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Vital war work of the North Yorkshire ‘lumberjills’
Modern-day lumberjills Sarah Bell, left, and Corinne McMinnis try out the old wartime saws, used by members of the Woman’s Timber Corps, in Dalby Forest
THEY were a vital part of North Yorkshire’s war effort and now Forestry Commission chiefs are looking for the original “lumberjills” who kept the timber industry running during the country’s darkest hour.
The Woman’s Timber Corps (WTC), founded 70 years ago, saw women carrying out back-breaking work felling trees and loading them on to trucks where they were taken away to make anything from pit-props to aircraft parts and even used in explosives.
One former lumberjill, Edna Holland, 87, from Beverley in East Yorkshire, left home for the first time at 17 and spent three years in the wilds of the North York Moors.
She said: “It was very hard work, but we learned such a lot. We started off by learning to fell a tree. Then we were taught how to measure different sized pit props.
“My goodness we got muscles everywhere, but it made us feel really good.”
Modern-day lumberjill, Sarah Bell, 20, from Kirkbymoorside, is full of admiration.
She said: “These days machines do a lot of the back-breaking work, but in the 1940s forestry was far more labour-intensive.
“The only way to cut down a tree was to use a saw or axe – chainsaws still hadn’t been invented. The girls were made of tough stuff and it’s time their contribution was better known.”
The Forestry Commission is hoping to build on its collection of photographs and accounts of life for the women who worked in places such as Dalby and Cropton Forests, near Pickering, and Boltby and Kilburn Forests, between Thirsk and Helmsley.
Petra Young, project officer, said: “We know lumberjills served here until the end of the war as we have vintage photographs. But there are many stories waiting to be discovered. These memories will help us write another chapter in the history of our woods.”
If you or a member of your family served in local Forestry Commission woods during the last war please contact Petra Young on 01751 472771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org