PETER BAILEY - Newhaven’s swing bridge in action

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T his photograph of Newhaven Swing Bridge with a ship passing through, was taken around 1961 from the top of the ‘Sheerlegs’, a tripod crane 105ft high.

The crane was positioned on the eastern side of the river between the marine workshops and the carpenter’s shop.

Erected in 1881, it was felled for scrap at 5.30am on August 5, 1965.

The bridge was first used in 1867 and remained in operation until 1974, when it was replaced by the present one. It was the bridge that carried the gas supply pipe for the town described in the last article.

It was opened and closed manually using a capstan operated by eight men. Some parts of this mechanism are to be found in the Newhaven museum from whence this photo came.

The ship is the MV Celtic. Her story started in 1903 in the Netherlands where she was built as a sailing barge. She worked as a trader around the Kent and Essex coast, but this dull existence was not to last.

In 1941 life took a sharp turn when she was requisitioned for the war. She had a diesel engine fitted and then, like many other craft of her size, she was adapted to serve as a barrage balloon base.

She was stationed in Portsmouth and would have had a large balloon tethered to her with metal cables. This helped defend the port by preventing low flying aircraft attack.

In December, 1942, MV Celtic served as the headquarters for Operation Frankton. Admiral Louis Mountbatten, the Commander of the Combined Operations, deemed this to be ‘’the most courageous and imaginative of all raids ever carried out by the men of Combined Operations’’.

This operation was immortalised in the film ‘The Cockleshell Heroes’ and famously involved a raid by six canoe-borne British commandoes on shipping in Bordeaux Harbour.

Here, we see the MV Celtic back in more familiar guise. She was on her way through Newhaven Bridge to Asham to collect yet another cargo of cement bound for the Isle of Wight. Her trips to Newhaven ceased in 1967 when the Asham Cement Works closed.