Wartime

Wartime

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Canadian Forestry Corps

The Film

Running Time
05 min 30 s

Producer
War Office Cinema Committee

This clip shows member of the Canadian Forestry Corps at work. The initial shot of two men notching a tree trunk is followed by images of men working in pairs, sawing and felling a tree, and then cross-cutting it into lengths. This is followed by images of three men manipulating a freshly cut but still standing tree, clearing it of surrounding trees to allow it to fall. We see shots of logs being loaded onto a wagon and then unloaded at a sawmill. The following segment shows a sawmill in operation, as the logs are cut into lumber with a radial saw. The clip concludes with images of railway ties exiting the mill by conveyor belt and being loaded onto a truck for transport.

The Western Front demanded massive amounts of lumber. It was used to bolster trench walls with “revetting” and to line their floors with “duck boards.” It was also used for railway ties, for building corduroy roads over muddy terrain, and for constructing troop shelters, aircraft hangars and other buildings. Canadians would play a key role in meeting this huge demand.

Prior to the war, Britain imported most of its lumber from North America, Russia and Scandinavia, but with the outbreak of hostilities, shipping lines became vulnerable to u-boat attacks, and cargo space was needed for more vital goods like food and ammunition. It became necessary to harvest British and French forests, but expert timbermen were in short supply. In 1916 Britain made an urgent request for Canadian skilled labour. Canada responded quickly, recruiting 1,600 men and forming the 224th Forestry Battalion. By May 1916, these men were at work producing lumber in Britain.

As the demand grew, the original battalion expanded to become the Canadian Forestry Corps, containing six battalions and 101 companies, deployed mostly in Scotland and in the Jura and Normandy regions of France. By the time the war ended, the Corps had about 24,000 men, with about 12,000 serving in France. The forestry operations also employed outside British workers and prisoners-of-war. In France, Chinese workers would contribute to the effort, while Finnish and Portuguese men played a part in the British-based operation. The Canadian Forestry Corps produced about 70% of all lumber used on the Western Front.

The Canadian Forestry Corps also contributed to building airfields for the Royal Flying Corps, and nine companies from the Corps would help construct over 100 such sites in France and Britain.


Pieces of History

Engineers on the Western Front


Images

Personnel of the Canadian Forestry Corps Loading Timber, Gerardmer, France. February 1919 Unidentified North American Indian Serving with the Canadian Forestry Corps in Britain, 1915-1918 Building a Mill at Labergement Log Hauling and Loading