A new sculpture will be revealed in Dalby Forest on Remembrance Sunday to commemorate the role of the Lumberjills during the Second World War.
Sculptor Ray Lonsdale, from South Hetton near Durham, won the competition set by the Forestry Commission to create a lasting memorial in honour of the role of the Lumberjills and the work they carried out for the war effort.
The sculpture, titled Pull Don’t Push features a steel fabrication of a felled tree and two Lumberjills and is around five metres long and three metres high. It captures the arduous nature of the work in the forests as well as the fun that many of the lumberjills experienced while working in the forests during the war.
The Women’s Timber Service was set up during the First World War, but in April 1942 the Ministry of Supply (Home Grown Timber Department) set-up a new venture – the Women’s Timber Corps in England. Part of the Women’s Land Army, this was a new unit with its own identity and uniform, which included a green beret to distinguish them.
More than 9,000 women were recruited from all over Britain and posted to forests where they would carry out the heavy work of felling and crosscutting trees by hand as well as working in sawmills, loading trucks and driving tractors.
Home-grown timber was needed for the war effort and was used in everything from telegraph poles, Pit props, packaging boxes for military supplies and weapons, gun butts, canon carriage wheels, Mosquito and Spitfire combat aircraft and shipbuilding. The charcoal was also used for explosives and in the production of gas masks.
The Forestry Commission has been part of the effort to locate all surviving members of the Women’s Timber Corps in order to recognise their achievements and create a lasting legacy to them.
Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of the Forestry Commission, said: “As the Women’s Timber Corps 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 legacy to their contribution to the war effort the Forestry Commission England wanted to commission a memorial. We are delighted to unveil it today on Remembrance Sunday with some of the original Lumberjills here “
Many women trained at Wetherby in Yorkshire before working in Cropton, Boltby and Dalby Forests in the North York Moors from 1942 until around 1948.
Edna Holland nee Lloyd, 88, trained at Wetherby and worked across the North York Moors throughout the war, felling trees to make pit props. She worked with horses and drove a caterpillar tractor to extract the wood from the forests.
She said: “Physically it was very, very hard work. We started off by learning to fell a tree. We used the axe to put the wedge in low to the ground to know which way it was falling. We then used a cross cut saw to fell the tree and chopped the branches off the tree with the axe. Then we were taught how to measure and cut different sized pit props.
“My father worked at Armthorpe Pits in Doncaster and he only ever wrote to me once. The letter said you’re not measuring the pit props properly and they are not straight enough.”
Great Britain supplied 60 per cent of its timber needs during the war and a total of 46 per cent of trees were felled. By 1945 usable standing timber had been exhausted.