In March 1945 the Allies were on the road to victory. Field Marshall Montgomery needed First Canadian Army to open a supply route through Arnhem to feed supplies to Twenty-First Army Group during its northward advance to the Elbe. Once this route was secure, the Canadians were to “operate to clear Northeast Holland, the coast belt [of Germany] eastwards to the Elbe, and West Holland [if necessary].” Meanwhile, once the British Second Army gained the Elbe, it would cease advancing and swing whatever forces to the west were required to “assist Canadian Army in its task of clearing the coastal belt".
On March 28, the Canadians crossed the Rhine at Rees and moved into their bridgehead. The move was made possible by the remarkable noon opening of Blackfriars Bridge. At 1,8I4(1) feet, it was the longest Bailey bridge built in Northwest Europe. It was designed to carry Military Load Class 40 vehicles, which included the tanks of the time. The 34 m (110 ft) landing bays were constructed to Military Load Class 70 standard and the end floating bays were reinforced to provide extra strength. The full floating section comprised 34 connected spans of 42-foot length and one span of 32-foot length. Construction of 825 yards (754 metres) of new road was started immediately.
Construction of the ‘home bank’ had been assigned to the 30th Field Company while the far bank was the responsibility of the 29th Field Company. 31st Field Company was tasked with the construction of the floating bays. Each company was augmented by British pioneers. Bridge construction began mid-day on 26 March and was delayed due to slow delivery of stores and heavy fog. Nonetheless. the bridge was finished a full 48 hours ahead of schedule. All-told, some 227 truck-loads of bridging stores were man-handled and some 9500 man-hours were employed in constructing the bridge. At 1803 feet total length, it was identified as the longest Bailey Bridge at the time.
The officer in charge of the construction of Blackfriars Bridge was Lt. William Fernley "Bill" Brundrit from the 30th Field Company. Lt. Brundrit was awarded the Military Cross for his courage and leadership on this bridging project - from the earliest reconnaissance until completion of the task. Bill was born in Scarborough, Ontario, one of four children. He died on 15 February 1991, at the age of 74 and was buried in Weston, Ontario
1. A message from the C.R.E. (Lieut.-Colonel V. C. Hamilton) to the formation on 5th May, 1945, gives the length of this bridge as 1803 feet, "the longest Bailey bridge in the world."
2. Lt Brundit's brother, Sgt EH Brundit, served in the Royal Canadian Dragoons in Sicily and Italy and later Northwest Europe where he was killed on 4 May 1945.
Au cours de la dernière partie de mars 1945, le Génie de corps du 2e Corps canadien fut informé que la formation construirait le « pont Blackfriars », un pont flottant Bailey de classe 40 sur le Rhin près de Rees à la référence cartographique A0, 61515.
Le lieutenant W.F. Brundrit, de la 30e Compagnie de campagne canadienne, fut choisi comme officier chargé de la construction et, du 15 au 24 mars 1945, effectua énormément de travail sur la planification technique et organisationnelle de l'opération. Le 24 mars 1945, il effectua la reconnaissance initiale des deux rives du Rhin malgré les tirs d'obus harcelants et le danger des mines sur la rive ennemie. Cette reconnaissance était de la plus haute importance et les données obtenues ont permis de terminer la conception finale du pont. Ce fut alors évident que la longueur du pont serait d'environ 1 800 pieds et le site fut choisi au point de référence cartographique AO, 6155155.
Du 26 mars 1945 au 28 mars 1945, lors de la construction du pont et des voies d’accès, le lieutenant Brundrit travailla sans cesse, sans se soucier des bombardements, de manger et de dormir, aidant à la construction et faisant en sorte que les grandes quantités de matériel et équipements soient soit au site de travail au bon moment et au bon endroit. Lorsque le pont fut achevé à 12 heures, le 28 mars 1945, il s'endormit dans son véhicule, complètement épuisé.