Ride To Horsa has been created to honour the heroes of two operations which took place on D-Day, 6th June 1944:
Operation Coup de Main
During the opening minutes of D-Day, a small group of just over 180 servicemen from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, Royal Engineers, Glider Pilot Regiment, Royal Army Medical Corps and a Liaisons Officer from The Parachute Regiment, flew from Dorset to Normandy in Horsa Gliders towed by RAF Halifax Bomber crews, destined for their objective; two vital bridges which they were tasked with capturing and holding. These bridges were captured successfully and were later named Pegasus, in honour of the Airborne Forces emblem, and Horsa, in tribute to the remarkable aircraft that carried the men safely to their objectives.
The latter of these bridges, Horsa, spans the Orne River in Ranville. The Veterans Charity is creating a striking new memorial which will be dedicated to the heroes who captured the bridge and to the aircraft after which it is named.
Part of the planning for the US sector required a large number of troops, vehicles and artillery to be delivered inland from the beaches. To achieve this, the larger capacity of the Horsa Glider was needed, especially to transport vehicles and artillery. Operation Elmira involved 140 Horsa Gliders and 36 Waco Gliders, which landed on LZs just south of the town of Sainte Mere Eglise. The gliders were towed by C-47 'Skytrain' aircaft and took off from four airfields in the UK; Ramsbury, Greenham Common, Membury and Welford.
Elmira was considered an essential mission, delivering two battalions of glider artillery and 24 howitzers to the 82nd Airborne. o reduce congestion over the landing zones, two serials of mission Elmira were delayed two hours until just before sunset. These carried both battalions of glider field artillery and their guns. Because the missions were flown on British Double Summer Time, both were daylight missions, with the first wave taking off at 1907 and arriving at 2104, and the second wave taking off at 2037 and arriving at 2255.
Although successful in achieving it's objectives, Operation Elmira casualties are significant because 157 of the 1,190 troop are killed or injured during the landings. 15 of the 352 glider pilots were killed.
It is our intention to honour some of those who are buried at the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach during the Ride To Horsa.
Ride To Horsa promises to be a hugely poignant and highly memorable cycling event which follows a route from Tarrant Rushton Airfield, where the gliders took off on the night of 5th June 1944.
First day's ride covers a challenging and beautiful 48-mile route through the Dorset countryside and along the epic Jurassic Coast to the first campsite in Lytchett Minster.
Early the following morning, the group will cycle a short distance to Poole to catch the ferry to Cherbourg. Once there, the group will then cycle 25 miles to the historic town of Sainte Mere Eglise for the second night's campsite in the town centre.
Day 3 will feature a hugely poignant 72-mile route through key Horsa Glider landing zones and towns including Carentan and Isigny before passing all five Normandy Landing Beaches and stopping at famous locations including the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach and the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer where the group will honour those who served on both Operation Elmira (US) and Operation Coup de Main (UK). The ride will continue along the coast to Ouistreham before then heading inland and crossing both Pegasus and Horsa Bridges, on route to the final campsite in Ranville.
Thursday 5th September: Tarrant Rushton to Lytchett Minster (48 miles)
Friday 6th September: Lytchett Minster to Poole. Ferry to Cherbourg (0830 sailing). Cherbourg to Sainte Mere Eglise (25 miles)
Saturday 7th September: Sainte Mere Eglise to Ranville (72 miles)
Sunday 8th September: Memorial unveiling at Horsa Bridge.
On Sunday 8th September, the group will attend the unveiling of a brand new and highly unique memorial which will be situated next to Horsa Bridge and will help to raise the awareness of this strategically critical D-Day objective.
Participants on Ride To Horsa are required to raise funds for The Veterans Charity who have created this exciting event. The funds raised will pay for the memorial and also help the charity to continue delivering vital support to Veterans of the UK Armed Forces.
Places are limited to 150 participants and available on a first come, first served basis. The cycling event is being managed by our friends at Sportive HQ!