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
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.