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The Papers of Sir William Hawthorne

Title Dracones
Reference HATN 4
Covering Dates 1957–1970
Content and context

The Dracone project was born at the end of November 1956. Because of the Suez crisis, petrol was rationed as there were not enough tankers to keep up normal supplies from the Persian Gulf by the Cape route. William Hawthorne developed an idea for using plastic vessels, made of rubberised cotton dinghy fabric, as oil barges, to be filled with oil and towed by existing tankers. When empty, Dracones could be rolled up and returned more quickly, even by air, to the source of supply.

These plastic vessels were christened Dracones by A S F Gow, the nearest word in Greek for a mythical monster such as a sea serpent. Draconella was launched in April 1957 - also made of rubberised cotton dinghy fabric, but bigger than the original test models. It was tested on the river Ouse.

Dracone Developments Ltd was formed in August 1957, at the instigation of the National Research Development Corporation, as a private company to exploit and develop patents and information held by WRH, Sir Geoffrey Taylor and Mr J C S Shaw. 20 Dracones were built in the first two and a half years, in sizes ranging from 15 to 320 tons, and over 2000 tons of petroleum products were transported by Dracones in regular operation to the Isle of Wight. Dracone Operations Ltd was formed in 1959 by Hambros Bank and H Clarkson Ltd, shipbrokers, and the word-wide licence was given to DOL by DDL.

Dunlop Dracones was formed in the 1960s as a consortium of Dunlop Rubber Co Ltd and Dracone Developments Ltd.

The files held at Churchill Archives Centre contain papers relating to the formation of the project, minutes, accounts, correspondence, and publicity material.

Further information

See also GBR 0014/DRAS, on the work of Dracone Developments Ltd.

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