The History of Kent
Copyright Kent Past 2010
Operation Pluto (Pipe-
The scheme was developed by Arthur Hartley, chief engineer with the Anglo-
Two types of pipeline were developed: the flexible 'HAIS' (Hartley-
The first prototypes were tested, across the River Medway, in May 1942 and in deep water across the Firth of Clyde, a month later, before going into production. Due to capacity limitations in the UK, some 'HAIS' pipeline, was manufactured in the United States.
In June 1942 the Post Office cable ship, Iris, laid lengths of both Siemens' and Henleys' cable in the Clyde. Both pipelines were completely successful and the Pipeline Under the Ocean, PLUTO, was formally brought into the plans for the invasion of Europe. The project was deemed 'strategically important, tactically adventurous, and, from the industrial point of view, strenuous'.
The Clyde trials showed that it was necessary to maintain an internal pressure of about 7 bar (100 pounds/in') in the pipeline at all times, even during manufacture. In addition, existing cable ships were not large enough, nor were their loading and laying gear sufficiently powerful and robust. Consequently, a number of merchant ships were converted to pipe-
The rehearsal was a success, so much so that a three-
The pipeline across the Bristol Channel was used to supply parts of Devon and Cornwall for the next year, during which time RASC and RE army personnel were trained to petrol pumping equipment in readiness for the invasion of Europe. Johnson and Phillips were asked to provide storage sites in the East India and Surrey Commercial Docks. These sites were obtained and equipped with tubular steel bridges with overhead hauling gear erected in such a position that the pipe could be taken from a ship's tanks.
The PLUTO Pipelines were linked to pumping stations on the English coast, housed in various inconspicuous buildings including cottages and garages. Though uninhabited, these were intended to cloak the real purpose of the buildings. The Pluto Cottage at Dungeness, a pumping station built to look like a small house, is now a Bed and Breakfast. In England, the PLUTO pipelines were supplied by a 1,609 km (1,000 mile) network of pipelines (constructed at night to prevent detection by aerial reconnaissance) to transport fuel from ports including Liverpool and Bristol. In Europe, the pipelines were extended as the troops moved forward and eventually reached as far as the Rhine.
In January 1945, 305 tonnes (300 long tons) of fuel was pumped to France per day, which increased tenfold to 3,048 tonnes (3,000 long tons) per day in March, and eventually to 4,000 tons (almost 1,000,000 Imperial gallons) per day. In total, over 781 000 m2 (equal to a cube with 92 meter long sides or over 172 million imperial gallons) of petrol had been pumped to the Allied forces in Europe by VE day, providing a critical supply of fuel until a more permanent arrangement was made, although the pipeline remained in operation for some time after.
Dumbo was the codename given to the pipeline that ran across Romney Marsh to Dungeness and then across the English Channel to France. The route of the pipeline can be traced in various places on Romney Marsh. Where the pipeline crossed water drainage ditches, it ran above ground in a concrete case. Several of these can still be found. Along with the Mulberry Harbours that were constructed immediately after D-
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