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Pluto Pipe Line Routes to Cherbourg & Boulogne

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Routes for fuel line under the English Channel

Pluto pipe line routes to  Cherbourg and Boulogne under the English Channel

Operation PLUTO Routes

Code name Bambi: Isle of Wight to Cherbourg.
Code Name Dumbo: Dungeness to Ambleteuse across the Dover Strait.

In the beginning stages of planning for the WWII invasion of Normandy, it was thought that the first Allied attacks would take place across the Strait of Dover, the shortest distance across, which was 31 miles. Based on this information, calculations were made to develop a pipeline under the English Channel to supply fuel for the invading troops.

Fear that this planned location would be suspected by the Germans, the plan was changed to attack Normandy instead. The route of the initial under sea fuel lines was changed to run 70 nautical miles, from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg. This route had the code name "Bambi".1

Bambi Route to Cherbourg in Normandy

Operation Pluto with its pipeline under development, had to make adjustments for an increased distance of over twice the original estimation in order to lay a pipeline to Cherbourg (Bambi route). Later, when Boulogne had been taken by the Allies, the route across the Strait of Dover, code name "Dumbo",1 would be laid.

The first Bambi line was laid in ten hours on August 10, 1944 by the HMS Latimer, from Cherbourg, France to Sandown Bay on the Isle of Wight.2 Unfortunately the line failed and a successful line was not laid until September 22. Once operational, however, it could deliver 56,000 Imperial gallons of fuel per day.3 Two additional lines were eventually laid along the Bambi route: two HAIS cables and two HAMEL steel pipes.

Dumbo Route to Boulogne across the Strait of Dover

As the Allied troops gained territory, it became possible to lay lines across the Strait of Dover, as originally planned. It took five hours to lay a line, on this shorter route, now called Dumbo, with the first line being laid on October 10, 1944. But pumping was not begun there until October 27, because of bad weather. Eventually, 11 HAIS cables and 6 HAMEL steel pipes were laid successfully along the Bambi route.

Operation Pluto, Inland Network and Recycling Lead and Steel

By the end of Operation Pluto, a total of 280 miles of pipeline had been laid along the Bambi route to Cherbourg and 500 miles of pipeline had been laid along the the Dumbo route to Boulogne.4 Once across the English Channel, the pipeline extended into an inland network, eventually reaching Mainz, Germany. Estimates vary widely as to the actual amount of fuel carried through the pipes of Operation Pluto but all agree that it was an incredible feat of engineering. After the war, both the HAIS cable and HAMEL pipes were recovered from the English Channel and recycled for their lead and steel.



1 The popular animated Disney movies Dumbo and Bambi had come out in 1941 and 1942, respectively, and Pluto the dog, had been featured in many Disney cartoons since the '30s.

2 Adrian Searle, PLUTO, Pipe-Line Under the Ocean. Isle of Wight: Shanklin Chine, 1995. p. 58.

2 ARNOLD KRAMMER, “Operation PLUTO: A Wartime Partnership for Petroleum”, Technology and Culture, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Jul., 1992). p. 460.

4 Searle, op. Cit., p.54.