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The Pluto Pipeline

by Woodbridge Library

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Archive List > World > France

Contributed by 
Woodbridge Library
People in story: 
Mr Kenneth Barley
Location of story: 
Dover to Calais
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
08 July 2004

This story was submitted to the People's War
by Woodbridge Library on behalf of Mr Kenneth Barley and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

The Pluto Pipeline was devised by the British Government to establish a pipeline under the ocean from Dover to Calais to provide petrol for the army.

Having established this cross-channel pipeline,as the troops advanced, the pipeline had to be extended out, spreading across France, to Belgium and Holland. It tended to represent an octopus because all the lines went out,there was something like 30-40 miles of pipeline involved. It spread out like a disease acress the country. As the armys advanced the line extended more and more inland. These extensions were joined onto the main pipeline.

All these lines had to be protected as it was all underwater, in case it could be seen by German spotter planes. The pipeline had to be encased in lead to stop salt attacking the pipeline.

Previously the lead was imported from Canada and Australia in ingots. Owing to the bombing of the churches, cathedrals and mansions suffficient lead became available which was useful. They couldn't send lead from other countries because the ships were needed for armaments and troops.

Lead is not a pure metal, it contains zinc, tin, antimony copper and silver, so it had to be purified. Foreign bodies had to be extracted so it was pure to encase the Pluto pipeline. Lead can never be made 100% pure it is always 99.9% recurring. The majority of this purification work was done at a large factory in Millwall by our employees and at other factories.

I never understood why the Germans never found out about this pipeline and why it's never been talked about until very recently, when it was mentioned on a programme when they were talking about the war. The Germans must have wondered how we got our petrol.

The irony of this situation is that Hitler thought how successful the bombing of our main public buildings was. However he failed to realise that the Germans were actually contributing to our war effort, because without the lead from our bombed churches and cathedrals etc, we couldn't have run the Pluto pipeline and we couldn't have supplied our troops with the petrol they needed!

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Message 1 - PLUTO Sabotage?

Posted on: 10 October 2004 by mrdavestrange

Whilst chatting to my uncle, he revealed some interesting information that I have not heard before about PLUTO (PipeLine Under The Ocean).

My uncle was on salvage operations just after the war and was part of the team that recovered the PLUTO pipeline for salvage purposes, it contained a great deal of lead. He said that there were two types of pipe, one multi-layered that contained the lead and one that was made from steel. They had to oxy-actylene cut the steel pipe at the the previously welded joints after it had been raised and brought onboard ship.

At three of the joints they were surprised to see that something caught fire as they cut the pipe. It turned out that the flames came from wooden bungs, which must have been driven in during the construction phase by somebody to render the pipeline useless.

Officers were called and there was a visit from a special investigation team, who said they would be able to find out who was doing the work at the sabotaged points on the pipe. My uncle is quite clear about this incident and, not having seen it reported before (especially on such a high profile piece of kit), I am left wondering who was the saboteur or was it a cockup during manufacture and why has it not been reported before? If there were two PLUTO pipes, one of them could not have worked because it had been blocked in 3 places down its length.

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