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Centenary of Canadian forester marked at Nairn graveside

By Iain Ramage

Canadian memorial
Canadian memorial

A CANADIAN lumberjack who helped build World War I trenches has been honoured at a memorial service in the Highlands, exactly a century after his death.

His nation’s Honorary Consul joined the poignant ceremony at Jerome Gaudet’s graveside in Nairn.

The private, known locally as Jerome "Goodie" was stationed in Nairn for much of the war, serving with the Canadian Forestry Corps.

He died at 27. He is understood to have succumbed to wounds he suffered on the front line.

Gaudet, the son of an American couple, was born in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.

He was part of a contingent of 12,500 Canadians within six forestry battalions who created 33 camps across the Highlands in 1916. They built their own accommodation with the help of mobile sawmills they transported to Scotland.

Their key role was providing the wood for the trenches in France and Belgium. Many were actively involved in building the trenches and rail lines that supplied British troops on the ground.

Hon Canadian Consul John Rafferty joined mourners at the graveside in the latest of a series of centenary services organised by the Nairn branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) Scotland to honour all servicemen and women who fell during the Great War. He also attended a civic reception at Nairn Courthouse hosted by local councillors.

Rev Tommy Bryson, who conducted the graveside service, has paid several emotional visits to the trenches of France and Belgium.

He said: "These men would have played a significant role in feeding the troops in the trenches with vital supplies in an exceedingly dangerous environment, often working away at the heart of battle while bombs were raining down.

"They supplied 600 miles with timber, on a route zig-zagging from the tip of Belgium all the way to mid France. The sheer volume of timber required was incredible."

The foresters also cleared terrain for the construction of installations such as airfields, repaired railway tracks and provided labour for building barracks and repairing road surfaces. A number were also recruited as infantrymen.

The 224th Canadian Forestry Battalion arrived in Britain in April 1916 – within three months of a request for their service.

A second British request for additional forestry units resulted in the formation of the 238th Canadian Forestry Battalion, which arrived in September that year.

The following month, authority was granted to form the Canadian Forestry Corps. Both battalions joined the corps and by November six forestry battalions had arrived. Forestry corps bases were later established in France.

Speaking after the latest RBL Scotland tribute, Nairnshire committee chairman Rev Tom Heggie said: "I commend the diligence and commitment of the local branch of the legion and those members who have attended on each occasion at the various gravesides around the area."

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