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"Notes on British Bridge Construction" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on British bridging of anti-tank ditches in North Africa in WWII was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 1, June 18, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The British Engineer-in-Chief, Middle East, reports that as far as he is aware no anti-tank obstacles were met other than anti-tank mines and ditches outside Tobruk. With regard to the latter, during recent operations a Field Company constructed eight class 24 tank bridges (capacity about 25 tons) in one night over an anti-tank ditch 18 feet wide by 8 feet deep. They were constructed of eight reinforced steel joist beams for spanning. 12" x 5" and 4" decking was used. The bank seats were 10" x 10" timber and had been laid a few days previous. The reinforced steel joists were wrapped in hessian (a heavy fabric) to deaden the noise. The first four bridges were completed by 0100 hours and the remainder by 0400 hours.

The officer commanding an Italian infantry regiment, who was taken prisoner, said under interrogation, "The sapper work in putting 8 tank bridges across the anti-tank ditch on the eastern sector was carried out in an impeccable manner. We did not know nor did we hear anything while they were being put across. The first thing we heard or saw were British tanks."

From an operational point of view the bridges were entirely satisfactory.

G-2 COMMENT: It is believed that this description of British bridging of anti-tank ditches gives an unduly optimistic picture of the ease of the operation. The reference seems to be to the original capture of Tobruk from the Italians. If so, the explanation lies in (a) the fact that the ditch was outside the obstacle (wire and mines) system; and (b) the fact that the Italians, in that campaign, were push-overs.

(M/A Report, London, No. 47672.)


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