During the two world wars, it is well known that women all over the country entered
factories, armed services and farms, filling gaps left by the exodus of men. What is less well known is that one of the vital services women filled during these tumultuous times was in forestry, forming the Women's Timber Corps.
Timber was a vital resource, imported into the UK in vast quantities, but wartime meant the country had to be self-sufficient - and without the men that usually took on the work.
Without it, mining, shipbuilding and a whole host of other industries would grind to a halt.
In stepped the Lumberjills: the government reluctantly recruited thousands of women to
carry out this 'man's job'; they were responsible for felling and crosscutting trees by hand, operating sawmills, driving tractors and hauling timber trucks.
But despite their irreplaceable role in the wars, their role has been downsized to a footnote in books on the much celebrated Women's Land Army. Here researcher Joanna Foat weaves the fascinating hidden history of the Women's Timber Corps with voices of the Lumberjills themselves to air their stories for the first time and finally give them the recognition they so sorely deserve.
From December 1939, as many as 1,200 women who joined the Women's Land Army worked in forestry. They faced discrimination from the timber trade and were often refused lodging by local people because they might lead the men in the community astray.
The success and growth of an all female forestry corps was thwarted because the women were ridiculed and faced widespread prejudice. Finally the government agreed to set up the Women's Timber Corps in April 1942 when the women had proven their success.