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Second World War Secrets in deepest Sherwood.

Over Christmas Sal and I visited Rufford Abbey near Worksop and one of the large sculptures on display in the Park was of a workman holding a large spanner/monkey wrench. I just photographed it (see below) and left it at that but Sal, being the person she is, decided to have a ferret about and came up with one of the most unlikely and intriguing World War Two stories regarding its existence and the UK's covert plot to thwart those nasty Germans.

The statue had stood as a memorial in the Dukes Wood Open Air Drilling Museum near Eakring in Nottinghamshire but had unfortunately fallen in to the hands of vandals. Consequently it had been moved to Rufford for protection.

We paid the Museum and Nature Trail a visit last week and certainly intend going back in summer when all the woodland flowers will be out. The following text is from

"One of the lesser well known events in World War 2 was the UK on-shore oil production in the East Midlands – at Eakring, near Newark in the heart of Sherwood Forest. When the Government Oil Production Committee met early on in the war to discuss the problems of oil Supply, Mr C Southwell of Darcy Exploration (a forerunner of BP) suggested an expansion of the Eakring field. The other committee members had no knowledge that oil had been discovered there in 1939.

The problem was that the oil drilling equipment which was available was antiquated (as, it turned out also were the drilling procedures) and so Mr Southwell was sent to the USA to buy up-to-date equipment. By this time, however, the USA (which was still neutral) had declared oil equipment strategic material and so it could not be bought by foreigners. The only solution was to hire American drilling teams to come to the UK, bringing their own equipment.

 Volunteers were found and they came over here, to a country blacked-out with widespread rationing and shortages and were billeted with an order of Anglican monks at Kelham Hall near Newark. Their experiences, and that of the locals, were fascinating and the full story can be read in “The Secret of Sherwood Forest” by Guy and Grace Woodward, published in 1973 by the University of Oklahoma Press.

With the Americans’ equipment and expertise, nearly one hundred wells were drilled within the one year contract period and, after only nine months, the Government’s target of one hundred thousand tons of oil had been reached. Overall, two million barrels were pumped from the “nodding donkeys” and contributed to the war effort.

Fortunately, wind of the oilfield never reached the Third Reich and so it was not bombed. There was one tragedy when an oil worker, Herman Douthit, slipped and fell to his death from the top of one rig. He is the only civilian buried in the American Cemetery in Cambridge.

The area of the oil field is now occupied by the Duke’s Wood Nature Reserve where a couple of nodding donkeys the are situated. "

Museum entrance

Nodding Donkey

Dukes Wood

Nodding Donkey

Nodding Donkey

Dukes Wood

Nodding Donkey

Brock, Dukes Wood

Fungi, Dukes wood

Dukes Wood

Dukes Wood

Oil Pressure Valve

Dukes Pond

Humorous sign post


Keep Out!
Butterfly scheme.

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