge of a pond. One soldier fell in and drowned.
Café Gondrée, seen
as was to the left of the bridge in image 1 and more recently in image 2, was supposedly the first French ‘home’ to be liberated from German occupation.
Private William “Piper Bill” Millin, and commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade approach Queen Red Sector, Sword Beach c. 0840, 6 June 1944. Sherman DD tanks of 13th/18th Royal Hussars and other vehicles can be seen on the beach.
Oberleutnant Franz Ludwig (Chef 2.Batterie/Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 1346) discussing the strategy with his men minutes after he knocked-out his 16th victim, a British tank, at Bois de Bavant, which is situated right up towards the coast near Ranville/Pegasus Bridge, Normandy, in 8 July 1944 (some sources said as 10 July 1944). Behind them is Sturmgeschütz III 7,5cm Stu.K. 40 mit Topfblende Ausf. G (Sd.Kfz. 142/1) with 16 kill rings (panzerabschuße). StuG III has the “saukopf” mantlet and “waffle plate” zimmerit under all the foliage. Previously, Ludwig (born in 24 January 1913) had received Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes in 24 June 1944, but he would died in combat a few months later in 14 August 1944.
In the battle of Normandy, his unit were attached to the regular German infantry division, 346. Infanterie-Division (this division operated in the British sector east of Orne, Normandy, from as early as the 7th of June 1944, and largely destroyed at Falaise-Gap. Later rebuilt in Holland). 10 StuG III were transferred to the division in 10 May 1944, before the Allied landing. The above moment (photographed by Kriegsberichter Scheck from Propaganda-Kompanie 698) also published in the German newsreel, “Die Deutsche Wochenschau” (as it seemed to be often the routine to have photographers and cinematographers working in teams - on both sides of the lines).