Yankee Roughnecks Return To Kelham Hall

April 7, 2017 3:14 pm

As Britain fought for its survival during World War II, a team of American oil drillers travelled across the Atlantic to help with the UK war effort. They became known as the ‘Roughnecks of Sherwood Forest’.

Their contribution to the UK oil industry was celebrated at the Dukes Wood Oil Museum which formally relocated to Kelham Hall this week (5th April 2017). A dedicated museum space has been set aside to display the rich array of objects, photographs and other ephemera collected during the last 74 years. The rich tapestry during this period is brought to life in the exhibition which is free and open to members of the general public.

Fascinated by local history and engineering; Jonathan Pass, Managing Director of Kelham Hall & Country Park discovered that during World War II – 43 American oil riggers were billeted in the Hall with a mission to develop the rich oil deposits in Sherwood Forest. War-torn Britain’s imported oil reserves were running low with German U-boats sinking over 700,000 tonnes of shipping per month. The U-boats would never sink the Sherwood Forest supplies.

During their year at Dukes Wood, the ‘Roughnecks’ established over 100 wells, producing up to 3000 barrels a day, supplementing supplies from America and the Middle East. The contribution made by the ‘Yankee Roughnecks’ was a significant contribution to helping Britain during World War II.

The exhibits in the museum tell the story of ‘derring-do’, secret meetings with Winston Churchill and the establishment of the UK based oil industry. Given Kelham Hall’s rich history and association to the oilmen, it seemed logical that the museum be moved to Kelham Hall, making it more accessible to the public.

Kevin Topham, Curator and co-founder of the Dukes Wood Oil Museum explained “there were very strong links between the Oklahoma ancestors of the ‘frontier oilmen’. A statue of the Oil Patch Warrior was commissioned in 1991 and unveiled by John Wakeham (then Energy Minister) in recognition of the oilmen. It is hoped that the nine-foot high bronze statue can join the other exhibits at Kelham Hall”.

A restored ‘nodding donkey’, a familiar site in the past is also being relocated to Kelham Hall.

Photo Caption
Jonathan Pass, Managing Director of Kelham Hall & Country Park (left) and Kevin Topham, Curator of Dukes Wood Oil Museum (right), pictured wearing commemorative engraved oil mining helmets at the recent opening of the museum.

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