It is impossible to discuss the human history of Dukes Wood without mentioning a crucial period of activity lasting little over two years. It is this unique story, which drew Ordinary Culture to Dukes Wood and initiated this Project.
Between 1942 and 1944 the Pudding Poke Wood & Dukes Wood were the focus of a top secret military intervention, nicknamed The British Project. Against the backdrop of WW2 on the heels of oil discoveries made near the village of Eakring, Nottinghamshire and with the British military facing a critical fuel shortage; C.A.P Southwell a representative of the D’Arcy Exploration Company, with the authority of the British government led a secret mission to develop Great Britain’s oil fields. This task took Southwell across the atlantic in search of skilled labor, equipment and expertise; a trip which lead to a famous collaboration with American Oil Company’s Noble Drilling Corporation & Fain-Porter Drilling Company.
At the height of German U-Boat activities in the Atlantic Ocean, Dukes Wood was producing roughly 60150 tons of oil for the British war effort compared to the 6002 tons produced in 1941. This level of productivity and efficiency would have been almost impossible if it were not for the famed ‘Oil Patch Warriors’, 42 seasoned Oklahoma Oil Men lead by Noble Drilling Corporations supervisor Eugene Rosser and his assistant Donald Walker. The ingenuity, skill and disciplined work mentality of these men helped the D’Arcy oil fields reach unprecedented drilling depths and opened up a vital fuel stream to the British Military’s air, sea and land campaigns across central Europe.
In March 1944 the contact between D’Arcy owners Anglo-Iranian Company and Noble Drilling Corporation & Fain-Porter Drilling Company reached its termination. In two years the American team had generated 106 wells, Ninety-four of the holes drilled were producing oil. This cooperation between American and British oil companies during the Second World War, and the continuing oil extraction that proceeded those years, left a lasting and visible impact on Dukes Wood.
Thanks to further cooperation by BP and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, Dukes Wood is now a nature reserve and site of special scientific interest, a status some believe to be a direct consequence of woodland clearing carried out by the oil industry, clearings that are now inhabited only by rare wild grasses and a handful of green nodding donkeys.
Sam West – Dukes Wood Project Co-curator