At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the UK was importing over 94% of its timber with supplies coming from the Baltic and the British Empire. Suddenly timber imports were reduced to near zero by the German U-boat blockade. Enormous quantities of timber were needed for pit props to keep the mines open. Without coal there could be no steel production and no steam trains to move men and armaments to the front.

Stara Woods at WarSkilled loggers from Canada manned the Canadian Timber Corps, who within 4 years managed to fell nearly a third of all the woodlands across the entire country, enabling the mines and steel works to keep working.

Such was the devastation that the government formed the Forestry Commission in 1919 to create a ‘Strategic Reserve of timber for the nation’. Planting and replanting took place on an unprecedented scale but not soon enough as the Second World War and another U-boat blockade began all over again in 1939. Back came the tough Canadians and felled another third of our woodlands, leaving less than a third of our woods untouched within just 30 years.

At Stara the marks of both world wars are still clear to see. The field to the south of the Stara to Rillaton lane used to be woodland, and this was completely cleared for agriculture
around1917. Larger areas of Broad Wood and Colquite Wood were felled in WW2 and replanted with conifers soon after.

The oak coppice in Treovis wood is around 75 – 80 years old which would suggest being felled during WW2 but never replanted. The oak trees we see today have all regrown from the cut coppice stumps. Almost all the oak woods in this part of Cornwall were felled in one or other of the world wars.

If anyone has any memories or information about the Canadian Timber Corps, or the Lumber Jills (The Women’s Timber Corps) please let us know.

Anne: thanks for this, Simon. I’m continuing a long, slow recovery, and can now manage almost all household tasks on my own. I have limited left arm and hand movement at the moment, so driving is still impossible. I’m assured that I’m doing very well, although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it! Patience is a hard lesson to learn!