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Lumberjills

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Lumberjills were members of The Women's Timber Corps (WTC), recruited during World War II to carry out the work of male lumberjacks, whose numbers had been depleted by conscription.

Lumberjills carried out the same demanding and heavy work as lumberjacks, felling, snedding (removing branches from felled trees), loading lorries and trains, and sawing timber throughout the forests of Scotland. Much of the wood they produced was used as mining timber, providing pit props needed to maintain coal production for the nation's power stations. Pay rates were low, and once their keep had been deducted from their wages, the women they were left with little more than pocket money. Accommodation was sparse, generally wooden huts which, due to the nature of the work, were located in very isolated sites. Officially recruited from age 17, girls as young as 14 volunteered for the corps.

History

The Women’s Timber Service had originally been set up during World War I. In April 1942, the Ministry of Supply (Home Grown Timber Department) created the Women’s Timber Corps in England, and Scotland followed quickly in May 1942, when it formed its own Women’s Timber Corps. This was a new unit which had its own identity and uniform, but was organisationally a part of the Women’s Land Army,

Training courses were run at Shandford Lodge, by Brechin in Angus, and Park House, by Banchory.

West of Scotland camps included Glen Etive, Inverchaolain by Loch Striven, Ballochyle near Sandbank, Glendaruel, Glenbranter, and Strachur.

The WTC was disbanded in August 1946. Each member was handed back her uniform, and received a letter from Queen Elizabeth.

Strachur

The sawmill was located in St Catherine's, next to what had been the village primary school. Cut timber was first transported by lorry to Tarbet, then transferred to rail. Women were billeted at Letters Lodge, Strachur.

Inverchaolain

Pier at Glenstriven
Pier at Glenstriven

Timber from the Glenstriven Estate was hauled by horses to Finnart on the shore of Loch Striven, from where the logs were floated out to be loaded onto puffers.

A pier was eventually built at Glenstriven, and a better system of transporting the timber was invented by an Australian, with a railway leading down to the pier, and bogies used to the move the logs.

When the secret X-Craft trials were held on Loch Striven, all the forestry workers are reported to have been shut in Inverchaolain Lodge with the blinds drawn on the windows, and a naval sentry outside. The resultant loss of production was resented, since it affected the women's pay, which was already low.

(This story needs a reference source, as these trials were extensive, and there would have been little point in locking-down the lumberjills, since many others may haveb been overlooking the water from a large area. Also, most of the trials and training were carried out underwater. Bouncing bomb tests would have been more likely causes for lock-ins, being confined to the target area, and carried out at specific times, but the same problem with observers being present along the length of the loch.)

Glendaruel

The girls were billeted at Glendaruel Estate. Cut timber was transported by lorry to Arrochar, also Crianlarich occasionally, for transfer to rail.

Memorial

Lumberjill memorial, 2012
Lumberjill memorial
© James Allan
Lumberjill memorial, 2010
Lumberjill memorial
© Jim Smillie

It seems that since the Women's Timber Corps had been a section of the Women's Land Army, was no official recognition of their efforts during the war ws awarded, there is no representative at official Armistice Day parades, and no separate wreath is laid at the Cenotaph - they have been described as 'Forgotten Corps'.

On October 10, 2007, in a ceremony held in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park near Aberfoyle, a memorial to the lumberjills was unveiled by Michael Russell MSP, Minister for the Environment.

The memorial was created in the form of a sculpture, a life-size bronze statue of a member of the WTC which stands on a site donated by Forest Enterprise Scotland, overlooks the forest area.

In 2006, Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) announced that it wanted to create a lasting memorial to the WTC and the lumberjills, and commissioned a study which identified the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park as the most appropriate site. The study also selected the park's David Marshall Lodge as an ideal location for the memorial, since many of the facilities required by visitors were already available there. By December 2006, a shortlist of potential artists had been prepared, and FCS commissioned Fife-based artist Malcolm Robertson, an artist who had already worked on art installations within the park, to create the sculpture.

Tribute video

Introduction accompanying the video below:

Britain's first memorial to 5000 members of the Women's Timber Corps was unveiled today (Wednesday October 10 2007) at Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Aberfoyle, in the heart of central Scotland.

Michael Russell, Scotland's Environment Minister, unveiled a life-sized bronze sculpture of a 'Lumberjill' which will provide a lasting tribute to the women who stepped up to the mark to manage the country's forests during the war.

Women were recruited to the Women's Timber Corps (WTC) - part of the Women's Land Army - during World War Two and posted throughout Britain. Many were sent to remote areas of Scotland, where they lived for months in spartan conditions, whilst they ensured that timber supplies were kept in steady supply, felling trees, loading lorries and sawmilling timber.

After the war, the WTC was disbanded in August 1946, and each member handed back her uniform and received a letter from HRH , Queen Elizabeth. The sculpture is an official recognition of their hard work and efforts during the war.
- WeeFlee Productions.



A unique tribute to Britain's lumberjills

The Lumberjills of Scotland

WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Claire White of BBC Scotland on behalf of Rosalind Elder and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

The Womens’ Timber Corps

1942 —1946

In the winter of 1942, I joined the Timber Corps, a branch of the Womens’ Land Army. We trained in Shandford Lodge, Brechin Angus for four weeks; this rudimentary training consisted of felling, crosscutting, loading wagons and in my case working with horses. After training, I was posted to Advie, Morayshire. Our accommodations there were primitive, wooden huts, wood burning stoves, Tilley lamps and army cots with gray blankets. A dining hut and an ablution shed with outdoor toilets. We worked outdoors in all types of weather; rain, sleet and snow. My quota was sixty trees a day, I ran alongside the horse jumping over stumps and brush. In the summertime it was quite pleasant and we did have beautiful tans.

The pay was very low the cost of food was deducted from our pay; this left us with pocket money and little else. However, we felt that we were helping to win the war and with our usual youthful spirits laughed, dance and made the best of things.

Our camps were surrounded by various troops, Canadians, H.L.I., R.E.M.E, not to mention the Norwegian and Dutch troops training in the Grampians. We had many men to choose from and never lacked company for dancing.

Our uniform was most attractive, riding breeches, green p/over, beige shirt, green tie, riding coat and to top it all off a jaunty green beret with a badge depicting a tree. We wore axes of brass on our epaulets and red cloth badges in the shape of diamonds denoting our service time. I wore a leader girl badge and earned 10/- extra.

When Advie forest was finally cut down, we were transferred to Grantown on Spey and again to Carrbridge, Invernesshire. I had progressed to measuring timber by this time, which proved to be less arduous than working with horses. We were well-seasoned lumberjills by this time, and could hold our own with any man in the woods. I enjoyed my years as a lumberjill especially the camaraderie we shared by day and night with friends that I shall never forget. Unfortunately, a number of the girls were injured, some killed on the job, others discharged having contracted TB.

The Italian and German prisoners worked side by side with us, I enjoyed listening to the Italians singing on their breaks, O’ sole’ Mio and many other favourites, all they ever wanted was to “go home”. My next posting was to Inverchoalin Lodge, By Dunoon, Argyllshire, a remote shooting lodge by Loch Striven. It was the best posting I’d had, running water and bathrooms, a delight after the years spent in camps. The war had ended in 1945 but we were not released. Instead, the lumberjills continued on I left in 1946 to marry an overseas service man.

I have fond memories of my Timber Corps days and when I reminisce, I think of sunshine, laughter, the scent of fresh cut wood and the voices of the lumberjills calling TIM-BER!

© Rosiland Elder.[1]

References

1 The Women's Timber Corps, Rosalind Elder, WW2 People's War.

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