THE PEGASUS DIARIES -The private papers of Major John Howard DSO
By John Howard & Penny bates
Coup De Main: From the French meaning ‘A strike or blow of the hand’.
‘An offensive military operation that capitalises on surprise and simultaneous execution of supporting operations to achieve success in one swift stroke.’
On the night of the 5th & 6th June 1944, three gliders carrying troops of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry set out towards two key bridges over the River Orne and Caen Canal in Normandy. Executing what was later described by the Allied Air force Commander in chief as ‘The finest piece of pure flying of World War Two’ Staff Sergeant Jim Wallwork landed his glider on the wire defences. The rest has gone down in history as a classic coup de main operation.
The officer commanding the force was Major John Howard DSO, the bridge over the canal has since been known as ‘Pegasus Bridge. There is a tendency for later generations to assume that things just happened; a highly trained force was magicked into existence, a plan formed and everything just went the way intended.
This book proves that such things don’t happen with out a great deal of work and worry. The book covers the in depth training and problems preparing for D-day; both military and personal. The actual raid on the bridges is almost passed over. Major Howard shows his concern for his men was deep felt by making much more of the later battles in the villages of Escoville and Herovillette. The pain he feels at the causalities is very obvious.
Prepared from Major Howard’s personal diaries by his son and daughter, this book could be described as a posthumous autobiography. It must have taken a lot of thought before the family decided to publish. The book shows not the hero that Major Howard has rightfully become, but a man with concerns for his family, his men, his admitted prejudices and an utter determination to succeed.
It is a book that will strike chords with the present, the determination to do what has to be done, despite interference from higher levels, the demands that are placed on an officer in command of men, and the constant worry of failure. I found this book totally absorbing; in addition to the story of a brave man it is also an interesting social study of the period. I would recommend it as a study of the operation itself, and also a lesson in command responsibilities.
Published by Pen & Sword
ISBN: 1 84425 446 7 978 1 844 446 3