ARM: Book Review - The Bailey Bridge in Canadian Service

Book Review: =93Weapons of War=94 Series; The Bailey Bridge in Canadian Ser=
vice 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
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=20
Advantages: concise history not only of Canadian use of the Bailey Bridge b=
ut of the bridge itself; describes its structure and use, as well as RCE br=
idging organization
Disadvantages: nothing of note
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for bridging fans and =93picks and shovels=94 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 o=
f 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 ha=
d to put it together under his instruction) to assemble a single bay of the=
bridge using the four main components - panels, transoms, stringers and de=
ck planks. He got full points for the presentation.=20
From that time on I have been fascinated with the simplicity and sturdy re=
sults of the Bailey, and even noted it was used here in Maryland as recentl=
y as five years ago as a temporary structure on the Baltimore-Washington Pa=
rkway by the National Parks Service. Now John Sliz has followed up his earl=
ier Service Publication book, =93Non-Bailey Bridging in Canadian Service=94=
(2010), with this little volume dedicated solely to the Bailey Bridge and =
its use in Canadian service.=20
While the US and UK had a number of bridges that were assembled from compo=
nents to form a useful bridge, most were awkward or expensive and not suita=
ble 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 smal=
l 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 br=
idge. A prototype was ready by May 1941, but the bridging components did no=
t enter production until early 1942 and the first bridging sets did not rea=
ch the engineers in the field until December 1942.=20
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 lo=
ngitudinal component. Transoms 17 feet long attached to the inside bottom o=
f the panels, and the stringers connected the transoms together to form a s=
olid 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.=20
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 t=
o 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 =93Single Single=94 or SS by th=
e engineers; double width single high a double single or DS, triple TS, and=
then double double, triple double, double triple, and triple triple. Singl=
e 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 use=
d on pontoons using a specially developed Bailey pontoon.=20
Canada was tasked to built 150 sets of Bailey bridging in 1941. Due to pro=
blems with steel production it took more time than expected, so US Bailey b=
ridging sets were accepted for use in training. A set was 80 feet of bridgi=
ng 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.=20
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 engineer=
s in Italy was more than 45 miles of Bailey bridges built over the course o=
f the campaign. Many of the bridges had to be built under fire and it speak=
s to the valor of not just the Canadians but all combat engineers that they=
succeeded.=20
The author notes one of the best examples available to most of the audienc=
e is the scene in the movie =93A Bridge Too Far=94 where Elliott Gould and =
his 101st Airborne soldiers work with Commonwealth engineers to build a bri=
dge after the Germans blow one of the critical ones needed by XXX Corps.=20
A diagram is included in the center of the book showing how a double singl=
e bridge is built and installed. This should be a boon to anyone with the B=
ronco kit of a Bailey Bridge.=20
Overall this is a very neat little volume and should be popular with both =
military historians and modelers.=20
Thanks to Clive Law of Service Publications for the review copy.=20
Cookie Sewell
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