As the country commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings About Manchester takes a look at how Manchester helped on the day

One of the keys to the success of the D Day Normandy landings was the underwater pipeline (Pluto) an innovative undersea pipeline system that delivered a million gallons of fuel a day to the landing armies and Manchester played a key role in its existence.

While Napoleon had said that an army marches on it stomach, by the era of mechanised warfare, it lived on its fuel supply and for Allied officers planning the D-Day invasion, a sustainable fuel supply was to be as critical as their ammunition.

For the invasion to be successful, a reliable means of supplying fuel to the tanks and trucks that would fight the armoured battles as the armies inched across half a continent and thus was born Operation Pluto (for Pipe Line Under The Ocean).

The brainchild behind it was Mr. AC Hartley, a born problem-solver and Anglo-Iranian’s chief Engineer whose innovative proposal was, since you can’t assemble the pipe at sea, why not manufacture it in one continuous length, and deploy it rapidly off the back of a ship, in the way submarine telegraph cables had been laid.

He then approached Siemens Brothers asking them to adapt the submarine telegraph cable to high-pressure fluids carriage and together they developed the Hais (for Hartley-Anglo-Iranian-Siemens) cable: a lead pipe swathed in insulation, reinforced by steel wire, and coated in tar and yarn.

Some well known Manchester engineering firms were to contribute to the project.Mather and Platt in Newton Heath who made the high pressure pumps and electric motors which pumped the petrol across the channel.

The Renold and Coventry company in Didsbury built the chain wheels at the works of WT Glover at Trafford Park, which enabled the pipe to be laid whilst the machines to wind the oil pipe onto the drums were made in Cheadle Hulme by the Oil Well and Engineering Company.

In Bradford, Johnson and Nephew manufactured 4,700 tons of galvanized wire which was coveted for the HAIS cable.At their peak they were producing over 200 tons per day at Forge Lane.

By the end of the war, the pipeline stretched right into the heart of Germany and across Britain from the channel ports back to Liverpool and In all, delivering a total of 172,000,000 gallons by VE Day. Pumping continued through July 1945 so that all available tankers could be employed in the Far East.

The Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight Eisenhower, dubbed Operation Pluto “second in daring only to the artificial harbors project,” writing into his report that “this provided our main supplies of fuel during the Winter and Spring campaigns.”


  1. Very good Nigel. A little more local history, re Newton Heath and North East Manchester, we were not aware of.


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