Betty helped to fell a stand of trees on the far side of Loweswater. There was oak along the edge of the water and larch above. She helped build a chute to send the felled trees into the lake so that they could be towed across by boat. These were probably for telegraph poles. The forester was in charge and Betty said you did as you were told or you were in trouble. The trees had to be lopped and topped, then peeled and all the knots taken off with a draw knife. Stripping the bark hurt your fingers, and it was sticky underneath, creamy with sap. A lot of swearing would go on.
Betty worked for most of the war in Grizedale Forest close to the German POW Camp, which was strictly for officers. The POWs used to march up and down the road for exercise. They’d make comments to the girls and the guard would shout at them, 'Eyes front.'
There was a machine gun trained on them the whole time but, of course, escape attempts were common, particularly when they were out working in the forest. If they could reach the coast they could get to Ireland, but none succeeded. They would all be caught later on the fells in a sorry state. Trouble makers were taken up to London in a blacked out car for interrogation.
Betty remembers that she had to have a pass to walk through the camp gates to reach the forest to work. There was a sentry on guard who would say:
‘Halt, who goes there? Friend or Foe?’
‘Friend,’ she would say.
‘Advance friend to be recognised.’
The Timber Jills, as they were fondly called, worked from eight till five and were rarely allowed a full weekend off, with four weeks a year leave. Betty sometimes got a lift to the station at Ulverston to go and see her mother who was a seven shilling widow. Betty earned twenty-eight shillings a week, less insurance. Fourteen shillings went on board and lodging at the camp and she sent her mother five shillings. She’d be left with about 5 bob, and think herself fortunate.
After the war she worked in 22 different counties in three years from 1947-49. Then stayed on with the Forestry Commission as a cartographer. She drew maps so well that they were often used for publication and she made a career of it. Her memories are happy ones and she can still wield a 5lb axe even though she is now in her eighties.
You can see Betty, first in the line of girls, pictured when she joined the Women's Timber Corps aged just 17.