It was said to be Sir Winston Churchill's greatest secret, in fact before the discovery of oil in Dukes Wood, near the Nottinghsmshire village of Eakring, it was said to be "one of" his greatest worries. Oil became the life blood of the second world war and without it Britain would soon become defenceless. As war time Britain's oil demand soon began to exceed its supply coming mainly from America and the Middle East, oil tankers became easy targets for the U Boat wolfpacks attacking the allied convoys. If Britain was to survive an answer had to be found and every conceivable idea was considered, even alternative fuels, and eventually searching for oil under Britain's soil became a possibility.
Britain's ally, america has the expertise to explore and drill for oil, and so with great secrecy, the Darcy Oil Company was contacted and plans made to bring American oil men and equipment across the North Atlantic and bring on production from potential locations. The impetus for exploring for oil at Dukes Wood may have come from the fact that at the nearby Bilsthorpe colliery, oil seeps were common in the coal mine. The pit was situated down dip of the "Eakring anticline" and the drilling at the Dukes Wood site penetrated the structure higher up dip, with 215 oil wells producing 4 million barrels of oil, which was crucial to the war effort.
Due to its strategic importance to relieving the pressure for oil supplies on the convoys, drilling operations were carried out under great secrecy and teh crude oil produced from Dukes Wood and Eakring oil fileds was loaded via the colliery rail sidings at Blisthorpe and exported to Pumpherson refinery near Edinburgh.
The Uk oil industry expanded operations posr war in the East Midlands area, and became a proving ground for many future senior BP management (including Dave Harding - who the North Sea Harding field is named after) and for technologies now commonly used in the industry - Sir Frank Whittle field trialled the turbo drill on the East Midlans oilfields in the 1950s and early 1960s. Some of those who gained early expereience went on to work overseas for Anglo Iranian as Middle East reserves were accessed and brought into production. their knowledge and experience was sought again in the 1960s as the UK's search for hydrocarbons moved offshore.
These early pioneers of the indutsry were known as the "Mansfield Mafia".
Dukes Wood Museum website: www.dukeswoodoilmuseum.co.uk
Kevin Topham, Museum Curator, November 2008
Synopsis also available on: http://www.iom3.org/content/past-events-1
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