Wesel Railway Bridge
The Wesel Railway Bridge was a bridge on the Haltern–Venlo railway, built as part of the Hamburg–Venlo railway by the Cologne-Minden Railway Company, and opened on 1 March 1874. Wesel, Germany, was heavily bombed in Allied air raids during World War II and more than 95 percent destroyed. On 10 March 1945 the Rhine and Lippe bridges, among others, were blown up by the Wehrmacht in compliance with Hitler's scorched earth policy that became known as the Nero Decree. The 1,950-metre (6,400 ft) long railway bridge at Wesel was the last Rhine bridge remaining in German hands.
The Bombing of Wesel in World War II in conjunction with the attacks in support of the crossing of the Rhine enabled the allies to take the town in March 1945. The town was taken quickly with only 36 casualties. Field-Marshal Montgomery said of the bombing: "The bombing of Wesel was a masterpiece, and was a decisive factor in making possible our entry into the town before midnight."
The 371st Engineer Construction Battalion moved by a convoy code named "Boobie Trap" on March 29, 1945, from Geldern, to Menzelen, 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) north of Alpen, Germany, preparing to move northeast towards Wesel and the Rhine River rail bridge.
The Ninth and British 2nd were pushing east at a fast pace, so the engineering companies began working 12-hour shifts of 10 days on, 2 off, on the Rhine River Bridge project.
The bridge was a high-level type, approximately 23 metres (75 ft) above high water, and of steel construction to support heavy transport trains.
The river depth, between 6 to 11 metres (20 to 36 ft), and 11 km/h (6.8 mph) current made falling into the water a dangerous proposition.
Airplanes provided protection along with anti-aircraft gun emplacements and lights on the ground. The Germans were unable to pinpoint the location of the bridge construction project.
On April 4, 1945, the pilings were braced and capped. The 23-metre (75 ft) towers were completed. Steel spans, ties, and track were lowered into place.
On April 8, the Rhine River Bridge at Wesel was completed. They tested the bridge by running a train across it that night, and the bridge passed. The following morning, 50 car supply trains began crossing the bridge, keeping to a 8 km/h (5.0 mph) speed limit and traveling one at a time to avoid unnecessary vibration. The Wesel Bridge was the first fixed bridge built by any army engineer to span the Rhine since the days of Caesar, according to military references, and was the first fixed bridge to span the Rhine River with highway bridges included. The "Victory Bridge" constructed by the 332nd Engineer G. S. Regiment wasn't completed until a month later, on May 8, 1945.
Between April 8–10, 1945, the 3rd platoon improved the western approach to the bridge, to speed the huge volume of heavy railroad traffic using the single track approach.Other units were tasked with clearing mine fields for landing of aircraft and laying of gas pipelines. One detail was erecting a prefabricated water tower and tank for the Railroad at Büderich Station, Germany.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wesel Railway Bridge.|
- 371st Engineer Construction Battalion WWII – Third Platoon – Company A Hist.- pp. 4–8
- Royal Air Force – Squadron 57
- Fortified Wesel History
- "Bomber Command: No. 57 Squadron". raf.mod.uk. Retrieved May 24, 2011.