“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Portuguese Fireplace

In the New Forest in Hampshire between the village of Emery Down and the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, close to Millyford Bridge, there is a stone fireplace sitting alone on a patch of grass beside the road. The fireplace is known as the “Portuguese Fireplace” or sometimes as the “Canadian Fireplace” and it serves as a war memorial, to honour a role that foreign military units stationed in the New Forest played in the First World War. The plaque which accompanies the fireplace explains:

"This is the site of a hutted camp occupied by a Portuguese army unit during the First World War. This unit assisted the depleted local labour force in producing timber for the war effort. The Forestry Commission have retained the fireplace from the cookhouse as a memorial to the men who lived and worked here and acknowledge the financial assistance of the Portuguese government in its renovation."

From the start of the First World War, essential timber required for the Allied war effort was primarily supplied from Canada. However by early 1916 the Canadian provision of timber could not meet the demand of the Allied war machine, so Britain needed to start felling its own trees. The problem with this solution was that most of the skilled local foresters where away fighting the war, so foreign military manpower was required to plug the resource short fall.

In response to this demand for skilled lumbermen, the Canadian Forestry Corps sent men and equipment to the UK, and one lumber camp was set up in the New Forest to begin felling and processing trees. The New Forest lumber camp became a significant settlement, housing around 200 Canadians and covering around 4 to 5 acres.  It was supported by a number of saw mills and even a narrow gauge railway to transport the timber out of the forest. By 1917 further manpower was needed to support the Canadian Forestry Corps, so 150 Portuguese labourers joined the Canadian effort and set up camp with them. The Portuguese Fireplace is all that remains of this part of the war effort. The fireplace was originally the fireplace of the camp's cookhouse.

The Portuguese Fireplace is not the only War Memorial in the New Forest. Further along the road from Emery Down to Bolderwood there is a memorial cross that is dedicated to Canadian forces. The cross was originally erected on the 14th April 1944 by Canadian forces, for their religious services whilst they were stationed in the New Forest in the run up to D-Day during the Second World War. The cross has been kept as a memorial to these men ever since. The plaque at the base of the cross reads:

"On this site a cross was erected to the Glory of God on April 14th 1944. Services were held here until D Day 6th June 1944 by men of the 3rd Canadian Division R.C.A.S.C.

So whilst today the New Forest is a place for holidays and leisure it once played a vital part in the United Kingdom's war machine.

The Portuguese Fireplace.

The Canadian Cross.

Pictures: Hampshire (February 2015).

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