[page last updated 13 May 2015]
NEWSPAPER Report 7 Nov 1945 on the Bailey Bridge "Pegasus" built by the 591 to repair Aust Pier
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Western Daily Press and Bristol Mirror Wednesday November 7, 1945
PARATROOPERS' BRIDGING FEAT
BAILEY BRIDGE SLUNG OVER AUST PIER
Gap Caused by Gales Closed
FERRY OPEN TODAY
Aust Ferry Pier, damaged two weeks ago during the Great Gales, opens this morning for traffic with a 100 Foot 25 ton Bailey Bridge slung by paratroopers between the gap wrenched by the tides.
The Job, difficult because of the weight of the bridge and the damaged pier, was carried out by the famous 591 Airborne Squadron, R.E. whose last job was the Dortmund-Ems Canal bridge, and who fought with the 6th Airborne Division from Normandy, through the Ardennes, across the Rhine, into Germany.
An officer told a Western Daily Press and Bristol Mirror reporter that they knew about the job seven days before, but were unable to start on it because of a delay in London in which the War Office, the Ministry of War Transport and the Treasury were concerned. The discussions were on costs.
WASTE OF PETROL
"Meanwhile," he said "a considerable amount of valuable petrol was wasted with motorists going all the way round by Gloucester, involving a total distance of 55 miles."
The paratroopers battled all day Sunday and Monday morning strengthening the piers before they slung the bridge over. They started on Monday at 1.30 and were clearing up the job yesterday afternoon.
The first ferry service will leave the Chepstow side at 9 o'clock this morning-exactly a fortnight after the service had to be closed down.
A pledge given by the Minister of War Transport, Mr Alfred Barnest when he visited the ferry in September last, that if ever they needed anything accomplished in a hurry they should write direct to him, was one reason for the speed-up.
The Minister's pledge was remembered by Mr. E. Williams, the managing director of the company when he inspected the damage caused by the gale on October 24.
MINISTERS SPEED UP
He told a Western Daily Press and Bristol Mirror reporter yesterday afternoon, that after civil contractors had told him that they had no materials available he sent a registered letter direct to the Minister.
"I received a reply within 48 hours and shortly afterwards two representatives from Western Command came and inspected the damage. They decided that it was outside their command and the task was passed on to Southern Command. But there was no beating about the bush for on Tuesday last the paratroopers arrived to carry out a preliminary reconnaisance. Then on Saturday evening the men and their materials arrived. They started early Sunday morning and this afternoon at three my car was the first to cross the new span. The paratroopers have done an excellent job in record time."
Mr Williams added that he expected that it would be at least three months before the temporary span could be replaced by a permanent fixture but the "Bailey" is fully capable of lasting two years if so required.
Major A.E. Jack [sic Maj. A J Jack] and Captain G.L. Woodcock were in charge of the operation. Both have fought with the 6th Airborne Division in Europe.
One of the men who worked on the bridge was at Arnhem, Lance-Sergeant who won the D.C.M.
But the happiest paratrooper of them all, a local man was Sapper G.B.N. Thornton, whose wife lives in Thrissell Street, Stapleton Road, Bristol. He has had four nights at home (by special leave) and walked in on his family on Saturday.
"I'm working on a job near here" he told his wife "And was she astonished to see me!" he said.
The bridge is named "Pegasus" after the Squadron's shoulder flash.
The only person on the pier at the time of the gale was Mrs Madeline Hinton who is in charge of the cafe there. With water cascading in through windows and walls, she was marooned for two hours and stood on a table as the flood water swirled into the building when the span collapsed, being finally rescued by one of the residents in Aust village.
An example of a Bailey Bridge over the Dortmund-Ems Canal.
This one was built with the assistance of the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry.
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