Tuesday, June 13, 2017

News: Bridge builder hails Bailey's design 75 years on


Leading bridge and engineering services specialist Mabey is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the iconic Bailey Bridge, which was designed by Rotherham-born engineer Sir Donald Bailey and played a key role in shortening World War II.

An original manufacturer of the Bailey Bridges found all over the world, the Gloucestershire firm is calling for the Bailey Bridge which still stands in Rotherham today to be officially recognised with a Grade II listing.

The unassuming structure over the River Don between Eastwood and Parkgate is one of the few surviving examples of the design remaining in South Yorkshire.

Collapsible and portable bridges had been around for hundreds of years, in various forms. By 1940, however, British weapons were outstripping engineering equipment. Tanks weighed more than 40 tons, but the heaviest portable bridge could hold only 26 tons.


From a sketch on the back of an envelope, Bailey honed his design for a bridge that could be built from standard lightweight modules in a matter of hours, and were yet strong enough to hold tanks. Hundreds were built and used in the War enabling allied troops to cross rivers, and Field Marshall Montgomery is reported to have claimed their use shortened the conflict by several months.

The first operational Bailey Bridge during the Second World War was built in Tunisia on the night of November 26 1942.

Local firms, Parkgate Iron & Steel Company and Robert Jenkins Ltd were involved in the manufacture of Bailey Bridge components throughout the War.
Through upgraded versions, it is still doing an effective job for the military decades later and Mabey has supplied bridges for non-conflict projects around the world including improving access to remote communities in developing countries and providing emergency bridging in Kashmir, Pakistan following a catastrophic earthquake.

Michael Treacy, CEO of Mabey Bridge said: "The Bailey Bridge has had an unquestionable impact on modular steel bridging, while standing the test of time and decades of improvements. Over the last 75 years, its original design and subsequent improved derivatives have provided vital access for communities, maintained and enhanced supply lines for the military, and enabled construction to be carried out more quickly, safely and efficiently across the world.

"The bridge has benefited a huge range of people, from those living in major cities, to indigenous communities in developing countries. It is one of the landmarks in modular bridge engineering and it deserves to be formally recognised and celebrated."


According to the Rotherham District Civic Society, the Bailey Bridge north of Eldon Road was acquired from Army stocks at a cost of £300 and erected in 1947 with Rawmarsh Urban District Council and Rotherham Corporation sharing the cost. It was totally refurbished and rebuilt in 1992 by Rotherham Council and the Territorial Army.

In February 2016 the Civic Society unveiled a Blue Plaque at Thomas Rotherham College in memory of Bailey who was born in Albany Street in 1901, and a pupil at the Rotherham Grammar School. He was at Sheffield University from 1919 to 1923, when he gained a bachelor of Engineering degree.

His first job was with Rowntree in York, followed by work in the old L.M.S. Railway, and then in Sheffield City Engineering Department. Overcoming the difficulties presented by water fascinated him, and developing bridges and dams became a major challenge.

In 1928 he took a job as Civilian Engineer in the War Office Experimental Bridging Establishment (EBE) in Christchurch in the south of England. Donald was the first director of the successor to the EBE, the Military Engineering Experimental Establishment or MEXE and was knighted in 1946 for his bridge design.

Mabey website

Images: Polydeck / Mabey


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