Monday, 22 October 2007

Wood for war - wood for peace

Ironically, the fact that we now have so many well managed forests in the UK is down, in part, to two of the most destructive events of the 20th Century: the two world wars.

During the First World War (1914 to 1918) Britain had great difficulty meeting the demands on timber - particularly for coal production and trench warfare. Britain's forests had been on the decline since medieval times and had been put under enormous pressure by the industrial revolution. Timber had been imported in large quantities for hundreds of years, but the war meant this supply was no longer reliable.

In 1919 the Forestry Commission was created and charged with reforesting the country with the help of private foresters. The idea was to improve the productivity of the forests and to create a large reserve of wood that could be called on in times of emergency.

Such a time came only a couple of decades later with the Second World War (1939-1945). During the war, the Commission's forests produced nearly one and a half million cubic meters of wood and nearly ten times more came from private estates.

These were times of great social change too. The 'lumberjills' were the forestry equivalent of the land army girls, but they weren't just felling trees - they were planting too...and the forests have been growing in size ever since.

Over the last 40 years or so the Forestry Commission has included conservation, ecology, recreation and tourism within it's objectives...and that's why we have today's multipurpose forests.

This is a video from the Prelinger Archive that was made during the Second World War looking at the same things from the American perspective. You might recognise parts we used in our videos.

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