I have recently read what could be considered a primary and probably eyewitness source for the PLUTO pipelines. It was written by Major-General Sir Eustace Tickell originally in the journal of the Royal Engineers, I read it as a reprint in another magazine. Tickell was initially Director of Works and later Engineer in Chief for the British 21st Army Group.
I expected the article to be a defence of PLUTO and attempt to put the best spin on what actually happened. Though he considered DUMBO [the PLUTO lines from Dungeness to Boulougne] to be a ‘technical triumph’, he also points out that ‘it was comparatively easy, as we found in North Africa and Italy, to discharge petrol in bulk from a tanker at a badly damaged port, and that it is far quicker than the laying of sufficient pipes to give the same discharge. Moreover in mobile operations the system is more flexible.’ His conclusion was that ‘we gained very little from Pluto and Dumbo’.
It is, however, in his statements concerning the BAMBI pipelines [Isle of Wight to Cherbourg] that he makes a number of incorrect statements. He states of BAMBI that ‘as soon as mine-sweeping had been completed the laying of the Pluto [BAMBI] pipes began, but the first two leaked badly and it was not until the fourth, starting on 12 August, had been laid and tested that any petrol arrived at Cherbourg. By then tankers were discharging at the port and the Americans were piping southward, so Pluto [BAMBI] was closed down, having delivered no petrol to the Allied Forces.’
In fact the first pipe laying was not until 12th August, and not earlier as implied by Tickell. The first two pipelines failed due to problems with how they were laid rather than that they leaked badly. The first successful pipeline to be commissioned was on 18th September and not in August. BAMBI did deliver fuel to Allied Forces, although in much smaller amounts than planned, and BAMBI was closed down following the failures of the HAIS cable and HAMEL pipe on 3rd October, not because of Cherbourg being able to receive tankers in September. It is perhaps not surprising that there is so much misconception concerning PLUTO with accounts such as that from Tickell.