Pays-Bas / Lieu d'intêret

Canadians building bridges




Near Ravenstein, two bridges were built over the River Meuse under Canadian orders. One of the two bridges had a length of about 400 metres. Never before had the First Canadian Army built a Bailey bridge this long. Bridge battle operations across the Meuse River were already complex, the bad weather in 1944 made it even more difficult... The project was a key component in the preparation for Operation Veritable, the Canadian Army's large-scale operation in the German Rhineland in the early months of 1945.

In early December 1944, British Field Marshal Montgomery approved the Canadian plan for Operation Veritable. The senior officer of the Canadian Engineers, Brigadier Geoffrey Walsh, was ordered to improve the supply lines in North Brabant by building wider roads and new bridges. His choice was to build a two-lane road between Uden and Nijmegen. This also required building two bridges between Ravenstein and Niftrik in Gelderland. A huge challenge given the winter conditions. Moreover, the Maas was (and is) a rain river with strong currents and many changing water levels.

Such a large task exceeded the capabilities of the Canadian Engineers. That is why Walsh received reinforcements for this project from over 1,000 British engineer troops. On 9 December 1944, about 300 Canadian engineers began building a bridge at the site of the ferry link between Niftrik and Ravenstein. Walsh assigned the second bridge to the British. This was closer to the railway bridge destroyed in May 1940, but would be much longer. The bridges ran from embankment to embankment, in both cases a considerable distance to cross.

During World War II, an Englishman, Donald Bailey, had developed a system for laying emergency bridges that consisted of prefabricated parts that could be assembled without heavy equipment and quickly. In Western Europe, including the Netherlands, hundreds of Bailey bridges were built using this technique.

According to the Canadian, military historian, the construction of the two bridges across the Meuse was 'extremely difficult' due to poor conditions. Nevertheless, the Canadian engineers managed to construct their two-hundred-metre-long bridge in five days. The construction of the access roads to this bridge took several days longer. Lack of sufficient equipment for the second bridge meant that the British Engineers did not keep pace with their Canadian counterparts. Nevertheless, that bridge too was completed before Christmas 1944. The 'British bridge' was almost double the length of the Canadian one.

The British very appropriately named their bridge 'Quebec', after the capital of the Canadian province of the same name. The 'Canadian bridge' was named 'Yardley', named after a Canadian lieutenant whose unit was involved in building the bridge. Many Canadian bridges were given names of comrades lost in the 1944/45 campaign. Yardley had been seriously wounded earlier in Normandy.

Loswal, Ravenstein