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'Sagging Susie' Bridge




In the period after the Normandy landings, the Allied engineers had to build thousands of emergency bridges to support the advance. Sometimes the bridges were so long that they threatened to collapse, or they looked rather questionable, as was the case between Cromvoirt and Nieuwkuijk at the end of 1944.

During wartime, every part of the military is important, and while most attention is, justifiably, paid to the fighting units up front, each army is completely dependent on the logistics: food needs to arrive on time, as does drink, fuel, and ammunition. After the breakout in Normandy in late August 1944, the engineers joined the advance effort. From the crossing of the Seine, the speed of the Allied advance was increasingly determined by the countless military engineers who built one bridge after another, at breakneck speed, often risking their lives.

The Canadian army in particular, which advanced along the coast and had to cross numerous canals, called on the engineers. It often used so-called Bailey bridges (named after English engineer Donald Bailey), which consisted of individual parts that could be put together in different compositions. An average Bailey bridge of 25 metres could be assembled by 40 men in three hours. Sometimes an extreme length was needed, such as on the Drongelens Kanaal between Nieuwkuijk and Cromvoirt.

Too long

In late October 1944, the retreating German troops had blown up all the bridges crossing this canal. Following the liberation of the Heusden area on 5 November, the first emergency bridges were built by the 51st (Highland) Division. When the Canadian forces took over this area, some of these bridges were so bad that they had to replace them. This was the case at a site North of Cromvoirt, as early as 11 November. Here, as the bridge crossed the canal at an angle, a construction of no less than 50 metres was needed. First, the attachment to the original embankment had to be reinforced, after which components of the 8th and 9th Field Squadron RCE assembled a so-called Double Single (or Double Truss) bridge. Bulldozers then laid new ramps during the night. As the bridge was actually too long for a DS model, it sagged in the middle and was christened 'Sagging Susie' by the engineers. Despite its questionable appearance, the bridge continued to serve until long after the war.

Nieuwkuijkseweg (noordkant), Vlijmen