Cherbourg Port en Bessin
PLUTO is universally known a Pipe Line Under The Ocean, but this is not correct.
The official name is Pipeline Underwater Transport Of Oil.
Early in 1942 the head of combined operation Admiral Louis Mountbatten asked the
question "was it possible to run a pipeline across to France". It was vital to
be able to supple any army landed in France with fuel and in sufficient
quantities. The lack of fuel was a major factor in the German defeat. The plans
devised was that for the first few days fuel would be brought ashore at Port en
Bessin in Jerry cans. Jerry cans got their name from the petrol containers used
by the Germans in the dessert during 1942. They were much better than the petrol
cans used by the Allies and were quickly copied.
From D-day +15 the plan called for tankers to berth at Port en Bessin and
discharge bulk supplies into tanks constructed on the quai side.
Small tankers would berth inside the outer harbour and lager ships would anchor
1,000 yards outside the port and submerged pipelines connected to both ship and
shore. This system was called "Tombola" and these were available on D-day +9,
storage tanks being sited near the Vauban tower, the pipes coming ashore on the
western harbour wall.
This was called the minor system, the major system was brought into use when
Cherbourg was captured.
At Cherbourg the pipe line came ashore on the western harbour wall and three 6
inch pipelines went south to supply fuel to the advancing troops. These
eventually extended to Orleans some 200 miles away. The plan to lay four pipes
under the sea from the Isle of Wight went ahead using large bobbins towed behind
These pipes were not operational until three months
after D-day and the first petrol was pumped through the line on at the end of
September 1944. Unfortunately the system did not last long and it failed on the
October 3rd 1944.
The system called Bambi was abandoned as by this time L'Havre had fallen to the
Allied and could be quickly brought into use as a second petrol port.
Another set of pipes were laid between Dungeness on the south coast of England
and Boulogne near Calais. This pipe line supplied 700 tons and it continued
until the end of January 1945.
There are few signs of PLUTO in France, but in England some of the pumping
stations can still be found at .Dungeness They placed in houses and these have
now reverted to residential use. There is a short length of pipe line preserved
on the Isle of Wight.