Oil Patch Warriors of WW II


Seventy-five years ago this month, a Band of Roughnecks went abroad on a top secret mission into Robin Hood’s stomping grounds to punch oil wells to help fuel England’s war machines.

It’s a story that should make any oilman or woman proud.

The year was 1943 and England was mired in World War II. U-boats attacked supply vessels, choking off badly 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 Sherwood Forest: Oil Production in England During World War II” written by Guy Woodward and Grace Steele Woodward was published in 1973, and 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.

42 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 National 50 drilling rigs were loaded onto ships but only three of them made landfall; the Nazi U-boats sank one of the rigs en route to the UK.

The Brits’ jaws dropped as the Yanks began punching the wells in a week, compared to five to eight weeks for their British counterparts. They worked 12 hour tours, 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 derrick-hand 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,” a seven foot bronze statue of a roughneck holding a four foot pipe wrench 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

It is by no means a stretch to state that without the American mission, we might all be speaking German today.

Special thanks to the American Oil and Gas Historical Society.

"There are no noble wars, just noble warriors

////////////////Too bad the image wouldn’t load…the bronze statue is impressive…an homage to the US roughnecks who helped win the war for the US/Britain. /////////////////ol’ Lawrence in Verhalen, Reeves county, Tx


Thanks for the history lesson


Thank YOU for responding, Elizabeth.

ol’ Lawrence in Verhalen, Reeves county, Tx



A few years ago I was honored to meet 3 of the Warriors at a program in Ardmore. Each spoke and autographed my book. It’s a wonderful story and a much recommended read.


Thanks, Ann. That’s the image I couldn’t get to load. My Dad was in Wink, Winkler county, Texas at the time and was in his 30s…working two shifts per day/night on two different rigs because he only had a bunk for 8 hours each day at the Anchor Hotel in Wink. They were hot bunking the workers who afforded a room at the hotel then. There were 40,000 men living in tents around Wink and almost that many living with nothing, no tent or any shelter under the flares in the area. The hands with jobs would stop and share their lunches packed by the hotels with those living under the flares. It was a tough time.

ol’ Lawrence in Verhalen, Reeves county, Tx


I felt very fortunate to hear the Warriors speak. If I remember right there was only one more surviving worker, in New Orleans, and his health prevented him from attending.

Mr. Noble agreed to send his workers after a man showed up at his home one evening here in Ardmore pleading for help for England. A family member told me Mr. Noble had earlier declined to participate, however changed his mind after the unannounced evening visit.


Thanks, Ann for replying and telling us the background details. I was born in 1949 in Kermit, Texas to that 37 year old oilfield worker, my Dad. Everyone then was a supporter of the war effort and the children I graduated HS in 1968 with there in Wink were children of the many hundreds of WWII veterans from Wink. They were all just like my own Dad. It was a great place to grow up. Still is a great place to live. Kackie pants and a white shirt or overalls were the fashion for men then and white blouses and black skirts for the women because we were still recovering from the shortages of the war…and dyes for clothing were scarce. Most of the vehicles were black or grey for the same reason…and they were built of REAL metal…10 guage steel you had to use a sledgehammer to put a dent in it. Everything in the oilfield was built to last 50 to 100 years with little or no maintenance…and lots of those Quonset steel buildings were erected on the farms and ranches out here…still standing, still being used 75 years later.
When they started making plastics to replace steel parts, this country’s quality products started their nosedive. That’s the America I remember and lament passing today.
The whippersnappers on this forum could take a lesson from those old oil and gas workers, in my opinion.

ol’ Lawrence in Verhalen, Reeves county, Tx



Thank you all for sharing these stories. If you’d like to read the full story on this you can go to the following link:

My uncle Gib Knight founded Oklahoma Minerals and recently wrote that article commemorating these men and their journey.


They were certainly a tough generation, Lawrence. You have a right to be proud of your Dad!


Thank you so much for sharing that wonder bit of history. So sad that is not taught in out schools. If John Wayne was still alive it would make a great movie.


A friend you probably know who worked for gulf named d r melton said many tjmes when he started in the oil patch derricks were made of wood and men were made of, steel but it all changed . The woman in charge of the Tyler oil museum asked if she could use it and i said sure .don t think slim would mind. By the way , he served our country in the tail of a B 17 manning a 50 cal . What a man. What a generation of men and women.; Thanks for the article!! Charles J


Thanks for sharing the memories. My grandfather served in WWI, lost his hearing due to artillery. Came back and finished his geology degree and was one of those first wildcatters. Wooden rigs, cable tools and nitroglycerin to rotary rigs during his lifetime. And a fine gentleman to boot!


My great uncle and Grandfather built wooden derricks back in the 30’s in Texas. In the war my Grandfatber went to Pearl Harbor and worked on the ships. He then moved to Evansville Indiana and built LST’s. My great uncle kept working in the oilfields of Texas and Southern Illinois. When he died we bought his land in Reeves County Texas. My Texas Grandmother worked on the Thunderbolt Fighters made inEvansville. That generation of men and women were tough as nails!


My wife’s great Grand father was looking at Reeves county to buy land and they checked with John Paul Getty and was told to not invest in that area. Fortunately he went ahead and bought land and minerals in the area. We still have the letter.