The bridge of Bir-Hakeim
The bridge of Bir-Hakeim, formerly bridge of Passy, is a Parisian bridge crossing the Seine between the 15th and the 16th district, whose first version dates from 1878. The Pont de Bir-Hakeim is a bridge in Paris that crosses the Seine in the luxurious district of Passy. In particular, it connects the avenue du Président-Kennedy, on the right bank of the Seine, in the district of the Muette, to the Quai Branly and de Grenelle on the left bank, in the district of Grenelle. It takes its name from the battle of Bir Hacheim, fought in North Africa during the Second World War. From 10 July 1986 it is registered in the register of historical monuments of France.
Located in the lower part of the Eiffel Tower, the first floor of the car, bicycle, and pedestrian crossing, the second floor of the subway pass with this pleasantly designed bridge was made in 1905. At that time his name was Viaduc de Passy. In 1942, the bridge was named Pont de Bir-Hakeim in the memory of the Bir-Hakeim War against the Germans and Italians in Libya.
“Bir Hakeim” means both a small water point abandoned at the edge of the Libyan Desert, about fifty kilometers from the Mediterranean and a French victory. This complicated victory was one of the first in North Africa and had a considerable impact on the morale of the French to the point that several groups of maquisards then took the name in tribute to the battle.
The Bir Hakeim bridge on two levels
The Bir-Hakeim Bridge was built in 1905 by Daydé and Pillé, under the direction of Louis Biette. Two levels, thus cross the Seine while passing on the upstream tip of the Swan Island:
At the top: for the metro, perfectly flat
In low: for cars and pedestrians, gradual descent from the right bank to the left bank.
This bridge is metallic throughout its length, except for a stone arch on the level of Swan Island and pillars on each side of the banks.
The Passy footbridge, the first bridge on the premises
For the 1878 World Fair, a first metal bridge was built on the site: the Passy footbridge.
It was finally abolished at the beginning of the 20th century, to allow the construction of the Bir-Hakeim bridge and its viaduct for the metro.
The statues of Bir Hakeim bridge
The Bir-Hakeim bridge is richly decorated with statues on:
The stone arch: you will find upstream Science and Work by Jules Coutan and downstream Electricity and Trade by Jean Antoine Injalbeert
The piles, reproduced upstream and downstream, on each passage of the arms of the Seine, a group of Gustave Michel: the Nautes and the blacksmiths riveurs
The tip of the island, the renaissance Holger Wederkinch France, donated by the Danish in 1930.
Origin of the Name
It is named after the strategic point in the Libyan Desert, called Bir Hakeim, where the Free French Forces defended a heroic defense against German troops in a battle in June 1942.
The memory of the first major victory of the Free French Forces: the battle of Bir Hakeim
The first half of 1942 was marked by the advance of the troops of General Rommel’s Afrika Corps in northern Africa. Germans and Italians progress, routing the British. However, to get to Egypt and seize the Suez Canal, they must travel through Libya.
There, in the desert, south of Tobruk, they meet the first brigade of the Free French Forces, under the command of General Koening. For 15 days, the French resist! For 15 days, they hold their position on a small hill that no vegetation covers! Enough indeed to allow the British to retreat. Between May 26 and June 11, 1942.
Finally, the night of June 10 to 11, finally, the French leave the scene by surprise, to go protect themselves. This is the first real achievement of Free France. Passage obliged for its recognition by the Allies.
The battle of Bir Hakeim
At the end of May 1942, the first brigade of the Free French Forces occupies the southern part of the British 8th Army in Libya against the German-Italian Axis forces. This position is of considerable importance since it is capable of preventing any encirclement by the South of the Allied Forces in a disorderly retreat after the defeat and Tobruk Falls, which opens the way to Cairo for German tanks.
On May 27, 1942, the position of Bir Hakeim, attacked by the Italian armored division “Ariete”, supports a fierce fight to the inside of the strong point. The enemy, repulsed, leaves forty tanks on the ground.
From the 1st to the 10th of June, the position, methodically harassed, is completely encircled by German and Italian forces, in overwhelming numerical superiority. General Rommel, commander of the enemy forces is trying to blow up this lock. At the ultimatum demanding a surrender, General Kœnig, commander of the French brigade, will answer: “We are not here to surrender.”
Despite the most violent artillery fire and aerial bombardment, the Brigade repels all assaults, does not yield an inch of ground,
The incredible audacity of a group of volunteers of the Train succeeds, at night, to make penetrate in the position a convoy of thirty trucks. On June 10, however, all water resources, food, and ammunition are on the verge of exhaustion. The garrison receives orders from the commander of the British 8th Army to retreat. During the night of the 10th to the 11th, she made her way through the enemy lines and the minefields, bringing back her wounded and the equipment still usable.
By its prolonged resistance beyond all hope and whose global repercussion was immense, the 1st Free French Brigade allowed the 8th British Army to disengage itself and find the time necessary for the recovery of the situation, in El Alamein. To the French, then under German oppression, she confirmed their faith in their destinies and in the victory. The Résistance intérieure that of Jean Moulin and Christian Pineau, joined Free France to make only one fighting France.
The Cemetery, erected on the very site of the fighting, was kept “In Memoriam”. A track leads there, marked out by Croix de Lorraine, from El Adem.
Because of its isolation, the 182 bodies that it contained were transferred to this place, where also rest the first four French soldiers fallen in Cyrenaica, on January 21, 1941, and the six dead of the operation of Koufra led by General Leclerc.