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Gurkhas restore Sussex footbridge

The Gurkhas moved into West Sussex last week to begin the restoration of the North Stoke footbridge. The bridge was badly damaged last year by a falling oak tree, resulting in the closure of the footpath. The path runs over the old course of the River Arun, between North and South Stoke.

After being contacted by West Sussex County Council and the Amberley Society, the army decided to carry out the repairs as a training exercise, charging only for the cost of the materials.

The 70 Gurkha Field Support Squadron of 36 Engineer Regiment will be restoring the bridge to it’s original design. Leaving the foundation and support towers they will be replacing the timber decking, parapets and anchor points for the main cables.

I visited yesterday to take press photographs of the first stages of the work and was met by Sgt Man Ale and his very friendly staff. His team of about 12 people had already made short work of removing the old structure and starting the construction of the anchor points on either bank. They looked like they knew what they were doing. I’ll be going back to see the finished bridge sometime in July and will post a few more photos then.

The Gurkhas have been in the news a lot recently with their campaign for residency rights and full pensions led by Joanna Lumley. I’m very ignorant about their history but, after meeting these guys, I was interested to find out a bit more about them. There are still over 3,500 Gurkhas on active duty in the British Army, serving all over the world. There’s a good Independent article on the history of the Gurkhas here if anybody is interested.

Gurkha and veteran soldiers in West SussexRoyal Engineer veterans Major Trench (L) and Captain John Fitzmaurice (R), who helped negotiate the deal with the army, talking to Sgt Semanta Rai (SSA).

West Sussex footbridge before restoration The bridge piers left standing after the removal of the old structure.

Gurkha squadron in SussexThe 70 Gurkha Field Support Squadron on site.

Gurkha on Sussex engineering projectSgt Naresh Limbu on a support tower.

Gurkhas on Sussex footbridge projectSgt Naresh (centre) with sappers Ishwar Thapa, Bikram Malla and Kiran Shris (L-R).

Gurkha discussing West Sussex engineering projectSgt Semanta Rai with Grahame Joseph from the Amberley Society.

Tug of war Gurkhas demolishing bridge in SussexThe team removing the old anchor points. Cut it into smaller pieces guys!

Gurkha commander outside field tent in Sussex countrysideSite commander Man Ale (R) with Grahame Joseph.

North Stoke suspension bridge before restorationThe old bridge before the restoration. Photo courtesy of Charles Drakew.

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semanta - excellent work

DaveP - Hi Staff Sergeant Semanta, nice to hear from you. I see that you’ve finished the bridge, looks great from the photos.

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