World War 2, over 4,900 young women joined the
Women's Land Army Timber Corps
(W.L.A.T.C.) in order to make a
contribution to the war effort. They worked in the forests of Great Britain,
felling, snedding, loading, crosscutting, driving tractors, trucks, working with
horses, measuring and operating sawmills.
This was done in all kinds of weather. One thousand 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 supply timber for pit props for the mines, telegraph poles, road
blocks, ships masts, railway sleepers, gun mats, mobile tracking to support
tanks, ladders, newsprint and even crosses for soldiers graves.
Timber Corp. members were sufficiently experienced to be sent to Germany after
the war to salvage equipment from abandoned sawmills. Although forestry enjoyed
a more attractive image than farming, it nevertheless required stamina and
expertise. The "lumberjills" as they were called wore the same uniform as
the Land Girls, with the exception of the Green Beret, and the badge, which
instead of a wheat sheaf featured a Fir tree, surmounted by a Royal crown.
Training centres were set up throughout
the UK, Shandford Lodge in Brechin, Angus in Scotland was one of these
training camps. Here the young women were taught the rudiments of forestry,
handling axes, saws, vehicles and horses. It was a rude awakening for some,
as the majority had been city bred and were unfamiliar with the wide-open spaces
or the deep woods. After a two-week course they were dispersed throughout the
countryside, most of the Scots went to camps situated in remote areas of the
Highlands. Inverness-shire, Morayshire, Argyllshire and many other parts of
Scotland. In England, the Timber Corp members were dispersed to a variety of
private billets and were involved in a more varied type of forestry.
However, it was with a cheerful heart these young women undertook the task
before them, learning the skills needed to get the job done to win the war.