ARM: Review - "Non-Bailey Bridging in Canadian Service"

Book Review: =93Weapons of War=94 Series; Non-Bailey Bridging in Canadian
Service by John Sliz; Service Publications, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada,
2010; 24 pp. with B&W photos and not-to-scale diagrams and sketches;
price CDN $9.95; ISBN 1-894581-68-4
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Advantages: covers the various types of Commonwealth WWII bridging
used other than the famous Bailey Bridge
Disadvantages: may be too esoteric for some modelers=92
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all engineer fans and some diorama makers wanting
something different
It has long been noted that anyone carrying out warfare in Europe
will run into a water obstacle roughly every 10 kilometers, and a
major obstacle every 50. While some can be waded or forded, most
require bridging of some sort in order to negotiate them. While the
best option is always capturing extant bridges intact, that is not
always possible.
As a result, bridging units have been part of armies since the time
of the Persians in the 5th Century BC. But by the time of the Second
World War, most armies had prefabricated bridges and engineer bridging
units as part of their makeup as a matter of course.
Having previously examined engineer boats in this series, author John
Sliz now turns his attention to the various types of bridging used
other than the famous Bailey bridge. The Canadian Army began its work
in this area with a 64 foot section of Small Box Girder (SBG) bridge
purchased from the UK in 1936. This was followed by folding boat
equipment (FBE) and others such as Kapok Foot Bridges and Stock Span
bridging. But other than =93onesies and twosies=94 the Canadian Army
essentially had no tactical bridging prior to the start of the war.
Eventually the British Army fielded a wide variety of bridges with at
least nine classes from 3 to 70 tons in use by the end of the war.
Many of these were also used by Canadian forces, but unfortunately all
but the lightest ones were slow to erect and install and generally had
to rely on securing an area before they could be put into place.
The Kapok Assault Bridge was basically a selection of duckboards and
kapok floats which could be easily strung across relatively narrow
rivers to provide infantry a dry crossing, but could not easily be
erected under fire nor carry great weight. Still, it did serve its
purpose as with Canadian troops crossing the Orne river in Italy or
the Leopold Canal in Belgium.
Another light bridge was the Olafson Infantry Footbridge, which
consisted of jeep transported 15 foot sections. Again, this could not
be installed under fire. A double span (e.g. two parallel tracks)
would support a jeep in crossing however.
The Large Girder Bridge was designed to be a semi-permanent bridge as
it was heavy, bulky, and not quickly emplaced. Able to provide Class
24 crossings (e.g. support for vehicles of up to 24 short tons
weight). While faster to install than the WWI Ingals Bridge, it was
replaced by the simpler and more flexible Bailey Bridge design.
The SBG served well, with the best known one to modelers probably
being the twin end unit short bridge carried by a Churchill AVRE.
Other bridges for =93lines of communications=94 or mainline transport
routes include the Callendar-Hamilton Unit Construction Bridge and
Track Bridges (again this type had to have two laid parallel for
vehicle crossings).
Floating bridges =96 called =93wet bridges=94 by the UK =96 were those
requiring pontoons for support. These included the Mark V Pontoon
Bridge, which if correctly installed was rated as Class 24 and could
deal with tanks up to the Matilda; and FBE Mk II and Mk III sets,
which were only rated as Class 12 (trucks and light armored vehicles
The WW I Ingals Bridge remained in service at the start of the war as
there was nothing to replace it. Capable of proving Class 40 support
(e.g. tank crossing) it remained in service until replaced by the
Bailey Bridge. Unfortunately the Canadians produced several sets of
these bridges at the beginning of the war, but when the Bailey was
introduced they remained in Canada gathering dust.
Overall this book is not of great use to modelers, but it is
interesting and provides sufficient information and closeups that a
diorama builder could use it to get a bridge =93right=94 for a diorama or
Thanks to Clive Law for the review copy.
Cookie Sewell
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