In August 1942 Britain's secretary of Petroleum, Geoffrey Lloyd, called an emergency meeting in London of the Oil Control Board with members of the oil industry's advisory committee. The subject was the impending crisis in Oil. The Admiralty had reported fuel stocks were two million barrels below safety reserves and were sufficient to meet only two months requirement. Reserves of approximately five million barrels were normally held in some forty widely scattered storage facilities. Bombing raids in dockland areas had destroyed almost a million barrels.
In 1943 U-boats were having their best successes in the
Until the 1914-18 War the possibility of oilfields occurring in the
However a significant find occurred at Hardstoft in Derbyshire, 14½ miles West of Dukes Wood. Indications of the possible presence of oil had been observed through the seepages that had been recorded in local collieries, particularly at Langwith and Shirebrook.
At 3070ft on the 27th May 1919, oil was struck in the sandy limestone near the top of a faulted dome in the main carboniferous limestone measures and production commenced in June 1919. Oil was produced here until December 1927 and 2500 tons of oil was produced at an average of 6 barrels a day.
The bore hole was prone to waxing and silting and the well never favoured a free flow of oil, however production was doubled when a pumping test was carried out in 1921 by the Government and managed to double production from 7 barrels per day to 14.6 barrels per day. This operation was not continued however, as the Government was not in a position to undertake commercial oil production and marketing.
The Government decided in 1921 to close all wells except at Hardstoft and D'Arcy (in
At the end of WWI hostilities supplies from abroad became available again and further exploration in the
The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited working through its subsidiary the D'Arcy Exploration Co Ltd launched a major drilling programme. The first Well of this programme being spudded at Portsdown in January 1936. New discoveries were made and there were 'indications' in the Purbeck Limestones and of 'oilsands' in Wealden Beds near Lulworth in Dorset and a previously recorded outcropping of 'oilsands' at Pevensey in Sussex. Also a strongly impregnated 'oilsand' in the Corallian Rocks near
The first deep well test drilling in the
D'Arcy Oil tested for the possibility of Permian Gas at Eskdale by drilling a 5040 ft well. This well gave a yield of nearly pure Methane at 2.5 cubic feet per day. D'Arcy also found an 'anticline' at Dalkieth near
The known 'anticlines' on the flanks of the
Refraction tests were done to define the crest of this 'anticline' and the first test well (Eakring No 1) found oil in the sands of basal Coal Measures and in three other sand levels. The first deep well through the limestone was dug through at Well 146 at Dukes Wood. The Lower Carboniferous massive limestone was penetrated to a depth of 2555 - 4180 feet. Below 2880, 200feet of green igneous rock was present. From 4180 - 5540 feet red conglomerates and sandstones alternated with thin fossil bearing limestone. Below this were more steeply dipping red conglomerates and more sandstones which continued to 7200 feet.
Some very dark fine grained phyllitic sandstones were found along with some dark grey quartzite and hard black shale. This level (between 7463 ft and 7468 ft) were found to contain commercially important quantities of oil. This well and two others at Caunton and Kelham Hills constituted the first commercial
The deepest well to be drilled at Dukes Wood was No 146 to a depth of 7473 feet. Pictured above are members of the drilling team involved in this achievement.
The need for oil became vital
Throughout these operations rotary drilling has been employed, by which the rock is cut by a toothed head or bit on the end of a rotating drill pipe. A special clay based mud pumped continuously down the drill pipe flushes the rock cuttings from the hole, lubricates the bit, supports the sides of the hole and controls any shows of gas, oil or water. Straightness and speed of drilling are aided by using a drill collar, or length of heavy flexible pipe which joins the drill pipe to the bit. In the early stages, elaborate and costly deep well equipment and layout involved excessive use of manpower and considerable loss of time.
The outbreak of the Second World War caused shortages of both material supplies and labour, and this situation coincided with the planning of intensive drilling operations in the production areas with well-defined objectives. Modern American methods, introduced at this time, led to great improvements in overall speed and costs. The modern American drilling equipment employed consists of a utilised rig and Jack-knife 87 ft mast, the whole being designed for maximum mobility and for a drilling depth of 5000 ft. With the old type heavy exploration outfits, the transfer time of drilling equipment from site to site was about 2 weeks.
By using a special 87 ft mast, in combination with utilised draw-works, this interval was reduced in good weather, to about 12 hours. At Eakring a record move of 6½ hours was made and on one occasion an outfit was transferred to a new site and drilled 650 ft in 24 hours. Clearly manpower and equipment were in short supply during the early war years. Vital supplies of fuel needed for the war effort had to be shipped through the dangerous U-boat infested waters surrounding the
In August 1942 Britain's secretary of Petroleum, Geoffrey Lloyd, called an emergency meeting in London of the Oil Control Board with members of the oil industry's advisory committee. The subject was the impending crisis in Oil. The Admiralty had reported fuel stocks were two million barrels below safety reserves and were sufficient to meet only two months requirement. Reserves of approximately five million barrels were normally held in some forty widely scattered storage facilities. Bombing raids in dockland areas had destroyed almost a million barrels. At the same time increasing military activity in
At this time Prime Minister Winston Churchill was in
Southwell realised that only a select few of those attending the meeting knew of the discoveries of oil in the Eakring area during 1939 and 1940. Calmly he answered all the questions directed at him, except one. He felt it unnecessary and dangerous to pinpoint the location of the fields lest the enemy pick up this information. He explained that development had been going on since early 1939. Presently fifty producing wells had been completed in three areas at depths of 2380 to 2500 feet yielding about 700 barrels of very high grade crude oil per day.
Southwell explained that development had been slow. The use of the 136 ft drilling derricks were not suitable for rapid drilling in relatively shallow production. These derricks had been designed for use in
Southwell proposed that a D'Arcy representative should go at once to the
Southwell's clipper touched down first in
Southwell told Knowlton that he was in America to secure the use of ten of the latest drilling rigs suitable for drilling depths of twenty-five hundred feet, two strings of 3½ inch and two strings of 4½ inch drill pipe and a supply of rotary rock bits. The rigs were to supplement old oversized and cumbersome equipment now being used in the development of
Knowlton had known of
A telephone call from Knowlton the next day advised that two
Southwell was desperate, so desperate he then did an amazing thing. He asked Reid to get him a seat to
After a few directions from people in the streets of
A few days later Mr Ed Holt and Mr P M Johns of Noble Corporation, Frank Porter of the Fain-Porter met with Southwell, Jackson and Cartwright Reid. Two members of the
Tate's secretary informed him that
"What's up now" thought Rosser.
Rosser excused himself and returned to his office and the operator connected the call. The other end of the line was Ed Holt who had been in the meeting with Philip Southwell.
"Gene" said Holt "Lloyd wants you to come to
That meant he only had four days to complete his immediate work in
He found Holt and Whitley Stark, one of Noble's top truck drivers, waiting for him.
Gene asked "What's the deal?". Holt told him that Lloyd Noble could not be in
"That's something Lloyd will tell you tomorrow. He has the details." said Holt. Holt told Rosser to wait as he had a job to do but will return soon. Rosser waited in Headquarters and eventually Holt returned two hours later and moving down the hall rapidly, said "Come on let's go".
"Where the hell are we going" said Rosser. "You and I are going to the International Harvester place at Whitney and select some trucks and winch equipment to go with four rigs we are sending to a foreign country." Rosser now had a hint of what this was all about, but why the secrecy.
Rosser made a reservation on the train to
Signaling Rosser to his office, Noble inquired about the trip to
"Gene, how would you like to take four drilling rigs to the
"The work is going to be in a war zone and you will be working under war conditions and restrictions. It's going to be a really tough job. The British outfit we'll be working for is going to furnish the drilling equipment which we will buy new for them in this country. We will select the type of equipment and recruit the drilling crews who will be on our payroll as Noble Drilling Corporation's employees and subject to our supervision."
Noble went on to say that they would be working with the Fain-Porter Drilling Company. He continued:
"If you take the job, you should get busy right away recruiting the drilling crews because that's going to be tough. Available good men are hard to find, but I want every man who agrees to go to be told the facts of the job. I want them to know exactly what they are getting into. They are going into a war zone under severe wartime restrictions. Man power in the oil fields is getting short, but the men we talk to must know the facts of the job. We must not misrepresent the situation in any way."
Rosser was surprised and somewhat overawed at what he was hearing. Noble told Rosser that they would be running the operation, but that the whole deal is a highly secret matter. If the Germans ever found out where the drilling site was, they would, of course give it a hell of a bombing. Noble said that even he didn't know where the site actually was.
Finally Rosser said to Noble " Mr Noble, let me ask you one more question. Knowing what you know about this deal, and I guess you have told me all that you do know about it, would you take the job if you were me?"
Lloyd Noble's quick response was "I certainly would."
"All right" said Gene "I'll take it then, what's the first thing we're supposed to do?"
"As I said" Noble replied, " I think the first thing for you to do is to get started on a recruiting campaign. Ed Holt has convinced the British that four National 50 rigs with utilized draw works equipped with 87 ft Jack-knife masts working two four-man crews on twelve hour tours will get the job done."
Noble informed Rosser that they have priority over the military and should be able to defer men from military service. He told Rosser that it was up to him to recruit every man except one and that man was Don Walker.
So it was that Gene Rosser and Don Walker met in Lloyd Noble's office on
Near the end of October 1942, Frank Porter had written to his old friend Don Walker.
Gene Rosser asked Lloyd Noble if Don Walker knew anything about the drilling business, Noble replied "Not a damn thing in the world". But he went on to say "We've hired him to look after you."
Rosser and Walker therefore headed for
Early in January,
Urgency for oil increases
Pressure was building up in
The urgency for oil at this time was born out by the fact that the British were literally scraping the barrel and there were stories of whole oil tanks being dug out of the ground and carted to the refineries in order to get the last drop. So it was that on January 23rd Rosser, after making a quick trip to Alvin, Texas to say goodbye to his wife and child, Rosser returned to Tulsa and then on to New York. Rosser began to check the National Supply Inventory for the equipment. He was advised that they had no hand tools and that only one gross of canvas gloves had been purchased. With the assistance of Jackson, the Anglo-Iranian Oil rep, they managed to secure 14400 pairs of canvas gloves. However there were still no hand tools.
Supply problems with 'solutions'
Rosser got a 'hint' that a local supplier in Brooklyn had a supply of hand tools. A subway trip and a taxi trip up and down the Brooklyn streets for a full day produced no results. On the second day however Rosser was surprised to find a double-fronted hardware shop. On entering he found great quantities of tools stacked on shelf after shelf. The proprietor was willing to sell everything he had but the deal was strictly cash. No cheques and no charge accounts. The proprietor said "I need no priorities, and I sell for what these tools cost plus my profit, I don't know nothing about [wartime] price controls and I ain't fixin' to learn."
Rosser obtained the cash from the National Supply office and rushed back to the shop and laid the cash on the table. Taking no chances with delivery delays he called two taxis and loaded them both up to the top with spanners, axes, hammers, wrenches and crowbars. Rosser climbed into the front of one and took the entire stock back to the National Supply Company's store.
The drilling rigs were available but without the Hesselman-Waukesha diesel engines and the Caterpillar tractor with grading blade. The War production Board had issued AAA priority on any items involved in the 'English Project' but the delivery of these items would still be eight to ten weeks. To speed things up they asked the army for eight of their engines, the Army obliged.
Shipping across the Atlantic
Transportation across the Atlantic had been arranged for the equipment and in order for insurance against loss from U-boat attack each rig and equipment were to be carried on four separate vessels. The financial insurance of the equipment became a problem between Holt and Jackson. They met in Jackson's office and after a heated exchange a deal was made. The final contract was signed between Noble/Fain-Porter and D'Arcy on February 6th 1943.
So it was, with the final obstacles removed, the way was now clear for Rosser and Walker to fly to London on February 20th 1943. Jackson, knowing the uncertainties obtaining air travel priority at this time took the precaution of arranging travel across the Atlantic by sea as well as by clipper. Jackson's hunch was right and so Rosser and Walker boarded His Majesty's Ship 'Stirling Castle' at 10am on February 10th 1943. Rosser wrote in his diary:
"Sailed on the big water Atlantic from New York, expecting to be sea sick before we clear the harbour. The name of the boat is the Stirling Castle." Rosser and Walker arrived at Pier 80 at the foot of 36th street and were given their boarding passes. The realisation of what they were getting into then came to them as they walked up the gangplank and saw that everywhere was bristling with armed guards and US Marines. They had no idea of their precise destination.
On January 22nd Jackson had arranged for the other 42 men to travel in two groups the first group would be the first week in March and the second a week later.
The first group had some time in New York before traveling, a Chinese restaurant was somehow turned into a gymnasium and demonstrations of back flips were performed and a mirror was somehow broken at the Victoria Hotel. But despite the consumption of some beverages nobody let slip about the task they were about to undertake.
The second group had no time in New York and shortly before midnight on March 12th 1943 they too sailed from New York for an unknown destination in England on the converted troop ship HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Rough passage to England
"Walker" moaned Rosser, as he stumbled through the stateroom door of the Stirling Castle mopping his face with a cold towel, "I am a sick son-of-a-bitch - what day is it anyway? How long do you suppose we are going to be on this damn tug." Walker told him they were still two days out. Their passage on the Stirling Castle was to take from February 10th 1943 to February 20th 1943.
The afternoon of Saturday February 20th brought shocking news, the Yankee Clipper on which Rosser and Walker had tried to book for air passage from Montreal to London, had crashed in Portugal, killing fifteen passengers and seriously injuring ten others. A German radio broadcast had previously claimed on February 17th that a British passenger-cargo vessel out of New York bound for Europe and carrying a group of oil technicians had been sent to the bottom. Obviously wrong, but the story of the oil technicians struck horror in the heart and mind of Bernice Rosser.
February in the North Atlantic is not pleasant at the best of times but here too was another menace lurking under the waves. So it was with great joy that the news that land was sighted on Friday 19th February and it was shortly after lunchtime on Saturday that the Stirling Castle with Rosser and Walker onboard docked in Liverpool.
Walker and Rosser checked into the Adelphi Hotel In Liverpool where they were introduced to wartime rationing for the first time, Rosser had found that Scotch was particularly difficult to come by. Also after a trip out he announced to Walker "these sons-of-bitches drive on the wrong side of the road."
However Rosser's introduction to war torn England became even more shocking, when he learned that the whole of the business portion of Liverpool and much of the surrounding industrial area had been flattened by the Luftwaffe.
On the Sunday Walker and Rosser went to church where they found that the stained glass windows had been removed and the openings boarded up. On Monday February 22nd [Gene Rosser's 31st birthday], with the help of the Thomas Cook travel agent they boarded the Liverpool to London Express and at 11:30am they arrived at Victoria Station, the station buildings lay in a crumpled heap. Both checked into the Russell Hotel in Russell Square. They took a taxi to Finsbury Circus where they took detours around the heaps of dust and rubble and observed the business offices wore solid board fronts. The courage and fortitude of the Londoners, after three years of war impressed Walker and Rosser. Finally they arrived at Britannic House, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company headquarters in London.
Walker and Rosser meet Philip Southwell and discover their destination
At Britannic House they met Philip Southwell for the first time; Southwell had come in from the field to specifically meet them. The three of them dined out on Gene Rosser's birthday at the R A C Club, the wartime menu consisted of boiled salt beef, braised pigeon, jugged hare with port wine sauce. The conversation centered around the loss of the Yankee Clipper in Portugal.
On Tuesday they met with the Board Chairman and other important directors, this was the first time they learned the closely guarded secret. On a large wall map they were shown the area known as Sherwood Forest. It lay between the cities of Nottingham and Lincoln and the town of Southwell (sometimes pronounced 'Suthle'). No connection with Philip Southwell.
They felt ready to pick up the 'English Project'. Rosser said to Southwell "With the help of our buddies we'll kick the hell out of the Nazis". Southwell replied "We will do it with Oil from Britain's own oilfields".
Dukes Wood and the Monks of Kelham
Rosser and Walker took the late afternoon train to Grantham, it was full of commuters. It had been emphasised in their meetings in London that the Oil field was secret and that even people living in the area were unaware of the activities on their doorstep. The desire to talk about the job in the crowded compartments had to be overcome. On arrival at Grantham they were met again by Philip Southwell who took them to dinner with the Southwell's home at the Seven Mile Post.
The following morning they were taken to the D'Arcy Exploration Company Offices at the Burgage Manor in Southwell which was the former home of Lord Byron's mother. The big question uppermost in their minds at this time was suitable living quarters for the rest of the boys when they finally came over. Southwell took them to the field office near the village of Eakring [now the site of National Grid and Centre Parks offices] to meet the staff there. The offices can been seen from Dukes Wood and are less than half a mile away. Wally Sole, superintendent of field communications for D'Arcy never forgot the moment when Rosser entered the Eakring office. Rosser was wearing a five-gallon hat and leather jacket; he heard the remark "Where do you suppose he's tied his horse?"
Rosser felt that it would be better if the American oil workers should be kept together. The average age of the Roughnecks was 24, Rosser and Walker felt that keeping them together would alleviate the boredom and the homesickness. Southwell took the two of them to the Anglican Monastery at Kelham Hall on the side of the River Trent. The monastery was being used by the Society of the Sacred Mission as a theological seminary for the education of candidates for the ministry in the Anglican faith.
The wash-up facilities here made the choice ideal, oil rig workers don't mind getting dirty but they need a place to shower. But the most critical advantage was that the site was isolated from the local community, nobody would ask awkward questions here. They all agreed with Southwell that this was the ideal place for the American oilfield workers hired to work in Britain's most secret oil field. The choice of the place may well curtail some of the expected hell-raising also.
Rosser noted at this time that conditions were 'as cold as hell' in Britain in March 1943 but he also noted that the best thing was 'the long walks in the woods'. One of Rosser's duties at this time were to get identity cards for the 44 workers and these, he noted that they were to be signed by the 'Sheriff of Nottingham'. What he did not know at this time was that the Queen Elizabeth was leaving New York with a precious cargo of 12,000 soldiers and civilians engaged in war work, these civilians being the 42 American oil workers. The ship was surrounded by protective destroyers.
The work starts
The Americans first job was to drill 'Eakring 98', there were already 97 wells drilled and producing. Rosser had used the local oil workers to prepare mud pits and the wooden decking required for the rigs when they arrived. The D'Arcy lorry drivers were bringing the equipment from Liverpool to Eakring as it arrived, it was March 9th. Two International Harvester trucks had arrived with winches and gin-poles and the 'City of Edinburgh' had brought in some more equipment. By March 14th they were assembling the first 87ft jack-knife rig. Meanwhile Walker was getting acquainted with the D'Arcy operating system. On March 16th Rosser heard for the first time the roar of German bombers, they guessed that they were heading for either Sheffield or Birmingham.
Walker eventually heard the news that the rest of the 42 workers would be arriving at Kelham Hall. When Walker saw E.E. Edens climb down from the train with a banjo and another had a fiddle case he uttered "Oh my God!" He didn't know at this time that they also had several French harps in their pockets. He was worried about what the Monks would make of this. As it turned out, most of the banjo and fiddle playing was done in 'The Fox' pub right across the road from the monastery. The country music played and sung by them and the ballads taught them by the English would in time prove to be a real area of good feeling. Throughout their time at Kelham Hall, monastery rules were adhered to, the "Rogues and Robes" got along fine.
Sunday March 21st was Don Walkers birthday, Rosser was in bed with a cold and a sore throat. Walker reflected that the boys had arrived safely and there was no serious illness in the camp. However Monday arrived but most of the drilling equipment hadn't arrived yet. Rosser set the men to work using one of D'Arcy's A.C. rigs. J.W Nickle - driller, derrick man Gerry Griffin, helper Little Joe Webster and motorman Glenny Gates were assigned to the morning tour [twelve hour shift]. Horace Hobbs - driller, derrick man Ed Boucher, helper Al Morton and motorman John McIlwain took the afternoon tour.
The D'Arcy rigs were equipped for wartime operation. Telephones with loud klaxons were considered a necessity in case of air raids. They were also used for drilling reports and related field information. The lighting was perhaps the most difficult wartime necessity to overcome. Two small shaded lights at opposite corners of the derrick floor were permitted. One similar light served the doghouse and another light was located near the mud pumps. The lights were to be no more than 1 candle power for each foot above the floor.
The D'Arcy Office was surprised to hear that the first tour by Nickle's crew reported 1010 feet at the end of the morning. This was unprecedented; no D'Arcy crew had done 1010 feet in one tour. Nickle had got a call from the D'Arcy rep Sandy Bremner who didn't believe the report and wanted to know how many drill bits they had used. Nickle exploded "What the hell has changing the bits got to do with it. Why should a bit be changed if it's making holes?" It was the difference between the English and American drilling practices and it was the main reason that Southwell had been convinced that only four rigs were necessary to drill the required 100 wells in the allotted time. The English crews changed the bits at regular intervals and the Americans did not. Bremner was convinced that the Americans would wreck the equipment. They didn't.
Another new innovation they brought to D'Arcy was 'the self loading truck' the Americans used for transporting heavy machinery around. This one innovation along with the International Harvester trucks cut down the movement time for the 134ft D'Arcy A.C. derrick to about one third of time. These rigs had been designed for drilling much deeper wells [8000 to 10000 ft] than were at Eakring.
Rosser and McGill had made a trip to Cardiff docks to pick up more trucks that had arrived. The customs officer impounded Rosser's cigars after they tried to charge him $32.25. Rosser couldn't argue long as the trucks were not fitted with the regulation blackout night driving lights and had to move in daylight only and it was getting dark. They started out the following day for Nottingham but the big K-8 truck developed a problem with the power transfer gearbox and had to return to Cardiff where a Welsh mechanic and themselves sorted the problem out, this delayed them for another day.
The following day was April fools day. At 06:30 the on April 1st they left Cardiff again and about 10:00 a sign saying 'Fish & Chips' was sighted, having missed breakfast and had no dinner the night before, they were ready for food. The lady serving in the small restaurant said she had no Fish and had run out of chips but she'll make them a pot of tea and a toasted cheese sandwich. McGill said "It don't make no difference. We'll eat anything that doesn't bite us first".
Another story regarding food was when Bob Christy had cycled to Newark and saw Welsh rarebit as the specialty of the day in the Clinton Arms Hotel. He decided to try that, but he called the back the waiter and protested that it couldn't be rabbit as there weren’t any bones in it.
There was another problem with the food, the heavy workload plus the wartime rations were taking their toll. Bob Christie had lost 32 lbs in six weeks. This was solved by the generous Monks at Kelham Hall allowing the Roughnecks to grow some vegetables in the monastery grounds and there had been a help from the local pheasant population and the rampant black market. However in one incident Brussels sprouts were offered for breakfast. Also a deal was made with the American Army after much groundwork was done by Rosser in persuading General John C H Lee to intercede on the ration problem.
Rosser offers suggestions to the British on how to reduce drilling time
Southwell had become impressed with the speed the Americans were drilling the wells. It was noted at this time that the American crews could complete a well in the Eakring area in about a week on average, whereas the British took on average five weeks. Therefore Southwell asked Rosser to come to London and explain to the Anglo-Iranian Oil company bosses how things could improve.
Rosser told them that greater freedom should be given to the crews to work on their own initiative, that the drill bit should not be arbitrarily changed every 300 feet but that it should be only changed if the hole wasn't going fast enough. Much time was lost continually pulling out the piping to change the bit. Rosser told them that heavy drilling mud should only be used if you are likely to encounter formation pressures that must be controlled. Drilling with water will reduce drilling time dramatically where it is safe to do so, as in the Dukes Wood and Eakring areas.
He explained that the British drilling crews were waiting 72 hours before testing the cement jobs on the wells they are drilling and that they have reduced waiting time to 48 hours with not a single problem encountered. He suggested the time that could be saved by skidding the whole rig derrick rather than dismantling it every time. Having the water and fuel connections at the location by the time the rig is on the drill site and having the cement at the location ahead of the time it is needed. Rosser suggested that one British oil worker should join each American crew.
The American crews were putting the wells on line on average at one per week. In justification of the British crews it should be noted that the rigs they were using had not been designed for the shallow drilling of Eakring but the much deeper drilling requirement in Persia. It is also to be noted that the each and every able bodied man had to submit himself to military service. British drilling crews, except the actual drillers, were largely inexperienced and in some cases had been rejected for military service for medical reasons. At the beginning of the war the requirement for experienced oil workers in the UK sector was not foreseen as being great and so most had gone into the armed services. It had been wholly the military who had decided who went where and a good many people with mechanical expertise had gone into the RAF where, at the beginning of the war and throughout 1940 and 1941, these requirements had been more immediate. This was Britain half way through it's fifth year at war whilst America was half way through it's second year [not counting the 24 days of 1941] . Priorities had refocused.
Despite the ever increasing supply of equipment from the docks there had been some losses to enemy submarines. By July 5th three of the mobile National rigs were credited with the completion of 25 wells. Completion would obviously increase when the fourth National rig could be put into service.
One rig had to be shut down for 2 hours because of electrical failure of the bombed power lines. Another problem was the well troubles, lost time was sometimes due to fishing exercises [pulling broken pipe out of wells]. Another rig had dropped 1600 feet of drill pipe into the hole and another had lost time because of a struck pipe. The problems were keeping the tool pusher Gordon Sams busy and irritated. It was noted that the crews were not as alert as they had been at the beginning and the pressure was telling. It was at this time too that D'Arcy announced that they wanted wells at 2½ acre intervals instead of the original 5 acre intervals. This produced additional pressure.
Rosser found also that the ships now arriving at the docks where taking time to offload their cargoes this was causing them to wait 36 hours in some cases. During the drilling of a test well at Nocton where the American crews were drilling below 5000ft, they were on their way there when they encountered a British Military convoy fully equipped for combat; clearly they were moving somewhere for embarkation. The curious encounter resulted in cooperation between the two without either telling the other precisely what they were up to and they managed to pass each other on the narrow English roads.
Rosser had written in his diary that November 11th 1943 would be his most important day of his life, little did he know that within 48hours tragedy would hit all the crews of Eakring. On this day he had arranged to meet Major General C.H.Lee Commanding officer of SOS (Services of Supply) European theatre of war who had agreed to supply the extra rations to the workers.
On Saturday morning November 13th 1943 Walker had set off in his Plymouth for the supply depot at Burton-on-Trent to pick up the weekly American food rations. Rosser with Robbie Robinson driving a K-7 truck headed for Liverpool docks to pick up a C-100 pump and supplies. The day was heavily overcast with thick fog that hung close to the ground. He was explaining to Robbie about meeting the General as the truck pulled up outside the guardhouse on the docks where he was to meet the shipping agent. As he climbed down from the truck Rosser was told that he had an emergency telephone call from Kelham Hall.
Walker was on the telephone with some bad news. Herman Douthit had fallen from the double board of the drilling mast at location 148 in Dukes Wood and had been killed. Rosser's knees were seen to buckle when he heard the news and the man in the guardhouse pushed a chair under Rosser and picked up the telephone receiver. They immediately started back to Kelham Hall. They pulled into the courtyard of Kelham Hall at about 09:00pm, everyone was in sombre mood.
Arrangements were made with the Chaplain Carlsen at the American General Hospital in Mansfield for the funeral. Rosser then caught a train to advise the American Embassy of Herman's death and to discuss the possibility of sending his body back to the States. The officials of the Embassy explained that the shipment of the body home at this time was impossible due to wartime regulations. Rosser sent a telegram to Noble's Tulsa office that Colonel Irish had arranged the burial with full military honours in the Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey. Rosser telegrammed Mrs Douthit that if after the war she desired, Herman's body would be shipped home.
His funeral was attended by his American as well as his British friends he had made since arriving at Kelham. Many who came could not all get into the church. The services were conducted by the Chaplain from the Mansfield General Hospital and the minister of the Parish Church. All rigs were shut down from 6:00 am to 6:00pm as a mark of respect.
It had been 11:30am when Herman Douthit had been on the derrick at location 148 at Dukes Wood he had gone up for the purpose of attaching a rope to the platform. He was coming back down to take the catline off when he fell about 55 feet. He died of head injuries. He was 29 years old. He left a wife, Louise.
Herman Douthit is now buried at the American military cemetery, in Cambridge, England. His cross says 'Herman Douthit - civilian' . He is the only civilian buried on this cemetery at Plot C, Row S, Grave 2.
Christmas 1943 and onwards
Despite the tragedy the teams looked forward to Christmas and Walker was busily arranging details for the holiday. Despite the past few weeks everyone had been driving pretty hard irrespective of the time lost through fishing exercises. Rosser and Walker had been pleased of the way they had behaved at Kelham Hall. Despite Herman Douthit's accident and the mean fracture of Webster's arm that refused to heal properly the Roughnecks remained surprisingly healthy. The Mansfield General Hospital had given assistance when required and with the exception of three or four occasions when someone was retained there everyone remained healthy. There had been little lost time off for injuries.
There was now enough food with the assistance of the army G-20 depot at Burton-on-Trent and the Christmas menu featured turkey and of course the black market was in full operation with some of the locals in the Kelham and Eakring area. The Americans warmed to the English tradition of having four days holiday over Christmas 1943.
Work continued however, especially on Nocton No3 which was proving to be a problem. Finally they gave up and plugged it with some 4½ inch pipe still down the hole and skidded the rig to another site. By the Wednesday the rig had been skidded to a new location. Rosser and McGill made a trip to Sheffield to get oil filters and a Grease gun, the weather continued bad. Rosser stayed at the Saracen's Head in nearby Lincoln that night.
As the holiday season drew to a close the pressure on the America teams to produce more oil eased off. The oil situation in Great Britain had greatly improved since September and even the bus services started getting more fuel. The coming year was to be marked with some historical events but mostly they were looking forward to going home.
Preparing for going home
Competition amongst the drilling crews had become a natural development. Those who had originally embarked as drillers continued to be drillers with the exception of H.A.Hobbs who had quit to return home and was replaced by Lewis Dugger. There had been a few interchanges of crew because of illness and brief days off for rest. The friendly rivalry had contributed to the rapid well completions and D'Arcy and Anglo-Iranian oil were very pleased.
By the spring of 1944 there had been many military successes of the Allies, the enemy had been driven from North Africa and Sicily and Italy had opened up the Mediterranean. With the defence against the U-boat in the North Atlantic, oil reserves were now increasing in the UK. Three million allied fighting forces waited on the British mainland for the day and hour when the war would be carried to mainland Europe.
On the weekend that the American rigs had finished their 365 drilling days, Rosser and Lewis Dugger took off for London for the purpose of celebrating Mrs Dugger's arrival. Rosser provided a room for them at the Hotel Carlston whilst he stayed at a hotel in Piccadilly. No one could have foreseen that it was this very night that the Germans decided to make a final gesture and attack London. The Saturday night of March 4th 1944 will be one that the Duggers would remember for a long time. Rosser was out early the following morning and was appalled at all of the damage. He was unable to telephone the Carlston Hotel so he made his way round to the Carlston Hotel on foot. When he reached the block where the hotel had stood he was horrified to see that it had been hit. Rosser was told that the Duggers were not in the part that had been hit and had been evacuated that night.
Over 600 Londoners had been killed that night and hospitals were continuing to receive the injured. Rosser checked the hospitals and was reassured that Mr & Mrs Dugger were not on the list of dead or injured. Rosser waited hoping for a call when finally he received a call from a village in Wales and that they were on their way back to Newark. On Monday March 6th the three of them had breakfast together at the Clinton Arms Hotel in Newark.
The contract between the Anglo-Iranian oil company and the Noble and Fain/Porter companies had been terminated with the fulfillment of the drilling of the one hundred wells and the 365 drilling days carried out by the drill crews. 94 of the holes drilled were producing high quality oil, they had drilled 106 in total. Nocton No3 was the only well that had to be plugged as a lost hole. This remarkable achievement had been carried out in wartime conditions.
Walker and Rosser left on the HMS Mauritania, a troop transport, on March 3rd from Greenock. Their job done they were to also take home the 37 remaining roughnecks that had come over to Britain. After having a time gathering them all together they left on the train from Newark bound for Glasgow.
They left on March 3rd 1944.
From 1944 - 1945 they would have added another 1,231,346 barrels to the total output of Eakring oilfield making a total of 3,520,553 barrels in total shipped to the refineries.
Eakring was one of the best kept wartime secrets for it was not until April 1944 that the veil was officially lifted by the Government, having been prompted to act by an 'exclusive' report on the oil discovery in a national newspaper. The secretary for Petroleum at the time Geoffrey Lloyd, and the then BP chairman Sir William Fraser, later to become Lord Strathalmond, hosted a visit by Fleet Street journalists to the operations centre at Eakring. Mr Lloyd commented: "This oilfield like Britain, is small but of the highest quality, it yields a whole range of refinery petroleum products. Milk and oil from the same field is the slogan here. This oilfield came into operation just when we needed every ton of oil to carry this country through the crisis of the war. These were supplies that the U-boats could never sink."
The white oval shows the approximate area of the oilfield all that remains today is discussed in the next section
The Secret of Sherwood Forest Oil production in England during World War II
To roughly convert Tons to Barrels multiply the above figures by 7.5
In 1985 I was given the responsiblity of the civil engineering work to restore 194 wells back to either agricultural land or woodland. This involved finding some of the wells that had been overgrown by 20 years of woodland growth (as seen in photo left) opening up the original access roads and clearing tenough space for the workover rig to remove the tubes and cement the wells to within 2 meteres of the surface.
In the wood the wellheads were removed and the casing removed with shaped explosive charges, then the sites and roads were then either removed, left for a shooting sindicate in part of the wood.
Just to add a little difficulty to the job, the original stone for the access roads and site were constructed of red shale which was not a local stone. Over the years Orchids ( Broad leaved Helleborine) had grown in this area due to the stone. As the only site in Nottinghamshire where these flowers grew in the wild the area became a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).
British Petroleum Development Ltd owned a 20 acre section of the mixed deciduous woodland, and involved the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust whom asked for the area to be turned into an industrial nature reserve. We would open up a series of footpaths construct various ponds and replace 10 of the nodding donkey's with their wellheads for added interest.
Photo right shows myself and workmates placing the first refurbished donkey at the enterance to the nature trail.
This reserve is managed by the Trust under licence from BP Petroleum Development Ltd.
The Duke’s Wood Trail is a product of co-operation between industry and the Trust who manage it under licence from BP Petroleum Development Ltd. . It is an industrial archaeological nature trail and was formally opened in May 1987.
The wood is situated on heavy Keuper clays on a ridge of high ground. It is dominated by oak, ash, hazel and birch. Most of elm that were present have been killed by Dutch Elm Disease. Guelder rose, dogwood, wild privet and elder can be found in the shrub layer. The usual woodland birds can be seen including blackcap, garden warbler and spotted flycatcher in summer. Great spotted woodpecker and jay are regularly seen and hawfinch is a possibility.
The very interesting ground flora contains primrose, centaury, violet, bluebell, wood anemone, wood sorrel, yellow archangel and broad-leaved helleborine. Butterflies attracted to this ground flora include common blue, comma, peacock, brimstone, gatekeeper and wall brown. Red deer, fox, stoat and badger.
This photo left is of well 146 a few years after the trail was opened and left to nature.
In May, 1991, Noble Drilling Corporation financed an eight-day trip for the 15 survivors of the original 44 man crew to return to Duke's Wood in Sherwood Forest. This trip was both a reunion, and recognition of the original group with the dedication of the Oil Patch Warrior, a seven-foot bronze statue created in their honour. (photo right).
Here is a plan of this woodland reserve from: