Bailey Bridges

Bailey Bridges are a kind of prefabricated bridges - if necessary - to be put together on the spot. The basis of the design is a frame construction, with standardized building elements.

The bridge was designed in the early 40s by the Donald Bailey, British, working as a civilian for the British Ministry of Defense and in his spare time a model bridge builder. After he had shown his model to his superiors, the Bailey bridge was subsequently used by the Allied Forces in many places during World War II.

A Bailey bridge is designed to be put together and installed without special tools or a crane. A Bailey Bridge could be put together on shore, and then slid over water.

Allied sappers were able to build different types of bridges, footbridges, pontoon bridges and Bailey Bridges. Bailey bridges were the most secure and were used to transport heavy equipment over a canal or river.

In South Limburg 82 Engineer Combat Battalion laid a Bailey bridge at Kanne and Maastricht. Both of them are in paintings by by Henry J. MacMillan.

The assembly of the bridge at Kanne was not initially successful: the bridge sagged and ended up in the water. In a second attempt a boat was used as a support, and this worked well.

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Donald Bailey with a scale model of a Bailey bridge
Source: Public domain

Assembly of a Bailey bridge at Kanne
Source: Public domain / US Army Signals Corps / Collection Arie-Jan van Hees

Armored bulldozers pushing the Bailey bridge across the Albert Canal
Source: Public domain / US Army Signals Corps / Collection Arie-Jan van Hees

the sagging bridge

at 2nd attempt a ship is used as a 'support'
Public domain / US Army Signals Corps / Collection Arie-Jan van Hees

last work on the Bailey bridge
Public domain / US Army Signals Corps / Collection Arie-Jan van Hees