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Pipeline Under the Ocean (PLUTO)

The Pipeline Under the Ocean (PLUTO) ran from Dungeness and Greatstone under the English Channel to the French coast to supply fuel to the allied D Day invasion army in the second world war.

It was the ingenious plan, amongst others, of Lord Louis Mountbatten to support troops after D-Day. The idea of PLUTO was that the required fuel would be moved across the country by pipe line to the south east coast, including Dungeness and Greatstone, and then continuing the pipe line under the channel to France.

It was felt that transporting the large amount of fuel that would be needed to service the invasion by ship would be too dangerous and vulnerable to attack from the German Air Force.

The Pipeline

Operation PLUTO formally started on 12 August 1944 more than two months after D-Day. At Romney Marsh, the main pipeline came from Walton on Thames in Surrey, where it linked from the main UK pipeline network. It ran from Appledore, across the Royal Military Canal and then followed the Lydd railtrack to the water tower at Dungeness. Here it divided into two, with one section going east to Greatstone and the other to specially constructed buildings near to the lighthouse at Dungeness.

Covering a distance of 70 miles it came across Romney Marsh and terminated in the Greatstone PLUTO 'bungalows' (see below).

The pipeline under the sea was laid from drums each containing 30 miles of 3 inch steel pipe wound on it. Known as 'conundrums'  they were over five times the height of a man, as shown in the picture. The drums were 30 feet in diameter and each drum weighed in at 250 tons and had a combined capacity to carry up to 60 nautical miles of fuel pipe. Over a million gallons a day was pumped via PLUTO to France.

To protect both the pipe line and the necessary pumping stations, all installations were disguised to prevent the Germans from identifying their proper use. Terminals and pumping stations in Dungeness and Greatstone were disguised as bungalows, gravel pits, garages and even an ice cream shop. A few new buildings were erected , but mostly existing dwellings were adapted - a total of 27 seaside bungalows and houses on Dungeness and Greatstone.

PLUTO Bungalows

There were five such installations sited in Leonard Road, Greatstone, three on the west side being used as pumping stations and two on the east side as staff quarters. From these installations the fuel was pumped the short distance across Greatstone beach and then onward to France via PLUTO.

As PLUTO pump stations, the buildings were single story and after the war they were converted for residential use, two since having  a second story built. The bungalows are still referred to today as the 'PLUTO bungalows'.

Pluto Cottage at Dungeness was a pumping station built to look like a small house. It is now a Bed and Breakfast.

PLUTO was credited as being one of the factors that helped the Allies win the war.

Further Information

For more information about PLUTO please visit the Wikipedia and Combined Operations websites. 

A fully-restored PLUTO pump is on display with the story of the PLUTO project at Bembridge Heritage Society and Centre on the Isle of Wight.

For more pictures please see our Historical Pictures: Second World War page and The Imperial War Museum pages

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PLUTO Conundrums
PLUTO Conundrum on Greatstone Beach c1944

The tanks used for storing the fuel c1944
The tanks used for storing the fuel c1944

Control position on the beach c1944
Control position on the beach c1944

PLUTO pump  houses Greatstone c1944
PLUTO pump houses Greatstone c1944

The same two PLUTO 'bungalows' in 2009

The other three PLUTO 'bungalows' in 2009
  The other three PLUTO 'bungalows' in 2009

Video Icon Video Pipeline under the Ocean


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