Women's Timber Corps
In the spring of 1941, Ernest Bevin, Minister for Labour and National Service, declared that ""One million wives were wanted for war work; inconvenience would have to be suffered and younger women would have to go where their services were required. It would be better to suffer temporarily than to be in perpetual slavery to the nazis.""
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 Timber Corps (WTC), in England. Scotland quickly followed in May 1942, forming its own Women’s Timber Corps which was a part of the Women’s Land Army. 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. They came from all kinds of backgrounds and all walks of life. Those who needed training were sent to and billeted at training camps such as Shandford Lodge, near Brechin and then posted throughout Scotland to wherever they were needed.
These ‘Lumberjills’, as they were affectionately known, replaced the men who had answered the call to war, carrying out the arduous tasks of felling, snedding, loading lorries and trains and sawmilling timber all over Scotland. A large percentage of this was mining timber, used to keep Britain's engine turning during these difficult times.
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.
Watch this clip of Tibby Scotland, Margaret Grant and Mary Weir relate their experiences in the Corps to the BBC's One Show.
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, a study was commissioned 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 Centre 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 a Fife-based artist, Malcolm Robertson, was commissioned 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.
Once the visitor reaches the front of the sculpture it becomes apparent that she is looking out, perhaps reflecting on past times, or simply looking over her work and efforts.
This picture shows Michael Russell MSP, Minister for the Environment, unveiling the Women's Timber Corps memorial at The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, Aberfoyle on 10 October 2007.
The commissioned piece was funded through donations from Forestry Commission Scotland, the Scottish Forestry Trust and a contribution from the Royal Scottish Forestry Society. Come and see the Lumberjill for yourself at The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, just outside Aberfoyle.
Read Christina Forrester's story and learn what life was really like as a lumberjill.