Why was the WTC needed?

Wood was a cheap material and could be used for a range of purposes: telegraph poles, pit props in mines, on aircraft and ships, and in the production of charcoal in explosives. Realising its potential for the war effort, the government, specifically the Ministry of Supply, set up the Home Grown Timber Production Department in October 1940.

The German invasion of Scandinavian countries such as Norway, meant that Britain’s previous supplies of timber had been cut off. Furthermore, Canadian ships which had previously transported timber no longer had room; food and armaments were the priority. As a result, women were urgently required to work for long periods of time in the forests. The heavy nature of their work meant that recruits underwent stricter medical examinations than was the case for Land Girls.

In the early years of the war, women were recruited into forestry work via the WLA. These female forestry workers were later transferred into employment by the Home Grown Timber Production Department, or local timber merchants. [1] In April 1942, the department set up the WTC for England and Wales, with the establishment of Scottish Women’s Timber Corps just 2 months later. The WTC in England was split into 9 geographic areas, with each region having its own Production and Welfare Officers. [2]

Spenny felling a tree.
Spenny felling a tree.

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[1] Joanna Foat, Lumberjills (The History Press, 2019), 34.

[2] Catherine N. Swanston, ‘The Health of Forestry Workers: A Survey of the Women’s Timber Corps of Great Britain’, British Journal of Industrial Medicine 3, no. 1 (1946): 3