Bénouville, Calvados

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Bénouville
Chateau of Bénouville
Chateau of Bénouville
Coat of arms of Bénouville
Coat of arms
Bénouville is located in France
Bénouville
Bénouville
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Country France
Region Normandy
Department Calvados
Arrondissement Caen
Canton Ouistreham
Intercommunality Caen la Mer
Government
 • Mayor (2008–2014) Alain Lepareur
Area1 5.28 km2 (2.04 sq mi)
Population (2008)2 1,946
 • Density 370/km2 (950/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 14060 / 14970
Elevation 1–50 m (3.3–164.0 ft)
(avg. 30 m or 98 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries. 2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Bénouville is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.

It is located on the Canal de Caen à la Mer close to Caen and Ouistreham.

Sights

D-Day and Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge in 1944

Bénouville was the scene of the first - and possibly most vital - battle of the Allied invasion of Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944. From 12.15 am (British Double Summertime = 23:15 German/Middle-European time), a reinforced company of glider-borne troops from the 2nd Batt. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, led by Major Reginald John Howard, landed around the bridge over the Caen Canal at Bénouville in three Horsa gliders and captured it from the Germans in a swift and dramatic attack. Control of this bridge was vital to the success of the whole Operation Overlord invasion, because it would be the route of any German counter-attack against the seaborne forces which were due to start landing a few hours later on Sword Beach.

At the same time, another Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire glider-borne force of sixty men (one glider was wrongly released) captured the neighbouring bridge over the River Orne, about a quarter of a mile away near Ranville - which was vital for the same reason. The Caen Canal bridge was later renamed Pegasus Bridge by Royal Engineers, in honour of the winged horse symbol of the Airborne Forces, while the River Orne bridge was renamed Horsa Bridge, after the gliders which carried the men to war. Today, Pegasus Bridge and the nearby Gondrée Café are known worldwide and are the scene of many pilgrimages and commemoration ceremonies, particularly around June 6. A few hundred yards from Pegasus Bridge, there is the Musée de Pégasus Bridge created in 1969 by Françoise Gondrée with the will of the actors of D-DAY.

On D Day M and Mme Gondrée who lived in the café were woken up by the landing of the gliders. M Gondrée looked out of a window of the café and saw black masked troops running over the bridge which he later learned were British, and in celebration dug up some 99 bottles of champagne which he had hidden in the garden and celebrated his liberation with some of the men from the gliders. The Gondrées had three daughters and one of them, Arlette, bought the café some years ago and now maintains it as a memorial to the men who landed on June 6, 1944. (her picture is in the Holt's Normandy Battlefield Guide Book published by Pen and Sword). It is also a working café. For many years after the war Major John Howard could be found in the café over the June 6 anniversary and even today many veterans and current members of the Airborne Forces visit Arlette, though not D Company-members who rather preferred the new, opposite establishment Les Trois Planeurs after of all the drama she created and a row with Arlette.

Population

Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1962 754 —    
1968 739 −2.0%
1975 827 +11.9%
1982 828 +0.1%
1990 1,258 +51.9%
1999 1,741 +38.4%
2008 1,946 +11.8%

International relations

Bénouville is twinned with:

See also

References