ARM: Book Review - The Bailey Bridge in Canadian Service

Book Review: “Weapons of War” Series; The Bailey Bridge in Canadian Service by John Sliz; Service Publications, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 2012; 24 pp. with B&W photos and not-to-scale diagrams and sketches; price CDN $9.95; ISBN 978-1-894581-77-6 ( )
Advantages: concise history not only of Canadian use of the Bailey Bridge but of the bridge itself; describes its structure and use, as well as RCE bridging organization
Disadvantages: nothing of note
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for bridging fans and “picks and shovels” everywhere
    When I went through the 5th (US) Army NCO Academy in 1975, we had to give a presentation with visual aids as part of the course of instruction. One of the chaps in my class was a 12 series MOS, or combat engineer. He came in for his show with a 1/10 scale model of a Bailey Bridge which was used to instruct American combat engineers in its assembly. He showed us how (we had to put it together under his instruction) to assemble a single bay of the bridge using the four main components - panels, transoms, stringers and deck planks. He got full points for the presentation.
    From that time on I have been fascinated with the simplicity and sturdy results of the Bailey, and even noted it was used here in Maryland as recently as five years ago as a temporary structure on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway by the National Parks Service. Now John Sliz has followed up his earlier Service Publication book, “Non-Bailey Bridging in Canadian Service” (2010), with this little volume dedicated solely to the Bailey Bridge and its use in Canadian service.
    While the US and UK had a number of bridges that were assembled from components to form a useful bridge, most were awkward or expensive and not suitable to rapid assembly in the field. A British engineer named Donald Bailey took the current designs, simplified and streamlined the concepts, and came up with a bridge that could be assembled in relatively short order by small teams of engineers. As the war had begun, the War Office was frantically seeking an answer and in December 1940 began detailed design work on the bridge. A prototype was ready by May 1941, but the bridging components did not enter production until early 1942 and the first bridging sets did not reach the engineers in the field until December 1942.
    As mentioned above, the bridge consisted of four basic parts: a panel made of braced steel, 10 feet long and weighing 570 pounds, which formed the longitudinal component. Transoms 17 feet long attached to the inside bottom of the panels, and the stringers connected the transoms together to form a solid unit. The deck planks were then attached to the top of the stringers. The result created a solid bridge with a 12 foot wide roadway and room for a catwalk on one of the outer sides.
    As the basic bridge had its limitations, the design was brilliant in that the number of panels could be increased by mounting them side by side (up to three) and one on top of the other (again up to three). The basic bridge of one panel wide and one high was called a “Single Single” or SS by the engineers; double width single high a double single or DS, triple TS, and then double double, triple double, double triple, and triple triple. Single doubles and single triples were not structurally sound and not used. Most of the time the bridges used pilings or bridgeheads, but they could be used on pontoons using a specially developed Bailey pontoon.
    Canada was tasked to built 150 sets of Bailey bridging in 1941. Due to problems with steel production it took more time than expected, so US Bailey bridging sets were accepted for use in training. A set was 80 feet of bridging and was seen to by a field engineer company with each division. However, this was considered a combat reserve and corps or higher level assets were used where possible.
    Combat service saw the first Canadian built bridge used in Sicily in 1943. Due to intensive bombing and damage the sum product of all Allied engineers in Italy was more than 45 miles of Bailey bridges built over the course of the campaign. Many of the bridges had to be built under fire and it speaks to the valor of not just the Canadians but all combat engineers that they succeeded.
    The author notes one of the best examples available to most of the audience is the scene in the movie “A Bridge Too Far” where Elliott Gould and his 101st Airborne soldiers work with Commonwealth engineers to build a bridge after the Germans blow one of the critical ones needed by XXX Corps.
    A diagram is included in the center of the book showing how a double single bridge is built and installed. This should be a boon to anyone with the Bronco kit of a Bailey Bridge.
    Overall this is a very neat little volume and should be popular with both military historians and modelers.
    Thanks to Clive Law of Service Publications for the review copy.
Cookie Sewell
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