UPDATE - 100th Anniversary - Arrival of the Canadian Forestry Corps in France

Canadian Forestry Corps Badge
Officers and men of the 48th Company, Canadian Forestry Corps (Collection David Devigne)
Sappers of the 48th Company, Canadian Forestry Corps (Collection David Devigne)
American camp in Captieux, France (Collection of the Mayor of Captieux)
Event Date(s) 
Thursday, June 22, 2017 to Sunday, June 25, 2017

This article was originally published in French. Although the Canadian Forestry Corps, in both the First and Second World Wars was a separate corps unto itself, it came under Canadian and Royal Canadian Engineer command are is considered a member of the CME family.

The original article may be read at http://centenaire.org/fr/en-france/lumberjack-trail-hommage-aux-sapeurs-...

From 22 to 25 June and from 24 to 26 October 2017, the "Corps forestiers allies in Aquitaine" (a group of researchers in France) is organizing a series of ceremonies to honor the memory of North American Allied army foresters who exploited the forests of the Gascony during the First World War.

During the Great War, timbers and lumber in all its forms (boards, stakes, logs, etc.) was a strategic commodity for the armies, whether for the front-line troops or for those providing logistic support. It was used in particular for trench supports, construction of barracks, hospitals, warehouses, harbors, the construction of railways, bridges, etc. But lumber was also for the heating, the construction of beds and, unfortunately, for the manufacture of coffins.

Since France could not satisfy all the needs of the Allied armies present on its territory, the allies had units of sappers specialized in the exploitation of forests and sawing of timber.

Canada, at the request of the British Government, formed the Canadian Forestry Corps. More than 12,000 men and officers of this corps served on French soil, of whom some 4,000 worked from 1917 to 1919 on the communes of the Landes and Gironde.

For their part, the United States Army set up an equivalent organization as soon as they entered the war on 6 April 1917. They formed the 10th Engineer Battalion (later including the 20th Engineer Battalion) and eventually comprised more than 18,000 all ranks at the time of the Armistice. It is estimated that about 5,000 men and officers were present in the Landes forest.

There were also many other US troops in the Gironde, notably the staff in Bordeaux, Bassens (port facilities) and Talence (hospital). After the war, a memorial was erected in Verdon-sur-Mer (Gironde) as a tribute to the American allies.

These forestry troops specialized in the exploitation of timber and operated with their own equipment, equipment and tools. Their modern methods represented a clear technological advance on the means used then in Europe - at least in Aquitaine. They had numerous teams of horses or mules for logging, large powered winches for handling logs ….while the French foresters loaded the pine logs with their brute strength. Tractors, heavy trucks, railways and locomotives were used for transport to some most efficient sawmills.

Certainly less exposed to enemy action than the soldiers of the fighting units, a number of the Canadian and American foresters lost their lives on French soil, in the Landes and in the Gironde in particular, as a result of worksite accidents or vehicular accidents. The influenza pandemic in 1918-1919 also took its toll of these foresters. The bodies of the American soldiers who died on the ground in Aquitaine were repatriated to the United States while the Canadians still rest in the cemeteries of Aquitaine.

A group of researchers - the "Alpine Forest Corps in Aquitaine"- wanted to revive the history of these North American soldiers who were in jeopardy of being forgotten by our collective memory.

To this end they organized the creation of a "Lumberjack Trail" in close cooperation with the municipalities concerned. Ceremonies will be held in several districts of the Landes and Gironde, where informative plaques will be unveiled near the workplaces and residences of the North American foresters. Military detachments specially brought from the United States, Canada and Great Britain, accompanied by representatives of the military and consular authorities of these three nations, will render the honors to these soldier-lumberjacks.

Contact Details