Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Donald Coleman Bailey

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Sir Donald Coleman Bailey, OBE (1901–1985) was an English civil engineer who invented the Bailey bridge.

1901 September 15th. Born in Rotherham

Bailey attended Rotherham Grammar School and The Leys School in Cambridge and then studied for a period at Sheffield University.

1928 Bailey joined the War Office as a civil engineering designer at the Military Engineering Experimental Establishment in Christchurch.

1936 Bailey conceived the idea of a simple bridge structure based on standard rectangular, trussed welded units (10 ft × 5 ft) bolted together in combinations to suit the job in hand. Each unit could be lifted by six men and fitted a standard 3 ton lorry. The panels were built up from small components, which could be subcontracted to a large number of small engineering firms. The War Office showed no interest. Another engineer, A. M. Hamilton, successfully demonstrated that the Bailey bridge breached a patent on the Callender-Hamilton bridge, though the Bailey bridge was generally regarded as being superior for temporary use.

1941 Bailey was ordered to produce a suitable design and quickly resurrected his earlier scheme. The modular, light but strong and versatile steel bridge system proved to be one of the greatest inventions of WWII and played a significant part in the allied victory.

First production units reached the Army in December 1941.

1941 The Bailey Bridge was adopted as the standard Military Bridge and used extensively throughout the European campaign and in the Far East

The Bailey Bridges were built by Thomas Storey (Engineers)

1946 Bailey was knighted for his bridge design. By this time he was living quietly in Southbourne in Bournemouth.

1985 May 5th. Sir Donald died in Bournemouth in 1985.

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