PLUTO pumping station, Sandown, Isle of Wight

PLUTO (Pipeline Under the Ocean) was a highly ambitious engineering project that became vital to the success of D-Day. Early on in the planning of the invasion, the requirement for large quantities of fuel to supply the advancing ground forces became a genuine concern for Allied commanders. Fuel tanker ships would be susceptible to U-Boat (German submarine) attack and were likely cause congestion at the landing sites. The solution was to lay a vast network of pipeline under the English Channel that could carry thousands of litres of fuel to Cherbourg for use by the advancing military vehicles.

The fuel itself was piped across land through a 1600km network of pipeline from areas including Liverpool and Bristol. It was piped directly to covert pumping stations across the south of England, where it was pumped at high pressure across the Channel using PLUTO. Sandown Bay was the site of sixteen of such pumps, thirteen hidden clandestinely within the disused Palmerston Fort, and three more hidden nearby, including one within a building disguised as an ice cream shop. The pipeline itself ran through the nearby Shanklin Chine.

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.

Once it began operating, PLUTO was a resounding success, with 305 tonnes of fuel pumped to France every day by January 1945, increasing to over 3,000 tonnes by that March. In total, over 172 million gallons of fuel was pumped through PLUTO over the course of the war.

AddressYaverland Road, Sandown, Isle of Wight PO36 8QA, UK
CountyIsle of Wight
Location typeOther
AccessPublic Access
Site Ownership and Access InformationThis section of seafront is open to the general public at all times. Although it was recovered and scrapped throughout 1946 to 1949, sections of PLUTO still remain on display at the small heritage museum at Shanklin Chine. One of the original pumps has been restored and is on display at its original location, now situated within the Isle of Wight Zoo, Sandown. There is an admission fee payable for both sites, which are private property.
Contact detailsSee Isle of Wight Zoo and Shanklin Chine websites.

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