THE proud part played by Ross-shire in the eventful story of the Jellicoe Express has been given a lasting memorial to mark a centenary.
The train link running the length of the country and passing through a vast swathe of Ross-shire was a crucial communications link during both World Wars, transferring hundreds of thousands of army, navy and RAF personnel up and down the country to bases including Invergordon, Alness and Scapa Flow.
Plaques commemorating the role of the 717-mile service were erected in Invergordon and Alness by the grandson of Admiral John Rushworth Jellicoe, the former commander of the British Grand Fleet after whom the service was named.
The centenary project is the brainchild of heritage group, Another Orkney Project (AOP), which was keen to mark the important milestone for both the Royal Navy and the railway.
The route brought naval officers to Invergordon and Dalmore in Alness and was used by naval personnel from the south heading north to Thurso for transfer to the British Fleet in Scapa Flow. It was to be used again during the Second World War, carrying army, navy and RAF servicemen. A typical journey would see a mixture of servicemen fill the train – sailors returning from Scapa Flow to England, Scottish army recruits heading to London and on to mainland Europe and American servicemen travelling to London on leave.
The first train was waved off in 1917. Johnny Jellicoe is a torch bearer for his grandfather’s memory and was in Ross-shire last week to unveil the new plaques. That follows one previously put up at Dingwall Railway Station,
At Dingwall, the Red Cross is reported to have served more than 134,864 cups of tea on the platform during World War One. The train was notoriously punctual despite the long distances and logistical challenges encountered.
Mr Jellicoe was joined at the plaque unveilings by Ross-shire Lord Lieutenant Janet Bowen.
The project has also been supported by John Yellowlees, the railway ambassador, and other staff members at ScotRail.