Last month museum curators Kevin Topham and John Lukehurst were presented with their Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in recognition of their fantastic work undertaken at Dukes Wood Oil Museum in Eakring.
Presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Sir John Peace, the Queen’s Award is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK. They were nominated by regular visitor, Geoffrey Bond and in addition to receiving their Award, Kevin also attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace, with his daughter Karen Mason.
Both recipients are ex-oilmen who now dedicate their time to running the Museum. Kevin, a retired BP Derrickman was one of the survivors of the BP Oil Rig disaster on 27th December 1965, when the offshore oilrig Sea Gem capsized killing 15 crew members.
During World War II, Duke’s Wood played a vital role in the war effort. With German U-boats targeting oil tanker supplies from America and the Middle East, Britain had to seek alternative sources closer to home.
Hailed as Winston Churchill’s ‘greatest secret’, drilling commenced in February 1943 at the UK’s first onshore oilfield within the woodland at Duke’s Wood. American oilmen from Oklahoma had been brought over to oversee the operation and the government went to great lengths to conceal the drilling, with local residents even being kept in the dark. The woodland gave perfect cover against enemy aircraft and the crewmen were housed at the Anglican Monastery at Kelham Hall. By 1945 almost 240 wells were in operation and production had totaled 400,000 tons (about 3 million barrels). Production ceased at the site in 1965 (or 1966?).
The museum was opened in 1995 by Kevin and a number of other volunteers, after a visit from 12 of the original American crewmen, who were keen to revisit the site where they had worked during the war.
As the only oil field museum in the country, Duke’s Wood still welcomes many visitors from all over the world, including many schools and local groups and societies. Visitors can also enjoy the Nature Trail surrounding the site, which is maintained by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
The Oil Museum is open every Sunday 2-5pm or at other times by appointment by calling Kevin on 01623 882446. Further information can be found at www.dukeswoodoilmuseum.co.uk
The museum would also welcome new volunteers, for further details please contact Kevin on 01623 882446.