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Oil Patch Warriors


This is a story that should make those in the oil patch proud!


A little-known tale of WWII. Eighty years ago, a band of Texas and

Oklahoma roughnecks went abroad on a top-secret mission into Robin

Hood’s stomping grounds to drill oil wells.

The year was 1943 and England was mired in World War II. U-boats

attacked supply vessels, choking off desperately needed supplies to the

island nation. But oil was the commodity they needed the most as they

warred with Germany. A book “The Secret of Oil Production in England

During World War II” Sherwood Forest was written by Guy Woodward

and Grace Steele Woodward was published in 1973. It tells the obscure

story of the American oil men who went to England to bore wells in a top-

secret mission in March 1943.

England had but one oil field, in Sherwood Forest of all places. Its meager

output of 300 barrels a day was literally a drop in the bucket of their

requirement of 150,000 barrels a day to fuel their war machines. Then a

top-secret plan was devised: to send some Americans and their expertise to

assist in developing the field. Oklahoma based Noble Drilling Company,

along with Fain-Porter signed a one-year contract to drill 100 wells for

England, merely for costs and expenses.

Forty-two drillers and roughnecks from Texas and Oklahoma, most in their

teens and early twenties volunteered for the mission to go abroad. The

hands embarked for England in March 1943 aboard the HMS Queen

Elizabeth. Four drilling rigs were loaded onto ships but only three of them

made landfall; the Nazi U-boats sank one of the rigs enroute to the UK.

The Brits’ jaws dropped as the Yanks began drilling the wells in a week,

compared to five to eight weeks for their British counterparts. They worked

12-hour shifts, 7 days a week and within a year, the Americans had drilled

106 wells and England oil production shot up from 300 barrels a day to

over 300,000.

The contract fulfilled; the American oil men departed England in late

March 1944. But only 41 hands were on board the return voyage. Herman

Douthit, a Texan was killed during the operation. He was laid to rest with

full military honors and remains the only civilian to be buried at The

American Military Cemetery in Cambridge.


“The Oil Patch Warrior,” pictured is a seven-foot bronze statue of a

roughneck holding a four-foot pipe wrench that stands near Nottingham,

England to honor the American oil men’s assistance and sacrifice in the

war. A replica was placed in Ardmore, Oklahoma in 2001.

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