Brotheridge, Herbert Denham “Den “

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Brotheridge, Herbert Denham “Den “, born 1918 in Smethwick, Staffordshire, was a British Army officer and was the first Allied soldier to be killed in action on D-Day, 6 June 1944, during Operation Tonga. Den Brotheridge the son of Herbert Charles and Lilian Brotheridge. He was educated at Smethwick Technical College and played football for the Aston Villa Colts and cricket for Mitchells and Butlers, Smethwick. He became an inspector of weights and measures with Aylesbury County Council. He married Margaret Plant on 30-08-1940 who was 8 months pregnant when he left for Normandy. His daughter Margaret Brotheridge was born two weeks after he was killed. Brotheridge was commissioned into the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry  in July 1942. Brotheridge first met Major Reginal John Howard   at Slade Barracks, Oxford and Howard was to recommend him, whilst he was a corporal, to join the OCTU. John Howard died on 05-05-1999, at the age of 86. The new Memorial Pegasus museum was opened by the Prince of Wales on 04-06-2000. In 2006, his daughter, Penny, published Howard’s private papers, titled Pegasus Diaries

   Later at a conference in Bournemouth he advised Howard, who was seeking to recruit him as a platoon commander, that he would join D Company, following completion of his OCTU training. They both had a similar social background and a keen interest in sports. It was expected that Brotheridge would pursue a career as a professional footballer following the war. They had both served in the ranks and Howard considered him to be a friend. Brotheridge did not initially enjoy an easy relationship with his fellow platoon leaders who all came from a different social background to himself. He was popular with the members of his platoon. The Orne Canal Bridge or what we call “Pegasus Bridge”  today was captured by the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry  of the 2nd Battalion, nicknamed “Immaculate Second of the 6th Airborne Division  Brotheridge was chosen to command 25 Platoon, also known as first platoon, in Major John Howard’s ‘D’ Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 6th Airlanding Brigade, 6th Airborne Division. The original plan was for Lieutenant David Wood to lead the first platoon across the Caen canal bridge, however shortly before D-Day Howard changed the order of landing and Brotheridge was selected to lead the first platoon across the bridge at Benouville. The coup-de-main glider borne platoons left RAF Tarrant Rushton, Dorset  at 22.40 hrs on 05-06-1944 on a moonlit night; crossing the English coast over Worthing, Sussex. Brotheridge’s platoon’s glider piloted by Staff Sergeant Jim Wallwork

             landed in Normandy at 00.16 hrs on 6 June: landing less than 50 feet from the water tower of the Benouville Bridge and Brotheridge led the first charge across the bridge,  now known as Pegasus Bridge. Jim Wallwork would die very old age of 93, on 24-01-2013, in White Rock, Canada. Brotheridge managed to silence the left German MP-post at the western bank of the Caen Canal; he and his platoon then came under attack by Spandau machine gun fire from the direction of the Gondree Cafe   on the far side of the canal. Brotheridge was hit in the back of the neck by the machine gun fire and died of wounds without regaining consciousness in the early hours of 6 June, aged 28, in a Casualty Collection Post situated in a trench between the Caen Canal- and Orne-bridges, where Captain John Vaughan RAMC   took care of him.  Lieutenant Herbert Denham “Den” Brotheridge is buried in the War Cemetery in Ranville Churchyard, near Caen, in France. Ranville was the first village in France to be liberated. He received a mention in dispatches for this action. He had been granted an immediate award of the Military Cross by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery   the C-in-C of 21st Army Group  on 16-06-1944, however regulations for the award of the MC at that time prevented confirmation of the award by King George VI   as the Citation had not been initiated until after Brotheridge’s death. Note that some purists modify this death to be the first death on D-Day, because another soldier in the attack, of No 14 platoon, 2nd Ox and Bucks, Lance-Corporal Fred Greenhalgh ,  was knocked unconscious following the crash landing and thrown out of his glider and died by drowning..

Death and burial ground of Brotheridge, Herbert Denham “Den “.

  Major John Howard’s D Company 2nd Ox and Bucks was the first Allied unit to land in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944 and Brotheridge was the first soldier from the glider borne 2nd Ox and Bucks coup de main operation to be killed in action. Brotheridge was the first man to be wounded in action during the Normandy landings and is widely recognised as being the first Allied soldier to be killed in action on D-Day, 6 June 1944. The man who followed Broderidge some further, the later actor and captain with the Ox and Bucks on the Pegasus bridge, Richard Todd
 download  survived the war and was ninety as he died. A memorial plaque to commemorate the events of Den Brotheridge’s death was unveiled at Smethwick Council House on 02-04-1995 by his daughter, Margaret Brotheridge.
        Emile Corteil and his dog Glenn are buried on Ranville War Cemetery.
   
    

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