Monday 25th May 2015.
The Portuguese Fireplace can be found by the roadside close to Millyford Bridge – 2 kilometres (1¼ miles) from Emery Down, near Lyndhurst, beside the minor road leading towards the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary.
A plaque explains the presence of the Portuguese Fireplace:
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.
Almost adjacent grassland bumps and hollows mark the site of a contemporary Canadian Forestry Corps camp, whilst 0.75 kilometres to the west, across the minor road, by a gate leading into the woods, is a short length of fairly deep cutting bordered by substantial moss-encrusted banks – this was part of the route of a First World War narrow gauge railway used to take timber to a sawmill located close to what is now the Millyford Bridge car park.
In fact, by that car park, on the northern side of the minor road still lies a quite large rectangular concrete block; and on the other side of the road can still be seen building foundations. All are the remains of First and Second World War sawmills.
The First World War had a great effect on the New Forest. Airfield and army camps were set up, the whole Forest was used for manoeuvres, and charcoal was in great demand. Even the heather was used for bedding and for packing ammunition. The greatest use, however, was for timber. Importing timber was difficult, and became more so as the War went on. Coal was the main source of fuel for the navy and for industry, so huge quantities of pit props were needed for the coal mines, and more timber for the trenches in France. The New Forest was a major source for this wood, especially Conifer, but many of the forestry workers were in the army. The Women’s Forestry Corps, which had 2,000 women employed nationally by 1918, was part of the answer, but those working in the New Forest were also assisted by Portuguese Army Unit. Lumber camps with steam saws were set up in the Forest, and one of these, near Emery Down, was manned by the Portuguese. After the war was over, the flint fireplace from their cookhouse was preserved as a memorial to their work.
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