The Museum of Policing in Cheshire
Feature Articles

Operation Move

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(5 minutes)

At 6am on Sunday the 19th of December 1971 Operation Move began to roll at last. After two years of planning, and two weeks of delay, the largest load ever moved on Britain's roads left Cammell Laird Shipyard in Birkenhead for the Shell oil refinery 17 miles away at Stanlow. Three huge fractionating towers, each 25 feet in diameter, the largest 80 feet long and weighing 212 tons, were hauled across the Cheshire roads escorted by 30 police motorcycles. Three footbridges, 200 road signs and numerous telephone and electricity wires were taken down to allow the load through.


The vessels were made in Holland and unloaded at Cammell Laird as the only place able to handle them. The move was undertaken by Wynn's of Newport, South Wales (now based in Staffordshire), a firm founded in 1863 and specialising in large, indivisible loads. However as the trailers were loaded John Wynn had to make a terrible decision. After two years of planning, with all the roads cleared for that day, he had to tell Chief Inspector Des Southwell that they couldn't go. Wynn had decided that the load was not stable enough to be absolutely safe. In the two weeks that followed he brought help from his friend Jack Stoof of Holland and together they widened the bogies from 12 feet to 20 feet to increase the stability.


At last, on the 19th December they began, John Wynn and Des Sothwell walking in front as the ponderous caravan wound its way through the Cheshire villages.



After a 2 hour delay when one high tension cable was found to be live, the load successfully reached its destination about 7pm on that dark,rainy winter night.  

Thanks to John Wynn for his memories.