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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 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.”
Ray Lonsdale is an artist from Durham. A former steel fabricator his chosen medium is now exclusively steel. He was selected to create the sculpture by a panel managed on behalf of the Forestry Commission. Ray creates sculptures on a range of scales and the natural beauty and durability of steel makes the sculptures ideal for outdoor locations.
Ray’s sculptures are always accompanied by a poem, phrase or story. Pull Don’t Push is as follows:
“Yes you’re very clever, now stop it and get down. We’re here to sort this tree out not to mess around.
“We need to get a move on and a blade bites when you rush. And for the love of God remember to pull and never push.”
Ray said: “The brief was to portray the femininity, hard work and fun. I have worked to try and illustrate that and I hope that visitors to the site will appreciate the sculpture and remember what the Lumberjills did for their country.”
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 standing timber had been exhausted.
Media Contact: Margaret Bennett at Creative Concern 0161 236 0600
Notes to Editors
The programme on Remembrance Sunday for the unveiling is:
10:30am Arrival at the Sculpture site
10:45am Welcome and Introduction
11:00am Commemorative silence
11:02 – 11.30am Speeches
12:00noon Lunch in the Courtyard
The Forestry Commission and LumberJills
In 1939 Britain was the largest wood importing country in the world, in peacetime we only produced four per cent of our timber. But the menace of the German submarines put a stop to imported timber and we had to produce our own home-grown supply.
The increase in demand for timber was enormous during wartime. But the gradual erosion in forest cover over eight centuries had left just five per cent forest cover in England at the beginning of the century and then the First World War consumed the best half of the forests that remained.
No one thought that Britain could produce enough timber for war but we had to. The number of people working in forestry rose from 14,000 pre-war to 73,000 at its peak. With more than 9,000 Lumberjills, women accounted for more than one in ten of forestry workers and during Second World War more wood was produced from British woodlands than ever before in history.
Located in the village of South Hetton in the North East Ray started out as a steel fabricator for local authorities. He then began working on art projects in his spare time. These began to sell and now he works solely as an artist in his chosen medium of steel. Ray works on a variety of personal projects and commissions. You can find out more http://www.tworedrubberthings.co.uk/