Welcome to The Story of the North East's Lumber Jills website.
This website has been produced thanks to the efforts of local volunteers who spent a year meeting and recording interviews with women from North East England who served in the Women's Timber Corps during World War 2.
Volunteers were trained to record and edit their interviews and what appears here on this website is entirely their own work. Volunteers continue to be involved in the project and if there are any more ladies out there or their families who would like to be interviewed or have material such as WTC documents or photographs to share, please contact us and a volunteer will contact you to arrange a visit. Alternatively if anyone has further information on the material contained in our archive or spots any errors please get in touch. Please note that as the website is manned by volunteers, responses to emails cannot be immediate.
How did the project start?
During World War II a temporary sawmill was erected and managed to process timber used for the war effort at Chopwell Wood, Gateshead. It is believed that members of the Women's Timber Corps (WTC) were employed there although neither the Friends of Chopwell Wood nor Forestry Commission had any definite records of this.
Following some press articles in late 2011/early 2012, Groundwork received calls from two families who had relatives who served at Chopwell Wood and this provided the spark for the project The Story of the North East's Lumber Jills.
Groundwork received a number of calls over the time from women and their families all over the north east and so it was felt that a project that captured the memories of all of these women was needed particularly as so little was known about the role of the WTC. Groundwork received funding from Heritage Lottery Fund, Gateshead Council, the Friends of Chopwell Wood and the Forestry Commission to do this.
Who are the Lumber Jills?
Lumber Jills was the name given to over 6000 women who served with The Women's Timber Corp which was established in 1942 following an increased demand for homegrown timber. Until then Britain relied on imported timber but submarine attacks on allied shipping resulted in shortages. With most young men away fighting, women were recruited and transferred from the Women's Land Army to work in forests and saw mills, being trained to measure, fell, trim, saw and clear timber to make pit props, railway sleepers and even parts of aircraft.
Recruits came from a wide range of occupations – hairdressers, clerks, shop assistants, typists. All recruits undertook four weeks of training, many of the North East Lumber Jills did this in Yorkshire or Cumbria.
In the first week of the training course recruits were introduced to the four main sections of the work: felling, cross-cutting, clearing in the woods-sawing-measuring-driving tractors and lorries. For the remaining three weeks they specialised in the branch for which they had been found most suited.
Women from the North East worked in Northumberland, Cumbria and Yorkshire but also travelled as far as Shropshire, Worcestershire and Suffolk.
At the end of their month, qualified candidates were formally enrolled in the Timber Corps and sent to their work up and down the country, usually far from their homes and moving from forest to forest as supply dried up.
Recruitment closed in 1943 and The Timber Corps disbanded in 1946. It was not until 2007 that the WTC received official recognition with badges being issued to women for their service.
Funding and Support
This website has been made posible through funding and support from the bodies listed below. Follow the links to find out more.