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Bailey bridges used in World War II

2014.02.12

Stories of double lane bailey bridge being built and erected during the Second World War are legendary. The first operational Bailey Bridge was built by 237 Field Company R.E. over Medjerda River near Medjez el Bab in Tunisia on the night of 26 November 1942.The very first instance of a Bailey being erected under fire was at Leonforte by members of the 3rd Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers. In one instance a bridge was pushed over the Saar River while under artillery and tank fire. When the enemy was finally cleared out the panels had holes in them and would not carry the weight of a tank. Replacing the panels would require the bridge to be "broken" in the middle. Instead they simply bolted an entirely new set of panels onto the bridge on top of the original set, a technique that later became a standard feature.


The Bailey Suspension Bridge provided an excellent solution to the problem of German and Italian armies destroying bridges as they retreated. By the end of the war, the US Fifth Army and British 8th Army had built over 3,000 Bailey bridges in Sicily and Italy alone, totaling over 55 miles (89 km) of bridge, at an average length of 100 feet (30 m). One Bailey, built to replace the Sangro River bridge in Italy, spanned 1,126 feet (343 m). Another on the Chindwin River in Burma, spanned 1,154 feet (352 m).Such long bridges required support from either piers or pontoons.


Other uses

The Skylark launch tower at Woomera was built up of Bailey bridge components. In the years immediately following WWII, the Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission purchased huge amounts of war-surplus Bailey bridging, and established a small design group to promote its use in novel applications; for example, the trestles required for an extensive gravel-classification set-up for the power plants then being built on the Ottawa River. After Hurricane Hazel in 1954, some of the bridging was used to construct replacement bridges in the Toronto area. The Old Finch Avenue Pedestrian bailey bridge is the last still in use.

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