Here you will find information about the Women's Timber Corps.
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The Women’s Timber Corps.
The Women’s Timber Service had been set up during the First World War, but in April 1942 the Ministry of Supply (Home Grown Timber Department) inaugurated a new venture “The Women’s Tiber Corps (WTC)” in England.
The Timber Corps was a separate branch of the Women’s Land Army and was started due to the German occupation of Norway causing a shortage of imported timber. This branch received even less recognition than the typical Land Girl. The uniform for the Timber Corps was slightly different than the ‘Lumber Jills’ who had a ‘beret’ instead of a hat and had a different arm band. Their badge showed a fir tree, as opposed to the sheaf of wheat for the Women’s Land Army
As many of the women who had joined the Forestry Commission came from the Women's Land Army (WLA), the WLA took over the administration and recruitment for the WTC and although the WTC was officially part of the WLA it retained a separate identity.
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The 'Lumberjills'
These ‘Lumberjills’, as they were affectionately known, replaced
the men who had answered the call to war.
external image WTC%252B5.jpgThey were working in the forests of Great Britain, carrying out the arduous tasks of felling snedding, loading, crosscutting, driving tractors, trucks, working with horses, measuring and operating sawmills all over Scotland and England.

This was done in all kinds of weather. One thousand lumberjills were camped in wooden huts in the north of Scotland, others in rugged billets, far from the comforts of family and home. A female forester was expected to wield a six pound axe, and produce enough timber to produce pit props for the mines, telegraph poles, road blocks, ship masts, railway sleepers, gun mats, mobile tracking to support tanks, ladders, newsprint and even crosses for soldiers' graves. A large percentage of this timber mining was used to keep Britain's engine turning during these difficult times.

lumberjill memorial
lumberjill memorial
Creating a lasting memorial and 'thank you'

As the WTC was a section of the Women’s Land Army, there was no official recognition of its efforts during the war. There was no representative at official Armistice Day Parades and no separate wreath at the Cenotaph - in fact, they had become the ‘Forgotten Corps'.

In order to provide a lasting memorial to the women of the WTC, Forestry Commission Scotland commissioned a study in 2006 which concluded that the most appropriate site for a memorial would be in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, with a preferred location being The Lodge Forest Visitor's Center near Aberfoyle. This is an established and well-appreciated site, with many of the facilities required for visits from existing members of the WTC.

In December 2006 a shortlist of potential artists was drawn up, and Forestry Commission Scotland commissioned a Fife-based artist, Malcolm Robertson, to create the memorial. Mr Robertson has previously worked on art installations within the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.

The sculpture (pictured) is a life-size bronze of a member of the WTC. Visitors approach it from the back via a path; this perspective helps the visitor appreciate the figure is female and that she has her right hand raised to her face in what appears to be a salute.

Edna Holland, 87, from Beverley, who left home for the first time as a 17-year-old from Doncaster and spent three years working on the North York Moors from a Lumberjills' camp at Boltby, said.

It was very hard work, but we learnt such a lot. We started off by learning to fell a tree. Then we were taught how to measure different sized pit props. My goodness we got muscles everywhere, but it made us feel really good.

One of her contemporary successors, 21st century lumberjill Sarah Bell, 20, from Kirkbymoorside and a works supervisor with the Forestry Commission, is lost in admiration:

  • These days machines do a lot of the back-breaking work, but in the 1940s forestry was far more labour intensive. The only way to cut down a tree was to use a saw or axe - chainsaws still hadn't been invented. The girls were made of tough stuff and it's time their contribution was better known.

The corps mixed volunteers from every type of social background, kitted out in their green uniforms like Robin Hood's forest band and often billeted with local families. As well as pit props, their timber was used in a huge range of armaments manufacture.

Pam Warhurst, chair of Forestry Commission England, says:

  • The great efforts of our Lumberjills must be one of the last unrecognised stories of the Second World War. We forget how vital timber was to the war effort and yet so little is known about the women who kept the nation's forestry working. I am extremely grateful to projects like this which are striving to gather information before it slips from our collective memory.

Prim from Austria

We did all sorts of jobs at the saw mill, delivering firewoods, loading wood onto trains, making struts for ceilings and I did coffin wood.

I heard that I could join up, so I volunteered because I wanted to do something to help against Hitler.