Within the first year of the war, the shortage of timber in United Kingdom was becoming critical, due in part to German U-boat attacks on the British merchant marine fleet. Timber had been traditionally imported from Canada, but the need for timber during wartime was even greater and precious space aboard the merchant ships gave priority to food and ammunition. Great Britain decided to harvest its own forests, many of which had been purposely planted many decades before and were now mature. A shortage of experienced woodsmen or lumberjacks resulted in Britain asking for volunteers from Canada, which sent the first large contingent, the Canadian Forestry Battalion, over in the summer of 1916. More contingents would follow and work in England, Scotland, and France.
Newfoundland Premier Edward P. Morris posed the idea of raising a 500-man Newfoundland Forestry Corps during his March, 1917 visit overseas with British authorities. Discussions and details were worked out with Mayson M. Beeton, Director of Timber Supplies, a department in the War Office, who was also a director of the Anglo-Newfoundland Development (A.N.D.) Company that operated the pulp mill at Grand Falls. The Patriotic Association offered to recruit and raise “500 or more woodsmen and miners” and, in the end, the British requirements proposed to enlist Newfoundland loggers and sawmill hands into non-combatant military units for work in the United Kingdom only. Mr. William Scott, Manager of the A.N.D. Company and Mr. Albert E. Harris, General Manager of the Albert E. Reed Company at Bishop's Falls were both on the Patriotic Association Committee advising Government about all matters "forestry", including the amount and type of equipment the men would need. Both men took active part in recruiting in their mills. The wheels of government worked quickly during this time of great need and Governor Walter E. Davidson advertised for volunteers in the first week of April, 1917.