Were you a Royal Engineer who put up Lowestoft bridge?

IT is a scene that could have been from a second world war film as Army engineers frantically build a bridge over a large stretch of water.

But in fact this photograph and press report from The EDP's sister paper the Lowestoft Journal in January 1969 shows how Royal Engineers were called into action to help the residents of Lowestoft.

The 50 men of the 20th Field Squadron worked non-stop for two days to set up a 60-ton Bailey Bridge across the Inner Harbour channel as an emergency footbridge because of a long delay in getting a permanent crossing.

As the Royal Engineers finished their work they were told by town mayor G G Davy: 'You have made 50,000 friends in Lowestoft.'

And now it hoped that some of the Royal Engineers will re-visit Lowestoft for a reunion in the town and maybe meet some of the 'friends' they had made.

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Ray Lambert, the honorary secretary of the Lowestoft and District Royal Engineers Association, is trying to see if a reunion could be organised for next year and is trying to hunt down any of the soldiers involved.

Mr Lambert, 76, from Turner Close, Lowestoft, who served with Royal Engineers in Malaya with 11 Independent Field Squadron, remembers the bridge being built and crossing it.

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He said: 'The bridge they built was a real life line for Lowestoft as it was essential in keeping the town going.

'It would be nice to trace some of the men who put the bridge up – people still remember them today.'

Originally it was estimated it would take the Royal Engineers seven days to put up the bridge, but they completed the work in just 48 hours.

The Bailey Bridge comprised two halves that were put together.

It had extra decking to provide a smoother footway and it had mesh netting over its sides.

After its completion the Royal Engineers handed over the bridge to the Docks Board.

The group of Maidstone-Royal Engineers were led by Capt Donald Campbell and other soldiers in the unit included a QM Sgt S Thomas, Staff Sgt A M Hill and Sgts L Weeding and P Harford.

While they were in Lowestoft the soldiers used the Drill Hall as their mess and Army cooks were sent kippers by the mayor and prime Lowestoft plaice by Harry Kirby.

The mayor of Lowestoft and MP for the town Jim Prior sent them a consignment of beer and the National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen provided a supply of tea.

Thanking the Royal Engineers, the mayor said: 'It has been very hard work for you here, but I hope that you have enjoyed yourselves too, and I hope that you will one day return to the town where you have made a tremendous number of good friends.'

Anyone with information on the Royal Engineers and anyone who can provide a venue for a possible reunion can contact Mr Lambert on 01502 508493 or email rearguard54-rea@yahoo.co.uk

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