Rotherham man's genius helped to win war

Rotherham man Sir Donald Bailey looking at a model of his famous Bailey Bridge
Rotherham man Sir Donald Bailey looking at a model of his famous Bailey Bridge
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A Rotherham man whose ingenious design helped to secure victory in World War Two has been honoured in his home town.

Local history enthusisast Nora Platt campaigned for a blue plaque honouring the inventor of the Bailey Bridge, Sir Donald Coleman Bailey.

Donald Bailey invented the floating and easily transportable bridge as part of his work in the War Office as a civil engineering designer.

The ex-Rotherham Grammar School pupil and Sheffield University graduate came up with the idea for the bridge, described as “a Royal Engineer’s dream”, while he was driving.

It drew little attention at first, losing out to a rival girder-based design.

Donald was apparently so confident of his idea that he continued working on it in his spare time, using steel panels that were easier to handle and quick to assemble.

When the girder idea failed in 1941, he got his chance.

Field Marshal Montgomery said of his invention: “Without the Bailey Bridge, we should not have won the war.”

Here Nora explains why she took action.

“Most people at sometime or other will have walked over a Bailey Bridge. If by some chance that is not true for you I can truly recommend it.

“They are living history, testament to the achievement of a great man and a Rotherham man too, born at Albany Road on September 15, 1901.

“My hobby is taking photographs of local buildings and landmarks.

“A couple of years ago I was taking photographs of the Eastwoood Bailey Bridge, a bridge I had walked over since childhood, without knowing anything about the wonderful man responsible for them.

“Later I did find out that these bridges saved so many lives and it was quoted by many notable people that without the Bailey Bridge we would not have won WW2.

“There was no longer any public mention in Rotherham of Donald Coleman Bailey, the plaque that had been on the Eastwood Bridge was long gone.

“I felt it was important to have a blue plaque for him in the town where he was born.

“On February 24 I had the honour of unveiling the blue plaque for the Rotherham District Civic Society.

“I am hoping that it will inspire people to take a walk across a Bailey Bridge and to find out more about Donald Coleman Bailey.

“A great man, not just for Rotherham or Yorkshire but for the world.

“Lots of his bridges are still in use and even in the recent flooding we said they needed a Bailey Bridge !”