Bailey bridge

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The Bailey bridge is a portable pre-fabricated truss bridge, designed for use by military engineering units to bridge up to 60-metre gaps (200 ft). It requires no special tools or heavy equipment for construction, the bridge elements are small enough to be carried in trucks, and the bridge is strong enough to carry tanks. It is considered a great example of military engineering. Bailey bridges are also extensively used in civil engineering construction projects to provide temporary access across canals, rivers, railway lines, etc.



Donald Bailey was a civil servant in the British War Office who tinkered with model bridges as a hobby.[1][2] He presented one such model to his chiefs, who saw some merit in the design. A team of Royal Engineer officers was assembled at the Military Engineering Experimental Establishment (MEXE), in Barrack Road Christchurch, Dorset, in 1941 and 1942; among them were Robin Foulkes, Darrell Herbert, John de Waele and Bill Buckle, all R.E. subalterns at the time. In the course of development, the bridge was tested in several formats, e.g, as a suspension bridge, and as a "stepped arch" bridge, as well as the flat truss bridge which became the standard. The prototype of this was used to span Mother Siller's Channel which cuts through the nearby Stanpit Marshes, an area of marshland at the confluence of the River Avon (Hampshire) and the River Stour, Dorset. It still remains there as a functioning bridge.[3] Bridges in the other formats were built, temporarily, to cross the Avon and Stour in the meadows nearby. After successful development and testing, the bridge was taken into service by the Corps of Royal Engineers and first used in North Africa in 1942. A number of bridges were available by 1944 for D-Day, when production was accelerated. The US also licensed the design and started rapid construction for their own use. Bailey was later knighted for his invention, which continues to be widely produced and used today.[1]

The original design however, violated a patent on the Callender-Hamilton bridge. The designer of that bridge, A. M. Hamilton successfully applied to the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors.[4] The Bailey bridge however had several advantages over Hamilton's design. Damaged parts could not be replaced quickly, an essential requirement for military use.

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