Tayside and Central Scotland

Remembering the work of Britain's WW2 lumberjills

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Media captionChristina Forrester swapped working in an office for chopping down trees

Female forestry workers, known as lumberjills, did vital work during the Second World War while the men were away fighting. More than 70 years on, the Forestry Commission has compiled a book to ensure their role is not forgotten.

Looking at wartime photographs, 91-year-old Christina Forrester fondly remembers her time as a lumberjill.

She signed up in 1942, aged just 19. With no experience of working outdoors or in forestry, she swapped her life in a Glasgow office for cutting down trees and even driving a tractor in rural Perthshire.

As Christina puts it, she went from "pushing a pen to cutting down trees".

She said: "They gave us an axe and a cross-cut saw and showed us how to swing the axe and make the cut on the tree, whichever way it's going to fall.

"Then two of you used the cross-cut saw and you yelled 'Timber!'"

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Image caption The lumberjills were given a month's training before being set to work
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Christina (nee Edgar) was working in the office at Clark and Sons in Dalmarnock when she volunteered.

After a month's training at Shanford Lodge in Brechin, learning how to cut down trees manually, she was sent to Alyth along with two other girls.

They lived in Nissen huts at first, before being moved into part of Bamff House which had been commandeered for the war effort.

They cut down trees by hand to make everything from railway sleepers to pit props.

The work of the lumberjills might not be well known, but it was crucial.

By 1942, many of the men who had worked in forestry were away, so the Women's Timber Corps was formed.

Women took on the much-needed war work, replacing the men who had left to join the armed forces.

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Image caption It was heavy work using manual saws

They were nicknamed the lumberjills, and today's Forestry Commission is keen to have their work remembered.

Jo O'Hara is the head of Forestry Commission Scotland, which has helped put together a book which will feature the lumberjills.

She said: "There is still a lot of physical work out in forestry, but it's nothing compared to the labour that those women did back then working with hand-held tools - there was no such thing as chainsaws."

She said the work done by lumberjills was vital to the war effort.

"Getting coal out required pit props: pit props require trees.

"We couldn't import any timber during the war but we were used to importing all our timber from abroad.

"Supplies were cut off so we had to cut down the trees in the country, to produce coal, to heat and light the country - so it was absolutely crucial to the war effort and one that I think has gone under-recognised."

Christina will never forget her time as a lumberjill. As one of the last remaining, she's keen others remember their work.

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