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The Oily "Secret" of Robin Hood's 'Hood

In the mid 1930's geologists with the British oil company, D'Arcy Exploration Company LTD, mapped a surface high, an anticline-like feature, near the village of Eakring in the Nottinghamshire District in the East Midlands region of central England. This was the area also known as "Sherwood Forest," home of Robin Hood folklore.

Surface highs were successfully explored in America, Mexico and elsewhere as early as 1900 and often the subsurface was found to "mirror"" the surface. Sometimes these underground "hills" offered traps for hydrocarbons. Several wells were drilled in the Duke Woods area south of Eakring and by 1939 commercial volumes of sweet, high grade oil were found. This was England's first commercial oil discovery and it produced nearly 2.1 million barrels of oil from over 100 wells until 1941-1942.

Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, England

By 1942 all of Europe was enveloped by war and Nazi Germany was making strong efforts to conquer Great Britain. To fuel its defense efforts against Germany, England became heavily dependent on oil imports from America. Hitler began an intense, and very successful campaign of torpedoing oil tanker ships headed for England to cut off Britain's oil supply. Britain's Secretary of Petroleum, a fella named Southwell, made an urgent plea to D'Arcy Exploration to develop more oil reserves in the fields of Eakring that could be refined in Britain. Winston Churchill sent Southwell to Ardmore, Oklahoma in 1942 to meet with Lloyd Noble of Noble Drilling Company. Nobel agreed to help England, solicited the cooperation of another Oklahoma based driller, Fain-Porter Drilling Company, and within a few months four drilling rigs, capable of depths of 3000 feet, and 44 drilling hands from Oklahoma and Texas were loaded on the ship, Queen Elizabeth and set sail for England. It was late summer 1943 and World War II was raging.

To ensure complete secrecy of the mission from Germany's intelligence community none of these roughnecks, from 18-25 years old, were allowed to say where they were going or when they would return. The entire time they were in England they were strictly prohibited from writing home to assure their families they were OK, nor speak to local people about what they were doing there. They lived in a monastery near Kelham, ate meager rations that all of England faced because of the war, and worked 12 hour towers, 7 days a week. For fear of air surveillance by the Germans and subsequent bombing missions to destroy England's "secret" oil field in Sherwood Forest, they drilled wells in the deep forest and never used rig lights. Divided into 3 crews working on 3 different rigs the only days off these men got was WOC after running casing where they could briefly visit a pub in Nottingham.

Between August of 1943 and November of 1944 these 44 Americans drilled close to 100 additional wells in Sherwood Forest, ranging in depth from 2,100 to 2,300 feet, and three wildcat wells that were over 7,300 feet deep using an old rig from Iran. D'arcy engineers completed the wells, production increased to over 3,000 BOPD, and eventually 2.2 million barrels of oil was added to England and Allied forces war effort against the mighty Germany army.

All of Noble and Fain-Porters roughnecks quietly returned home in early 1945, save one derrick hand who had fallen from a racking board and was killed in early 1944.

In 1991 a bronze statue, called the "Oilpatch Warrior," honoring these American roughnecks was

erected in the Duke Woods area of Nottinghamshire but was later moved to the Kelham Monastery

near Eakring because of vandalism. A like statue was placed in Ardmore, Oklahoma in 2001 to honor these roughnecks.

Dennis Sheffield, a former British oil field worker for D'Arcy, bluntly summarized the vital nature of the work Americans did in the secret oilfields of Sherwood Forest by saying it, "It was this country's salvation. We were on our knees for oil."

There is a lot of information on this subject on the internet but I strongly recommend the book, The Secret of Sherwood Forrest, Oil Production in England During World War II by the Woodwards. Its an easy, riveting read about an important part of oil history and it can be ordered on Amazon. Its a cool story that would make anyone in the oil business, proud.

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