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Eric Woods: The Battle for Pegasus Bridge

Discussion in 'A Soldier's Story' started by Jim, Oct 30, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    This personal version of events of the landings of 6th Airborne troops on 5th June,1944 was dictated by Private Eric Woods, a short time before his death. Other historical information was obtained from Internet sites, titled By Air To Battle: The Official History of the British Airborne Divisions, first published in 1945. This account relates to the landing and capture of Pegasus Bridge and is a private
    document to show my deep respect for the action and bravery of my brother.

    Eric Woods died on his birthday, 8th march 2000 aged 77 years, leaving one only remaining survivor of the Pegasus Bridge encounter.

    Bertram James Woods. (Brother)

    It was almost 11pm on 5th June 1944 as quietly we climbed into the Horsa glider that was hitched up to the Halifax tow plane, ready to drag us into the sky. Previously in training, boarding the glider had been a common event with quips and wisecracks from your mates, but this time it was different. Each man clambered aboard and hardly a word was spoken; we knew that our practice was over and that this was the real thing.
    All must have felt the burn of adrenaline and excitement as, at, midnight, we crossed the French coast; the tension rose further as with a jolt, the glider separated from the Halifax and we commenced our glide down to French soil. Hardly any glider lands without mishap and in unknown territory the chances of a rough landing were high. Our pilot was great in bringing it down in the darkness of the night and we hit the ground with a mighty thump and slithered to a halt. No one was injured. I am still not sure which glider landed first but I was always under the impression that it was ours. Our platoon, commanded by lieutenant Fox, quickly made our way across the fields to our target, a bridge that crossed the river Orne. It was, fortunately, very lightly defended, the main episode being when a phosphorous bomb was hurled at German defenders who were attempting to man a gun position. The situation was quiet almost as quickly as it started; it was all over in approximately fifteen minutes. Guards were left at the bridge and the remainder of the platoon was redirected across fields to join Major Howard’s team at Pegasus Bridge. One of my most vivid memories on reaching the bridge was finding myself lying alongside Sgt Thornton, who, was armed with a Nat anti-tank weapon.
    On the road on the opposite side of the bridge was a junction and from this emerged three French tanks which had been commandeered by the Germans. Sgt Thornton, nicknamed “Wagger,” sighted the Nat and fired, hitting the foremost tank broadside on. It must have been a direct hit on the tanks magazine, for there was a almighty explosion and ammunition continued to explode for more than an hour afterwards. The two remaining tanks quickly retreated from whence they came.

    Another of my memories was with a German motorcyclist who had been blown off his machine; his legs were severely injured. A German officer was also at the scene and immediately surrendered to me, passing over his revolver. He was most concerned about his wounded colleague and in very good English, asked for medical assistance, saying, “1 don’t think you would want to leave one of your mates in this condition, would you?”

    This was Eric Woods after the war on holiday in the Isle of Man​


    [​IMG]

    I assured him that I would return to his comrade with medical assistance as soon as he had accompanied me to surrender himself to a British officer, which he did? I returned and a corporal helped me to get the wretched man to the medics. The following morning while on guard with a colleague, I asked, “Do the Germans played the bagpipes,” to which he replied, “I don’t think so.” I said that, “I thought I could hear bagpipes.”
    Confirmation came a few minutes later. The sounds of the pipes grew louder as the Green Berets of Lord Lovats force, advanced towards Pegasus Bridge. The writer later met an officer who served with the Green Berets who remembered their advance toward the bridge to the accompaniment of a piper; sadly, this information came after Eric’s death. Eric and his colleagues remained at Pegasus Bridge for a further five months before returning to Britain.

    On August 25th 2005 a reply to this post was added by pegasuseddie

    When I retired 16 years ago, to ease the heavy burden on Major Howard's extensive postbag, with his agreement I took over as correspondent to the known survivors of the original 180-man force. By contacting others I soon found that I was in contact with 50 others. Sadly the past few years have taken their toll and, at last count, we are down to 21.


    WW2 People's War
     
  2. fpbeast

    fpbeast New Member

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    great story that misson must have been hard for them. am glad that the germans and yanks even though they was fighting with them got on cos it wasnt there fault the war broke out they would have been thinking same as other people when is the war going too end
     
  3. Phuture

    Phuture New Member

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    I agree with that, great story! Even though he was an enemy I liked this part.
    Another of my memories was with a German motorcyclist who had been blown off his machine; his legs were severely injured. A German officer was also at the scene and immediately surrendered to me, passing over his revolver.
    I always like to hear when people put others in front of themselves. It shows true character. Other then that Eric Woods sounds like a good man.
     
  4. deb4953

    deb4953 New Member

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    Putting Others First

    This is a moving story. I, too, am always happy to hear how someone puts another first. It seems to be a rarity nowadays.
     

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