Lumberjills being celebrated at the Chippendale furniture school

The spirit of the Lumberjills

Jack and Jill did go up many hills, but to fetch timber not water.

Because this week we’d like to celebrate the largely forgotten heroines of the Women’s Timber Corps (WTC).

What brought this to mind is that, on our last introductory course, we had an equal split between men and women – for the first time.

However, on our one-month intermediate courses, the majority of students have been women.

We absolutely welcome that change in attitude as women make equally fine woodworkers as men.

It really all started in the spring of 1941 when 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…”

While the Women’s Timber Service had been set up during World War I, the Ministry of Supply (Home Grown Timber Department) inaugurated the Women’s Timber Corps.

It was a new unit, with its own identity and uniform.  In Scotland, girls and women were recruited from the age of 17 – although some were as young as 14. They came from all kinds of backgrounds and all walks of life.

These ‘Lumberjills’, as they became 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 in Scotland and England.

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.

But, as the WTC was a section of the Women’s Land Army, there was no official recognition of its efforts during the war.  They became the ‘Forgotten Corps’.

Lumberjills statue celebrating the WTC by Chippendale furniture school

That changed in 2006 when Forestry Commission Scotland decided to create a monument in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, near Aberfoyle in Highland Perthshire.

Fife-based artist, Malcolm Robertson, was commissioned to create the memorial, and the result is a life-size bronze (pictured above) of a member of the WTC which was unveiled in 2007.

We’d like to salute those pioneering women, and to welcome many more to the Chippendale school!

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