- An Engineer Platoon of the 2nd REG (Foreign Legion Engineers) has
been working since June 19 to repair the north footbridge of the Celebici
Bridge, 50 km south of Sarajevo.
This huge railroad bridge of 315 meters that spans the Neretva River
was constructed in 1948. It has wooden pedestrian walkways on both sides.
After more than 50 years and no recent maintenance, the north side footbridge
fell into ruin.
"In certain places, there were two meters large holes,"
indicated 1Lt. Guillaume de Sercey, commanding this legionnaires platoon.
The south side footbridge, which also needs repairing, still remains
practicable because it lies on a metallic structure.
the deadly fall of a little girl last winter, renovation of the bridge
became an emergency.
More than 2,000 people, mostly schoolchildren, use it daily. The township
of Celebici called on the MND-SW which agreed to offer the help of the
foreign legion engineers and also financed the purchase of materials.
The 10-day long job, required the replacement of 3,200 beams on the
north footbridge, equal to 40 cubic metres of wood.
"Its a matter of pulling out an old board and putting the new
one straight back in," explained Sercey.
main difficulty is the large number of pins, today completely rusty,
that workers had nailed to boards half a century ago.
"We have a lot of difficulty in withdrawing them," he emphasised.
"We already broke three wrenches. Now, we directly saw the boards
with a hack saw metal saw while we wait to receive a grindstone machine."
Sappers work all day long on the bridge, slowed down in their rhythm
by the five daily trains that go through it.
priority, on a site such as this one, is the security. All men, as soon
as they pass the footbridge, are equipped with harness and snap hooks.
On the lake, two legionnaires remain permanently on a rowboat, ready
to intervene in case of a fall.
"For security reasons I don't want too soldiers on the bridge
at the same moment," insisted the platoon leader.
The platoon is therefore divided into two groups of seven legionnaires
that each take charge of a part of the bridge. The four remaining sappers
work at renovating the old classrooms of the Celebici School in which
they are billeted during the works.
"It was their idea," explained Sercey. "When we arrived,
we were deeply touched when we saw the dilapidated state of the rooms."
Nations of SFOR: France
Engineering - bridge stories