Deploying the Bridge
"Captain Kingsmill took his place on the ground to the left of this huge ungainly contraption and ordered both tanks to advance. With many a creak and a groan, the whole thing moved slowly forward." — Radio Operator in the carrier tank
The two tanks set off for the river on May 12th around 0600 hrs, with Kingsmill using a radio to guide them through the fog. When the carrier tank sank into the mud, engineers struggled for three hours to free it. They finally reached the riverbank shortly before 0930 hrs, just as the fog began to lift.
But even with a smoke screen deployed, the Germans caught sight of the activity and began firing machine guns and mortars. Kingsmill took cover in the carrier tank with the radio operator and the driver.
They stopped the tank at the river’s edge. Then the pusher tank slowly moved forward, deploying the bridge across the river. As the bridge began to move, Kingsmill ordered the carrier tank forward to keep it from getting bogged down in the soft ground. As planned, it plunged into the river and sank. The driver and Kingsmill escaped and swam back across the river. The radio operator scrambled hand-over-hand underneath the bridge to shore.
The bridge now in position, the crew of the pusher tank blew the explosives to disengage the tank from the bridge and the near end of the bridge fell to the ground with an enormous crash. Finally, at about 1000 hrs Kingsmill radioed his Commanding Officer to report that the Plymouth Bridge was deployed and ready for use.