Reigate County School – Dorothy Tatton Winter, an Old Girl’s War Work

'Over the Greenwood Tree'

Title: 'Over the Greenwood Tree'
Description: From The War Report, 1917 (clipping in the possession of the author). by-nc

Dorothy Tatton Winter was born in 1892, the daughter of William Tatton Winter (1855-1928). He was a noted artist who moved with his family to Reigate in 1897, and lived at The Studio, South Park, Reigate. He bequeathed his paintings of Reigate to the town, where they now hang in the mayor’s parlour at the Town Hall. Dorothy studied at Reigate County School from 1907-1909. Following that, it appears that she did not take up an occupation, being described as “at home” in both the school register in 1909, and the 1911 census. The family took part in the 1913 Reigate Pageant, where Dorothy played a servant. Her father’s painting of Colley Hill was on the cover of the souvenir programme. That year, she was one of a group of ‘Old Girls’ who accompanied the headmistress Miss Anderton on a visit to Paris.

In October 1918, she married John P. Walker. They subsequently moved to Canada, where she died in 1941.

Dorothy wrote an article for the 1918 magazine of her old school about her wartime experiences in the Women’s Forestry Corps. She does not give a reason why she chose that particular group.



On the morning of 2nd July 1917, I started off from Reigate with a small case and a railway pass to Newstead.

I had joined the “Foresters” just a week before and with very few particulars, set off to see what I could do. I had a very pleasant journey, travelling all the way without meeting any others members – not that that made the journey pleasanter.

We were met at the Station by Lady Markham and driven in her car to the cottages on the Newstead estate [Nottinghamshire] that had been fitted up for us. We soon found our rooms, and then the labels on the beds. I was the first to get into the uniform that I found on the bed labelled ‘Winter’. It was great fun trying the different garments on, and they really fitted quite well.

After a good night’s rest and then a very appetising breakfast, the party of five of us started off to the woods, where we found the instructor waiting for us, with his father and his son; thus we really had three generations teaching us. Our axes were splendid; they weighed three and a half pounds, and it really was exciting when we all started in a row. We all brought several trees down the first day; but after a few days, when some of the excitement had worn off, we were only too glad to saw down for a change; and with first axing and then sawing for a bit we managed to get along splendidly. One day, with four of us sawing and four lopping (three being new girls), we brought down about 723 cubic feet of timber, about 70 trees. As a reward for our energy, we were given an hour off the next day and also a large box of chocolates. When we got used to the work and the house and surroundings, it really seemed  more like a jolly picnic, the way we went to work, carrying tools and baskets; lots of days  we took our dinner, and it was lovely sitting by the stream and eating what looked like a navvy’s dinner – great chunks of bread and bottles of tea; but it certainly was a hungry job, for although we were fed exceptionally well, we often took bits of dry bread in our pockets to eat at slack moments.

I was very sorry when I knew that I would be leaving Newstead, although we already stayed six weeks longer than we ought to have done; for it was only a training centre and the training lasted four weeks, but we remained there ten. Then we were sent off to various parts of the country as fore-women. We were the first five women foresters in England. I ought to say that this was Mrs. Tennant’s scheme and she stayed and worked with us for several days at Newstead.  

Dorothy’s account was published in the 1918 magazine of the Reigate County School, June 1918 (pp. 57-58). A copy of this magazine is held by Surrey History Centre (ref. 3155/7/14).

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