February WTC Photo of the Month

To welcome in February, I have another photograph to share for our WTC Photo of the month series that will be running throughout 2021. The photograph below was taken by Fox Press Limited during the 1940s. Fox Photos was an important photograph agency of the period, looking to capture scenes of wartime Britain with a broad audience in mind.

Members of the WTC, or earlier forestry members who worked under the auspices of the Women’s Land Army, worked in rural locations aware from the public eye. Press photographs played a particularly important role in sharing what kind of work women carried out in the forests, not only for promotional purposes, but with recruitment in mind too.

Photograph taken by Fox Photos Limited. Source: Cherish Watton private collection, courtesy of Brian Bullock.

What can we learn about women’s forestry work from this anonymous photograph of two women? First, we see two women, using a cross-saw to cut down a tree. We can see that it took two women to fell this tree, working together to move the saw back and forth. The photographer was very skilled, we’re shown the exact moment the tree was about to fall. Calls of ‘timber’ would no doubt have followed this photo; alerting anyone nearby to move out of the way before the thud of the tree on the forest floor.

We can see it’s a messy landscape women that were working in, with other logs at their feet on the forest floor, perhaps showing some of their earlier work. The women have their legs slightly apart, giving them a strong grip on the ground which would allow them to better manoeuvre their weight as they sawed the tree. Accounts written by former Lumber Jills tell us that women often put on weight as a result of their wartime work; growing muscles in places they’d never known before. We can especially see this in the sculpted knees of the woman on the left-hand side.

The photograph is clearly posed as one female forester beams in front of the camera, wearing a tie, the only woman to do so out of the entire collection of photographs. Both women have adapted their uniforms to help them in their hard work, rolling up the legs of their dungarees. Such work work was tiring, requiring a great amount of strength, as well as determination to see through to the final felling of the tree.

If this post has wetted your appetite, you can see other photographs in the monthly series here. And you can see more photos from the Fox Press photos series below.

Did you or a member of family work in the Women’s Timber Corps? If so, then get in touch.

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