Rosser and Walker took the late afternoon train to Grantham, it was full of commuters. It had been emphasised in their meetings in London that the Oil field was secret and that even people living in the area were unaware of the activities on their doorstep. The desire to talk about the job in the crowded compartments had to be overcome. On arrival at Grantham they were met again by Philip Southwell who took them to dinner with the Southwell's home at the Seven Mile Post.

The following morning they were taken to the D'Arcy Exploration Company Offices at the Burgage Manor in Southwell which was the former home of Lord Byron's mother. The big question uppermost in their minds at this time were suitable living quarters for the rest of the boys when they finally came over. Southwell took them to the field office near the village of Eakring [now the site of National Grid and Centre Parks offices] to meet the staff there. The offices can been seen from Dukes Wood and are less than half a mile away. Wally Sole, superintendent of field communications for D'Arcy never forgot the moment when Rosser entered the Eakring office. Rosser was wearing a five-gallon hat and leather jacket, he heard the remark "Where do you suppose he's tied his horse?"

Rosser felt that it would be better if the American oil workers should be kept together. The average age of the Roughnecks was 24, Rosser and Walker felt that keeping them together would alleviate the boredom and the homesickness. Southwell took the two of them to the Anglican Monastery at Kelham Hall on the side of the River Trent. The monastery was being used by the Society of the Sacred Mission as a theological seminary for the education of candidates for the ministry in the Anglican faith.

 The wash-up facilities here made the choice ideal, oil rig workers don't mind getting dirty but they need a place to shower. But the most critical advantage was that the site was isolated from the local community, nobody would ask awkward questions here. They all agreed with Southwell that this was the ideal place for the American oilfield workers hired to work in Britain's most secret oil field. The choice of the place may well curtail some of the expected hell-raising also.

Rosser noted at this time that conditions were 'as cold as hell'  in Britain in March 1943 but he also noted that the best thing was 'the long walks in the woods'. One of Rosser's duties at this time were to get identity cards for the 44 workers and these, he noted that they were to be signed by the 'Sheriff of Nottingham'. What he did not know at this time was that the Queen Elizabeth was leaving New York with a precious cargo of 12,000 soldiers and civilians engaged in war work, these civilians being the 42 American oil workers. The ship was surrounded by protective destroyers.

Rosser with Brother Edgar at Kelham Monastery

The Americans first job was to drill 'Eakring 98', there were already 97 wells drilled and producing. Rosser had used the local oil workers to prepare mud pits and the wooden decking required for the rigs when they arrived. The D'Arcy lorry drivers were bringing the equipment from Liverpool to Eakring as it arrived, it was March 9th. Two International Harvester trucks had arrived with winches and gin-poles and the 'City of Edinburgh' had brought in some more equipment. By March 14th they were assembling the first 87ft jack-knife rig. Meanwhile Walker was getting acquainted with the D'Arcy operating system. On March 16th Rosser heard for the first time the roar of German bombers, they guessed that they were heading for either Sheffield or Birmingham.

 Walker eventually heard the news that the rest of the 42 workers would be arriving at Kelham Hall. When Walker saw E.E. Edens climb down from the train with a banjo and another had a fiddle case he uttered "Oh my God!" He didn't know at this time that they also had several French harps in their pockets. He was worried about what the Monks would make of this. As it turned out, most of the banjo and fiddle playing was done in 'The Fox' pub right across the road from the monastery. The country music played and sung by them and the ballads taught them by the English would in time prove to be a real area of good feeling. Throughout their time at Kelham Hall, monastery rules were adhered to, the "Rogues and Robes" got along fine.

Kelham monastery

Sunday March 21st was Don Walkers birthday, Rosser was in bed with a cold and a sore throat. Walker reflected that the boys had arrived safely and there was no serious illness in the camp. However Monday arrived but most of the drilling equipment hadn't arrived yet. Rosser set the men to work using one of D'Arcy's A.C. rigs. J.W Nickle - driller, derrickman Gerry Griffin, helper Little Joe Webster and motorman Glenny Gates were assigned to the morning tour [twelve hour shift]. Horace Hobbs - driller, derrickman Ed Boucher, helper Al Morton and motorman John McIlwain took the afternoon tour.

The D'Arcy rigs were equipped for wartime operation. Telephones with loud klaxons were considered a necessity in case of air raids. They were also used for drilling reports and related field information. The lighting was perhaps the most difficult wartime necessity to overcome. Two small shaded lights at opposite corners of the derrick floor were permitted. One similar light served the doghouse and another light was located near the mud pumps. The lights were to be no more than 1 candle power for each foot above the floor. 

The D'Arcy Office was surprised to hear that the first tour by Nickle's crew reported 1010 feet at the end of the morning. This was unprecedented, no D'Arcy crew had done 1010 feet in one tour. Nickle had got a call from the D'Arcy rep Sandy Bremner who didn't believe the report and wanted to know how many drill bits they had used. Nickle exploded "What the hell has changing the bits got to do with it. Why should a bit be changed if it's making holes?"  It was the difference between the English and American drilling practices and it was the main reason that Southwell had been convinced that only four rigs were necessary to drill the required 100 wells in the allotted time.  The English crews changed the bits at regular intervals and the Americans did not. Bremner was convinced that the Americans would wreck the equipment. They didn't.

Another new innovation they brought to D'Arcy was 'the self loading truck' the Americans used for transporting heavy machinery around. This one innovation along with the International Harvester trucks cut down the movement time for the 134ft D'Arcy A.C. derrick to about one third of time. These rigs had been designed for drilling much deeper wells [8000 to 10000 ft] than were at Eakring.

 

Rosser and McGill had made a trip to Cardiff docks to pick up more trucks that had arrived. The customs officer impounded Rosser's cigars after they tried to charge him $32.25. Rosser couldn't argue long as the trucks were not fitted with the regulation blackout night driving lights and had to move in daylight only and it was getting dark. They started out the following day for Nottingham but the big K-8 truck developed a problem with the power transfer gearbox and had to return to Cardiff where a Welsh mechanic and themselves sorted the problem out, this delayed them for another day.

 The following day was April fools day. At 06:30 the on April 1st they left Cardiff again and about 10:00 a sign saying 'Fish & Chips' was sighted, having missed breakfast and had no dinner the night before, they were ready for food. The lady serving in the small restaurant said she had no Fish and had run out of chips but she'll make them a pot of tea and a toasted cheese sandwich. McGill said "It don't make no difference. We'll eat anything that doesn't bite us first".

Another story regarding food was when Bob Christy had cycled to Newark and saw Welsh Rarebit as the specialty of the day in the Clinton Arms Hotel. He decided to try that, but he called the back the waiter and protested that it couldn't be rabbit as there wasn't any bones in it.

There was another problem with the food, the heavy workload plus the wartime rations were taking their toll. Bob Christie had lost 32 lbs in six weeks. This was solved by the generous Monks at Kelham Hall allowing the Roughnecks to grow some vegetables in the monastery grounds and there had been a help from the local pheasant population and the rampant black market. However in one incident Brussels sprouts were offered for breakfast. Also a deal was made with the American Army after much groundwork was done by Rosser in persuading General John C H Lee to intercede on the ration problem.

 

 

The Call Yanks are Coming Over here Sherwood Forest