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
As a testament to the design and versatility of the Bailey bridge, many permanent Bailey bridges are in use around the world today – some 80 years after its introduction in 1942. In Canada, many Bailey bridges have been in permanent application since around 1950.
The Canadian Military Engineers Association is working to establish a National Historic Site 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 more than 100 bridges you can see at our List of Bailey Bridges in Canada. If you want to sort by province, select the province from the right-hand panel before you start to scroll down the list.
We are still looking to our audience to help locate additional permanent Bailey bridges. If you are aware of any other permanent Bailey bridge or can add to the information we have posted, please send us as much information as you can by clicking here.
The Bailey bridge is a portable, pre-fabricated, truss bridge developed in 1940-1941 in Britain for use during the Second World War. During the Second World War, 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 RCE field units started receiving their equipment in August 1943. The first Bailey bridge built by Canadians in operations was 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.
Some 50 years after its introduction, the Bailey Bridge was withdrawn from use in the Canadian Forces, to be replaced by the Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge, the Medium Girder Bridge and the Medium Floating Bridge.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 three articles:
- UK Military Bridging - Equipment (The Bailey Bridge) published on 8 January 2012
- Ordnance - The British Bailey Bridge
- Bailey Bridge Primer
The story of the Bailey bridge has continued to grow since the end of the Second World War. After almost 80 years, many of the bridges erected during the Second World War 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.
There is an excellent Second World War training film on YouTube that describes the design, use and construction of the Bailey Bridge.