October WTC Photo of the Month
Sixty years after the Women’s Timber Corps was disbanded, regional memorials to their work began to emerge. In 2006, the Forestry Commission created the first memorial, ‘Salute’, which proudly stand in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, near Aberfoyle in Scotland. It’s this memorial which is the subject of this month’s post. Michael Russell, Minister for the Environment, unveiled the sculpture by Malcolm Robertson in October 2007.
Cast in black bronze, the Aberfoyle memorial represents a life-size Lumber Jill at rest as she casts her eyes over the forest. The physical height of the memorial gives the figure authority, as the visitor looks upwards, both to the figure and the nearby trees.
Standing upon rocks of different shapes and sizes, the sculpture draws on the iconography of memorials to soldiers, giving the memorial authority and meaning. The relaxed nature of the figure’s body language reflects the ease many women exhibited when working, as they became accustomed to the new war work they had to carry out.
The location of the statue in the Queen Elizabeth Forest is significant; this was the type of environment which the memorial wished to commemorate. The Forestry Commission notes that as the visitor moves closer, they realise that the figure ‘is looking out, perhaps reflecting on past times, or simply looking over her work and efforts’.
Her expression could indicate the pride she felt in looking out over her work in the forest. Yet, it could also be read as revealing the guilt which some women felt about their wartime occupation in forestry. The figure’s salute could be interpreted as indicative of her wider submission to Mother Nature.
The memorialisation of the figure in full WTC uniform presents a somewhat institutionalised perspective of remembrance. Though smart-looking, this is a rather sanitised depiction of women’s appearance, as a Lumber Jill would not have looked so pristine having just felled a tree!
Still, the physicality of work is implied through her body. The inclusion of the axe resting beside her implies the strength required to lift and use the tool. The absence of the wasp waist further testifies to the figure’s upper body strength, also expressed through her broad shoulders and imposing posture.
Memorials such as this one are vital for ensuring that vital work carried about by former Lumber Jills is recognised, remembered, and commemorated.