Lieutenant Denham H. Brotheridge
Unit : No.25 Platoon, "D" Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
Service No. : 237676
Awards : Mentioned in Despatches.
Den Brotheridge commanded No.25 Platoon, designated as No.1 Platoon for the coup de main raid on the Bridges. His glider carried Major John Howard and it was the first to land on LZ-X, next to Bénouville Bridge. The glider was brought to an abrupt halt upon landing and the force of it rendered all of the passengers momentarily unconscious. Fortunately for them, the German sentries, mere yards away, disregarded the sound of the crash as that of debris falling from a stricken bomber, and so the opportunity to attack the troops in the glider before they disembarked was lost. No.25 Platoon quickly recovered and very quickly Lieutenant Brotheridge led them across the bridge, rapidly dealing with any enemy they encountered. Brotheridge reached the opposite side of the bridge where he dropped a grenade into a machine-gun post. In the same instant he was himself shot through the neck. Mortally wounded, it was several hours before he died, but he was classed the first British soldier to die as a result of enemy action on D-Day.
Major Howard was informed of Lieutenant Brotheridge's injuries. He later wrote, "It really shook me, because it was Den and how much of a friend he was, and because my leading platoon was now without an officer. At the top of my mind was the fact that I knew Margaret, his wife, was expecting a baby almost any time." Denis Edwards, No.25 Platoon's sniper, wrote "every one of us was really distressed that Lieutenant Brotheridge should have been killed in that way at the very start of our mission. He was a man for whom we had the greatest respect. Like all our Airborne officers, he had never asked us to do anything that he would not do himself."
For his part in leading the attack on the bridges, Lieutenant Brotheridge was recommended for the Military Cross, however this cannot be awarded to someone who was killed whilst undertaking the action for which they were proposed, and so he was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches. His citation reads:
Lieutenant Brotheridge's Company was selected to take part in a coup de main assault by glider to seize the bridge over the Caen Canal at Bénouville on 6th June 1944. His glider crash landed close to strong enemy defences and some of the men were too stunned to get out quickly. Lieutenant Brotheridge, however, rallied the remainder and led them over the bridge in the face of superior numbers of enemy who were entrenched on the far bank with machine guns sited to fire on the bridge itself. Lieutenant Brotheridge showed the highest qualities of leadership and bravery and his outstanding example and dash was responsible for getting his men across and seizing the bridge intact - a vital factor in the success of the airborne plan.
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