PLUTO pipeline test site, Watermouth Bay, Illfracombe

In 1942 a long term trial of PLUTO (‘Pipeline Under the Ocean’) took place, with a prototype pipeline stretching from from Swansea oil refinery via the Bristol Channel to Watermouth Bay near Ilfracombe in North Devon. This 27 mile long stretch of 2-inch cable delivered 125 tons a day or 38,000 gallons a day for three weeks. The pipeline was laid by HMS Holdfast, a converted cable laying ship and a self propelled Thames barge ‘Oceanic’.

PLUTO was an new type of pipeline that was laid across the English Channel after the Allies had landed in Normandy. It enabled fuel to be pumped across the Channel for use by the thousands of vehicles used by the Allied troops in France. Fuel could be pumped directly from the UK network of pipelines, and was connected to new pipelines laid overland on the continent, following the advance of the Allied armies.

PLUTO was not the only means of supplying fuel to the Allied armies in France. In fact the pumping of fuel using PLUTO only began on 18 September 1944, which was more than three months after D-Day, and beyond the end of the Battle of Normandy. These first pipelines were laid between the Isle of Wight and Cherbourg. A second set of pipelines was laid between Dungeness and Boulogne.

AddressIlfracombe EX34 9SL, UK
CountyDevon
Location typeOther
AccessPublic Access
Site Ownership and Access Information​The general area is open to the public, but it is likely that no remains of PLUTO survive here today. If you know differently, please let us know!
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