How underwater pipelines helped defeat Hitlerism

December 26, 2022

The victory over fascism in the World War II was achieved, among other things, thanks to the second front in Normandy. Many of us read or heard about the so-called "D" day, this is a generally accepted term used to denote the day of the start of a military operation. Air and amphibious assault on the French Normandy coast was called "Overlord" and began on June 6, 1944. The plan of the second front envisaged not only the de-occupation of France, but also an operation to supply the Allied forces with fuel and lubricants. This little-known page of history will be discussed in this article.

The plan to supply fuel to the Allied troops during the de-occupation of Europe was invented by Lord Louis Mountbatten, the United Kingdom's Chief of Combined Operations, who in April 1942 put forward an idea of a pipeline under the English Channel. MP Geoffrey Lloyd took care of this project, created a consortium and invited the head of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, Sir William Fraser to implement the idea. The working group also included John Augustus Oriel, the chief chemist of the Shell Petroleum Co, who, despite his poor eyesight (practically lost due to mustard gas poisoning during World War I), made a significant contribution to the implementation of this project.

Mountbatten's proposal was supported by British engineers, including Clifford Hartley, who proposed technical solutions reducing the impact of strong currents on the stability of the underwater pipeline. In just two months, in June 1942, an experimental sample of the pipeline with a diameter of 50 mm was made from lead with layers of steel tape and heavy galvanized steel wire. This design was assigned the code name HAIS.

Less than a year later, in April 1943, another pipeline design was tested, code-named HAMEL. Unlike HAIS, it was made from steel and more flexible, reducing the risk of depressurization by underwater currents or storms.

Operation PLUTO (Pipe-Line Under The Ocean or Pipe-Line Underwater Transport of Oil) began in August 1944 and presumed supply of fuel necessary for de-occupation of Europe from Liverpool to the south-east coast of Great Britain, and then to the liberated part of France by two underwater pipeline routes.

The first route, BAMBI, ran from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg in France. Its total length was 112 km.

The second route, DUMBO, connected Dungeness and Greystone on Romney Marsh with Boulogne in France. Its total length was 48 km.

Camouflage of the ground facilities of these pipelines was interesting. To protect the pumping stations, all installations were disguised as bungalows, gravel pits, garages and even an ice cream shop. A few new buildings were erected for this task, but mostly existing ones were adapted — total of 27 structures.

After the project was implemented, more than three thousand tons of fuel were delivered through the pipelines every day. In total, at least 520 million litres of gasoline were transported by underwater pipelines by the end of World War II.

At that time, it was an unprecedented project in pipeline transport, but its implementation was more than justified and expedient, because the alternative option of fuel supply was extremely unstable — tankers filled with gasoline and oil were an easy target for German bombers, the coastline was littered with sea mines, and sending heavy vessels to refuel the Allied forces after their planned invasion would have caused chaos on the French coastline.

Today, we are facing a similar enemy in terms of ideology — fascism of the 21st century, and will definitely defeat it with the entire civilized world, but we need consolidation of efforts both in the rear and on the front. We count on sufficient supplies of weapons and materiel, and technical assistance for restoration of the power system and the whole energy industry. Victory will be with Ukraine and the free world!

Maksym Bielawski

Leading Expert, Energy Programmes

Born in 1986 in Zhytomyr oblast


Zhytomyr State Technological University (2008)

Ph.D in Technical Science (2010)

Ivano-Frankivsk National Technical University of Oil and Gas (2012)

Author of 17 patents and 100 scientific works

Work Experience:

2008 – 2011 — Operator of Gas Infrastructure Units, Controller of Gas Transmission System in Rivne Division of PJSC "Ukrtransgas"

2011 – 2017 — Leading Engineer, Deputy Head of Press-Service, Head of Public Relation Department of PJSC "Ukrtransgas"

2017 – 2018 — HR Director of PJSC "Maine Gas Pipelines of Ukraine", Advisor to the Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine

2021 — Director of Integrated Communications of NJSC "Naftogaz of Ukraine"