Britain needs wood
During the 19th century Britain grew as an industrial nation. As a result, wood was in high demand for fuel and building. Rather than developing its own forests Britain became increasingly reliant on imports to meet its growing needs.
From the outbreak of World War I, Britain could no longer count on foreign wood. Overseas supplies were cut off due to blockades by enemy ships. Britain had to rely on its own limited supplies. These were mainly privately owned forests. By the end of the war Britain's forests were devastated.
Start of the Forestry Commission
The Forestry Commission was established in 1919 to expand and develop state forests. The aim to was to ensure Britain would never be in this situation again. Unfortunately, no one could have predicted that World War II would begin only twenty years later. This left little time for Britain to restore its lost forests. In 1939 only 4% of the wood used in Britain was homegrown.
A wartime resource again
Wood was an important wartime resource. In 1943 the Forestry Commission calculated that five trees were required to allow a single soldier to fight. Again, Britain had to rely on its private forests, mainly located in the Highlands.
In both wars Britain looked to its allies to help cut down trees as most British men were away fighting. Forestry is a skilled job and expert woodsmen were brought in from across the world. This included Canada and Newfoundland, and even British Honduras. In addition, to ensure a supply of wood was maintained, the Women's Timber Corps was established.