Barbara Joan Curtin - Lumberjill

Wartime service in the Timber Corps followed by an active family life

By David Taft

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Barbara Joan Curtin - Lumberjill' page

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Barbara Joan Curtin

Here is Barbara's story as recounted by her loving husband Peter Curtin.

Early Days

Barbara Joan Curtin was born in the Aylesbury District in a cold and snowy March 1925. In the two years or so before her tragic death from Cancer she often reminisced with her two brothers and her sister. I was as her husband a privileged listener.

Washing Day

She recounted of her early days living at Leys Hill the way in which many families existed going into the woods to collect kindling wood for the stove so that hot water would be available on bath nights to fill up the bath and for similar heating arrangements for Mother on washing day. Of her mother using a cast iron smoothing iron heated over an open fire to facilitate removal of creases on sheets and shirts.

Work as A Domestic

The local school was in Chesham and she would cycle with her brother leaving him there and going by bus to work as a domestic in a large country house to the west of Chesham. At this house ( as in many at the time) the servants were not allowed to use the main stair case only the rear stairs, of this hierarchical set up it was necessary for one to progress through if you wished to stay. In May 1938 Barbara appeared in her school choir representing Buckinmshire in the festival of Music held at the Royal Albert Hall before the Queen.

Joining The Timber Corps.

The war came in September 1939 and Barbara elected to work on the farm in preference to the home and later in 1942 became a member of the Timber Corps assisting in the woodland timber stores and felling and lopping trees for telephone poles and pit props. She often drove a tractor with trailer from the Sandhurst College Woods to the rail head at Sandhurst Station loading and unloading the processed timber. She spoke of how they were accommodated in loft rooms lit only by candle light. She also spoke of her love of books and reading. Saturday came round and the girls would go to the local village and township for the weekend dance, If lucky returning by a lift in army or RAF Lorries.

Work In All Weather

The work they carried out was hard and tiring and they often, to meet targets worked through bad weather returning at nightfall soaked through to the skin. During the blitz they witnessed a bright glow in the sky over London but only experienced the odd bomb jettisoned by over flying German bombers. Throughout the service in the corps Barbara emphasised the great spirit of camaraderie which existed amongst the girls and the male district organisation very reminiscent of the in the armed forces.

After The War Becoming A Mother

With the ending of the war, Barbara married producing a family of two boys and two girls whilst also looking after other junior members of the family she found her hands full. Having moved first to Cambridge and later to Horley. She became a care assistant in the local home for senior citizens in Horley. Unfortunately her husband died in 1976 of a massive heart attack. In 1979 she remarried Peter and with the family involved in aviation was able to travel on holidays to Canada, USA, Portugal, Malta and Crete also visiting various locations in South and south West of England. Unfortunately with the death of her Mother who was living with us Cancer was detected and successfully operated on. This reoccurred in 2005 being detected subsequently to a multiple by-pass operation for her heart. She was a fighter in the last and never happier than entertaining her family with the happiness that they in turn reflected.


One would wish to reflect on the invaluable contribution the ladies made on the home front bringing up families keeping the home going and invariably doing a war job as well. This contribution was made not only by those serving in the armed forces but also the civilians.

I believe Barbara's love of the country the birds and nature have been reflected in her life and love of the garden.

As told by Peter Curtin in 2008

This page was added by David Taft on 18/11/2008.

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