Re-published as part of a series entitled ‘Stories from Strathard’ in Strathard Life, Issue 118, Winter 2020 are two articles and photographs in celebration of Britain’s Lumberjills from the Strathard News, Issue 41, December 2007. The photograph of Agnes Smith, is from Issue 44, May 2008. All were written by David Wilkie, Warden of the David Marshall Lodge.
Britain’s first memorial to 5,000 members of the Women’s Timber Corps was unveiled on Wednesday October 10 at Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, Aberfoyle, in the heart of central Scotland. Environment Minister, Michael Russell unveiled a life-size 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. Environment Minister, Michael Russell said: “I am delighted to help commemorate the hard working women of the Women’s Timber Corps whose valiant, behind the scenes effort helped Britain in the war effort.
“The women become affectionately known as ‘Lumberjills’, replacing men who had answered the call to war. The work the women did was hard, physical labour that helped keep the industry afloat, and it helped shape the forests we see around us today. I am pleased that the Commission has taken steps to help remember the group and instigate the creation of the statue, which represents an unnamed heroine of the Women’s Timber Corps. This will be a lasting tribute to these brave women.”
The memorial is located at Forestry Commission Scotland’s David Marshall Lodge, Aberfoyle. Fife-based artist, Malcolm Robertson, was commissioned to create the memorial. The surviving members of the corps attending the unveiling were welcomed with music from the 1940s. The women were also taken on a tour of a modern day harvesting site to see how forestry techniques have changed over the years.
Rosalind Elder, who worked in the Women’s Timber Corps and who now lives in Canada said: “It is commendable that Forestry Commission Scotland’s David Marshall Lodge has co-funded and commissioned this excellent statue to be dedicated to the members of the Women’s Timber Corps. Two men in particular, John Scott and John McIntyre have pushed for some symbol of recognition for us, and Forestry Commission Scotland heard the call and responded. Without their assistance it would never have come to pass, and we shall be forever grateful to them for answering our pleas for something of substance other than a ‘Thank you’. This statue will be a suitable memorial to the young women who worked long and hard during World War II to supply the much-needed timber for the war effort. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on their visits from Canada and the USA will appreciate this beautiful site, a fitting forest background for the girls of the Women’s Timber Corps.” The memorial has been funded through donations from Forestry Commission Scotland, the Scottish Forestry Trust and the Royal Scottish Forestry Society. For information visit www.forestry.gov.uk/womenstimbercorps
On a recent visit to The Lodge, ex-Lumberjill, Agnes Smith of Edinburgh, recognised herself in one of the display banners in the foyer! (she’s the one on the right of the picture)
THE WOMENS TIMBER CORP
The long-awaited unveiling of Malcolm Robertson’s bronze statue of the ‘Lumberjill’ finally came to pass on Wednesday October 11th.
Lumberjill memorial unveiling at David Marshall Lodge, Queen Elizabeth Forest Park
On a glorious, sun-kissed day, over a hundred ex-patriots flocked to attend this monumental occasion. Lunches were provided on the day and there was also an opportunity to enjoy a mini-bus tour to a harvesting area in the forest. It is hard to imagine what was going through the minds of these wonderful old ladies as they witnessed the modern day methods of giant machines cutting through the timber like butter. Previously, they would have dealt with similar situations, forced upon them through circumstance, with only a basic selection of hand tools. Cast into such unfamiliar territory, with little training, the WTC more than held their own, achieving their objectives with overwhelming spirit and determination. On the day, I was struck by two things. Firstly, the ladies, most of whom had congregated in their finery, were clearly enjoying the attention given them by the assembled press. Secondly, there was an irresistible feeling of calm to the gathering. Although this may have, in part, been down to the fine weather, I am more inclined the reason was due to a collective sense of satisfaction, and relief, that a line was finally drawn under their magnificent contribution to the war effort, finally recognised through this marvellous statue. Perhaps I’ll leave the last word to Hilton Wood, Lumberjill.
THE OTHER WAY
There is a land, or so I’m told
Where timber girls ne’er feel the cold
Where trees come down all sned and peeled
And there’s no need an axe to wield
The transport’s never broken down
And Jills go every night to town
How different here in snow and sleet
Shivering with wet and frozen feet
But wait, the sun’s come out at last
And summer’s here and winter’s past
The limberjills work all day- Who’d have it round that other way ?
Hilton Wood, Lumberjill