The Canadian Forestry Corps in Belgium during WWII

November 7, 2013

Newsreels shot between 1940 and 1946 by the Canadian Army Film Unit for presentation to servicemen and women. A unique document of Canada’s role in the war on the front lines as well as on the home front.


Canadian Forestry Corps: for each fighting soldier, 5 trees needed to be sacrificed for us to be free.

November 7, 2013

A crisis in wood production is met by experienced Canadian forestry professionals.

Canadian Forestry Corps1

A very interesting look into a little known branch of the Canadian military. some excerpts and images from a Bob Briggs article:

Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC)
In both World War I and World War II the Canadian government formed the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC), in answer to the British government’s request for overseas woodsmen to cover a workforce shortage in Britain. In WWII, the CFC consisted of around 30 companies that were sent to work, mainly in Scotland, but also elsewhere in Europe. Although a military unit, the CFC’s main task was to cut down trees, not fight. They focused on recruiting men who were already experienced in forestry; few had military experience. As the unit did not exist as part of the pre-war army it had to be recruited from scratch; a soldier’s rank therefore often depended on his previous status in the forestry industry

….

The war created a crisis in wood supply for the United Kingdom. Pre-war domestic production covered only a small fraction of the timber needed to support the war effort. In addition to civilian requirements, it was estimated that every soldier needed five trees: one for living quarters, messing, and recreation; one for crates to ship food, ammunition, tanks, and so on; and three for explosives, gun stocks, coffins, ships, factories, and direct or indirect support for the fighting line.

Wikipedia: Canadian Forestry Corps

CanadianSoldiers.com

CFC map1

Source ‘The Sawdust Fusiliers’ book by William C Wonders. Map shows the city where each of the first twenty companies of the CFC were mobilized from, plus a chart that indicates the percentage of soldiers each province provided.

The Commonwealth looks to Canada for expertise in forestry practices with Ontario supplying almost 40 per cent of these “overseas woodsmen”:

Once again the British Government turned to Overseas Woodsman to assist in the war effort. Given their impressive record in World War One it was natural that they looked to Canada to provide forestry units once again. In May 1940 the Canadian Government decided to form a Canadian Forestry Corps. Twenty Companies were initially formed with ten more as the war progressed.

The financial agreement between the two Governments as similar to that in World War I. Canada would bear the cost of pay, allowances and pensions, all initial personal equipment, transport to and from the United Kingdom. The British Government paid for “all other services connected with equipment, work or maintenance” and certain others, including medical services. Canada covered the cost for Medical Officers and Britain paid for hospitalization.

The arrangement was unusual as it resulted in a Canadian Unit working for the British, who controlled the areas of work and disposal of the product, but Military operations of the C.F.C. was never surrendered by the Canadians and came under command of Canadian Military Headquarters in London. Even though the C.F.C. had to serve two masters, no serious problems ever resulted.

CFC cat1

Sir Charles Ross was one of the first people to use caterpillar tractors to harvest trees, as can be seen in this image from his estate. Later the CFC instigated the widespread use of this machinery in Scotland. © Tain & District Museum Trust. Licensor

The professionals from No. 14 Company go to Scotland to help:

Prior to the arrival of the Canadian lumberjacks there were various undertakings by the British Government to aid in the harvesting of limber for their own use. Such contributions were helpful, but on occasion the efforts of unskilled workers created problems for the professionals later.

The No. 14 Coy brought with them the most up-to-date logging equipment then available in Canada. They brought a standard medium type rotary mill with a capacity of 1500-2000 bd. ft. an hour or c. 8,000 cu. ft a week/3-5-4-7 cm an hour or 227 cm a week. (The British Forestry Commission also provided the company with a Scotch mill or bench, but these were not popular with the Canadians.) Power was supplied by 100-horsepowe Diesel generators. Logging equipment included TD9 caterpillar tractors, lorries, sulkies (pneumatic-tired arches), angle dozers for road making, and two and three drum winches for high-lead logging. They also were equipped with a variety of transportation vehicles, four tractors, two sulkies, one motorcycle, and originally six bicycles.

CFC truck1

Heavy CFC logging truck. Courtesy of the Private Charles Frederick Neale Collection

Canadian soldiers have always been welcomed in the Commonwealth and elsewhere for a very good reason…they’re community oriented:

The CFC was apparently well liked in the Scottish Highlands. The men became active participants in local functions, from fundraising to staging Christmas parties for the local children. Many times, scrap wood mysteriously fell from lorries beside homes in need of fuel. A notable tribute to the CFC was paid by Laura Lady Lovat when she stated, “you Canadians may be cutting the Scots firs of the Highlands, but in Highland hearts you are planting something far more lasting”.

CFC bridge1

Bridge building crew. Photo Courtesy of Mitchell Bell

Professional Canadian warriors know how to be good guests in a community:

Members of the CFC were seen in uniform regularly at local parades in support of varied wartime causes. In addition to their distinctive cap badges and shoulder patches, from Mar 1943 the CFC were identified by a green triangle below the ‘Canada’ flash on the upper arm of the battle dress.

Church parades also brought them to the public’s attention as the No. 9 Coy made use of the local church buildings as well as holding religious services in the camp.

CFC personnel went out of their way to make Christmas Day memorable for the local children, many of whom came from poor crofts and many of whose fathers were away in the service. No. 14 Company at Wilderness Camp also donated toys made by its members in their own time, for sale in Aviemore and Inverness on behalf of the Red Cross Fund. Personnel gave up their rations of candy so that the children might have them.

One such overseas woodsman was Major  Methven Alexander Adamson, No. 14 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps. He was the Midhurst Forest Station and Springwater Park superintendent from 1929 to 1956.

Through sacrifice

Superintendents

Springwater Park

  • Ike Merritt, I.C. 1922 – 1927
  • G. Richard Lane 1927 – 1929
  • Methven A. Adamson 1929 – 56
  • Cyril Jackson 1934 – 1975
  • William R. Wilson 1975 – 1996
  • Gordon Murphy 1996 – 1998
  • Bradley Warren 1998 – 2008
  • Thomas Wilson 2008 -
  • Scott Thomas 2013 – current

Midhurst Forest Station

  • Ike Merritt, I.C. 1922 – 1927
  • G. Richard. Lane 1927 – 1929
  • Methven A. Adamson 1929 – 1956
  • John M. Halpenny 1956 – 1969
  • C. Rid Groves 1969 – 1983
  • Kenneth Reese 1983 – 1993

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