Wartime Lumberjill Shares Stories on Armistice Day
Institute of Chartered Foresters Executive Director, Shireen Chambers FICFor, yesterday (11 November) joined Forestry Commission Scotland to meet one of Scotland’s oldest ‘Lumberjills’ – the name given to women who worked in forestry during the Second World War.
(l-r) Shireen Chambers FICFor, ICF, Christina Forrester and Jo O’Hara, Forestry Commission Scotland.
Christina Forrester, 91, from Glasgow, was guest of honour at the FCS-organised event to mark Armistice Day. Christina was a member of the Women’s Timber Corps in the 1940’s, formed to replace the men who had left to join the armed forces during the Second World War.
Shireen Chambers FICFor was among a number of female foresters with whom she shared her wartime stories, at the Commission’s Lodge visitor centre near Aberfoyle. These included Jo O’Hara, Deputy Director of Forestry Commission Scotland, and a number of female apprentices within the Commission.
Christina Forrester, aged 19.
Recalling her past days as a lumberjill, Christina said:
“When I went into the WTC I didn’t know what was ahead of me.
“People didn’t travel much in those days and moving from the Glasgow area to Perthshire seemed far away from family and friends. But everyone felt the same as they came from far and wide too. We all supported each other when someone was homesick or unwell.
“You had to get used to being told what to do and when to do it although it wasn’t too regimented. Leisure time was a Sunday and there was dancing on Friday and Saturday night. The girls all walked four miles to and from the dances except when Jimmy Shand was playing and we were allowed a lift, in all our finery, on the back of a lorry!
“When the camp was disbanded in 1944, two of us were kept on and had lodgings in the village of Alyth. That was luxury. It was a great part of my life with many fond memories.”
Jo O’Hara said: “Christina is such a wonderful woman and her family must be so proud of her.
“Back in the 1940s forestry would have been such a tough and labour intensive job but the lumberjills were a force to be reckoned with. Their team spirit and dedication helped in the overall war effort. “We have all found it fascinating to hear Christina’s stories…they are especially poignant on Armistice Day.”
Shireen Chambers FICFor added: “I was honoured to be part of this event to mark Armistice Day – Christina’s stories from her time as a forester were remarkable. Not only is this a celebration of her wartime work, but also of female foresters across the UK. She is a great inspiration to all young women considering forestry as a career option.”
Christina (Edgar) volunteered into the Corps as a 19 year old in 1942. At the time she was working in the office at Clark and Sons in Dalmarnock. After a month’s training at Shanford Lodge, Brechin, learning how to cut down trees manually, she was sent to Alyth along with two other girls who joined up at the same time.
The Women’s Timber Corps, c1940.
They all lived firstly in Nissan huts then were told that they were being moved into part of Bamff House which had been commandeered for the war effort. It was four miles from the village and they used to walk in and back to get eggs or go to the dancing. A major highlight for the lumberjills was Jimmy Shand playing there once a month.
Breakfast was at 7am and they were given a tin box with sandwiches for lunch. They worked until lunch then again until 5pm when a lorry took them back. It was early to bed unless they had a trip to the village arranged. The prisoners of war worked with them until they were taken back to their camp at Balharry. Christina often drove a tractor to pick up trees which had been measured and the larger ones for railway sleepers or pit props went to the sawmill – branches were burned.
She used an axe and a crosscut saw for felling the trees. Christina was allowed a summer holiday when she went home to her parents in Glasgow on the train.
Christina stayed in digs in Alyth for the last two years of her time with the Corps as the other girls were sent to other camps. Finally she returned home to Glasgow in Autumn in 1945 and met Jim Forrester, who was to be her husband for 50 years until his death 11 years ago.