Interesting archive exploration – The story of Swen Addvin Sandstrom.

Normally I do all my research through archives to trying to confirm the Swedish born soldiers history, that it fits my criterias in my project, but sometimes I also get information, from friends around the world, that is really interesting to look up, even if it is not connected to the project.

In this case I got some information from my friend from England, Warren Smith, (Twitter profile @wampasmudge). He had recieved some information about a soldiers with a Swedish name who died in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, and later on mentioned with his name on the memorial in Lone Pine Cemetery in Turkey. Swen was born in Australia, but I decided to look up his story anyway.

The soldier is Swen Addvin Sandstrom. Probably his name was Sven Edvin Sandstrom, or maybe Sundstrom. Then it was probably written as Swen Addvin Sandstrom to suit the english language. His father’s surname in Australia was Sandstrom though.

I decided to try to do some research about Swen’s ancestries, to see what I could find.

I found out through Australian archives that his father was Roland Sandstrom, and with those facts I tried to find more about Roland. I found out that Roland, as many of those Swedes who emigrated to Australia, was a sailor.

Through his application papers for Naturalization I found out that he arrived to Australia in 1863, from Greenwick, Scotland. He disembarked in Sydney, Australia.

He does this application in 1907, and states that he is 65 years old at this time. I also find that he says that he is born in November 25, 1841, in Charlshamn in Sweden, which could be Karlshamn.

I decided to search for a person called Roland Sandstrom (Sandström) in Sweden, born at the date he mentioned in his papers. First search results in zero hits. I decide to search just for Roland with the date of birth and I find a Roland Magnusson, Magnusson after his father Magnus, (Magnus’s son) born in Asarum, not far away from Karlshamn. Could Roland Magnusson be Roland Sandstrom? There is no more Roland born at the specified date. I haven’t found any information about when and why Roland changed his surname to Sandstrom, if Roland Magnusson is the correct Roland, that is.

In the Swedish church books I also find out that This Roland Magnusson is mentioned as sailor.

Roland is mentioned in the book of absent and there is no note about when he left Sweden, which is quite common when is comes to sailors. Probably the left port on some missions, and then they just decided to continue their lives somewhere else. In this case Roland went to Australia.

If we looking in Swen’s papers we can see that he had a wife called Lena, and a brother called Malcolm. Roland stated in his papers that he had five kids. Roland also had two wives, but I don’t know if he had all his five kids with one or two wives. Swen was, as we know, born in Australia, and he registrered for Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) in September 1914.

There is not much information in his papers about when he went to Gallipoli, but it is mentioned that he was killed in Action in May 2nd, 1915. Swen was quite old when he signed his registration papers, he had an age of 34, born in 1880, around May 1880, by his mother Harriet Anna Duncan, later on Sandstrom, when married to Roland in 1871.

Below a snippet from the unit diary, the 16th Infantry Battalion, May 2nd, 1915.

Swen was also active in South Africa, probably in the Boer War in a period of one year and five months, in two different units.

Swen’s father Roland seems to have been in trouble with the law enforcement. I have found some documents that he was sentenced to two year hard labour after have been accused to have inflicted bodily harm, probably to his second wife, Victoria Hanna Sandstrom. If I understand this correctly he was also sentenced to not longer be able to live with his wife, Victoria Hannah Sandstrom.

It is sad to read about those fates.

Below I have saved some snippets from Ancestry about his sentence.

I haven’t yet been able to search more information about Swen’s mother, but I will later on try to find more about her.

When it comes to Lena Sandstrom, Swen’s wife, there are some text about her conversations with the government regarding her husband and his service in the AIF.

First up is a letter that was printed in the Australian Newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald:


Sir, — Today I received a letter that was written and posted to me on February 6, 1915. This letter should have reached me yesterday morning, but was not delivered until this afternoon. The reason I find was because it had to be put back to be passed by the censor. Now, this letter was posted in Picton by my sister-in-law. I want to know why my letters should have to be put through the Censor. We are not German. My husband is Australian born, of a Swedish father and an Australian mother. If the Censor knows anything about different nations he ought to know all Stroms are Swedes. My husband, Sergeant S. A. Sandstrom, E Company, 16 B.H., 4th Brigade, A. E. Force, is in Egypt fighting for England and the Empire, and was in South Africa under Colonel Lassetter for two years. I consider it a great insult to my husband and myself and child to be treated as if we were one of the enemy. Why should other people in the same house receive their letters without the brand “Passed by the Censor” while my letters are kept back and read? I have given my husband up for his country only to be insulted. I, as a Briton, resent such treatment. What is in a name. I am, etc. “S. A. SANDSTROM.”

The Sydney Morning Herald’ (New South Wales), 13th February 1915.

(The text above was handed to me through my contact Warren Smith)

The letter is about the reactions from Lena about censoring of letters by the Military Authorities which was made to ensure the letters did not contained any secret information. As far as I know this was made for military purposes, but Lena seemed to have thought it was connected to her husband Swedish surname.

Please be free to correct me in this if anyone know more about the specific situation, or the subject regarding censoring of the letters from the soldiers in the war.

Below there is also one snippet from Lena, when she is trying to sort out where the belongings of here late Swen husband are.

Swen’s wife Lena seems to have died of the raging influenza at the time, and there are a lot of conversations from the military trying to search for her to hand over Swen’s war medals.

Finally they seem to have established contact with Swen’s brother Malcolm to sort out these matters.

Imagine what kind of information you can find in the digital archives just through some information about a soldiers with Swedish roots.

Thank you very much Warren, for the information that made me look deeper in to Swen’s fate and history.

May Swen Rest In Peace.

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