Bailey bridge

Bailey bridge

The Bailey bridge is a portable pre-fabricated truss bridge, designed for use by military engineering units to bridge up to 60 m (200 ft) gaps. 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.


Donald Bailey was a civil servant in the British War Office who tinkered with model bridges as a hobby. He presented one such model to his chiefs, who saw some merit in the design and had construction started at a slow rate. The bridge was taken into service by the Corps of Royal Engineers and first used in Italy in 1943. A number of bridges were available by 1944 for D-Day, when production was ramped up. 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.

The original design however, violated a patent on the Hamilton-Callender bridge. The designer of that bridge, A. M. Hamilton successfully applied to the Royal Commission for Awards to Inventors. The Bailey bridge however had several advantages over Hamilton's design.


A large part of what made Bailey bridges as successful and unique as they were is the modular design, and the fact that it could be assembled with minimal aid from heavy equipment. Most, if not all, previous designs for military bridges required cranes to lift up the preassembled bridge and lower it into place. The Bailey parts were made of standard steel alloys, and were simple enough that parts made at a number of different factories could be completely interchangeable. Each individual part could be carried by a small number of men, enabling army engineers to move more easily and more quickly than before, in preparing the way for troops and matériel advancing behind them. Finally, the modular design allowed engineers to build each bridge to be as long and as strong as needed, doubling or tripling up on the supportive side panels, or on the roadbed sections.

The basic bridge consists of three main parts. The "floor" of the bridge consists of a number of convert|19|ft|m|abbr=on wide "transoms" that run across the bridge, with 10 ft long "stringers" running between them on the bottom, forming a square. The bridge's strength is provided by the "panels" on the sides, which are 10 ft (3 m) long cross-braced rectangles. These are placed standing upright above the stringers, and clamps run from the stringers to the panels to hold them together. "Ribands" are placed on top of the completed structural frame, and wood planking is placed on top of the ribands to provide a roadbed. Later in the war, these wooden panels were replaced by steel, which was more resistant to the damage caused by tank treads.

Each unit constructed in this fashion creates a single 10 ft (3 m) long section of bridge, with a 12 ft (4 m) wide roadbed. After one section is complete it is typically pushed forward over rollers on the bridgehead, and another section built behind it. The two are then connected together with pins pounded into holes in the corners of the panels.

For added strength several panels (and transoms) can be bolted on either side of the bridge, up to three. Another solution is to stack the panels vertically. With three panels across and two high, the Bailey Bridge can support tanks over a 200 ft (60 m) span.

A useful feature of the Bailey bridge is its ability to be "launched" from one side of a gap. In this system the frontmost portion of the bridge is angled up with wedges into a "launching nose" and most of the bridge is left without the roadbed and ribands. The bridge is placed on rollers and simply pushed across the gap, using manpower or a truck or tracked vehicle, at which point the roller is removed (with the help of jacks) and the ribands and roadbed installed, along with any additional panels and transoms that might be needed.

Stories of Bailey bridges being built and erected during the Second World War are legendary. The very first instance of a Bailey being erected under fire was at Leonforte by members of the 3rd Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers. [ [ article on Leonforte] ] In one instance a bridge was pushed over the Saar River while under artillery and tank fire. When the enemy was finally cleared out the panels had holes in them and would not carry the weight of a tank. Replacing the panels would require the bridge to be "broken" in the middle. Instead they simply bolted an entirely new set of panels onto the bridge on top of the original set, a technique that later became a standard feature.

The Bailey provided an excellent solution to the problem of German and Italian armies destroying bridges as they retreated. By the end of the war, the US Fifth Army and British 8th Army had built over 3,000 Bailey bridges in Sicily and Italy alone, totaling over 55 miles (90 km) of bridge, at an average length of 100 ft (30 m). One Bailey, built to replace the Sangro River bridge in Italy, spanned 1,126 ft (343 m). Another on the Chindwin River in Burma, spanned 1,154 feet (351 m).

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery wrote in 1947::Bailey Bridging made an immense contribution towards ending World War II. As far as my own operations were concerned, with the eighth 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. [ [ Mabey Bridge and Shore, Inc.: Bailey Bridge] ] [ [ Other Equipment Used By The 7th Armoured Division] ]

Modern Bailey bridges

One of the original steel and concrete bridges on the Hana Highway in Maui, Hawaii,damaged by erosion, has been paralleled by a Bailey bridge erected by the Army Corps of Engineers.

A Bailey bridge was built on the grounds of the Royal Military College of Canada in 2004 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Engineering Branch and close ties between Branch and the college.

Bnot Ya'akov Bridge is a Bailey bridge across the Jordan River on Highway 91 in northern Israel.

The Westbound bridge of the I-10 Twin Spans has prefabricated Bailey Bridge segmets.

Other uses

The Skylark launch tower at Woomera was built up of Bailey bridges.

In the years immediately following WWII, the Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission purchased huge amounts of war-surplus Bailey bridging, and established a small design group to promote its use in novel applications. For example, the trestles required for an extensive gravel-classification set-up for the power plants then being built on the Ottawa River.

In the mid-1950's, auto racing circuit Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut purchased a war-surplus Bailey Bridge so vehicles could enter/exit the infield and paddock sections of the track while races were taking place. The bridge has been in continuous service since, and was relocated to new, raised pilings in spring, 2008. The track believes this may be the sole-remaining WWII-era Bailey Bridge in regular daily public service in the USA.

ee also

*Mabey Logistic Support Bridge- the modern day Bailey Bridge used by NATO countries
*Medium Girder Bridge - a modern functional equivalent of the Bailey bridge
*Military engineer
*Pontoon bridge for another bridge type with mobile military application.

External links

* [ Bailey Bridges, Inc. (photos)]
* [ Mabey & Johnson Ltd (photos)]
* [ Mabey Bridge & Shore (US Division) and the Bailey Bridge in WW2]
* [ Royal Engineers Museum] Bailey Bridge in the Second World War
* [ Royal Engineers Museum] Royal Engineers and Military Bridging
* [ Bailey-Bridge, Band]
* [ Homepage about Bailey bridges (photos, information, links, ...)]
* [ Bailey Bridge at Engineering Structures History]
* [ Bailey Bridge at Navarov, Czech republic]
* [ Bailey Bridge at Bulhary, Czech republic]
* [ Bailey Bridge at Dolni Loucky, Czech republic]
* [ Bailey Bridge at Tisnov, Czech republic]
* [ Bailey Bridge at Havlovice, Czech republic]
* [ Bailey Bridge at Walim, Poland]


*McLaughlin, Mike (May 2005). "The practical and portable British Bailey Bridge helped Allied troops remain on the march." "Military Heritage Presents: WWII History", pp. 10-15, 76.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bailey bridge — [bā′lē] n. [after Sir D. C. Bailey (1901 85), Eng inventor] Mil. Engineering a portable bridge consisting of a series of prefabricated steel sections in the form of lattices …   English World dictionary

  • Bailey bridge — Bai′ley bridge n. civ a temporary bridge formed of prefabricated, interchangeable, steel truss panels bolted together • Etymology: after Donald Bailey (1901–85), British engineer, its designer …   From formal English to slang

  • Bailey bridge — a temporary bridge formed of prefabricated, interchangeable, steel truss panels bolted together. [named after Sir Donald Bailey (1901 85), British engineer, its designer] * * * …   Universalium

  • Bailey bridge — noun a temporary bridge of lattice steel designed for rapid assembly from prefabricated standard parts, used especially in military operations. Origin Second World War: named after the English engineer Sir D. Bailey, its designer …   English new terms dictionary

  • Bailey bridge — /beɪli ˈbrɪdʒ/ (say baylee brij) noun a bridge of prefabricated steel units, used especially in military operations. {named after Sir Donald Bailey, 1901–85, its English inventor} …  

  • Bailey bridge — n. a temporary bridge of lattice steel designed for rapid assembly from prefabricated standard parts, used esp. in military operations. Etymology: Sir D. Bailey (d. 1985), its designer …   Useful english dictionary

  • Bailey bridge — temporary bridge constructed of steel panels that are bolted together, prefabricated steel bridge designed for quick assembly and disassembly (especially used for military purposes) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Bailey bridge — noun a portable pre fabricated truss bridge, designed for use by military engineering units …   Wiktionary

  • Old Finch Avenue Bailey Bridge — The Old Finch Avenue bridge is a Bailey bridge in Toronto. The Finch bridge is used for limited vehicular traffic on Old Finch Avenue in north east Toronto to cross the Rouge River. The bridge dates back to late October 1954; it was constructed… …   Wikipedia

  • Clay Wade Bailey Bridge — The Clay Wade Bailey Bridge is the nearest bridge in the foreground as viewed from Downtown Cincinnati Carries …   Wikipedia

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