Operation Pluto

Operation Pluto

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Operation Pluto was a World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 operation by British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 scientists, oil companies and armed forces to construct undersea oil pipelines
Pipeline transport
Pipeline transport is the transportation of goods through a pipe. Most commonly, liquids and gases are sent, but pneumatic tubes that transport solid capsules using compressed air are also used....

 under the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 between England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. The scheme was developed by Arthur Hartley
Arthur Hartley
Arthur Clifford Hartley, CBE was a British civil engineer. Graduating with a bachelor's degree from Imperial College London, Hartley worked for the North Eastern Railway and an asphalt manufacturer before joining the Royal Flying Corps during World War I...

, chief engineer with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Allied forces on the European continent required a tremendous amount of fuel. Pipelines were considered necessary to relieve dependence on oil tankers, which could be slowed by bad weather, were susceptible to German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s, and were also needed in the Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

. Geoffrey William Lloyd, the Minister for Petroleum, met Admiral Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations
Combined Operations
Combined Operations Headquarters was a department of the British War Office set up during World War II to harass the Germans on the European continent by means of raids carried out by use of combined naval and army forces...

, whose area this was, in 1942 and then the Chairman of Anglo-Iranian. Hartley's idea of using adapted submarine telephone cable was adopted.

Development


Two types of pipeline were developed: the flexible HAIS pipe with a diameter lead core, weighing around 55 long ton
Ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

s per nautical mile
Nautical mile
The nautical mile is a unit of length that is about one minute of arc of latitude along any meridian, but is approximately one minute of arc of longitude only at the equator...

 , was essentially a development by Siemens Brothers
Carl Wilhelm Siemens
Carl Wilhelm Siemens was a German born engineer who for most of his life worked in Britain and later became a British subject.-Biography:...

, (in conjunction with the National Physical Laboratory
National Physical Laboratory, UK
The National Physical Laboratory is the national measurement standards laboratory for the United Kingdom, based at Bushy Park in Teddington, London, England. It is the largest applied physics organisation in the UK.-Description:...

) of their existing undersea telegraph cables, and known as HAIS from Hartley-Anglo-Iranian-Siemens.

The HAIS pipe was a good start but it was soon apparent that the amount of lead required to produce enough pipe was going to be prohibitively expensive and would involve stripping the lead off every church roof for a start. As a result, it as decided that an alternative would needed that made use of cheaper and more readily available materials such as mild-steel.

The second type was a less flexible steel pipe of similar diameter, developed by engineers from the Iraq Petroleum Company
Iraq Petroleum Company
The Iraq Petroleum Company , until 1929 called Turkish Petroleum Company , was an oil company jointly owned by some of the world's largest oil companies, which had virtual monopoly on all oil exploration and production in Iraq from 1925 to 1961...

 and the Burmah Oil Company, known as HAMEL from the contraction of the two chief engineers, HA Hammick and BJ Ellis. It was discovered in testing that the HAMEL pipe was best used with final sections of HAIS pipe each end. Because of the rigidity of the HAMEL pipe, a special apparatus code-named The ConunDrum was developed (Picture) to lay the pipe.

(Henry Hammick explained one day to his son that the Conundrum was short for Cone-ended drum - which described the shape of the drum perfectly. He also explained how he had realized that if you can wrap cotton around a reel you can do the same with mild-steel pipe around a large dimaeter drum and still be able to unwrap it.)

The first prototypes were tested in May 1942 (across the River Medway
River Medway
The River Medway, which is almost entirely in Kent, England, flows for from just inside the West Sussex border to the point where it enters the Thames Estuary....

), and in June in deep water across the Firth of Clyde
Firth of Clyde
The Firth of Clyde forms a large area of coastal water, sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean by the Kintyre peninsula which encloses the outer firth in Argyll and Ayrshire, Scotland. The Kilbrannan Sound is a large arm of the Firth of Clyde, separating the Kintyre Peninsula from the Isle of Arran.At...

, before going into production. Manufacturing was carried out by Siemens Brothers at Woolwich
Woolwich
Woolwich is a district in south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.Woolwich formed part of Kent until 1889 when the County of London was created...

, Henley's
William Thomas Henley
William Thomas Henley was a pioneer in the manufacture of telegraph cables. He designed and built a wire covering machine which is now in the London Science Museum....

 at North Woolwich
North Woolwich
North Woolwich is a place in the London Borough of Newham. It is located north of Woolwich proper which is on the south bank of the River Thames. The two places are linked by the Woolwich Ferry and the Woolwich foot tunnel.-History:...

, Callender's
British Insulated Callender's Cables
British Insulated Callender's Cables was a 20th century British cable manufacturer and construction company, now renamed after former subsidiary Balfour Beatty.-History:...

 at Erith
Erith
Erith is a district of southeast London on the River Thames. Erith's town centre has undergone a series of modernisations since 1961.-Pre-medieval:...

 and Standard Telephones and Cables
Standard Telephones and Cables
Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd was a British telephone, telegraph, radio, telecommunications and related equipment R&D manufacturer. During its history STC invented and developed several groundbreaking new technologies including PCM and optical fibres.The company began life in London as...

 at Greenwich
Greenwich Peninsula
Greenwich Peninsula is an area of South London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich.The peninsula is bounded on three sides by a loop of the Thames, between the Isle of Dogs and Silvertown. To the south is the rest of Greenwich, to the south-east is Charlton.The peninsula lies...

. Because of capacity limitations in the UK, some HAIS pipeline was also manufactured in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

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 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 in the pipeline at all times, even during manufacture. Also, 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-laying by stripping the interiors and building in large cylindrical steel tanks, fitting special hauling gear and suitable sheaves and guides. It was to the specialised Johnson and Phillips company that the Petroleum Warfare Department turned for special gear to handle and lay the pipe.
As the pipe could not be bent to a smaller radius than five feet; a new haul-off drum of ten-feet diameter and fleeting ring, together with roller type bow and stern gear, were produced, and the final equipment fitted to .

Full-scale production of the two-inch pipe was started on 14 August 1942, using steel from the now near defunct Corby steel works, and six weeks later, on 30 October a thirty-mile length was loaded on board under the command of Commander Treby-Heale OBE, RNR, which was to be used as a full-scale rehearsal of Operation PLUTO. This trial took place between 26 December and 30 December, the thirty-mile length being laid across the Bristol Channel
Bristol Channel
The Bristol Channel is a major inlet in the island of Great Britain, separating South Wales from Devon and Somerset in South West England. It extends from the lower estuary of the River Severn to the North Atlantic Ocean...

, in very bad and rough weather, and the shore ends being connected up at Swansea
Swansea
Swansea is a coastal city and county in Wales. Swansea is in the historic county boundaries of Glamorgan. Situated on the sandy South West Wales coast, the county area includes the Gower Peninsula and the Lliw uplands...

 and Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe is a seaside resort and civil parish on the North Devon coast, England with a small harbour, surrounded by cliffs.The parish stretches along the coast from 'The Coastguard Cottages' in Hele Bay toward the east and 4 miles along The Torrs to Lee Bay toward the west...

. Those on board to monitor the test were Mr. Hartley (Anglo-Iranian Oil), Mr. Tombs (Anglo-Iranian Oil), Mr. Colby (Iraq Petroleum), Mr. Betson (Post Office), Commander Hardy (Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

) and Mr. Whitehead OBE (Johnson and Phillips), who had designed the pipe handling equipment.

The rehearsal was a success, so much so that a three-inch (76 mm) diameter pipe rather than two was considered. This reduced the number of pipelines needed to pump the planned volume of petrol across the channel. This decision necessitated further alterations and additions to the pipeline handling gear. Two further ships were equipped with handling gear, these being HMS Sancroft
SS Empire Baffin
Empire Baffin was a 6,978 ton cargo ship which was built by Lithgows Ltd, Port Glasgow in 1941 for the Ministry of War Transport . She was commissioned in 1943 as HMS Sancroft, being converted into a cable laying ship for Operation Pluto. She was returned to the MoWT in 1946 and subsequently sold...

 and ,(later renamed as Empire Baffin and Empire Ridley reespectively) both of which could handle 100 miles (160.9 km) of three-inch (76 mm) pipe weighing approximately 6,000 tons.

The pipeline across the Bristol Channel
Bristol Channel
The Bristol Channel is a major inlet in the island of Great Britain, separating South Wales from Devon and Somerset in South West England. It extends from the lower estuary of the River Severn to the North Atlantic Ocean...

 was used to supply parts of Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

 and Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 for the next year, during which time RASC
Royal Army Service Corps
The Royal Army Service Corps was a corps of the British Army. It was responsible for land, coastal and lake transport; air despatch; supply of food, water, fuel, and general domestic stores such as clothing, furniture and stationery ; administration of...

 and RE
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

 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.

(According to HA Hammick's son, the towing trials for the Conundrums were carried out using diesel tugs to begin with as these were the most modern and therefore believed to be the most powerful. However, when it was pointed out that the nature of a steam engine was to provide maximum torque at low speed, steam tugs were then tested. These tests involved pulling against a spring balance anchored to a bollard on the quayside; the diesel tugs performed well but the steam tugs pulled the bollard out of the quay.)

Placement


After full-scale testing of a 83 km (45 nautical mile) HAIS pipe between Swansea
Swansea
Swansea is a coastal city and county in Wales. Swansea is in the historic county boundaries of Glamorgan. Situated on the sandy South West Wales coast, the county area includes the Gower Peninsula and the Lliw uplands...

 in Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 and Watermouth
Watermouth
Watermouth is a sheltered bay and hamlet between Hele Bay and Combe Martin on the North Devon coast of England. The settlement's castle, Watermouth Castle, is currently used as a theme park. Watermouth harbour is shielded by the natural breakwater of Sexton's Burrows. Watermouth Valley Camping...

 in North Devon
North Devon
North Devon is the northern part of the English county of Devon. It is also the name of a local government district in Devon. Its council is based in Barnstaple. Other towns and villages in the North Devon District include Braunton, Fremington, Ilfracombe, Instow, South Molton, Lynton and Lynmouth...

, the first line to France was laid on 12 August 1944, over the 130 km (70 nautical miles) from Shanklin Chine
Shanklin Chine
Shanklin Chine is a geological feature and tourist attraction in the town of Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight, England. A wooded coastal ravine, it contains waterfalls, trees and lush vegetation, with footpaths and walkways allowing paid access for visitors, and a heritage centre explaining its...

 on the Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, on average about 2–4 miles off the south coast of the county of Hampshire, separated from the mainland by a strait called the Solent...

 through the English Channel to Cherbourg. A further HAIS pipe and two HAMELs followed. As the fighting moved closer to Germany, 17 other lines (11 HAIS and 6 HAMEL) were laid from Dungeness to Ambleteuse
Ambleteuse
Ambleteuse is a commune in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France.-History:Ambleteuse began as a hamlet of a few huts in the middle of the dunes, from which the derisory name of “carcahuttes" was once given to its inhabitants by their neighbors at Audresselles...

 in the Pas-de-Calais.
The PLUTO Pipelines were linked to pump 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. 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 1609 km (999.8 mi) network of pipelines (constructed at night to prevent detection by aerial reconnaissance
Aerial reconnaissance
Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance that is conducted using unmanned aerial vehicles or reconnaissance aircraft. Their roles are to collect imagery intelligence, signals intelligence and measurement and signature intelligence...

) to transport fuel from ports including Liverpool
Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

 and Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

. 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 m³ (equal to a cube with 92 meter long sides or over 172 million imperial gallons) of gasoline
Gasoline
Gasoline , or petrol , is a toxic, translucent, petroleum-derived liquid that is primarily used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. Some gasolines also contain...

 had been pumped to the Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 forces in Europe by VE day
Victory in Europe Day
Victory in Europe Day commemorates 8 May 1945 , the date when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. The formal surrender of the occupying German forces in the Channel Islands was not...

, 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
Romney Marsh
Romney Marsh is a sparsely populated wetland area in the counties of Kent and East Sussex in the south-east of England. It covers about 100 mi ² .-Quotations:*“As Egypt was the gift of the Nile, this level tract .....

 to Dungeness and then across the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 to France. The route of the pipeline can be traced in various places on Romney Marsh
Romney Marsh
Romney Marsh is a sparsely populated wetland area in the counties of Kent and East Sussex in the south-east of England. It covers about 100 mi ² .-Quotations:*“As Egypt was the gift of the Nile, this level tract .....

. 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 Harbour
Mulberry harbour
A Mulberry harbour was a British type of temporary harbour developed in World War II to offload cargo on the beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy....

s that were constructed immediately after D-Day, Operation Pluto is considered one of history's greatest feats of military engineer
Military engineer
In military science, engineering refers to the practice of designing, building, maintaining and dismantling military works, including offensive, defensive and logistical structures, to shape the physical operating environment in war...

ing. The pipelines are also the forerunners of all flexible pipes used in the development of offshore oil field
Oil field
An oil field is a region with an abundance of oil wells extracting petroleum from below ground. Because the oil reservoirs typically extend over a large area, possibly several hundred kilometres across, full exploitation entails multiple wells scattered across the area...

s.

In film


In 1994, the Midland Bank
Midland Bank
Midland Bank Plc was one of the Big Four banking groups in the United Kingdom for most of the 20th century. It is now part of HSBC. The bank was founded as the Birmingham and Midland Bank in Union Street, Birmingham, England in August 1836...

 (now part of HSBC
HSBC
HSBC Holdings plc is a global banking and financial services company headquartered in Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom. it is the world's second-largest banking and financial services group and second-largest public company according to a composite measure by Forbes magazine...

) sponsored a black-and-white film which contained a remarkable amount of historical archive film showing the entire history and construction of the Pluto Project, the HAIS pipe and the Conundrum reels. It mentions the codewords Bambi, Watson, Dumbo Near, Dumbo Far and other terminal names. It shows how the HAIS pipe was constructed and increased in diameter from about 2" to the later 3" operational size. When the landing site for the invasion was switched from Calais to Normandy, the pipeline needed to be increased from its original length to around 70 miles (112.7 km), and the film tells of how the American pipeline industry became involved in producing the extra amount of HAIS pipe.

The film can be seen in a small heritage museum at Shanklin Chine
Shanklin Chine
Shanklin Chine is a geological feature and tourist attraction in the town of Shanklin, on the Isle of Wight, England. A wooded coastal ravine, it contains waterfalls, trees and lush vegetation, with footpaths and walkways allowing paid access for visitors, and a heritage centre explaining its...

 in the Isle of Wight, one of the Pluto terminals, where there are also a lot of other memorabilia, books and photographs. One of the original pumps used on the Isle of Wight is preserved in the Bembridge Heritage Centre. Brenzett Museum, Romney Marsh, houses a small permanent display related to Pluto at Dungeness.

A film entitled Operation Pluto produced by the former Ministry of Fuel and Power is held in the British Film Institute
British Film Institute
The British Film Institute is a charitable organisation established by Royal Charter to:-Cinemas:The BFI runs the BFI Southbank and IMAX theatre, both located on the south bank of the River Thames in London...

 archives. This film was part of a loop of films that was shown at the East Carlton Park steel heritage centre in Northamptonshire for many years.

Further reading

  • (N/A) (2002). "PLUTO: Pipeline under the Ocean", In: After the Battle
    After The Battle
    After the Battle is a military history magazine published quarterly in the United Kingdom by Battle of Britain International Limited.It was first published in 1973, and appears on the 15th of February, May, August and November each year...

    , 116, pages 2–27. ISSN 0306-154-X.
  • Taylor, W. Brian, (2004). "PLUTO—Pipeline under the Ocean", In: Archive: The Quarterly Journal for British Industrial and Transport History, 42, pages 48–64. ISSN 1352-7991.
  • Scott, J.D (1958). "An Essay in the History of Industry", Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  • Brooks, C. (1950). "History of, A Romance of Seventy-Five Years", Published privately.
  • Hartley,A.C.(1947). "Operation Pluto",The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, "Journal March 1947; and Proceedings 1946,Vol 154,no 4", pp 433-438

External links