Collapse of bridge, Angers, France

ANGERS – Catastrophe de la Basse-Chaine (10 April 1850)
225 soldats du 11e Léger furent noyés á la suite de la rupture du Pont
Publisher: A. Bruel, Angers

Angers Bridge, also called the Basse-Chaîne Bridge, was a suspension bridge over the Maine River in Angers, France. It was designed by Joseph Chaley and Bordillon, and built between 1836 and 1839. The bridge collapsed on 16 April 1850, while a battalion of French soldiers was marching across it, killing over 200 of them. The bridge spanned 102 m (335 ft), with two wire cables carrying a deck 7.2 m (24 ft) wide. Its towers consisted of cast iron columns 5.47 m (17.9 ft) tall.

Soldiers stationed in the region frequently used the bridge, and two battalions of the same regiment had crossed earlier that day. The third battalion arrived during a powerful thunderstorm when the wind was making the bridge oscillate. When the soldiers began to cross, their bodies acted as sails, further catching the wind. Survivors reported that they had been walking as if drunk and could barely keep themselves from falling, first to one side and then to the other. As usual in crossing that bridge, the soldiers had been ordered to break step and to space themselves farther apart than normal. However, their efforts to match the swaying and keep their balance may have caused them to involuntarily march with the same cadence, causing resonance. In any case, the oscillation increased. At a time when the bridge was covered with 483 soldiers and four other people (though the police had prevented many curiosity seekers from joining the march), the upstream anchoring cable on the right bank broke in its concrete mooring, three to four meters underground, with a noise like “a badly done volley from a firing squad”. The adjacent downstream cable broke a second later, and the right-bank end of the deck fell, making the deck slope very steeply and throwing soldiers into the river. Many of those who fell were saved by their fellow soldiers who had not yet crossed and by residents of Angers who came to the rescue, but a total of 226 people died.

The Basse-Chaine Bridge, known as the Angers Bridge, collapsed into the River Mayenne, in western France, just after 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 16th, 1850, killing over 200 and injuring many more.

The suspension road bridge, designed by Joseph Chaley, was authorised in 1835 and built between 1836 and 1839. At the time there was quite a fashion for building suspension bridges in France, but following the Angers disaster, the building of such bridges was halted for over 20 years. On that morning the bridge was being used heavily as there was a military camp nearby. A squadron of hussars had barely cleared the bridge, when the head of the 11th battalion appeared on the other side. The Colonel in charge, Simonet, reported afterwards that he shouted a warning to the men to break into sections as they crossed and for the band to cease playing, but a fierce storm was raging and his words were carried away by the wind. He reported that to do so was usual procedure, but no written order was given. The drummers and some of the band had safely crossed over when, with a terrible crash, the cast iron column on the right bank gave way, crushing those waiting to file onto the bridge. The 102 metre long deck of the bridge then fell, in one piece, into the river taking with it 483 military personnel and 4 civilians – a maid and three children. A plaque erected on the bridge in 1900 commemorates the 223 who died, including the children and their maid.

Repairs had taken place on the bridge the previous year, 1849, as it had been heavily used during the construction of a stone bridge nearby. However, the commission of enquiry formed on April 20th, found that the combination of three factors had caused the disaster – the storm, described at the time as a hurricane, which caused the bridge to sway, the resonating effect of soldiers marching in step and rusted cables. The wire strands of the cables had separated from the concrete moorings, allowing water to penetrate and cause rusting. One cable snapped.
Bridges of Dublin

Image of Pont de la Basse-Chaîne (from Wikimedia Commons)


The following letter from Lieutenant-colonel Simonet, of the same regiment gives a short hut affecting account of the disaster. It is curious that the same officer should be the survivor of the terrible catastrophe which occurred at the battle of Leipsic, when Paniatowski and so many others were drowned in the Elster :—

“Before entering the faubouig of Angers, an aide-de-camp of Gen. Duzer came to me with an order to enter the town by the suspension-bridge, and to draw up my men on the Place d l’Arademie, where he proposBed to review them. I had scarcely resumed my march by column in sections, when the weather, which had been before very fine, suddenly changed to a perfect tempest; a furious wind, and pouring rain. It was then half-past eleven. It was under these gloomy -auspices that I entered on the fatal bridge, after having stopped the band, and broke the regularity of the step, as is usual in such cases. The wind was so high that the floor of the bridge rose and fell from it so much that I had difficulty in keeping my seat on my horse. Scarcely had the section of the advanced guard, the pioneers, and the greater part of the band reached the opposite bank of the river, when suddenly a horrible crash was heard, and the floor of the bridge gave way under our feet. With the exception of the head of the column and the two rear sections, all the rest of the battalion followed the movement on the bridge, and fell into the water. Ah, what a spectacle. Never was there a more heartrending one. My poor mare turned over, left me in the water, and then, suddenly rising, nearly crushed me. I rose and endeavoured to catch her, but Captain Desmarest, my adjutant-major, who was marching behind me, and to whom I owe my life, seizing me by the arm, drew me forcibly lo the left side of the bridge (the water then up to my armpits); then, assisted by some soldiers, I was lifted into a small boat, when one of the inhabitants, an old soldier, received me in his arms in a fainting state. From thence I got into a washerwoman’s boat, and then gained the shore. I was saved, but too earnestly occupied with the fate of my children, my friends, and my comrades, to think of accepting the assistance which was eagerly offered me by the inhabitants and the officers of the garrison.”

A letter from Angers says:—
“The lieutenant colonel, an old officer of the Empire, assisted by the adjutant and some of the men, escaped with his life; but although seriously wounded and bruised he would not quit the spot, but remained to watch over the rescue of his companions in arms. It is impossible to describe his solicitude and his coolness in the midst of ihe frightful scenes by which he was surrounded. The inhabitants of the town warmly seconded the exertions of the officers, who forgot themselves to go to the assistance of their soldiers. A grand musical congress was to have place next week at Angers, but in consequence of this catastrophe the committee have decided that it shall not take place.”

The following additional particulars of this terrible catastrophe, are from the Precurseur of Angers, published on the subsequent day:—

“Every one on the spot vied with each other in rendering assistance, and as the soldiers were got out they were led into the houses adjoining, and every, assistance given. A young lieutenant of the 11th (M. Loup) rendered himself conspicuous for his heroic exertions; and a young workwoman, at the imminent danger of her life, jumped into the water, and saved the life of an officer who was sinking. It is impossible for us at this moment to estimate the number of lives that have been lost; of those who escaped with their lives there is scarcely one but has received wounds from the bayonets of his comrades. Several acts of devotion deserve to be mentioned. Several soldiers who had reached the shore unhurt, immediately stripped and swam to the assistance of Ins comrades.

“Ten o’clock -— The muster-roll has just been called over. Of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd companies there only remain 14, 16, and 19 men respectively. The number deficient amounts to 219, to which must be added 33 dead, and 30 wounded in the hospital, making the total loss to the battalion 282. There is reason, however, to hope that there may yet be some in private houses which may not be included in the number of those whose fate has been known.

“Two  o’clock. —- The number of bodies found up to this time amounts to 123. The names of the officers killed or drowned, as yet ascertained, are Capt. Dore, Lieut. Cottez, Sub-lient PorteDrapeau Carette, and Sub-lieuts. Forgues and Lebreck. It appears that some people belonging to the town were walking on the bridge at the time of the accident, for among the bodies found are those of a servant and two children.

THE FUNERAL.-The President of the Republic reached Angers on Thursday night. The list of the dead was, at his request, given him. He passed the whole of Friday morning in visiting the hospital where the wounded are taken care of. He was accompanied by the minister of war and the general officer commanding the department of the Maine and Loire. Several of the survivors are in a state which leaves little hope of their recovery. The orderly officers of the President have also visited the private houses where the wounded took refuge. The greatest attentions are paid to the unfortunate survivors. The funerals of the unhappy victims took place at one o’clock on Thursday, in the church of Angers; the orderly officers, the civil and military authorities filled the church and its approaches. All the shops were closed, and the town wore an appearance of deep sorrow. The usual military honours were paid as the dead were laid in their graves.
The Hobart Town Advertiser, 13 August 1850

Pontoon Bridge, Nowshera, Pakistan

Pontoon Bridge — Nowshera
Publisher: Moorli Dhur & Sons

Google Street View (location).

Nowshera, or Nowshahra, a town and cantonment in Peshawar district of the North-West Frontier Province of India, situated on the right bank of the Kabul river 27 m. E. of Peshawar. Pop. (1901) 9518. It is the headquarters of a brigade in the 1st division of the northern army, and also the junction for the frontier railway that runs to the station of Mardan and continues to Dargai and Malakand on the route to Chitral.
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911

The Kābul river is crossed by a permanent bridge of boats, whence roads lead to Mardān and Chārsadda. The iron road and railway bridge across the river was opened on December 1, 1903.
“Imperial Gazetteer of India”, vol. 18, 1908

The Gorge, Victoria, Canada

The Gorge, Victoria, B.C.
Postmarked 1908
Publisher: Valentine & Sons, Montreal & Toronto

Google Street View (approximate).

The body of water known simply as “The Gorge” to Victoria locals is a narrow tidal inlet that connects Victoria Harbour to Portage Inlet. The Gorge Waterway is defined as the inlet between Craigflower Bridge and the Selkirk trestle. The Gorge has a rich history as an important spiritual place and food-gathering area for First Nations, and as a recreation area for Victoria residents.
Capital Regional District

The current Gorge Bridge connecting Saanich and Esquimalt along Tillicum Road was built in 1967, but that crossing had been used by First Nations for long before that. The first Gorge Bridge was constructed in 1848 by Roderick Finlayson, and consisted of five large Douglas fir logs laid across the narrows. Six other bridges followed, with the current version completed in 1967.
Interpretive sign captures history of Gorge Bridge (Victoria News)

The Gorge Bridge crosses “the Gorge”, the narrowest section of the 10-kilometre-long Gorge Waterway. The Gorge was the geographical centre of many attractionsand activities found along the Gorge Waterway during its historical heyday from 1880 to 1930 – a time when the waterway was renowned as one of Victoria’s main scenic attractions.” .  .  . To the east of the bridge there once were posh waterside mansions, bathhouse facilities for swimming and competition, the finish line for the Three Mile Swim, and dangerous high-diving towers. Steam-powered launches once cruised up the waterway from Victoria carrying tourists to view the “reversing falls”, visit Esquimalt’s Gorge Amusement Park, and enjoy the two waterside taverns.  .  .  . To the west of the bridge, day-trippers from town enjoyed the Gorge Amusement Park (now Esquimalt Gorge Park) that opened in 1905 with rollercoaster rides, outdoor dances, variety shows and the ever-popular Japanese Tea Garden. . . . To reduce the steep approach, the fifth bridge was built at a greater height and was made five feet wider. The bridge officially opened July 6, 1899, and remained in service for 34 years.
Gorge Bridge, The Geographic Centre of the Gorgea

Pont de la Boucle, Lyon, France

LYON. — Le Pont de la Boucle
Publisher: Neurdein Studio

Google Street View.

In 1862, the Marshal de Castellane was a bridge made of boats connecting the Grand Camp to Sathonay-Camp. This bridge was replaced by a metal bridge in 1874. In 1899, also a new bridge-type metal, the bridge was considered an unusual figure in Lyon because it consisted of two major airlines’ arches, resting on two intermediate replacement batteries as the Bridge Loop, due to the large curve of the Rhone against the “balmes Caluire.” It was 280 meters long with a small width (10.80 m) to only 5.40 meters carriageway, flanked by two streets of 2.70 m (8 ft 10 in). This caused its narrow loss. It held a limited volume of 7.5 tonnes, which was very inadequate for the needs of traffic.

Construction of the bridge (cropped, from Wikimedia Commons).

The Pont Winston Churchill is a three span prestressed concrete box girder bridge that was built in 1982. It’s the latest in a series of bridges built at this location, which included the Pont Marshal de Castellane that was built in 1862 by lashing boats together. You can still see the piles from the previous bridge in front of the pier in the photo [on the web site]
Bridge of the Week

On the bridge, (edited, from Wikimedia Commons).

Bridge of Rocks, Boursault, France

BOURSAULT.- La Grotto due Château
Note on back dated 1918

Google Street View

Pont de Roches : construit dans la seconde moitié du xixe siècle en pierres assemblées, reliant Boursault à Vauciennes, il est maintenant fermé à la circulation.
[Bridge of Rock: built in the second half ot the 19th century in assembled stones, connecting Boursault to Vauciennes,it is now closed to traffic]

Huonville, Australia

Huonville, Tasmania 1910.
Publisher: McVilly & Little

Google Street View.

Huonville is a town on the Huon River, in the south-east of Tasmania, Australia. It is the seat of the Huon Valley Council area and lies 38 km south of Hobart on the Huon Highway. . . . The first Europeans to set eyes on the Huon River were the crew commanded by Admiral Bruni d’Entrecasteaux. The river was named by him in honour of his second in command, Captain Huon de Kermadec. The name is preserved today in many features: the town, the river, the district and so on. The first European settlers were William and Thomas Walton in 1840. Huonville was not originally intended as the site of a town. Nearby Ranelagh was laid out as the town of Victoria in colonial days. Huonville grew around the bridge crossing the Huon River and hotels at the bridge. It was officially declared a town in 1891.

Huonville is a centre for the Huon District which services the local timber, paper mill and fruit growing industries as well as tourism. It is the gateway to the beautiful Huon Valley. It was the apple orchards of the valley that gave Tasmania the name ‘The Apple Isle’ in the 1960s. . . The Huon River and the nearby D’Entrecasteaux Channel are popular fishing and boating areas. The Channel is sheltered from the wrath of the Southern Ocean by the bulk of Bruny Island to the east. The drive from Huonville to D’Entrecasteaux Channel via Cygnet is particulary scenic; the still waters of the river offer spectacular photo opportunities. . . . Huonville was not originally intended as the site of a town. Nearby Ranelagh was laid out as the town of Victoria in colonial days. Huonville grew around the bridge crossing the Huon River and hotels at the bridge. Today the Huon Valley is best known as one of Tasmania’s primary apple growing areas. Once enormous in its extent, the significance of the industry has declined steadily since the 1950s and today cherries and fish farming are the rising commercial stars of the district. Tourism is an important part of Huonville and the surrounding Huon Valley. The area is renowned for its scenic beauty and history as one of Australia s biggest apple producers.
Our Tasmania

Huonville, 2016 More photos

Since the land on which Huonville is now located was originally privately owned the early buildings in the town were built along Glen Road and past Ironstone Creek. The construction of the bridge in 1876 (it cost £4400 and was a toll bridge charging 2 pence for walkers and 6 pence for horses) ensured that a town would eventually grow up where the road crossed the river. In the early days the ‘town’ was nothing more than the Picnic Hotel and a shop or two along the river. The Picnic Hotel was burnt down and subsequently rebuilt as the Grand Hotel which still stands near the bridge. It wasn’t until 1889 that the town became known as Huonville.

The first bridge was timber with blackwood arches and had a lift span on the northwest end to let sailing ships through. Unfortunately the animals which were driven across the bridge tended to leave dirt and the lift span was notorious for not working properly. The original bridge was eventually replaced in 1926 and in 1959 the present steel and concrete structure was completed.
Sydney Morning Herald (requires login)

(From Our Huon Reporter.) HUONVILLE, March 23.
The most disastrous fire that has ever occurred in the Huon broke out in the early hours of this morning, and in a very short space of time accounted for damage in the neighbourhood of £2,000. The fine business premises of Messrs S Marchi and Co of Huonville, comprising two spacious stores and a dwelling house have been completely gutted and their contents destroyed. About 4.30 this morning Trooper Turn-bull who lives almost immediately opposite the destroyed property, was awakened by a loud report, followed instantly by another. He jumped out of bed and looked out of the window. Just then he heard another explosion, and saw a quantity of smoke coming from the direction of Messrs. Marsh and Co acetylene gas generator, which was situated about 18ft, from the main store. It would be about five minutes from the time he heard the first explosion until the last one occurred. The concussion from the third explosion broke the pane of glass in the window through which he was looking.

The first explosion was the loudest of all and was heard miles away. As the trooper hurriedly dressed himself he could hear people calling out “Fire”, and, leaning out of the window he could see flames coming out of the centre of the main store. As he was leaving the house he met Mr Alex Robertson, baker to Marsh and Co., who informed him that he had discovered the premises to be on fire. By this time a number of residents had appeared on the scene, half-dressed, and were work-ing hard saving all they could in the adjoining outbuildings as well as playing water on the Picnic Hotel and on buildings which adjoined the property of the company. It was not more than an hour from the time the fire was discovered until the complete collapse of the whole block of buildings, and through the totally inadequate supply of water it was impossible to save anything from them, although there were scores of indefatigable workers on the spot.
The Mercury, 24 March 1916

Rouen, France

ROUEN. — Vue prize du Pont Transbordeur. — View taken from the transporting-bridge.
Date on back 1918
Publisher: Édouard Crété

Google Street View.

Transporter bridge destroyed 1940.

ROUEN. – Pont Corneille 

Google Street View.

Via Google Translate:
The bridge is made up of two flights of three arches that span the river. At the tip of Île Lacroix, in the middle of the bridge, a platform has been created. A lighthouse 15 meters high is initially envisaged there, then the obelisk of Louqsor, and finally a column commemorating the capture of the Trocadero . Finally, in 1834, a bronze statue of Corneille by Pierre-Jean David d’Angers was installed. Called “Pont de Pierre” during its construction, it took on several names over time: the “Pont Circonflexe” (because of its shape), the “Pont d’Angoulême”, the “Pont d’Orléans” in 1830 before becoming the “Pont Corneille” in 1848.

The 9 June 1940, the French Engineers destroyed it when the German army entered the city. . . . Rebuilt as the “Pierre-Corneille bridge”, the work of art was inaugurated onJuly 19, 1952

Kapellbrucke, Lucerne, Switzerland

LUZERN – Kapellbrücke
Postmarked 1902

Google Street View.

The Kapellbrücke (literally, Chapel Bridge) is a covered wooden footbridge spanning the river Reuss diagonally in the city of Lucerne in central Switzerland. Named after the nearby St. Peter’s Chapel, the bridge is unique in containing a number of interior paintings dating back to the 17th century, although many of them were destroyed along with a larger part of the centuries-old bridge in a 1993 fire. Subsequently restored, the Kapellbrücke is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, as well as the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge. It serves as the city’s symbol and as one of Switzerland’s main tourist attractions.

Part of the bridge complex is the octagonal 34.5 m (113 ft) tall (from ground) Wasserturm, which translates to “water tower,” in the sense of ‘tower standing in the water.’ The tower pre-dated the bridge by about 30 years.

Lucerne is especially well-known for its wooden bridges. Today, the Chapel Bridge runs from the New Town on the southern bank of the Reuss to the Rathausquai in the medieval Old Town, zigzagging as it passes the impressive Water Tower. Lucerne’s landmark is considered to be Europe’s oldest covered bridge. It was built in 1332 and was originally a part of the city fortifications. The pictorial panels, which were incorporated in the 17th century, contain scenes of Swiss history as well as the Lucerne’s history, including the biographies of the city’s patron saints, St. Leodegar and St. Maurice. Lucerne’s water tower is a powerful yet attractive construction. This octagonal tower – over 34 meters high (111.5 ft.) – was built around 1300 as part of the city wall and used as an archive, treasury, prison and torture chamber.
Switerland Tourism

On back:
Luzern. Inneres der Kapellbrücke.
Publisher: Emil Goetz, Luzern

Bridge in 1996 (photo by me).