'Ham and Jam' Pegasus Tour
Named after the code phrase for success, follow in the footsteps of the British airborne forces on D-Day
Full day: Pegasus Bridge and landing zone
> Memorial Pegasus Museum > Cafe Gondree
> Merville Batterie > Band Beach landing area
'Ham and Jam' Pegasus Tour - Part 1 Pegasus Bridge & landing zone
LOCATION: Major John Howard & Pegasus Bridge, 1 Avenue du Major Howard, 14860 Ranville, France
This tour starts in the spot where the three gliders carrying 180 troops from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry landed in gliders just after midnight on the morning of D-Day June 6 1944.
Their mission was to secure the bridges over the Caen Canal and Orne River which they completed and sent back the codewords ‘Ham and Jam’ to confirm their success.
The small memorial park contains markers highlighting the spots the three gliders landed, along with a memorial to their leader, John Howard, standing proudly near to the bridge.
What is striking is how close the three glider markers are to the bridge itself. It was an action described as the 'greatest piece of flying of the Second World War, and when you see the site for yourself you'd have to agree!
Next to the bridge you can see a 5cm KwK German anti-tank gun still in its original ringstand - this would have been one of the first enemy positions taken on the morning of D-Day - imagine the surprise of the soldiers manning the gun.
APPROX TIME: 30 MINS
'Ham and Jam' Pegasus Tour - Part 2 Memorial Pegasus Museum
LOCATION: Memorial Pegasus, 1 Avenue du Major Howard, 14860 Ranville, France
Located next to the modern bridges over the Caen Canal and Orne river - both targets for the British on D-Day - the Memorial Pegasus museum tells the incredible stories of Major John Howard and the men from the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry who landed by glider to capture the bridge just after midnight on June 6, 1944.
Inside are uniforms, weapons and thousands of objects relating to this moment in history. IN the grounds of the museum you can walk along the original Caen Canal bridge - called Pegasus in tribute to the airborne forces' sleeve badge - which was replaced by the new bridge in 1994, an incredible 50 years after that famous day.
The original bridge still bears the battle scar from the assault and in front of it stands memorial to the British soldiers who landed here.
A walk around the grounds also gives you access to a Centaur tank MK IV tank, vehicles, field guns, a full-sized replica Horsa glider and a surviving section of an original Horsa, the type used for the D-Day assault.
APPROX. TIME: 3 HOURS
DIRECTIONS: Pegasus Bridge and the nearby museum are located off the D515 road from Caen to Ouistreham. Parking is free near the museum on Rue Major John Howard.
'Ham and Jam' Pegasus Tour - Part 3 Cafe Gondree
LOCATION: Cafe Gondree, 12 Avenue du Commandant Kieffer, 14970 Benouville
Located next to the modern bridge over the Caen Canal, this superb cafe is reported to have been the first building liberated on D-Day. It is owned by the Gondree family who still run it today and pay tribute to the British airborne forces with some amazing photos on the walls inside. A great place for a bite to eat and English tea!
APPROX. TIME: 1 HOUR (depends on how much tea you drink!)
DIRECTIONS: From the museum, walk over the 'new' Pegasus Bridge and the cafe is on your left hand side.
'Ham and Jam' Pegasus Tour - Part 4 Merville Batterie
LOCATION: Merville Batterie & Museum, 2 Place du 9eme Bataillon, 14810 Merville-Franceville-Plage
The largest gun batterie in the area - and now a superb museum site - Merville was a D-Day objective for British paratroopers. The site features four large casemates - a R611, a R669, and two R612 types - along with three open emplacements, anti-aircraft gun positions, two large ammunition bunkers, and two personnel shelters linked by a series of trenches.
All four of the well preserved casemates all face to the North west direction where their guns were trained to cover the mouth of the River Orne and nearby Caen Canal - routes which gave access to the port and city of Caen.
The largest of the four casemates is the R611, a multi-room building for a Czech-built, 10cm Skoda cannon. Inside today you can find several rooms packed with original German items and displays which show what life would have been like for the occupying forces manning the batterie.
Merville's R669 casemate gives the story from the Allied point of view with tributes to the British paras who dropped into the site on the morning of June 6 and suffered heavy casualties in their bid to capture this strategic location.
The Merville site is a great visitor experience and also features a C-17 aircraft and several poignant memorials - a must visit.
APPROX. TIME: 2.5 HOURS
DIRECTIONS: From the Pegasus Bridge area take the D514 road east heading to Merville-Franceville/Cabourg/Deauville for 6.2km. The batterie is signposted along the route. Nearing Merville-Franceville, turn right into Avenue de la Hogue du Moulin and drive for 700m before bearing to the right into Avenue de la Batterie de Merville.
'Ham and Jam' Pegasus Tour - Part 5 EXTRA Band Beach area
LOCATION: 'Band' Beach landing area, 14810 Merville-Franceville Plage
A huge complex of bunkers and buildings which would have been a key objective to silence if the Allied forces had pressed ahead with landings at what was a location codenamed 'Band' - the sixth but unused D-Day landing beach area that was ruled out prior to June 6, 1944.
Although connected to the Merville Batterie via the Fire Control Post at this location, it wasn't a site targeted by British paratroopers but is still worth a look.
There are over 20 buildings remaining at the site although some are inaccessible due to the scrubland and gorse which covers this area between the sandy beaches of Merville-Franceville and the Orne estuary where the Orne river and Caen Canal lead to the city of Caen just a few kilometres away.
Two large bunkers stand around a hundred metres apart behind the dunes - a R506 gun casemate and a R504 anti-tank gun garage and personnel shelter.
The R506 has the addition of a Tobruk to its left flank, but as this build was made after the main casemate - a 'cold joint' - the concrete structure wasn't held in place and has toppled forwards. Access to the R506 has now been sealed.
Alongside the R506 is a section of anti-tank wall which leads you east to a small recess behind the dunes where you can find an unusually shaped Vf6a type of bunker. This is an observation position and provided the eyes for the Merville Batterie just inland of this location. This post was abandoned in May 1944 following a series of heavy bombing raids across the area.
To the east of this, and completely overgrown now, is a second R506 casemate which covered the position east towards Merville-Franceville Plage.
The R504 bunker is accessible, with care, and inside you can see the garage area where the 4.7cm Czech-made anti tank gun would have been stored before it was wheeled out to the ground in front of the large bunker. Two large crew rooms inside - protected by a gas lock and short corridor - are largely filled with junk but you can get a scale of what it might have been like to shelter inside the building.
Inland, behind the bunkers, is an old French fort complex which is currently under restoration. Within its walls are a number of defensive positions including Tobruks for a MG and a tank turret - in this case a captured French Renault 35 turret. Nearby are several light personnel shelters, observation posts, and ammunition stores for the guns at the complex.
To the west of the site are a cluster of concrete buildings including a R669 type casemate for a 75mm field cannon and this, coupled with a Vf casemate for a 4.7cm Skoda gun would have provided coverage over the estuary to prevent waterborne access along the main river into Caen. In recent years this area of the site has become completely overgrown and is difficult to access.
Protecting the rear entrance to the site is an MG stand with Tobruk and this makes a good vantage point to view the area too.
APPROX. TIME: 1.5 HOURS
DIRECTIONS: From the Merville Batterie head back to the main D514 road and turn left. Drive for 500m and turn right into the Chemin de la Baie, signposted for the sailing club. There is a large car park near the old fort.