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The Dracone Project

Reference Code: GBR/0014/DRAS

Scope and Contents

Photographs, press cuttings and promotional material on the work of Dracone Developments Limited, with an album on the National Research Development Corporation's Mechanical Engineering Group.


  • Creation: 1957 - 1975


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

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 Limited 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 Hawthorne, 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 Limited was formed in 1959 by Hambros Bank and H Clarkson Limited, shipbrokers, and the word-wide licence was given to Dracone Operations Limited by Dracone Developments Limited. Later, Dunlop Dracones was formed in the 1960s as a consortium of Dunlop Rubber Company Limited and Dracone Developments Limited.


1 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A copy of this finding aid is available at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited at CAC by Dan Fish in December 2014. Mr Fish had received the papers from Thomas A Coombs, who was seconded to Dracone Developments Ltd by the National Research Development Corporation, which financed the early trials of the Dracones.

Related Materials

See also section 4 of the papers of Sir William Hawthorne, GBR 0014/HATN 4.


This finding aid was prepared by Katharine Thomson of Churchill Archives Centre in December 2014.


Dracone Developments Limited

2014-12-11 10:14:52.983000+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
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