PLUTO (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) ran through the Chine and there are still 65 yards of the pipe remaining. One of the great secret successes of the war, PLUTO was the idea of Lord Mountbatten, Britain’s Chief of Combined Operations. The project called for the highest levels of engineering prowess and ingenuity – and an abundance of endeavour, enthusiasm and energy. It needed a flair for the unorthodox and a determination to succeed against the odds.
That there were people who were both able and willing to fulfil such a formidable mixture of requirements, and turn Mountbatten’s “impossible” plan into astonishing reality, speaks volumes for the indomitable British wartime spirit.
The plan evolved into Operation PLUTO, the Pipe Line Under The Ocean. It ran, initially at least, for 70 miles along the Channel seabed from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg and on the shorter route between Dungeness in Kent and Boulogne. The Germans failed to detect it and it worked!
During the Normandy invasion in 1944, forked pipelines from the Chine and Sandown carried petrol under the Channel to Cherbourg, the first taking only ten hours to lay. The pipelines delivered 56,000 gallons a day until the Allies advanced so far that the line was transferred to Dungeness in Kent. There, a million gallons of petrol a day were piped to Boulogne and eventually as far as the Rhine.
A cross-section of the actual pipe can be seen in the Heritage Centre, together with a short film of the Story of PLUTO. The updated edition of the PLUTO book by Adrian Searle is available from the Shanklin Chine gift shop, this website and other Island outlets.
Published in paperback by Shanklin Chine and incorporating 50 illustrations. Price £7.99+ £2.51 P&P (UK only; please enquire for P&P cost to locations outside of the UK).
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