Learn about the Corby steelworkers and their secret project during the Second World War

Pluto
Pluto

People can learn about the vital role Corby’s steelworkers played during the Second World War at an exhibition opening today (Saturday).

The exhibition at Corby Heritage Centre looks at the Pluto story, Corby’s war preparations and a heroic dog from Stephenson Way.

Pluto, which stood for Pipe Lines Under the Ocean, was a project started by personnel working in Britain’s top secret Combined Operations Unit whose aim was to disrupt and disable enemy operations by any means possible.

The unit began looking at how to supply fuel to the Allied Forces during an invasion to take back occupied Europe almost as soon as the war had started.

Pluto was their solution for getting that fuel across the English Channel to keep vehicles used to secure victory in Europe moving.

Stewarts & Lloyds was one of Britain’s biggest steel companies at the time and inevitably became involved in the war effort.

The company was commissioned to help design and produce a pipe suitable to be laid across the English Channel from Britain to France.

The design was called the Hamel, taken from the names of the pipeline’s designers, Mr Hammick and Mr Ellis.

The steelworkers at Corby engaged in the production of the pipeline knew it only as project 99.

And while the steelworkers toiled, bombs fell on Corby homes.

An incident recorded in the Evening Telegraph on May 10, 1941, carried the headline Woman Blown Out Of Bed but the location of the strike, Corby, wasn’t reported due to a security clampdown.

Stephenson Way was the target of a German bomber trying to escape a British fighter plane by dropping bombs to lighten its load.

Luckily no-one was seriously hurt, apart from resident Mrs McConnell who was blown out of bed.

An unlikely hero of the day was Rex, a small terrier who belonged to a Mr and Mrs Kinloch.

The pet bravely leapt on their five-year-old son’s bed protecting the boy with his body.

During the war, the threat of bombing was always present at Corby’s steelworks.

A direct hit on the blast furnaces would disrupt steel supplies for the war effort, affecting shell production, the Pluto project, beach defences and raw steel used in many other industries.

Management set up a series of independent command centres in the works which would allow steel-making to continue in the event of an enemy strike.

Visitors to the exhibition can see original objects from the Second World War and objects made from original sections of the Pluto project.

The heritage centre will also screen a locally-made film about Pluto using a mixture of current and archive footage, and was written and produced by young volunteers with the guidance of Judy Caine and Paul Balmer at HD Media CIC.

The exhibition starts today and runs until Saturday, May 28.

The opening times are 1pm to 4pm Monday to Friday and 11am to 2pm on Saturdays, although it is closed on Bank Holidays.

For more information call Billy Dalziel on 01536 464284 or 07500 066319.