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by Frederick Weedman

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Archive List > World > Burma

Contributed by 
Frederick Weedman
Location of story: 
River Chindwin, Burma
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
17 October 2005

Bailey Bridge on the River Chindwin

It was on the night of the 3rd and 4th December, 1944, that General Slim ordered the 11th Division to establish a bridgehead across the River Chindwin. This was ‘softened-up’ by artillery and R.A.F. bombers. It was not until the 8th December that the enemy began to give way and abandon their positions, and to withdraw to Shwegyin.

On the 10th December our engineers completed a floating ‘Bailey Bridge’ over the Chindwin river. It was 1,154 feet long and at that time was the longest Bailey Bridge in the world. The engineers assembled the spans in the Myitta River, protected from air attack by barrage balloons brought from Calcutta where they were no longer needed.

The parts of the bridge had been made in Great Britain, America and India, put together in Calcutta, ferried across the Brahmaputra and transported by train to the railhead at Dimapur. Here they were loaded on lorries and borne more than 300 miles further over mountain roads to Kalewa. It was here that the floating bays were built and towed by motor boats to where they were positioned across the Chindwin River.

The bridge was then floated into the Chindwin River where in twenty eight hours of continuous assembly it was put in place. During the building attacks by Japanese ‘Zero’ fighters were made. Our anti-aircraft fire brought down two of their aircraft.

7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment cautiously crossed the bridge with infantry and vehicles. The numerous pontoons made the crossing hazardous and unsteady.

It was on the 21st December,1944, that 2nd Division, having crossed the Chindwin and celebrated their early Christmas Day, moved eastwards towards Pyingaing and Swebo, pressing on towards Mandalay. We now had the assistance of 254 Tank Brigade of Lee-Grant and Stuart tanks. We begged lifts on the tanks to save our legs, whenever we had the chance.

The building of the Bailey Bridge enabled us to overcome a formidable obstacle. This was a stupendous feat of

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