On 18th November 2017, eight members of the Anglo-Portuguese community came to the New Forest from London for a little ceremony to commemorate the arrival of a Portuguese contingent in the New Forest on 23rd November 1917 to help in the production of timber for the war effort. Some members of the Friends of the New Forest met the Portuguese party at the New Forest Inn at Emery Down for lunch and then accompanied them to the Portuguese Fireplace at Millyford Green, which had been decorated with Portuguese flags for the occasion. They were joined there by other members of the Friends of the New Forest, and their leader Bernard Hornung explained:
|“There is currently no war memorial in this country to the Portuguese who died in WW1. The Portuguese Fireplace is the only memorial that exists and that is to non-combatants. This visit marks the start of the final phase of a fund-raising campaign for two Memorial Windows at the Roman Catholic Church of St James at Twickenham, which will be dedicated to the sacrifices of the Portuguese during the First World War and to the memory of the last King of Portugal.”|
Then local historian and Friends of the New Forest Council member, Richard Reeves talked about the history behind the Fireplace and the difficulties that faced the Portuguese workers:
|“From the start of the First World War, the war itself created an increased demand for timber while at the same time reducing those available to take on such work as they enlisted in the armed forces. The resultant shortage of labour was met to a certain degree by the formation of the Women’s Timber Service and Empire forestry units such as the Canadian Forestry Corps, formed in 1916. However, the need for labour was greater still and the Canadian Forestry Corps based at Millyford were joined by a Portuguese contingent of 100 men on the 23rd of November 1917.
The New Forest lumber camp became a significant settlement, 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.
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.”
Finally a toast was raised to the memory of the Portuguese workers and to the Anglo-Portuguese co-operation that they represented, Portugal being Britain’s oldest international ally. Some of the party then enjoyed a short walk in Holidays Hill Inclosure before they returned to London.
The Friends of the New Forest have just finished celebrating their own 150th anniversary with a year of events. Set up in 1867 to fight off serious threats to the Forest as we know it, the Friends (until recently known as the New Forest Association) are the only membership-based association in the New Forest that gives its members an effective voice on a wide range of New Forest issues. For 150 years their guiding purpose has been to protect, conserve and enhance the flora, fauna and heritage of the New Forest.