I had the great pleasure of taking a battlefield tour to Normandy which was made special by our guest, Mr Richard Todd.
Richard Todd, the actor, may be better known for the part he played in films like The Longest Day and Guy Gibson in The Dambusters. But in his own right, he had a distinguished military career.
Richard parachuted into Normandy in the early hours of 6 June 1944, D-Day, as a young officer with 7th Battalion of The Parachute Regiment.
The battalion had the task of reliving Major John Howard’s glider assault force after they successfully captured both Pegasus and Horsa bridges at Bénouville and Ranville; the very first action of D-Day. The 7th battalion then held both bridges and the village, until relief arrived late on 6 June.
During the tour, the group witnessed a reunion between Madame Arlette Gondrée and Mr Richard Todd. Arlette Gondrée is the owner of the Pegasus Bridge Café, the first house to be liberated on 6 June 1944.
As the group left to continue the tour Richard Todd presented Arlette Gondrée with the webbing equipment he was wearing when he parachuted into Normandy in 1944, saying that …
‘ … it was to be held in safe keeping in the Pegasus Bridge Cafe …’
Following the day’s battlefield tour the group had dinner in their hotel and invited both Madame Arlette Gondrée and Mr Richard Todd as their guests.
Foot Note: December 2009:
It is with great sadness I have to report that Richard Todd has passed away. Richard had been suffering from cancer and died peacefully in his sleep at home on 3 December 2009.
Due to his illness, it had been some months since I last spoke to him, but early in the summer, just prior to his 90th Birthday, I again asked him if he would make another trip with me to Normandy, sadly that will now never happen and his company will be missed on the Normandy Battlefields & at Pegasus Bridge Cafe.
The passing of a true gentleman, who will be greatly missed – Richard Todd OBE (11 June 1919 – 3 December 2009)