Friendships remembered

Avard Dimock was a Canadian soldier in Ampthill during the First World War. His grave has been refurbished
Avard Dimock was a Canadian soldier in Ampthill during the First World War. His grave has been refurbished

Bonds of friendship made 100 years ago between the people of Ampthill and Canadian troops have been remembered.

The 126th Canadian Forestry Corps were in Bedfordshire as a part of the international effort to defeat the Kaiser’s army during the First World War.

Their official role was to fell trees and support the war effort.

The Canadian troops were assisted by Portuguese labourers and cleared a large swathe of mature pine trees, shipping them off by rail for use at the front.

But they also made friends and developed a warm bond with the people of Ampthill.

As the war ended in 1918, they only stayed for one year but the memory of them has lived on in old pictures and a gravestone in St Andrew’s churchyard.

One of the Canadian Foresters – Private Avard Dimock – died of influenza in 1918 and is buried in St Andrew’s churchyard.

Ampthill’s mayor, Simon Peacock, has researched Private Dimock and worked with Neville Funeral Services to have the gravestone repaired.

A short service was held on Remembrance Sunday to re-dedicate Private Dimock’s grave, following the town’s Remembrance Day Parade, attended by the Canadian High Commissioner.

The lives of First World War soldiers were remembered in Ampthill by the Tommy’s Footsteps scheme. It recalls lives that fade away by stencilling footprints into scenery, including at The Almeda.

Almeda Walk was spared the Canadians’ axes, while nearby Cooper’s Hill, which was cleared, has regenerated into the tranquil heath that residents now hold dear.

A permanent Canadian’s Interpretation Board has also been installed by The Cenotaph.

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