Archive detective work, again.

This friday evening I decided to scan some digitized newspapers from Australia, and with heavy eyelids after a hectic workday I scan it quite easily, and finding only names that I know from before. My main goal is to scan for Swedes that participated in the Dardanelles fightings, as I have a few of them already in my database. Suddenly I see a name that I will look a bit more into.

Walter Natanael Peterson, it says also Sweden, died of wounds.

Strange, I can’t remember that I have read the name Natanael before in my project, but of course, I could have missed him. In a strange way I put the data that I have in my research, in my head. And you know if you find something new. Strange to remember those things, but not remember names of colleagues at work … or maybe not.

I decide to look him up in the National Archives of Australia, and I find him quite easy by his name, Walter Natanael. It says that he is born in North America, in Brookland, a part of the city Washington. An American subject, but the relatives are stated to be in Stockholm. It could so be, but I decide to search for him in other Swedish Archives.

As you can see in the picture above it says that the name of one of his relatives is “Guhin”. Never heard that name before. I can barely see it but it says that his mother is Carolina. I take those names with me in my search in the Swedish archives.

Not very successful when it comes to find anything with Walter Natanael, that suits the age he has stated in the papers. I think he must be born around 1894, and that is useful in further search. (year 1917 minus 23, as he is 23 in maybe July, August, 1917)

I decide to go back again to the Australian archive under his profile, and I the find some interesting facts. I still don’t know if he is born in Sweden or not.

Ah, his name is not Walter Natanael, it is actually Valdemar Natanael, very good lead in further investigation.

I go back again to the Swedish archives and use “Valdemar” instead of Walter. I find quite many though, but decide to also use the name of the relatives, especially Carolina.

Interesting. I find a family from Väddö, north of Stockholm, on the east coast. I see quiet fast that the family contains a Valdemar Natanael, a mother, Carolina, and a father, Johan. Johan … maybe Guhin (from above) is Johan? Probably. I feel it is burning now. The surname of the family is also Petterson.

Scanning many pages in the church book within this family, but nothing points to Australia, nothing at all. I see that Natanael is a sailor, like 90% of all the other Swedish soldiers that fought for Australia.

Finally, on the last page, I find what I am looking for, marked with a pencil.

“Australia”, In America” and also “fell in the war in France” written with a pen. Out on the right side is the death date, but it says April 11th, 1918 instead of March 28, 1918. It comes from the Swedish church book, about his death, that says “Fell in the war in France, died in the ambulance”, dated April 11th, 1918. The ambulance is also mentioned in the documents from Australian archives.

He seems to have been a quite stubborn gentleman, it is noted a couple of times that he didn’t obey orders and he was punished for that. I can see hin in front of me, a sailor with tatoos, seen a lot, done a lot, and then sometimes it becomes to much to drink. One time in Capetown and one time at sea.

Walter, or Valdemar, was fighting with the 28th Infantry battalion, Australian Imperial Forces, when he was injured somewhere in Hébuterme area in France, around March 28th, 1918. The diary from the unit tells us about the area between Euston and The Quarry, which you can find on the trench map below. Valdemar where probably somewhere in that area when he fell.

Valdemar is buried at La Cauchie Communal cemetery in the region Pas De Calais, France, just southwest of the town Arras. That part of the cemetery just contain 13 headstones, and no 11 is the stone of Valdemar. The stones are in the end of the cemetery if you walk in from the street, and are located in the village communal cemetery.

Walter was not Walter, he was Valdemar. He was born in Sweden, not in North America. I wonder what it was that made him mention another name, and another location of birth. We will never know that, but this kind of story just gives me more energy to really find our Swedes who fought in the Great War.

May Valdemar rest in peace. I will visit you as soon as I can. We will remember them.

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