Dying to Cross Shotley BridgeShot

Shotley Bridge is a quiet village in County Durham, England.

Shotley Bridge played an enormous role in Britain’s peace missions across the globe, uniting countries under one law in love and harmony. The British Empire, with its mission to tame the untamed, needed a small army in case of any resistance. For years the village of Shotley Bridge was the center of the sword making industry.

So why, you ask, is the town called Shotley Bridge, an obvious reference to projectilian weapons that fire lead and metal objects down long shafts aimed at targets, normally people, and not Swordley Bridge, as it once was. Herein lies the famous story of Shotley and its equally famous bridge, its famous devotion to swords and its equally famous devotion to manufacturing weapons of moderate destruction.

The village of Swordsley Bridge

Close your eyes and imagine you’re standing on an ancient stone bridge. You hear the birds singing their spring songs, the mountain stream bubbles and burps beneath. There are no other sounds apart from the occasional neighs of horses and gentle grunts of courting couples. No cars, no trains and no mobile phones. Silently and without noise a man dressed in a red uniform with white straps, black boots and  matching shoulder bag pulls out his sword and thrusts it deep into your kidneys. You collapse, holding the side of the bridge as your blood and life force steadily, yet gently, leaks all over you new jacket dripping on the ground eventually finding its way to the water, turning it red. As you die your hear a voice barking, “this one works, bring me another.”

Swordsley Bridge needed to keep its reputation for the empire’s greatest swordsmiths intact. In order that every sword had to be perfect and usable, the British would ‘import’ servants from the farthest corners and bring them to Swordsley Bridge so the army could test the effectiveness of their weapons. In fact the song, “Yea be lucky to get a soldier’s weapon in ya back or face,” was immensely popular across the empire, from Scotland to Chile. It was seen as an honor to test a British army sword and servants would volunteer by the chainload to get skewered.

Then one day an American from the tiny Island of Texas introduced the rifle to Britain. It may not have been as graceful as the sword but after an enormous amount of testing, so much so that the river was closed for a week while they cleared the bodies and other human detritus, the rifle was adopted and the sword discarded. The village was renamed Shotley Bridge. A plaque was attached to the bridge in memory of all those involved in testing the rifle. From then on the bridge was used for rifle, handgun, canon, machine and shotgun, flamethrower and grenade testing.

In 1911, the first tank was tested on the bridge, however the weight of the tank damaged the bridge so badly that testing on the bridge was halted until repairs were completed in 1914 just in time for World War 1 and the famous Shotley mustard-gas trials.

There is famous song every British schoolboy knows about the weapons testing on Shotley Bridge:

On Shotley Bridge shoot the foreign’r
To save the valiant Englander
On Shotley Bridge shoot the insurgent
Stop em’ being insolent
On Shotley Bridge shoot ya servant
It’s the best deterrent

(Editors note: There are another few lines but we don’t want to die, so didn’t reprint.)

Today Shotley Bridge is a sleepy little village. There are no weapons factories, no munitions stores and no Americans, who have been banned since 1972 after one Frank ‘Franklyn’ Lincoln Swell the Third tried to buy Shotley Bridge and caused a scene. According to the Shotley Beagle when “the American” was told he couldn’t buy the bridge he “made a scene in the strongest terms.”

To visit this sleepy little village with a big bang visit http://www.IGotShotOnShotleyBridge.co.uk.gov

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