Remagen Bridge (Secret Operations)
By Ian Kemp
Publisher: Ian Allan Publishing 2006 96 Pages
PDF 64 MB
Following the signing of the Entente Cordiale between Britain and France in 1904 German Kaiser Wilhelm II directed Feldmarschall Alfred Graf von Schlieffen, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, to develop a plan that would allow Germany to fight a war against both France and Russia. The resulting Schlieffen Plan called for Germany to launch a massive offensive through the Low Countries to defeat France as rapidly as possible and then shift its forces to the eastern front before Russia could complete the mobilisation of its huge army. To do so it was essential that efficient
transportation links were built across Germany from west to east. The Rhine was a formidable barrier to an invader planning to attack Germany from the west but it also restricted the movement of German troops. In the years before the outbreak of World War One General Erich Ludendorff worked to ensure the transportation infrastructure, particularly bridges across the Rhine, was in place to implement the Schlieffen Plan. Although the town of Remagen on the west bank of the Rhine was one of three sites identified for a rail bridge, construction did not begin until 1916, by which time Germany was bogged down in a war on two fronts following the failure of the Schlieffen plan in September 1914. Ironically, Russian prisoners formed part of the labour force which worked round the clock in a two-year effort to complete the bridge.
It was a formidable engineering challenge as the Rhine is more than 1,148.3ft (350m) wide at Remagen, with a fast-flowing current, and the bridge had to be high enough to allow the passage of traffic on the river. Moreover, the east bank is dominated by a steep rocky hill, the Erpeler Ley, which rises 574.15ft (175m) above the level of the river. A tunnel was dug through the Erpeler Ley while an embankment was built on the west bank of the river to carry the rail line to and from the bridge.