By Lt. (N) Kris Phillips
First published in
SFOR Informer#120, August 22, 2001
On a narrow valley road snaking through a river-carved
mountain pass about 15 kilometres north of the town of Jajce,
engineers from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom Battle Groups
worked together to bridge the Vrbas River. A ceremony was held
Aug. 15 to officially open the bridge.
Luka - Now complete, the new bridge serves as a key route between
several local small towns and a major traffic artery. This project
was carried out by British engineers from the 26th Armoured Engineer
Squadron based out of Mrkonjic Grad and Dutch engineers from the
13th Netherlands/Bulgarian Engineering Company operating out of
Using a 20-tonne Liebherr crane from the Netherlands
Battle Group (NLBG), eight pallets, one sea container of bridging
materials and one Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineer recovery
vehicle, the 12-man team of Dutch and UK engineers made quick
work of the project. Taking just over one week to complete, the
project began in early August. The bridge was pre-assembled in
Ploce, Croatia, and then transported in pallets. On the Vrbas,
the engineers prepared the ground, then assembled and placed the
bridge into position.
Against a wall
project was a little unique because of the cliff wall immediately
behind the construction site. This type of bridge would normally
be completely pieced together, then rolled straight into position
across the divide. In this case however, the bridge was built
and rolled into position one section at a time, while counterweights
were used to hold the structure level.
The engineers also had to make some adjustments when it was discovered
the transoms were too wide for the bridge. After some cutting
and shortening of the transoms, the problem was quickly resolved,
said Sapper Steve Abbott, one of the site engineers. He added
that locals were already using the bridge even before
it was officially opened.
Now in full use, the bridge is helping local communities continue
People can now get supplies over the river so they can build
houses, said Sapper Chris Makeham.
is little doubt the engineers fully understand the humanitarian
and training value of this project.
This is brilliant, said Lt. Dave Bickers, the project
co-ordinator and safety officer. I think this (building
bridges) is the best thing we do. Whats nice about this
job is that we get to see a product we dont have to tear
down once were done building it and we know it will also
serve a number of local communities.
to Capt. Charlie Battey, the water safety officer and technical
advisor at the building site, the 32-metre, 40-tonne Mabey
Johnson Bridge is one of about 10 different types of bridges
these engineers are familiar with building. For most at the site
however, this is the first time any of them has had a chance to
construct a bridge of this make in this kind of setting.
us, the bridging task is the biggest project of our tour,
With this project behind them, the engineers now look forward
to future projects. They will leave Bosnia and Herzegovina with
a lasting symbol of their efforts and a feeling of accomplishment.
Its a sense of achievement, said Makeham.
Traffic control and diversion during this project was handled
by the Royal Military Police in co-operation with police forces
from both sides of the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL).
During the ceremony held Aug. 15, the bridge was named after Lance
Cpl. Chris McLeish, a member of 26th Armoured Engineer Squadron
who was killed in a fire at the Mrkonjic Grad Bus Depot in 1996.
(Contributing material from Informer staff)
Related link: Engineering - bridge
Nations of SFOR: UK, Netherland