Discovering remarkable link between Mabey and the D-Day landings

Terence Cadogan, Yard Foreman at our Cardiff depot and RAF reservist, found a remarkable link between Mabey and the D-Day landings recently while visiting Normandy.

While researching a presentation he was tasked with giving to fellow squadron members, Air Specialist (Class 1) (AS1) Terence found out about the link between Mabey and the temporary Bailey Bridges used for the landings and the Battle for Normandy.

He told them how Mabey Hire’s company heritage was directly connected to the engineering innovation from the Second World War much used in Normandy. He said: “Mabey was heavily involved with these special combat bridges - Bailey Bridges."

He came face to face with one kept near the Pegasus Bridge at Benouville, which was the first place to be liberated in France. He added: "It was fascinating to see one of these bridges used in the landings preserved here.”

One of the original founders of the Mabey Group used parts from these temporary Bailey Bridges after the war. Former Royal Engineer, Bevil Mabey, improved on them to expand his business of hiring and selling temporary crossings around the world.

The part-time RAF personnel were part of a trip from Cardiff-based Number 614 (County of Glamorgan) Squadron between 20-24 April, where they visited the D-Day invasion beaches and battlefields of Normandy to learn about the sacrifices made by the those who fought there.

It was the first trip of its kind for the squadron and its reservists from different professions within the RAF came together to research and commemorate the events which took place in June 1944.

In the months of planning ahead of the exercise, the participants immersed themselves in the history of D-Day, retracing the footsteps of those who fought in northern France. Armed with this research, they assessed how the events fitted into modern UK military operations and explored the military tactics used during the Normandy campaign to gain insight into the strategies used by UK forces then and today. For the trip, they were led and informed by an experienced guide, who himself had served in the RAF for over 40 years.

Among the operations they learned about were the daring airborne raid to take Pegasus Bridge and the harrowing attack on Omaha Beach famously depicted in the film, Saving Private Ryan.

The officer in charge of the expedition, Flight Lieutenant Jude Simpson said that everyone had found it an intense and emotional experience: “The research everyone did uncovered some powerful stories. Hearing of the bravery showed here was truly humbling and reminded us of the huge sacrifices people made.”

Officer Commanding Number 614 Squadron, Wing Commander Ollie Walker said that he was glad squadron members had the chance to learn about the D-Day landings where they happened. “I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to visit the invasion beaches as a squadron and learn some big lessons about this great operation and how it fits with the UK military today. Those lessons will help them be better aviators who are proud of their heritage and mindful of the sacrifices of those who went before.”

This visit to Normandy is just one of the many ways in which the RAF is committed to preserving the memory of those who fought during past conflicts and to ensure that their sacrifice is never forgotten.

The members of Number 614 Squadron in Cardiff come from a range of civilian jobs across Wales and the West Country and serve in roles as varied as driver, intelligence analyst, photographer and RAF Police.

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