Daughter of first British D-Day soldier killed in action pays tribute to others

The daughter of the first British soldier to be killed in action on D-Day said she thinks of all the others who lost their lives.

Margaret Brotheridge, 75, from Honiton, Devon, was less than a year old when her father Herbert Denham Brotheridge, known as Den, was killed as part of the British forces capturing Pegasus Bridge in Normandy, France.

Visiting the bridge where he was shot to mark the 75th anniversary of his death, Ms Brotheridge said it was a “great pleasure” to be with others at the commemorative events in France, to “celebrate the freedom”.

Her father was one of 181 men serving in the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who were dropped via parachute and glider near the bridge shortly after midnight on June 6 1944.

75th anniversary of D-Day campaign
75th anniversary of D-Day campaign

They joined with members of the Royal Engineers to capture the strategically important bridge across the Caen Canal, taking it from Nazi control in under 15 minutes.

Lieutenant Brotheridge was one of two men to die in the brief battle.

Ms Brotheridge said: “He was in glider number one and he led the troops over the bridge and therefore he was the first one to be killed.

“So he’s known as the first soldier to be killed in combat on D-Day.”

Her father was 28 when he was shot in the neck on the bridge, dying a few minutes later.

Ms Brotheridge said: “People know who I am and who my father was but all the other people who died it’s just the same, it’s just that people want a first, don’t they?

“So when I come here I think of all the other people that are here, that died.

“So I tend to be a bit quiet about it, because I’m no different to anybody else who has lost somebody.”

She added: “It’s a great pleasure to be with all those that have experienced this, family and past relatives, to be with them and to see how many people are so interested in it and to celebrate the freedom.”

Ms Brotheridge also visits the Cafe Gondree next to the bridge, the first house to be liberated on D-Day, where her father was taken after being shot, and has become close friends with owner Arlette.

D-Day 75th anniversary
D-Day 75th anniversary

Ms Gondree, who still runs the now famous cafe, was four-years-old when British soldiers arrived after midnight and said she was “very scared”.

She said: “We hadn’t seen such people before and the fighting and firing was extremely dangerous.

“A few veterans have said to me, Arlette, when we saw the shadow of a little child coming out of the front door they were going to shoot but fortunately they did not or we would not be here.”

She added: “They arrived, they entered this house, we welcomed them, we thanked them, we treasured them and we cried because they had come to give us something that we had hoped for for a long time, and that was freedom.”