A Story of Two Bridges

01/03/2010 at 15:25 | Posted in Cyrenaica | 59 Comments
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NOW

Wadi al Kuf (sometimes written as Wadi el Kouf) is a valley in the Green Mountain (Jebel Al Khdar) of Cyrenaica in eastern Libya about 180 kms east of Benghazi.  The name el Kuf most probably comes from the word Ku-huf in Arabic meaning caves, which are seen all around the valley walls.  In ancient times it had another name as Wadi e Jerreib وادي الجريب .

Wadi al Kuf Bridge at present is the largest steel cable and concrete bridge in Libya.  It connects the two mountain cities of Al Marj and Al Bayda.  The Bridge pillars rise majestically 160 meters above the Wadi al Kuf,  and can be seen from a long distance.  It was designed by the Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi and was constructed by the Italian company C.S.C. between 1965 and 1971, at a cost of 5,300,000 US Dollars.

BEFORE

The only means to cross Wadi al Kuf, at ancient times, was to walk or ride down to its bottom from east or west and coming up at its other side.  After the Italians colonized Libya, they had built a small bridge connecting both sides at the wadi bed.  Later on, this bridge was destroyed by fighting armies in Second World War.

In 1948, during the British Administration after the war and before independence of Libya, the British Army Engineers (R.E.M.E.) built a new bridge, which remains are still in existence at the wadi bed.

The pictures below show the opening ceremony by Emir Idris El Senussi (not yet King of Libya at the time).  These pictures are a courtesy of my friend M. Jean-pierre Misson, whose father, Capt. Robert Misson, a Belgian in the British army since 1941.  Capt. R. Misson was a Liaison Officer between the British Administration and the Emir Idris El Senussi, and he appears in the following pictures (1, 2, 3, 4, 8 and 11) as the civilian wearing light coloured dress and sunglasses.

 An Update (30/07/2010):

The following pictures were taken when the old bridge was erected by a member of the ” British” Royal Engineers ( who erected the bridge and not the REME ) as was noted by our friend JMR of RE in the comments below.

I thank friend JMR again for his contribution now and then.

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59 Comments »

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  1. Sir
    I am very interested in this type of image
    Can I get a copy of the electronic photos of the visit, Prince Idris to the Valley Cove in bigger size
    And any request for pictures I am in the service of Benghazi

    Thank you very much

  2. These pictures are scans of old black and white photos, and being uploaded electronically into the blog post, so I don’t think they differ from the original photos that the owner (Capt. Misson’s son) emailed me. I hope this answers your question, and thank you.

    • Dear Omar Gheriani, as you can see from the comments quite a few of my friends are interested in your site!
      I have some more photos if you are interested.
      Where abouts do you live? The 3 years that I spent in Libya – and my return in 2008 – are highlights of my life!
      Regards Ted Jones.

      • Dear Ted Jones … Thanks to you and everybody for your comments, and I’m glad of your interest in my blog.
        I would appreciate any contribution from your pictures, I live in Benghazi and my email is:
        abughilan@yahoo.com
        Happy New Year to all.

  3. I served with the Royal Engineers in Cyrenaica in 1948/49 as a Plant Fitter and was sent to Wadi al Kuf to repair the Plant used to repair the roads etc and watched the Bailey Bridges being put in position.

    I would like to point out to you that it was the Royal Engineers and not the REME.

  4. My dear James Robb, aren’t the Royal Engineers and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers the same thing? And thanks for your comment and more so for your contribution in the old bridge which served many people in Libya until the new bridge was built.

  5. Hello
    Thanks for your reply but the Royal Engineers (RE) and the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) are not the same.Just to confirm what I am saying and for your own information you should look them up on the internet.
    On reading your article it has brought back to me many happy memories of the time I was in Cyrenaica.
    I would like to say that I have a couple of very old Photographs of the Bridges and that I was the first to drive a vehicle over the Bridge running down the side of the Wadi,it was a Road Roller.

    Thanks for the Memories. JMR

  6. Thanks JMR for the info, I’ll pass this info to my friend Jean-pierre Misson from whom I obtained these pictures, and I’m really glad to know that this post brought you happy memories. I would be very glad to add your pictures to this post in an update if you allow me – you can send them by email:
    Omar Gheriani
    abughilan@yahoo.com
    However, if you don’t want to, I still appreciate your comments and correction. Thanks again.

  7. I have just completed a memoir of my time in Libya, serving with the RASC, in 1952. The picture of the bridge also brings back memories for me. I was stationed in Derna and, as one of the drivers on the emergency detail, we called ourselves ‘The Cyrenaica Cab Company,’had to cross the bridge several times on my way to Benghazi. I still remember the way it used to rumble from the tyres on the boards.
    Best wishes, Del.

    • Very interested to see these pics ,I was in Libya as a small boy and remember going over this bridge with my parents to Benghazi. I seem to remember a letter J shot into the opposite cliff just before the bridge. Am I correct or is it the imagination of a 6 year old. The dad was the NAAFI area manager based in Derna.

      • Nice to hear from you, Dick. I don’t remember a J shot into the cliff, but I guess that driving along those bends before the bridge took all of my attention. I remember the NAAFI in Tobruk, which was run by two WVS ladies, but not so much about the Derna place as I was away so much. Best regards, Del.

  8. I was the Cpl in charge of the construction of the right sir oof the bridge on the cliff face and I also done all the welding on the bridge which allowed the bridge to expand in the heat of the day. we also had a sapper watch man who lived in the cave his name was smith. wel0st a Sgt when a tipper lory went over hisside and he was Sgt. BYTNE from Cork Ireland a great pal of mine and I was in charge of the burial party in Benghazi. Has anyone got photos of his grave and the bridges 0n the cliff face there were two one a brick construction ex Sgt Paddy Vincent

  9. Great to see old photos of the bridge through the Whadi el Kuf in Libya. I was in Derna with 77coy R A S C in 1951\2.Three of our trucks joined a R E M E convoy to Tripoli,to carry thier stores,the convoy had to stop before crossing the bridge,so the officer in charge had to cheque in at the Senussi point on the other side of bridge. I recall seeing a plate fixed to the cliffside,as to the bridge builders,which was the Royal Engieers.I well remember the long journey across the desert,and stoping at the Marble Arch for a nights camp,we saw the arch in a mirage from miles away,it looked as if surrounded by a sea of water,of course all this water disapeared the closer we got to it.The R E M E coy returned to Tripoli,and our three trucks loaded up with bundles of K D uniforms,and we returned to our camp in West Barracks Derna,stopping once more at the Marble Arch for overnight camp.Very interesting trip.So I crossed the bridge just three times in all,the last time was on way to Benghazi airport to fly home for demob. Very pleasent time in Tobruck and Derna.Del Southon has made two comments in this site,he was with us in 77 coy.Great to read your comments Del. Cheers, Dvr Jack Green.

  10. Me – ex REME – and Ken Baker (ex RE 23 Squadron – who helped construct the bridge in 1948) went back to Libya in March 2008.
    I have got many photos of the Bridge from 1948 onwards but don’t know how to download them to this site, can you help?
    Like Del Southon and Jack Green, who I am in contact with, I served in Derna but I was there from Jan 1954 to Dec 1956 in 13 Armd Wksp and Station Wksp REME.
    Ken Baker is still in contact with his OC and rings him up from time to time. Ken has changed his email address but I am ringing up this evening to let him know about this site.
    I would be delighted to chat with anyone about the old days!!!
    Regards Ted Jones.
    PS. The GENTLEMEN of the Royal Engineers have always regarded themselves a bit superior to REME! To suggest that they are the same WHOOPS!!!!!

  11. When our 77coy R A S C first flew to Libya,Oct 1951,we landed in Tripoli,and stayed for two weeks,then we were flown East to Tobruck.
    We took over vehicles from a previous Coy who may have gone to Korea.
    We were billited in a building above the harbour,right on the cliff edge,so we had an incredible view across the bay to the desert going East. Almost every day we heard and saw landmines exploding on the desert across on the Eastern side. A huge floating crane was lifting the WW II sunken destroyed ships etc out of the bay,and the local arabs,with thier rickety old trucks were collecting all the war debri from the desert,and lineing up at the jetty side,from here it was shipped away somewhere. While in Tobruck we were always on standby because of the Suez Canal troubles at that time. Our short stay in Tobruck was about three weeks only,then the Coy moved West to Derna,and we were stationed in West Barracks,these were the last buildings on the Western side of Derna. At times it seemed as though we were all on some marvellous holiday,with the swimming and sunbathing every day,and exploreing the area. In all we had a very pleasant time in Libya. A new cookhouse was built in the camp,and it was opened for Xmas day 1951. Soldiers of the Devonshire regiment,and Highland light infantry came in to celebrate with us for the opening.
    Come August 1952,I was going home for demob,with other members of our Coy. We all had done our two year National Service. Good time. Jack.

    • jack,

      my father was in the RASC for his national service. I have a picture of him in a studio ‘ photo Zunni Benghazi ‘ in November 1951. his name was Cecil edward Buck ‘ Eddie ‘ and my brother seems to think that he drove Bren Gun or universal carriers. I would be very interested in what you chaps were doing out there . where you went etc.
      Many thanks
      Dave Buck.
      Devon.

    • Jack,
      Which camp was the Devonshire’s stationed at, can you recall which one it was in the few years they were in Libya.
      John.

  12. I arrived at Tobruk in September 1951, aged 12, on a corvette from Malta and was bussed to Benghazi crossing the bridge en route. I later crossed and recrossed the bridge on separate visits to Apollonia, Cyrene, Tobruk and Ras el Hilal. Many memories of a great childhood in Libya 1951-1955.

    • Mick
      I read your comments on the TACA site. I was in Benghazi 1958-61 and remember the Bridge pictured here but the thing that really got me was the submarine pend at Ras El Hilal, great fun but very eerie.

  13. i landed at tobruk in 1950 from the empire peacemaker a corvette,
    aspart of the advance party 16/5 lancers and crossed the bridge many
    times i used to hate the way it rattled,glad to see it has been upgraded.
    bob millar

  14. Welcome, Bob. For some reason I seem to remember the 16/5 Lancers being in Libya when I was there, 1951/2. Where about were you based, and when did you leave? Best regards, Del.

    • Hi Del,
      My father was a civvy in Benghazi 51-55 and the 16th5th were around at that time I recall.
      He used to refer to them, jokingly, as the 16th zift. Arabic for rubbish/dirty.
      Sad to see what’s happening there now……………
      Mick………….

    • Del,
      my father was in the RASC for his national service. I have a picture of him in a studio ‘ photo Zunni Benghazi ‘ in November 1951. his name was Cecil edward Buck ‘ Eddie ‘ and my brother seems to think that he drove Bren Gun or universal carriers. I would be very interested in what you chaps were doing out there . where you went etc.
      Many thanks
      Dave Buck.
      Devon.

      • Dave, as your father was photographed in Benghazi I guess that he was also stationed there. I was with 77 Coy, RASC based in Derna and don’t remember anyone named Buck in our unit. We went to Libya in October, 1951, because of the Suez crisis, but it didn’t come to anything on that occasion. I was in a team of four 15cwt Bedford drivers who were always on standby to go wherever, so spent quite a lot of time away from the Company, on detail to Benghazi or Tobruk. I don’t remember ever seeing any Bren Gun carriers at the various camps that I visited.

        Best regards

        Del southon

        Suffolk.

  15. Hi all,

    I am told my grandad (who is now sadly no longer with us) served in Tripoli with the REME for 3 years around the same time. I am looking to find out any information about him / his regiment and wonder whether anybody here knows of him? His name was Bryan William Mottershead born in 1930 in Cheshire.

    Any help on finding out any info is greatly appreciated!

  16. My Dad used to drink with the 16/5 Lancers and jokingly called them the Sixteenth Zift……….Arabic translation anybody?

  17. I don’t know about Arabic translation, Mick, are you sure that he didn’t say ‘Fift,’ which is the way a lot of Londoners would have pronounced ‘Fifth.? Best regards, Del.

  18. Hi, as I recall, Zift, was ‘Useless’/’Rubbish’/’Finished’, something akin to German ‘Kaput’ but although I do remember the word it is so long ago that I wouldn’t argue with a different translation!

  19. I am doing a project on the military camp Wavell Barracks Benghazi from when it was occupied
    or built and would like to know which regiments were there probably in the early 1940-1950s.

    If there are anybody that can help me name those British regiments that were there. I would be very greatful.
    you can email me John.
    whitewatercascaiding@yahoo.com.au

    • Only thing I remember is that the BMH was there

  20. Thanks Mick you were correct it was known as BMH in earlier years but when was it known as Wavell Bks. anybody that served at that camp can they give me their regiment. I have all thoses that were there from 1958-1967. does anybody know when the camp was closed and were they there at that time. I still need when the camp was opened I assume sometime in 1948. can somone fill in the gaps after that up to 1957.
    I was at that camp when my father was posted there with the 14th/20th Kings Hussars in 1962-1966

    John

  21. to ex-sargeant Paddy Vincent

    to get a photo of your old mate’s grave. type or scroll down to Libya and then his name and regiment and or just army in Google on the site called The war Graves Photograpic project and you can print his grave off or you can order a proper photo of it.

    Good luck
    John.

  22. I do not even understand how I finished up here, but I assumed this post was once good. I do not recognise who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger for those who aren’t already. Cheers!

    • Yes, a bit of a mystery how you ended up here. The site has never really been busy, just a hangout for various vet’s who knew the bridge and the area, all about nostalgia when we were all younger. Best regards.

  23. As a Royal Engineers Sapper I was posted to Benghazi in 1948, working as a driver at No4 Workshop and Plant Troop I crossed the Wadi al Kuf Bridge on many occasions in many different vehicles. I was also involved in the construction of a rest camp at Apollonia, also stationed at Biennia working with the local Arabs quarrying stone for road improvements in Derna, Cyrene and Tobruck areas until 1950

  24. Can anybody that served there in Benghazi in the 1950s tell me if Barca or Berka was the same military barracks.

    Thanks
    John.

    • barce wasthe camp on the barce plain approx. 30 miles from benghazi. bob millar1 april 1913

      • The REME Barracks (Da Osta I think) was in Berka. Mike Kiernan, ex RE will probably be the Authority on this!
        Ted Jones.

  25. There has been no word from Omar since the troubles. Does anyone know what has become of him?
    Ted Jones.

  26. The barracks in Berka was Lumsden Barracks just along the road from the AKC cinema.
    I started work in the RE drawing office in the barracks in 1954 aged 15 having been in Benghazi with my parents since 1951. We left in 1955.
    We had a holiday at the rest camp in Apollonia in 1952. I remember swimming out to the two islands and snorkelling over the underwater city.
    Mick Kiernan

    • FOR MICK KIERNAN : SHOULD YOU WISH TO GET AN AERIAL PICTURE OF THE SUBMERGED APOLLONIA,PLEASE CONTACT ME.REGARDS.

      • Jean,
        can you recall which regiments were at that camp at Lumsden while you were there from 1951-1955
        Thanks John.

  27. Can anybody correct or add to this that had served at East/West
    Barracks in Derna.

    1951-1951-26th Royal Artillery (April till Nov)
    1951-1952-48th Royal Artillery
    1951-1952-1st.Bn. Devonshires (arrived from Tripoli)
    1951-1952-77th Company Royal Armed service corps
    1952-1953-1st.Bn.East Surreys(also at Wavell Bks in 1958)
    1953-1956-Sherwood Forester (handed over to KRRC July 1957)
    1955-1956-13 Armd.Wksp & Station WKSP. REME
    1957-1957-Kings Royal Rifle Corps
    1955-1958-Station Wksp. Engineers
    1958-1959-Royal Welch Fusiliers
    1958-1963-1st Bn. Gloucestershire (left 26 Dec 1963)

    • Some amendments.
      77 Coy RASC (Royal Army Service corps)
      1953 to July 1955 Sherwood Foresters. and 13 Armd. Wksp REME
      July 1955 to 1957 1 KRRC and Station Wksp Derna REME.

  28. Can anybody correct or add to this that had served at Wavell
    Barracks Benghazi. The camp was closed 4 Feb 1968)

    1958-1958- ??????????????
    1958-1958-1st.Bn. Royal Sussex (arrived 23 Jul-Sep 1958)
    1958-1958-1st.Bn. East Surrey (arrived Nov-Dec 1958)
    1958-1960-1st.Bn. Welch Regiment (arrived 5 Dec 1958)
    1960-1961-1st.Bn. Royal Scots (detached to Tobruk and El-Adam)
    1961-1962-2nd.Royal Tanks(arrived Oct also at D’Aosta Bks)
    1962-1965-14/20 Kings Hussars(last bus lowed left Jan 1966)
    1965-1967-5th.Innskilling Dg.Gds.(‘C’Sgn.arrived first in Nov)
    1967-1967-Devon/Dorset Regt.(came protect camp in 6 day war)
    1959?-1968- 245 Signal Headquarters( Sqn was at D’Aosta Bks)

  29. Can anybody correct or add to this that had served at Barce Bks
    The camp was closed either in Nov 1957 or Jan 1958.

    194–1947-????????????
    1947-1948-1st.Kings Dgn.Gds.(handed over to 13/18 H.mAR 1948)
    1948-1957-3 Base Wrk. Shop Engineers
    1948-1950-13/18 Royal Hussars(HQ.other Sqn.at Lumsden Bks.)
    1950-1951-16/5 Lancers
    1952-1955-2nd Royal Scots Greys
    1955-1957-5th Royal Tanks(‘C’ Sgn.left Mar 1957)
    1957-1957-6th Royal Tanks( then to Homs Tripoli)
    1957-1957- camp handed to Libyan Government that year?)

  30. Can anybody correct or add to this that had served at D’Aosta Barracks. the camp was closed 4 Feb 1968

    1954-1956-3 Base Wksp. REME
    1957-1958-6th Tanks(also at Barce Bks entertained by 40 Cdo)
    1958-1958- RAOC ?
    1958-1960-1st.Bn. Welch Regiment
    1960-1961-2nd Tanks(also at Wavell Bks and camps in Tripoli)
    1961-1961-1st.Bn.Royal Highland.Fusiliers(detached from Malta)
    1961-1963-Devon/Dorset (‘C’Company to over 6 Apr 1963)
    1963-1965-Green Howards(‘A’Company to over from ‘C’)
    1967-1967-Devon/Dorset (came to secure camp 6 day war)
    1967-1967-1st.Bn.Loyal ( others at El-Adam Bks 6 day war)
    1965-1968-4th Bn.Royal Anglians ‘C’Company left 4 Feb 1968)
    1959?-1968-245 Signal Sgn.(HQ at Wavell Bks. left 4 Feb 1968)

    • 1954 to 1956 12 Armd Wksp REME were in D’aOsta Bks.

  31. Can anybody correct or add to this that had served at El-Adam Barracks. The camp closed on 28 Mar 1970.

    1958-1958-???????????
    1958-1960-1st.Bn.Welch Regt.(detached to Wavell,and D’Aosta)
    1960-1961-1st.Bn.Royal Scots(detached to Wavell and D’Aosta)
    1961-1961-1st.Bn.Prince of Wales Own Regt. of Yorks
    1961-1963-1st.Bn.Somerset Cornwall Lt.Inf.(companys rotated)
    1963-1967-10th Vehicle Company(arrived July 1963)
    1966-1966-9/12 Lancers
    1967-1967-1st.Bn.Loyals(court up in 6 day war also to El-Adam)
    1967-1967-15/19 Kings H.(court in 6 day war also to El-Adam)
    1967-1967-Innskilling Dg.Gd.( court in 6 day war to El-Adam)
    1967-1967-Devon/Dorset(came to protect camp 6 day war
    1967-1968-3rd Carabiniers(‘C’ Sqn.Dec 1967 till Sep 1968)
    1968-1969-3rd Carbibniers(‘B’ Sqn.Sep 1968 till Jun 1969)
    1969-1970-17/21 Lancers (‘B’ Sgn. 1970 till Mar 1970)
    1970-1970-3rd Bn.Parachute Regt.(came 20 Mar stayed 8 days)

  32. Can anybody correct or add to this that had served at Tobruk Barracks. The camp closed on the 31 Mar 1970.it was an italian hospital in WW2 then an army RASC Camp before the RAF took responsibility in April 1958 and took it over in Mar 1960.

    1945-1948-Royal Army Service Corps?
    1948-1950-13/18 Hussars(‘C’Sqn.was sent from Barce Bks.in July)
    1948-1948-193 Company General Transport
    1952-1952-1st.Bn.Highland Lt.Infantry( stayed 2 months)
    1952-1953-1st.Bn. East Surrey(arrived Oct 1952 left Jan 1953)
    1958-1958-1st.Bn. Argyll Sutherland H.(arrived 25 Sep 1958)
    1958-1959-1st.Bn. Blackwatch(‘B’Company came 3 Dec 1958)
    1959-1960-1st-Bn. Welch Regt.?(other Sqns at other Barracks)
    1960-1961-1st-Bn. Royal Scots (detached from Wavell Barracks)
    1961-1965-1st-Bn. Middlesex Regt.(‘A’ Company)
    1965-1967-1st-Bn. Worcestershire Regt.(detached from Gibraltar)
    1967-1968—- Bn. Royal Ulster Rifles(detached from Gibraltar)
    1968-1969-2nd Bn. Royal Irish Rangers(detached from Gibraltar)
    1969-1970-3rd Bn. Royal Regt.of Fusiliers

    • 1953 to 1957 Station Workshop Tobruk REME.

  33. Can anybody correct or add to this that served at White Barracks. not much is known about it.

    1947-1948?-2nd Bn. Kings Liverpool Regt.(arrived 19 Apr 1947)
    1948-1950- RASC Transport( sent to Tripoli soon after.

  34. Can anybody correct or add to this camp they served at. it was called Lumsden Barracks also know as Berka Bks.

    1945-1946-1st.Bn.Hampshire’s (arrived Dec 1945 left Aug 1946
    1946-1947- ????????????????
    1947-1948-1st.Bn.Kings Dgn.Gds.(only one Sqn.at the camp)
    1948-1949— Bn.13/18 Royal Hussars(‘A’Sqn.”B’Sqn.Tripoli)
    1948-1949-22nd Field Regt.Engineers(arrived from Palestine)
    1948-1949-N.Troop Royal Sighnals(arrived from Palestine)
    1952-1954-2nd Royal Scots Greys (also at Barce Barracks)
    1955-1956-12th Armed Wksp.REME
    1969-1970-Queens Dgn.Gds (‘B’Sqn.was also at Barce Bks)

  35. Can anybody correct or add to this camp called Torelli Barracks that you may have served at. this camp not much is known of it.

    1947-1948-1st.Bn. Kings Dgn. Gds.(see Barce Barracks)
    1948-1950-48 Royal Artillery (also at East/West Barracks)

  36. Gents , my father was in the RASC in 1951 stationed in Libya, I have 2 pictures of him in the studio of ‘ photZunni ‘ Benghazi. Cecil Edward Buck ‘ Eddie’. I would be really interested in what you guy’s did and got up to out there.

  37. I remember Mick Keiran – a few years older than me. I called his Dad Uncle Paddy and he and his wife took me on several trips from Benghazi to Derna. We also enjoyed our own family hols to Appolonia and regarded Wadi El Kufic a great stopping point. Yes there is J and a W marked in the cliffs above – done I believe by a Sapper with 303 rifle. Last trip my family did in 1956 was Benghazi to Tobruk, to El Alamein, to Port Said, Ismailia, Cairo and back. Just the four of us Mum, Dad, my twin sister and me all in a little Hillman imp station wagon! At the time my father was ex RE and was the Assistant District Commisioner for the Royal Engineers Cyrenaica.

  38. Hi George,
    I remember you and your family very clearly from Benghazi days. I also recall visiting your mother in Cove in 1958 when I enlisted into the Royal Engineers. I’m on facebook, so if you feel like more catching up look me up,
    Best wishes,
    Mick Kiernan…………

    • Hi Mick, I have lost your email address and don’t know how to use facebook!
      Ted Jones (ted@libya.plus.com)

  39. Here is my new email address for onlybody that can correct or add the regiments to the camps that are missing here >johnpodesta@rocketmail.com<

    Thanks
    John Podesta


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