Flame Barrage

The Admiralty experimented with the production of an impenetrable barrage of fire on the sea. The apparatus consisted of oil tanks spaced at 30 to 40 yards each with a 2” pipe leading out to sea. It was possible to feed a system of pipes off one barrel through a manifold.  Fuel was a mixture of boiler fuel and light distillates. With a distribution of tanks at 30 yards, the consumption of fuel was about 720 tons per mile of front per hour with continuous burning.  However continuous burning was not necessary and with a judicious use of the ignition control it was estimated 600 tons of fuel would be sufficient for 12 hours.  The method of employment was to turn on the oil as the enemy approached, two or three minutes before the boats arrived at the barrage. As the boats arrived, the oil was ignited and produced an impenetrable barrage as long as the oil was turned on.


The barrage would need to sited at suitable locations:

  • A beach with strong cross currents was unsuitable.

  • Access roads for refueling the tanks were required.

  • Elevation was needed for the tanks to produce the required static head

  • A short distance between low and high tides was desirable to reduce the length of pipe needed.


A potential risk for the defence was that the barrage produced vast quantities of thick black smoke which could hamper the defence considerably if the wind was in the wrong direction.


Commands were invited to express an interest if this flame barrage was required. The only reference in Suffolk to the flame barrage is a note in 165th Brigade War Diary replying to such a request and stating that flame barrages would be required at Bawdsey, mouth of the River Deben, mouth of the River Orwell and Felixstowe from the Ferry to Landguard Fort. These were never installed.


Right - Flame Barrage demonstration at Studland