JAMES HENRY GAYDON Private 772913, 87th Battalion (Grenadier Guards) Canadian Expeditionary Forces

James Henry Gaydon

Private 772913, 87th Battalion (Grenadier Guards)
Canadian Expeditionary Forces

25th August 1889 – 14th November 1917

James Henry Gaydon was born in Barnstaple where his birth was registered in the 3rd quarter of 1889. He was the son of Robert Gaydon from Tawstock and Mary Williams from South Molton.

Mary had two children before she married Robert named William and Bessie; she then married Robert in October 1870 in South Molton. They had several children who were living with them on various census records from 1871 -1901 these were Sarah, Rosa, Albert, Robert, George, John, Alice and James.

James Gaydon 1891 Census for blogJames’ mother Mary’s death was registered in Barnstaple in 1890 and the record states she was aged 45 at the time of her death. In the 1891 census James as a young child was living with some of his older brothers and sisters at Belle Meadow in Barnstaple.



James Gaydon 1901 Census for blog

In the 1901 census he was living with his father Robert and sister Alice at 12 Zion’s Place in Barnstaple.



By the time of the 1911 census James was 21 and was working as a blacksmith’s apprentice; he was then living with his father Robert, his brother George and sister Alice at 2 Connaught Place, Silver Street Barnstaple.James Gaydon 1911 Census for blog

The next possible record found is that of a James Gaydon listed on the passenger lists of the ship the Tunisian which sailed from Liverpool and arrived in Quebec, Canada on the 27th April 1913.

Tunisian 1913 for blog

SS TunisianIt was noted on the ship’s passenger list that he was going to live with a brother who was already resident there in Ontario.

His father Robert Gaydon’s death was registered in Barnstaple in the 3rd quarter of 1914.

Canadian Enlistment p1There is then an enlistment record for the Canadian Oversea Expeditionary Force where James Gaydon signed up dated the 14th February 1916 in Weir, Ontario his date of birth is stated as the 25th August 1891.
The 87th Battalion (Canadian Grenadier Guards) was a unit in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War which began recruiting in 1915 in Montreal and throughout Canada, this made it a truly Canadian Unit because many of the other units were recruited from a particular region of Canada. The battalion was authorised on December 1915 as the 87th Overseas Battalion, CEF.
The 87th Battalion sailed for Britain in April 1916 and then arrived in France in August 1916 where it fought as part of the 11th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war.

After James arrived in France in 1916 the Canadian Expeditionary Forces participated in many of the main campaigns and operations undertaken including The Somme until late November 1916, where by the end of the fighting the Canadian Corps had sustained 29,029 casualties for a mere six kilometres of mud.

The experience gained during this time helped them in their next battle at Vimy Ridge in April 1917. The Battle for Hill 70 during August 1917 saw the first use of mustard gas against the Canadian forces. They were then involved at Passchendaele (also known as the Third Battle of Ypres) during late October and November 1917. It is likely James was involved in the campaign at Passchendaele and wounded there although the records available do not give exact details.James Gaydon Circs of Death form1

James Gaydon death article for blog Nov 1917

James’ death is recorded as at No. 17 Casualty Clearing Station from multiple gunshot wounds on the 14th November 1917 although in some sources it is recorded as the 12th November 1917. A notice in the North Devon Journal on the 22nd November 1917 reads as follows:


James is buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery which is 1¾ miles south-west of Poperinghe, Belgium in Plot 22 Row DD.



Ancestry Library Edition – Census records (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)

British Newspaper Archive – North Devon Journal (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)

Library and Archives Canada  http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca  Search the database

Photographic Record Canadian Grenadier Guards 87th

Further reading

Please note JH Gaydon can also refer to James’ brother  John Henry (Jack) Gaydon who was awarded the DCM and survived the war

The Brantford Expositor Christmas 1916

List of officers and men serving in the First Canadian Contingent BEF



The SS Tunisian and emigration to Canada

SS Tunisian 2
Allan Line advert for blog


The SS Tunisian was one of a fleet of ships operated by the Allan Line who specialised in emigration to Canada.
An article in the Western Times of April 1913 refers to a move to encourage ex-soldiers to emigrate under the auspices of the Naval and Military Emigration League.


Western Times re soldiers going to Canada for blogThis was seen as offering opportunity to time-expired men, openings having been found for them all on arrival. The same newspaper records that, in the October of that year, three quarters of the whole passenger list were married women going to join their husbands or young women to marry their beaux, who had sailed out that Spring.

Tunisian Women to join men for blog
JH Gaydon injured in France for blogThis or a similar scheme might have been the kickstart to the Gaydon brothers’ emigration. A North Devon Journal item concerning an injury sustained by Pte JH Gaydon refers to his after twelve years’ service… having left the Army and emigrated to Canada. This would appear to refer to James’ elder brother, later promoted to Sergeant and awarded the DCM, who James himself went to Canada to join.

JH Gaydon awarded DCM for blog
James’ record on the Tunisian in 1913 also states British Bonus Allowed and that he has worked in farming all his life which may reflect his blacksmithing skill rather than actual farm labouring. This bonus was apparently a payment made by the Canadian government to the steamship booking agents for each suitable immigrant who purchased a ticket, a further payment being made for placing the new arrivals with employers (discovergenealogy.blogspot)
Tunisian vaccination letter to press for blog

However the emigration trips themselves were not without their own hazards. A letter to the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette in the June of 1912 refers to an outbreak of smallpox on the Tunisian and states that 1800 men and women were vaccinated on board.



Tunisian Titanic 1 for blog

And earlier, in April 1912, almost exactly a year before James’ own voyage, the Tunisian had negotiated the same ice fields as the Titanic before arriving safely in St John. Her sister ship the Parisian had been in contact with the doomed ship at half pastTitanic poster ten that fateful Sunday night and forwarded a message to its owners via Cape Race, but, her wireless operator having retired for the night after a busy day, she did not receive the distress message.

Tunisian Titanic 2 for blog



British Newspaper Archive – North Devon Journal (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)


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