Article by LCol Ken Holmes (Ret’d)
“Bailey Bridging made an immense contribution towards ending World War II. As far as my own operations were concerned, with the 8th Army in Italy and with the 21 Army Group in North-West Europe, I could never have maintained the speed and tempo of forward movement without large supplies of Bailey Bridging.” - Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery
The Bailey bridge is a portable, pre-fabricated, truss bridge developed in 1940-1941 in Britain for use during the Second World War. During WW II it was used by military engineering units of the British Commonwealth countries and the United States in nearly every theatre of war. The Royal Canadian Engineers started training on the Bailey Bridge in England in June 1942 and the RCE field units started receiving their equipment in August 1943. The first Bailey Bridge was built by Canadians in operations in Sicily that same month. As the war progressed, the Allies erected some 4500 Bailey Bridges. After the war, Bailey bridges continued to be used extensively by military forces as well as in civil engineering construction projects and to provide temporary crossings for pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
Some 50 years after its introduction, the Bailey Bridge was withdrawn from use in the Canadian Forces, to be replaced by the Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge, the Medium Girder Bridge and the Medium Floating Bridge. The history of the Bailey
Bridges is well told in the following two articles:
- “UK Military Bridging - Equipment (The Bailey Bridge)” published on 8 January 2012
- “Ordnance: The British Bailey Bridge” from the May 2005 issue of WWII History Magazine.(attached)
The story of the Bailey bridge has continued to grow since the end of WW II. After almost 80 years, many of the bridges erected during WW II are still in use today. After the war, the utility of Bailey bridge equipment came to be widely appreciated. It is still used extensively in civil engineering construction projects and to provide temporary crossings for pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
The Canadian Military Engineers Association is working to establish National Site(s) in Canada to recognize the contribution of the Bailey bridge to the Allied success in the Second World War as well as its contribution to Canada’s development and the Canadian Forces’ response to emergencies. We aim to locate Bailey Bridges that are in permanent use in Canada whether as part of a public highway system, a private road, or a pedestrian bridge on a remote public trail. To-date we have located some 100 bridges. See the compilation at Bailey Bridges in Canada If you are aware of another Bailey Bridge, please submit this information by completing the survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/7KCT6K6 .