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.
However, at this same meeting was Philip Southwell, a representative of the D'Arcy Oil Company, who had a secret and that secret was located underneath Sherwood Forest.
The problem was getting it out of the ground and quickly.......and they did.
PRODUCTION OF CRUDE AND GASOLINE - UK
To roughly convert Tons to Barrels multiply the above figures by 7.5
Therefore during the war years Dukes Wood alone contributed over 1.4 million barrels of very high quality oil to the war effort.
||The contrasting peaceful scene of the
picture on the left taken around 1943 shows how vital the UK onshore
oil fields were to the allied war effort during world war two. Right
at the very time the U-boats were having their best successes in the
North Atlantic, the Oil fields surrounding Dukes Wood were having
their most successful year, thanks to a large part by the efforts of
the Americans who came over to drill the extra 106 wells needed at
this vital time.
Because these oil wells were situated largely within wooded areas they managed to keep the knowledge of this strategic target from the attentions of enemy aircraft.
Not only were Americans recruited for this war effort but Italian prisoners of war were also used. By 1945 almost 240 wells were being operated and production had totaled 400000 tons (about 3 million barrels).
The oilfield was kept secret even from the locals. Mansfield, Newark and other villages began to encounter newcomers with strange sounding job titles. A cartographer for D'Arcy went to register for National Service and on reporting his job title the Clerk remarked: "You must be from Eakring....They have some queer jobs there don't they. Do you know, only yesterday a fellow came in here and said he was a geologist."
Eakring must have been 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."
Good quality oil
Oil from Eakring and Dukes Wood was of very high quality and superior to Middle Eastern Oil. After it was refined it was found to be particularly suited to the Rolls Royce Merlin Engine, the engine extensively used by most of the Royal Air Force's high performance Fighters and Bombers.
Above: Oil from Eakring and Dukes Wood was exported to the Pumpherston Refinery, near Edinburgh, via rail sidings at Bilsthorpe.
Left: A Lancaster bomber over the target.
Below: Close. A piece of a German incendiary device dropped on the nearby village of Edingley, 2½ miles from Dukes Wood. Now in the Dukes Wood Oil museum.