PLUTO Pipeline: BAMBI Fuel Storage Reservoir (TOTO)

NGR:     571808 [5718080862]
Parish:   Shanklin
County:  Isle of Wight

The fuel storage reservoir was situated in Hungerberry Copse on the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom. Hungerberry Copse is a 5 hectare (14 acre) copse, situated on rising ground to the south west of the town of Shanklin and south of the main A3020 road (Victoria Road) to Newport from Shanklin. In between this road and Hungerberry Copse is a residential cul-de-sac road called Hungerberry Close, laid out on a west-east alignment. The site lies at 98 metres above sea level. To the north is Sibden Hill at 90 metres; to the south, there is an inland west-east lying cliff ranging from 150m at the east end to 175 at the west end, and to the south of this, Shanklin Down rises to 235 metres. Shanklin Chine inland entrance is at 40 metres. From the south west corner of the copse, a watercouse runs about half way along its southern boundary, before heading northwards through the copse till it reaches the northern boundary, when it runs eastwards towards the north east corner of the copse, from where it heads north eastwardly into the town of Shanklin and becomes known as The Brook. Another watercourse issues out north of the site close to the north boundary and heads eastwards to join the previously mentioned watercourse.

Hungerberry Copse rests on the Ferruginous Sands of the Lower Greensand Series; the same formations make up the cliffs from Luccombe round to Sandown and consists of alternating layers of sandy clays and sands. But the area is complicated by landslips and slumping of the overlying Gault Clay and Carstone layers.

Hungerberry Copse is situated on ground sloping down northwards from an inland west-east aligned cliff, lying to the south in a long copse called Cliff Copse. The slope runs northwards to the bottom of a shallow east-running valley, along which runs the main A3020 road (Victoria Road) from Newport to Shanklin. Immediately on the north side of the copse, a residential street called Hungerberry Copse runs on a west-east alignment the full length of the copse's northern boundary. The copse is bordered on its east side by a pasture field, which slopes gently down to the east till it reaches Westhill Road. Two pasture fields border the copse on its south side, one of which has been planted with sapling trees in order to form a small copse.

On the west side of Hungerberry Copse, the adjoining pasture slopes gently to the north and east, as does the immediate western side of the copse. Howeever, a short distance in from the western boundary, the land slopes sharply downwards on a north-south alignment, such that creates an east-facing steep slope. The land also slopes down northwards from the southern boundary but not with such pronounced steepness. It is in the south western corner of the junction of these two slopes that the tank was constructed. An aerial photograph of around 1948 (below) confirms this location, as a very rough circular area can be seen through the trees of the copse in the south west part of the copse. Aerial photographs since 1999 show solid tree cover throughout the copse and nothing can be seen now. In the years after 1945, once the camouflage netting had been removed, the area shows up as a light earthy area. The trees within the perimeter of the bund wall had had their lower branches removed to allow access to the tank and then camouflage netting was spread across the whole area, suspended from and supported by those semi-denuded trees, that had not been cut down to allow the construction of the tank. Even today, it is noticeable that there are maturer trees within the bund wall area with no lower branches.

From 1946 and c. 1948 aerial photographs, access from Hungerberry Close to the tank site is evident as a roadway running down the western boundary of the present no. 26 (known as Gilson in the 1940s) before veering south west and then south and finally reaching the north side of the bund wall.

Aerial photo taken c. 1948, showing the now uncovered storage tank in the
south west part of the copse. The copse is outlined in red. Earlier RAF aerial photos
show only tree cover in this area. The fact the tank area is visible in this later photo
shows that the camouflage layer has been removed and the tank has been dismantled,
thus revealing a large circular area of bare soil.

The upper parts of the slopes were dug away and the spoil spread out on the lower area to the north to create a level terrace in the shape of a very rough square area with rounded corners. An earthen bund wall about 1.5-2.0m high was raised on the north and east sides only, as the south and west sides, being relatively steep slopes, fulfilled the function of a bund wall already, and thus the whole area was and still is surrounded by an earth embankment of square plan. The area, thus contained within the embanked terrace, was about 38m in diameter. The tank itself was constructed on the west side of this area tucked up close to the steep western natural slope of the copse. Through calculation, it can be estimated that the tank was about 24 metres in diameter and this is confirmed from both original film footage and from measurements of almost identical WWII tanks in Cremyll, Cornwall.

A full composite view taken from the north-west corner of the bund wall, showing the arrangement
of oil tank, bund wall, steps, and installations on the north side of the wall. Larger image below. [IWM news film]

On the French side, fuel was lead to steel fuel tanks at Étréham
near to Omaha beach. These fuel tanks were hidden close to
small woods and covered in camouflage netting. On the right hand side,
a fuel tank is visible under the drawn back camouflage netting.

In the early 20th century, open earthen storage pits, sometimes lined with wood, and wooden stave tanks were the common means of storage for oil in oil-producing areas. However, open pit and wooden storage suffered from significant leakage and so concrete tanks were tried. Because of the high cost of steel during the First World War, steel storage tanks only started to be used in increasing numbers from about 1918. By the mid 1920s, riveted steel tanks, capable of containing all petroleum vapours, were becoming the norm. Typical steel tanks were constructed from a cylindrical steel shell, made up of standard-sized steel plate segments, bolted together, and were offered in a set range of capacities. However, welded steel storage tanks were developed during the 1920s with advances in arc welding technology, and were becoming prevalent in the 1940s. This type of tank had welded joints/seams between the plates and thus were more liquid and vapour tight. Steel tanks were provided with a fixed roof, but the enclosed nature of these vessels meant that problems with vacuums and with pressures from vapours occurred, that could result in explosions. To reduce this, screened vents [free vents or pressure-vacuum valves] were installed on the roof and, at a later date, tanks with a 'floating' roof were introduced, where the roof was moveable and rose and fell as the level of the liquid changed, so as to reduce the space between the liquid and the roof. Gauge/dip hatches, sample wells, and float gauges were also fitted to the roof to allow sampling and monitoring of the liquid, while roof manholes allowed access to the roof space. A spiral staircase allowed access to the roof.

A typical steel tank showing its basic structure.

A page from a company brochure showing range of tanks available.

A bundwall erected using earth in a fighting zone.

A more permenent bundwall erected in a rear zone.

A diagram from a company brochure, showing the siting of the bund wall
and giving scale of distances that the wall should be from the tank.

This fuel tank was erected close to at Étréham, after D-Day.
Here the bundwall can clearly be seen round the fuel tank.

All steel storage tanks, used for containing volatile liquids, such as hydrocarbons, were required to have a bund wall erected around the tank itself. This was a dike or embankment constructed from earth or concrete that surrounded the tank for containment purposes in the event of rupture. leakage or fire. A later technical manual describes them as "firewalls" and gives the following guidelines:
"Firewalls. All fuel storage tanks must have dikes, constructed of impervious material, which serve as firewalls (fig. 2-4), with a reservoir capacity of at least 100 percent of the tank volume plus one foot of freeboard. These walls are intended to contain fuel spilled from burst or leaking tanks, and to help prevent the spread of fire to nearby tanks and other installations. Firewalls in forward areas, and wherever possible in rear areas, should be as high as possible to minimize damage from bombs, shrapnel, and explosion shock.".

During World War Two, Hungerberry Copse was chosen as the site in which to build a holding fuel reservoir, as part of the scheme to construct and lay undersea oil pipelines to France, known as Operation Pluto. The pipeline ran under the Solent from Lepe to Thorness, and then passed Whippance Farm on its route across the Island to Hungerberry Copse. Here, it entered a 620,000 gallon oil storage tank. The pipeline then split in two, one section running to Sandown Parade and the other section continuing on down through Shanklin Chine to the pumps on Shanklin Esplanade. The owners of pitch and putt course in Rylstone Gardens believe there may also be a further fuel storage reservoir under their pitch and putt area, which is covered in a very hard concrete made with granite aggregate. There is a manhole cover, that gives access to a very deep shaft at the bottom of which they can hear running water. However, this is most likely deep level sewage works. The whole of the Isle of Wight works was codenamed Bambi, while the Hungerberry Copse feature was given the codename TOTO.

A simple diagram from the IWM film showing the workings
of the Pluto pipeline and the position of the holding tanks.

These captions (above and below) come immediately
before the IWM film footage of the Hungerberry tank.

In his much quoted (and by others, poorly acknowledged) book, Flame over Britain, Sir Donald Banks, who was Director-General of the Petroleum Warfare Department during the War, provides much detail about the whole Pluto operation.

"At Shanklin a large 620.000 gallon tank (called "Toto") was erected in a small wood on the hill, the work being carried out entirely under the umbrella of camouflage netting of nearly an acre in extent. From there the oil was gravity-fed down forking lines to two batteries of bumps installed respectively at Sandown and Shanklin, about three miles from each other.

It was part of all the plans to insure and re-insure against enemy action not only by dispersion and concealment, but by duplicating, so that if one lot of pumps was knocked out another could take its place. So two sea-lines were laid by Persephone across the bay connecting up the two stations laterally. " [Flame over Britain, Sir Donald Banks]

In Fuel for the Troops, John Sullivan writes about his experiences in 1944-45 in an engineer petroleum distribution company, directly involved in the Pluto pipeline project on the Island. He writes:

Later, after we had been there long enough to be completely vetted, we found another reason for us to come to the island. We were invited to three secret locations nearby. The first was on the south side of Victoria Road, Shanklin at Hungerberry Close and Hungerberry Copse. This was a completely covered area, where strictly enforced camouflage was maintained. The whole area was covered by stretched wire on which steel wool had been laid. That area was spray painted seasonally by greens and brown, like gorse.

The turn-ins were cement and paved. No truck was allowed to cut a 'short' corner and show that traffic was heavy there by running over the nearby dirt. In camouflage photography, the texture is important and good discipline of not cutting short on curbs, and running over vegetation must be shown to not allow tracks to be shown. That would be a dead giveaway to enemy photographic reconnaissance experts. There were petroleum tanks there, hidden by the camouflage. We were taught to duplicate their efforts as we needed to hide things.

This provides the interesting detail that to cope with the changing colour of the tree canopy, wire wool was arranged on a network of wires and this would be spray-painted an appropriate colour to match the seasonal colours of the copse.

Within the north east part of the area, there is an extant 76cm square drain, that is fed by three gutters. One is made up of ceramic gutter sections, about 5.30 metres in length that overhangs the drain pit. The other two gutters are small ditches dug in the ground. One enters through a solid iron grating, let into the west side of the drain pit, while the other on enters the drain pit over its southern edge. The drain pit is 76 cm deep and is emptied by a 22cm cast iron pipe, that leads off in a north-easterly direction towards a further discharge pipe, 7.5 metres beyond the bund wall on the north east side of the embankment. A cast iron pipe emerges into this discharge pit. The IWM film shows a collection of brick structures in this same area, which may be valve chambers. The drain area is about 1.20m lower than the main tank area, that lies on its immediate south-west and west side.

The bund wall had a flat top to allow a walkway, about 2 metres wide, round the top of it. The alignment of this bund wall is roughly square in plan, the south and west side being formed from the natural steep slope of the land. The walkway is evident on the north and east sides. In the IWM film, two men can be seen standing at the top of a set of concrete steps that straddle either side of the bundwall. At the foot of these steps on the north side, there is a large working area with materials and a works van.

About 12 metres to the north of the bund wall, there is a rectangular structure, with low 23cm wide brick walls. It is 3 metres wide and 9 metres long. It would seem that the interior was divided up into three chambers by two cross walls. The structure seems to be just visible in the IWM film footage beyond the works van.

In places, the remains of 20th century brickwork can also be found.

From original film footage and from remains of almost identical WWII tanks in Cremyll, Cornwall, the structure of the tank reservoir can be devised. It consisted of an iron storage reservoir, composed of rectangular sections of 1.2 cm thick steel plates, called staves, which were welded together to form a drum-shaped tank. Around this, a splinter-proof brick shell was raised to the height of the tank with a walkway and hand-rails round the perimeter. The roof was accessed by a spiral steel staircase. On the roof, there was a manhole to allow access to the air space above the contained liquid and several vents (either free or pressure) to manage any pressure/vacuum differential formed by evaporating/condensing vapours within the air space above the liquid. At ground level, there was a bolted clean out hatch to allow access to the main body of the tank. Inlet and outlet valves controlled the flow of oil into the tank.

(Above & below)
View from the south-east, during the construction of the outer brick splinter-proof wall.
The man on the left is standing on a berm created on the slope on the south side
of the copse and which is a continuance of the walkway of the bund wall.
The steel tank, with its conical roof, has already been erected and can be seen inside the brick wall.

A view of the north side of the tank, taken from the north-west corner of the bund wall.

A remaining protected fuel tank at Cremyll, in Cornwall, providing a good comparitive view.

At Cremyll in Cornwall, there are two storage tanks that are very similar to the one at Hungerberry Copse and therefore provide a good idea of the structure of such a tank.

View of splinter-proof tank, showing main access to interior.

The structure of the roof.

View of interior from main access door.

Close-up of the shell wall, showing the welded steel plates.

Section through wall of tank, showing splinter-proof brick wall
with thin steel layer of the tank shell on its right.

The size of the tank can be derived from a volume figure of 620,000 gallons, which is found in the book, Flame over Britain, written by Sir Donald Banks. The height of the tank can be estimated from a film, held at the IWM, showing the tank after it had been built, as about 6.8 metres. Two similar WWII tanks at Cremyll near Plymouth both measure about 6.5 metres high. So the calculation to work out the diameter of the tank will turn out as follows:

620,000 gallons [2818.6 cubic metres]

If the height of the tank is 6 metres, then the area of the circular tank will be: 2818.6 / 6 = 469.77m2
The area of a circle is πr 2. Therefore πr 2 = 469.77 m2
Therefore 469.77 m2 / 3.14 = 149.61m
Therefore r2 = 149.61m
The square root of 149.61 = r = 12.23m
Therefore the diameter of the tank is 2r = 2 x 12.23m = 24.46m


Andrews map of 1769

1793 map

Map showing area, revised between 1938 and 1942.

Map showing remains, 2015.

Schemmatic diagram showing the area and positions from which films were shot.

Hungerberry Close
There is no mention of Hungerberry Close in any of the trade directories until the 1939 Kelly's Directory, where a sole address is mentioned: "Mrs. Saunders, Brown Tiles, Hungerberry Close". It would seem then that the road, ending in a roundabout, was laid out in 1938. The Isle of Wight County Press mentions two more properties in the early 1940s: "Manora, Hungerberry Close" lived in by Mr. W. Prouten Self [Saturday, June 15, 1940] and "Gilson, Hungerberry Close" [Saturday, September 7, 1940]. The 1948 telephone directory only lists Mr. W.P. Self of Hungerberry Close as having a phone. Kelly's Directory of 1951 lists the inhabitants as follows:

From Victoria Avenue.

East side
Self Wm. P. (Manora)
Berkeley Rowland B. (Gilson)

West side
Johns Jn. (Coverack)
Wheeler Leonard G. (South Corner)
Saunders Gordon G. (Brown Tiles)

By 1957, development of this street had taken off as 20 properties are listed in the 1957 Kelly's Directory.

Flame over Britain. A Personal Narrative of Petroleum Warfare, Sir Donald Banks [Sampson Low, Marston, London. 1946]
Fuel for the Troops, John G. Sullivan. [Merriam Press, 2008.]
Oilfield Trash: Life and Labor in the Oil Patch, Bobby D. Weaver. [Texas A&M University Press, 2010]
The Aboveground Steel Storage Tank Handbook, Brian Digrado & Gregory Thorp [John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken. 2004]
Handbook Of Storage Tank Systems: Codes, Regulations, and Designs, Edited by Wayne B. Geyer. [Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York. 2000]
Tank Construction, Ernest Beck. [Emmot & Co. Ltd., Manchester & London. 1921]
PLUTO: Pipe-Line Under the Ocean - The Definitive Story. Adrain Searle. [Shanklin Chine.1995]
Popular Science, August 1945, PLUTO - The Undersea Pipe Line.
Popular Science, July 1945, Under channel Pipe Lines Fed Our Tanks.

Operation Pluto: Pathe News(24/05/1945), and Universal Newsreels.
Operation Puts Pipeline Under Channel (Unissued / Unused material from above Pathe News film. (1945)
Operation Pluto [IWM WOY 314] Imperial War Museum. Film produced by RAF Film Production Unit in 1944

Oil Tank and Refinery Equipment, Kansas City Structural Steel Company. c. 1926
Steel and Wood Tanks and Towers, W. E. Caldwell Company, 1931.
Handbook on Steel Tanks, Lancaster Iron Works, Inc., Lancaster, PA. 1930