~ COMBINED OPERATIONS ~

*   UNITED WE CONQUER   *

free usa flag gif

 

All Pages Index

Membership

Memorial

Roll of Honour

Books

FAQs

Notice Boards

Donate

They Also Served

Search

Contact Us

 400,000+ annual visits & 6 million hits to 180  webpages & 3000 photos.  News and Information at the bottom of this and every web page.

Please 'like' the Combined Operations Command Memorial on Facebook in remembrance of all who served their country.

 ~ PLUTO ~

MAKING THE PROCESSING MACHINES

By W Brian Taylor, Cumbria, England

Pipeline Under the Ocean (PLUTO) was designed to supply petrol from storage tanks in southern England to the Allied armies in France in the months following D-Day. This page chronicles one firm's involvement in the top secret project to manufacture the equipment for the production of the pipeline.

As one of the employees at David Bridge & Co Ltd (DB & Co), a heavy engineering firm located in the Castleton suburb of Rochdale, about 10 miles north east of Manchester, WW II saw us intimately involved with high-priority Government contracts. To set the DB & Co scene, one section of the firm built and supplied heavy-duty machines for the rubber processing industry -- plus the then mushrooming plastics and synthetic rubber processing firms.

Those machines covered the full range, from hydraulic splitter-presses that sliced bails of raw rubber into chunks, through the essential Banbury masticating machines, the two-roll mills, the calendering equipment, the extruders, and almost every item of specialised plant equipment required by individual rubber processing companies. The client list included all the tyre manufacturers including those requiring equipment for producing aircraft tyres for the RAF and bullet-proof tyres for the Army. Other clients included firms that produced the ebonite battery cases for the Navy's submarine fleet.

Another section of the firm supplied hydraulic presses including the special vulcanising presses used, for example, in the production of tyres, and the processing of the extra-long colliery conveyor belts. Yet another section of the company supplied most, if not all the UK's cable production firms with the whole range of plant and equipment for the production of electric cables. The range extended from fine radio wires to heavy-duty lead-covered and wire-armoured electricity distribution cables to suit both underground and undersea environments.

Inevitably, WW II saw some client firms receive bomb damage by enemy action. In many cases, DB & Co's sturdily built machines suffered little more than superficial damage so it became 'run-of-the-mill' for bomb damaged plant items to pass through the works for repair and refurbishment.

Other components passed through as replacements for items that had failed due to war-time's abnormal wear. Consequently, when an occasional 'peculiar' item for a cable-machine passed through the works, it appeared to be yet another 'spares-job' and as such, those items attracted no more than normal interest. With the advantage of hindsight, we later realised that the steady flow of 'peculiar' cable machine items had formed a series of progressive modifications to existing cable-making machines, the outcome of which led to DB & Co receiving a contract to design and supply six unusually large machines for producing a special type of armoured lead cable. As the exceptional armouring stage had 57 strands of steel wire, the machines promptly became dubbed as 'THE HEINZ JOBS'. (Photos and specification below of finished product).

Detailed specification; lead tube internal bore 3.05 ins, minimum thickness 0.175 ins coated with petroleum residue compound, two layers of 10 mm prepared tape two ins wide, one layer of bitumen prepared cotton tape 2.25 ins wide applied with slight overlap, four layers of unvarnished cold rolled mild steel strip 2 ins wide by .022 ins thick, coating of petroleum residue compound, one serving of tarred jute yarn, 57 galvanised mild steel wires each 0.192 ins and separately compounded, coating of compound, two servings of tarred jute yarn compound between layers and overall and finally a coating of whitewash. The outside diameter was about 4.5 ins, maximum bursting pressure was 4,350 lbs/sq in, weight per mile approximately 47 tons - 54.25 tons when filled with pressurised water.

Glovers Cables, located in Manchester's Trafford Park Industrial Estate took delivery of the first Heinz Job, followed later by a second machine. The remaining four being delivered to a cable firm on the Thames. We heard via the 'grape-vine' that Glovers machines produced a hollow cable -- an electrical cable minus its core of electrical conductors. We also heard that the machines produced the special cable in such unprecedented lengths that they had to pass along an overhead conveyor. The conveyor and its cable hauling units formed an unmistakable landmark that extended from the end of Glovers works and delivered the cables to either a cable-ship berthed on the Manchester Ship Canal alongside Trafford Park, or coiled the unwieldy cable alongside the canal wharf for later shipment.

Like all war-time projects, the Heinz Jobs became lost in a veil of secrecy. We gained no 'job-satisfaction', as we had no way of knowing if the specially built machines had produced a successful product or whether they had proved to be one of war-times brain-storming schemes that had failed during field tests and fallen by the wayside.

When, in June 1945, Churchill announced to the world that petrol had been supplied to the invasion forces via pipelines under the Channel, we felt certain that it must have flowed through the hollow cables made by the Heinz Jobs produced by DB & Co. But secrecy continued and our thirst for 'job satisfaction' remained unquenched. Then, in 1947 we spotted an advert that announced the showing of a 16mm sound film titled "Job No 99 -- PLUTO -- Pipe Lines Under The Ocean." The 30 minute film proved to be a spectacular example of British Engineering and left indelible impressions on my grey matter. But it also caused a twinge of disappointment. The film showed the entirely successful production and laying of STEEL pipelines across the Channel, thus providing a strong hint that the LEAD version had indeed, fallen by the wayside. In due course, the Imperial War Museum provided me with a video version of their silent film, so both the LEAD and STEEL versions have been combined as one treasured record of PLUTO. The 'lead' version's production stages include views of the cable machine in action, each view being readily recognisable as one of the six Heinz Jobs built by DB & Co.

Even way back in the late 1980s it became clear that PLUTO's fine details were very thin on the ground. That is what prompted me to put my personal recollections and the results of my research on record, otherwise future generations will find very few of PLUTO's nitty-gritty facts have survived.

Further Reading

There are around 300 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page which can be purchased on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE) whose search banner checks the shelves of thousands of book shops world-wide. Type in or copy and paste the title of your choice or use the 'keyword' box for book suggestions. There's no obligation to buy, no registration and no passwords. Click 'Books' for more information.

Issue 42 (June 2004) of the Archive Magazine (the quarterly journal for British Industrial and Transport History). An excellent account of the PLUTO story by the author of this page.

See also main PLUTO page

News & Information

 

Memorial Maintenance

We have a small band of volunteers who take turns to visit the memorial each month, particularly during the growing season, to undertake routine maintenance such as weeding keeping the stones and slabs clear of bird dropping, lichen etc. and reporting on any issues. If you live near the National Memorial Arboretum and would like to find out more, please contact us.

Remember a Veteran

You can pay a personal tribute to veterans who served in, or alongside, the Combined Operations Command in WW2 by adding their details and optional photo to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages on this website.

Read the Combined Operations prayer.

Forthcoming Events

To organisers: Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined Operations or war related event by adding it to our forthcoming events page free of charge.

To everyone else; Visit our forthcoming events page for things to see and places to visit. If you know of an event of possible interest, that is not listed, please let us know.

To notify an event click here.

To visit the webpage click here.

Facebook

Why not join the thousands who visit our Facebook page about the Combined Operations Command in appreciation of our WW2 veterans.

See the 'slide shows' of the dedication ceremony and the construction of the memorial plus the 'On this day in 194?' feature where major Combined Ops events are highlighted on their anniversary dates with links to additional information.

You are welcome to add information, photos and comment or reply to messages posted by others.

Find Books of Interest 

Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). 5% commission goes into the memorial fund.

WW2 Combined Operations Handbook

This handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

Restoration of Geoffrey Appleyard's  Memorial 

Click on the image if you'd like to contribute to the improvement of the memorial to Geoffrey Appleyard, DSO, MC and Bar, through the purchase of a limited edition print of a book about him. Geoffrey achieved so much in service with No 7 Commando, No 62 Commando, the Small Scale Raiding Force and the Second SAS Regiment. He was posted Missing in Action in July 1943, aged 26.

www.bramleywarmemorial.com/major-geoffrey-appleyard-book-now-available-for-purchase/

The Gazelle Helicopter Squadron Display Team

The Gazelle Squadron is a unique team of ex-British Military Gazelle helicopters in their original military colours and with their original military registrations. The core team includes four Gazelles, one from each service; The Royal Navy, The Royal Marines, The Army Air Corps and The Royal Air Force. A fifth Gazelle in Royal Marines colours will provide intimate support for the team. Their crest includes the Combined Operations badge. The last, and possibly, only time the badge was seen on an aircraft was in the early mid 40s. A photo of the Hurricane concerned is included in the 516 Squadron webpage.

Legasee Film Archive

As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee is looking for veterans from any conflict who would like to have their stories filmed for posterity. Films are now available on line. www.legasee.org.uk

New to Combined Ops?

Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to the subject.

About Us?

Background to the website and memorial project, and a look to the future; plus other small print stuff and website accounts etc. Click here for information.

 

Print too small or large?

Easy solution when browsing. I) PC. To increase hold down Ctrl and shift and press +. To decrease hold down Ctrl and press -. 2) MAC. To increase Command + and to decrease Command -.

 

Copyright 2000 to 2017 inclusive [www.combinedops.com]. All rights reserved.