This post is dedicated to some often forgotten heroines of WW2 - The Women's Timber Corps, otherwise known as 'Lumberjills'. Those who watch Wartime Farm on BBC2 would have seen them attempting The Timber Corps work, and I hope this will encourage widespread knowledge of these brave women.
The Lumberjills were a unit of of The Women's Land Army along with The Land Girls, who are more often used as the iconic image of the Women's Home Front.
The Women’s Timber Service had actually been set up during WW1, but in April 1942 the Ministry of Supply inaugurated The Women’s Timber Corps in England. When supply grew, Scotland followed in May 1942, forming its own Women’s Timber Corps. This was a new unit with its own identity and uniform. In Scotland, girls and women were recruited from the age of 17, however, some were as young as 14. Their issued badge contained a fir tree instead of the bundle of wheat featured on The Land Girls uniform.
The Lumberjills were drafted in at the outbreak of War to ensure Britain had timber for it's roaring industry. Home-produced timber was crucial for aircraft and railway construction, ship-building, charcoal for explosives and gas mask filters, not to mention everyday uses such as packaging and coffins. Some were actually stationed in forest huts, others stayed with locals. The hours were long, and in all weathers. As servicemen were stationed nearby, they often met at dances and many moved to Canada after the war with their sweethearts.
They faced prejudice from the male forestry workers, as this was pure manual labour and they weren't expected to be tough enough. Needless to say, they proved them wrong. Their hands became calloused, they developed strong muscular arms and legs - not traits of a "real lady" at the time, but they relished the freedom and fresh air even if it did cause many aches and pains! I can imagine that many were unwilling or uncomfortable to return to indoor-domestic lives IF their husbands returned. For those who joined when young, or if widowed and having to start afresh, I believe it gave them a strong core confidence, and the toughness to go on alone. The Land Army broke all social stereotypes of women, and changed society for the better, even in the face of such worldwide trauma.
The Women’s Timber Corps was disbanded in August 1946, with each girl handing back her uniform and receiving a letter from Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who was the patron of the WTC.
After The War, 8,700 women of The Timber Corps received no recognition, despite providing 60 per cent of the timber needed by the industry of the time. They finally gained a fitting memorial in 2007, when the Forestry Commission Scotland unveiled a powerful life size bronze sculpture by Malcolm Robertson. I thought this article gave an interesting account of the day:
For further reading regarding the memorial, visit The Women's Timber Corps Website.
Found via Dougie Coull Photography
A UNIQUE TRIBUTE TO BRITAIN'S LUMBERJILLS from WeeFlee Productions on Vimeo.
Veterans of The Women's Land Army and Timber Corps will be marching for the last time to the Cenotaph this year. I hope they will get a special remembrance this time, they deserve it.
I hope you enjoyed reading,