N Pihl – the unknown Swedish legionary

In my research I have, so far, found 15 Swedish born soldiers who fought in the French Foreign legion in WW1. They all seems to have been killed at the Western Front.

Until these recent days I have found all those Swedes who is mentioned at the French Foreign Legion Memorial outside the Swedish church in Paris, except one, mentioned as N Pihl.

Yesterday I decided to try to find anything about N Pihl when I now have more knowledge about how to search. I am now also connected to more digital sources.

I did not find him in the French archive “Memoire des hommes” and decided to try another approach. Maybe his name was Nils? I tried to search for Nils Pihl in the Swedish church books.

The first search has maybe given me the correct individual. I found a Nils Pihl, born in Landskrona Parish, Sweden, April 4, 1892, raised without a father by his mother Elna Nilsson. In some of the pages it looks like his mother Elna is living together with Per Nilsson, with his former surname Pihl, which later also Elna changes her surname to, even if Per later on is not found together with Elna.

The first information I found about Nils Pihl, is that “he is told to have been fallen in France 1918”. The text is changed from 1917 to 1918, or maybe vice versa. The year of his death on the memorial in Paris is 1917.

This makes it highly likely that this is the N Pihl I am looking for.

Nils Pihl is connected to Helsingborgs Naval Corps in 1908, to the 2nd company, as a young sailor assistant, or if the word is Cabin boy. But he seems to struggle. His knowledge in christianity is noted as low, and he is also later on fired from his duties as a result of bad behavior. He is also removed from the lists at the Naval Corps in 1911.

Maybe Nils decided to search for new adventures, as many Swedes did around this time. I have found some passenger lists that have the name “Nils Pihl” on them, and he is travelling to and from Louisiana in North America, arriving from South America. He seems to be working at a fruit company, and the location Belize is mentioned in some of the papers. He could also have been in Australia.

I will continue to search for Nils, to try to find him in the French archives. I searched for individuals with the same Date of Birth as him, but no results that looks like Nils Pihl.

I have now found, and I think that I also have confirmed, all 16 names on the memorial. When I search for “suéde” I get 14 hits, but I know from before that some did not write Sweden as their place of birth.

I will come back with more information if I find it.

He fell on Christmas Day – Pvt Alexander Benson

Cold, turned fine, then snowing, strange wind. Quiet except evening strafe + came “Pine Apples” with gas over on right half of Bn front, stopped by artillery retaliation. 1 casualty … (4:15) last night wiring party, dead 12:45 pm. Working parties 5 offrs + 185 O.R, wiring party, carrying wire but moon to bright for wiring. 1 casualty, accidental, (… into bomb)”

From diary of 85th Canadian infantry Battalion, December 25, 1917.

Probably Alexander Benson is mentioned as casualty No 1 in the text above. The text on the casualty card makes a probable connection to that.

Alexander succumed to his wounds after has been shot, when evacuated to No 11 Canadian Field Ambulance. But who was this Swedish born soldier, Alexander? Below I will tell you more about him.

Alexander Benson, or actually Axel Birger Bengtsson, was born in Weinge parish in Halland, Sweden, February 16th, 1887. He was raised among his 9 siblings on the farm Linghult by his parents, mother Kristina Bengtsson and his father Bengt Bengtsson. In his registration form it is mentioned that he is born in Hallan, Norway, but that is not correct. The reason for that can be that it is written by another person, a clerk or something, who later on thought that Halland was Hallan, which is a place in Norway.

No, Axel Birger was a real “Hallänning” a word for someone from the landscape Halland in Sweden, there is no doubt about that.

According to the Swedish church books Axel went to North America the first time in April 27, 1906, and are then mentioned as “moved back” again in October 17, 1906. He then went back to North America a second time in March 8, 1907. Right now I don’t know a reason for these travels. I have found the passenger lists from when he left Sweden and via Hull in the UK arrived in Boston in March 28, 1907, connected to his second trip from Sweden.

Axel was designated to go to Spokane, state of Washington, in the US. Imagine this long trip across the continent at that time. I know from the registration form that he later on went up to Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Many Swedes went to Lethbridge in these times, and maybe he went to one of his brothers, who earlier than Axel went to North America.

I don’t know what made him sign for the Canadian army at that time. He arrived in England in October 6, 1916, with “S.S Tucania” together with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF).

During his following service he became wounded a couple of times, the first time in May 24th, 1917, but the injuries may have been less severe as he stayed with the unit that time. The second time he got some shrapnel in his knee, and he was taken care of by the 12th Canadian Field Ambulance, but was later on transported back to his unit from 6th Canadian Casualty Clearing station.

The third time he became injured he wasn’t so lucky, it became his last day of duty in the 85th Canadian Infantry battalion, Nova Scotia Regiment. He died of his gun shot wounds at 12th Canadian Field Ambulance, at an age of 30. According to the unit diary they where in the terrain of Mericourt in France, and in the upcoming days Axel’s unit was working in the area close to Billy Burke Trench.

The article in the newspaper translated to english:

Tönnersjö citizen fallen in the War. According to a message from the 8th (?) Canadian Infantry battalion, Axel Benson has fallen on the battlefield this Christmas Day 1917. B, who has been in Canada since 1910, was from Linghult in Tönnersjö (parish), where his parents still live”

Axel is buried at the SUCRERIE CEMETERY, ABLAIN-ST. NAZAIRE in France, where he rest among 381 other soldiers. Up to this date I have no photo of his headstone, but I will as soon as possible visit him and his final resting place. He is buried there together with another Swede, Anders Zakrison, from the 5th Canadian Infantry Battalion, who was killed one month before him, November 26th, 1917.

Imagine, a young man in his 20’s, went from Sweden, passed UK and ended up in Boston, and then later through Spokane, Washington, to the final destination of Lethbridge in Canada. All this to finally end up in a former battlefield in France.

He was probably a good soldier, a private who didn’t caused any problems for his officers, at least outside his visits to the clearing stations. Below some photos from the area where he came from in Sweden. The small building on the photo to the left is Linghult, how it looks like today.

I send my thoughts to Axel Birger Bengtsson on this day, 104 years later, when he, in the cold dark morning, tried to work with the wiring in No man’s land. Thank you for your service.

May Axel rest in peace.

Yet another Swede on Menin Gate Memorial.

Once again I am scanning those very interesting digitized old Swedish magazines from North America, and I discover so much interesting information. Suddenly I found a name that I have seen before, but never went further on with, for the reason that he wasn’t born in Sweden.

But the small note in the newspaper states that he was. I decide to look this through again, and after this I can add yet another Swedish born soldier, who fought and fell at the Western Front in the Great War, in to my database.

Below you can read the story about Pvt Louis John Engstrom.

Translation of the Swedish text in English below:

Härjedalen (Landscape in Sweden)

One fallen Härjedal warrior. From the consulate in Montreal, Canada, a message has been received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that the soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, Louis John Engström from Lovön, Ljungdalen (Sweden), fell between the 2nd and 5th of June, 1916. His mother, the widow Ingrid Olsson in Räcksjön, Sunne (Jämtland), says that her son went to America at the age of nine. By his death he was 18 or 19 years old.

Most of the facts in the newspaper is correct but not all of it. It took a while before I found him in the Swedish archives.

But it is a great feeling when I do find the links which in the end forms the picture around the individual, the Swedish born soldier.

In the Canadian archives, this time from the archive part “circumstances of death”, that is a great source of casualty cards to browse through, I find Louis John Engstram, and in the card I also see his number, which is of help when searching in some other parts of the Canadian archives.

I use his number 117014 and I get his registration form from the archive, in which he states to be born in Canada, in Peterboro, Ontario, Canada. He also mention that he is born in November 15, 1891, and if so, he wasn’t aroud 18 or 19 when he fell, which the newspaper said. I have now some facts to take with me in my search in Swedish archives. It turns out to be hard.

His name Louis is often from the Swedish names Ludvig or Lars, which I know from other cases, and John is often Johan, but there are a lot of people in Sweden with those names, so no luck in the beginning of my search. There is not much in the canadian files either, to use in my upcoming search. I see Sweden is mentioned, so I feel there is a connection.

The best source here is actually his mother’s name, and also the villages, mentioned in the newspaper.

Using mother’s name Ingrid Olsson and the village name, I only find a lot of Ingrid, but not Olsson. I decide to take away Olsson, and only use Ingrid. I receive some hits, and when looking through one of the last ones, I finally find an interesting name, Lars Johan Engström. He is born November 25, 1891, only 10 days after the dates that he mention in his Canadian form. He is mentioned together with an Ingrid. Can it be him? I later on decide to search for Lars Johan alone, and there he is as well, in a foster family.

I can read from the books that Ingrid’s father is unknown, so is also Lars Johan’s father. There is no name of the father in the church book, from when he was born, either.

I don’t know why he states in his registration form for the army, that he is born in Canada, because I found the Application for Homestead, and here he mention that he is from Sweden. He also mention, in the registartion form for the Army, that he is born November 15, instead of November 25, but the reason for that can be that he is quite young when he leave Sweden in 1902, around 11 years old. He is travelling with his foster parent Sven Larsson.

Lars Johan, or Louis John, is connected to 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles and at the time of his death in June 1916, the diary of this unit tells us about that they are fighting in the area south-east of Ypres, Belgium, in the area of Sanctuary Woods and Zillebeke. On the fifth of June the unit is releived and they are heading back to Steenvoorde, on the French side, a few miles west of Poperinge, Belgium.

The documents of Louis John says that he is beleived to have been killed between June 2nd and June 5th, 1916. He is stated as “Missing” in the cards, and then later on beleived to have been killed, at an age of 25. He could have been part of the battle of Mount Sorrel which took place between June 2nd-13th, 1916, where his unit was fighting within North Saskatchewan Regiment.

Lars Johan Engström or Louis John Engstrom is Swede #20 that I have found on the walls of Menin Gate Memorial. I will visit him and commemorate him next time I am in Ypres.

I can’t stop thinking about how many more individauls out there, who also stated that they were born somewhere else when filling in their registration forms. I may find more Swedes, and I will continue to search. Lars Johan is now #414 in my database, over those Swedish born soldiers who fought and fell and are buried at the Western Front in The Great War.

May Lars Johan rest in peace.

Connected through History – Great cooperation across the globe.

Twitter is fantastic. Through my research I have got connected to Dr Wendy Maddocks, who lives in New Zealand, on the other side of the world. She has discovered my web page about my research about Swedes who fell at the Western Front in the Great War. She also discovered some of my soldiers who participated in the War through their new country, New Zealand, and decided to do some more research of one of the soldiers, Oscar Backman.

It turned out to be a really strong story, and shows how interesting it can be to meet in the forum of History, to exchange knowledge, to make the history more alive, and maybe bring other aspects and reasons to start new and other angles of research.

It is an honour for me to present her article about Pvt Oscar Backman through the link below, it really gives you an interesting story, not only about Oscar, but also about his family and their life.

Youngest Canadian soldier a Swede?

Reading digitized newspapers from the period of the Great War is so interesting, and this day I stumble over a small article that mention that the soldier who claims to be the youngest enrolled soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces was a Swede with the name of Frank Burstrom. I decided to look this up.

The article says that he just after his 15th birthday left his home in Edmonton, Canada and went to join the Canadian Army.

I easy find his papers from when he registered in the Canadian Army in 1916, and in those papers he claims to be born September 3, 1898, but it also says that he is born in Tromsö, Norway, and other facts points on that.

Some other facts I found in archives says that his father, also named Frank Burström, is Swedish and his mother, Nora, is Norwegian.

I find out that his father is born in Sweden as Frans Bjurström, August 13, 1874, in Norra Råda, Värmland, Sweden, and in the Swedish Church Books I connect the information in the Canadian census file, that he left for North America in 1908.

Franks mother Nora, left a few years after father Frans, and that is also connected to the Canadian census, that mention that she emigrated in 1912. She went over with their sons, Frank was one of them, stated in the papers to be 10 years old, which maybe make it more probable that he was born in 1902, and not in 1898, that he states in the registration papers.

Frank went to England and France in 1917 and was connected to the 77th Artillery battery, and according to the newspaper article he went through the war of a period of 14 months ans a ammunition driver, without any injuries.

His father, Frans, was also over on the Western Front, and he fought for the 197th Regiment. Noth father and son survived, father Frans arriving home in Canada before his son, and I can imagine the joy in the family when all was gathered again.

There is no other evidence than the travel documents that Frank Burström was born in 1902, I havent yet found any data from Norweigian church books, but there is a note in Ancestry Archive that he is born september 3, 1901, but it isn’t confirmed in any way.

Probably the correct date is 1901, if he now claim to just been 15 years when he register for the Army.

So, the article tells us about that a Swede that claims to be the youngest soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, but it turns out that he is probably born in Norway and raised by a Swedish father, and a Norweigian mother, and maybe the date September 3, 1902 is correct, many things points on that.

From a Scandinavian perspective it is an interesting piece of history.

Gems in the hunt of history

Sometimes I find great pieces of Swedish history, which is out there online, well worth to be announced on other forums.

Like this little story about two Swedes, who left Sweden and went out west in the world, to another continent, to search for other qualities in life.

I am following up a small note in a digital magazine, which tells me about the death of Ernest Julius Alfred Erickson, who fell in the Great War in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, when he fought for 361st Infantry Regiment, 91st Division in American Expeditionary Forces.

Ernest is in this case buried back home in the United States, and not at the Western Front, but I think it is nice anyway to mention him and his family within my project, even if I dont put him in my database, as he falls outside my criterias of the project.

Ernest was born in Torpshammar parish, Ånge, Sundsvall, Sweden, in January 9th, 1889 and were raised together with his siblings by his mother Britta Kristina Olofsdotter and his father Anders Alfred Ersson.

Below I will present the text that I found on the web page findagrave.com and the photos I found are in the credit of Mark Erickson and Brian Backes. I find them great as they are in colour, and are supposed to show Ernest and his brother Frank, which I will describe later on further down.

The family description can be viewed in a larger version through this link.

The text below are assumed to be written by Mark Erickson:

In early 1917 my grandfather Frank Severin Erickson and his older brother Ernest Julius Erickson had gone out west by train from North Dakota together seeking adventure and warmer climates. Also on their minds was buying some land along the west coast. Deep into Winter when they arrived on their first stop at Astoria, they were surprised how cold it could get in Oregon. Over the next months they considered how the Great Northwest was similar to where they had come from in Dakota.

Frank and Ernest Julius were working by mid Summer as deputies on the Oregon Railroad out of La Grande. Both had joined the army in June and had full intention of becoming members of the American Expeditionary Force that was being formed at hundreds of army camps all over the states.

An excerpt from Ernest Julius’s diary dated Tuesday, June 5th, 1917 goes simply:

Went and signed up for Uncle Sam today, so if he wants me, I’m ready to go.”

Ernest Julius would be first to enter service in late 1917 and train at Camp Lewis near Tacoma, Washington. He shipped out to England from Brooklyn Harbor on July 6th, 1918 and ported in Liverpool. By September of 1918 Ernest would find himself in the Argonne Forest in France serving with the 361st Infantry.

By late September of 1917 Frank and Ernest Julius went deer hunting up near Mt. Baldy, Oregon. They camped and cooked outdoors and enjoyed the time together up in the woods.

My uncle Ernest Julius Erickson September 25th, 1917 standing in front of his horse with a deer packed aboard and rifle in hand after a successful deer hunting week up in Mt. Baldy, Oregon.

By the end of 1918, with Ernest Julius already at Camp Lewis training, Frank would move to Tacoma and await his induction into the AEF. Soon enough he would be at Camp Lewis preparing for combat duty.

On August 8th, 1918 Frank like his brother would ship out of Brooklyn Harbor heading to England. In September he along with other members of his Company H of the 308th Infantry would be preparing to take part in the Meuse Argonne Offensive. An odd twist of fate was in store for Frank by early October. On October 2nd Frank along with roughly 553 men of the 77th Division led by Major Charles White Whittlesey launched an attack into the Argonne Forest, with the incorrect knowledge that French forces were supporting their left flank and that two American units including the 92nd Infantry Division were supporting their right. With this all in collapse, the 77th was isolated by German forces. Frank would serve during this time as a runner rifleman for Captain William J. Cullen.

Fortunately Frank would become a surviving member of the Lost Battalion when 194 men would escape through a pocket in the Argonne. The 356 remaining men were either killed, went missing in action or were captured by the Germans.

The quality of photographs unlike the one below taken by Frank and Ernest Julius in September of 1917 are superb with two examples here:

The photo posted here along with others had quite a life. One hundred years old and they have gone through the mill as Frank would say. Forty years in a photo album and then in 1952 the Missouri River, North Dakota Flood hit Bismarck and my grandparents house was waist high in Missouri water. They told me of items floating out the open windows and things lost or damaged.

It is quite fortunate that these photographs even exist. This and other similar images taken on September 25th, 1917 up in Oregon all faded and water damaged, but still stunning and in my opinion true Cowboy gems.”

So interesting to also read about Ernest brother Frank, who fought in Company H, 308 Inf Regt, 77th Div, and survived the fights in the Argonne Wood, in the battalion which later was called “The lost battalion”

In the text above Ernest and his brother Frank are mentioned, and their real names are Ernst Julius Alfred Ersson and Frans Gustav Severin Ersson. The family left Sweden in March 30, 1903 from the farm in Sweden called Klöstre, in Torpshammar parish, Ånge, Sundsvall, Sweden.

I will probably find more facts about those Swedes who were brought back to their new home area in the US, after they fell at The Western Front, and this facts brings very much knowledge to me, when it comes to our Swedish Emigration history, which I carry very close to my heart.

May Ernest and his family rest in peace. We will remember them.

Tracing the truth

This is one of my most exiting finds so far in my research. Not in any great or sensational way, but more in the way how I tried to find all the clues to really fit to all individuals, and it wasn’t easy, but it is highly likely that I have found all the correct facts to say, that this individual actually was born in Sweden.

I wonder sometimes, is it worth all the time I put into this, does anyone bother, if I have found the correct info or not, but I always end up in my head, that it is important to make the individual more alive, with background and everything, and that is the main reason I do this. It is still many quiestions left in this story, but I will try to give you the picture I have in my head when I put all the facts together.

I found a small article in a digitized Swedish-American newspaper from 1916, that says the following text in Swedish. (see photo) I have also translated it to English below the photo.

“A Swede has fallen in the War.

Erik Lind in Ishpeming, Michigan, received one day, last week, a telegram from Ottawa, Ontario, that his son Edward has fallen at the Western Front, October 8th, (1916). he belonged to a regiment from Canada. He was born in Huså, Koll (Kall) parish, Jämtland, 34 years ago”

OK. I have the father’s name, the son’s name, the date he fell, and where the son was born. Easy, I thought, I will probably find him right away … No. It wasn’t easy at all. I was on my way to give up, the strings were really loose, but I decided to try.

I searched for Edward Lind, dead October 8th, 1916, but no hit in several archives. I assumed he was born in about 1882 (1916-34), but still no hit. Even if made a span between 1880-1885 I didn’t find him.

Did he had another surname? Maybe Eriksson, after his father Erik? No, no hit.

I decided to search for his father Erik Lind, who probably lived in the actual parish Koll, in Huså, Jämtland. I started with Ancestry.

I find a family from the United States Federal Census from 1910, Eric P Lind, Marie and Edward, and some other siblings. OK, maybe I have found something?

I decide to search in Swedish archives after Erik Lind and there are a lot of them, but after a about an hour I find something interesting. An Erik Person Lind with wife Märit Eriksdotter. It actually says Eric P Lind in the Census, and could Märit be Marie? There is no Edward in the Swedish Archive, though. Both Eric, Marie and Edward is stated to be born in Sweden, but Edward is more fluent in English, according to the document. Was he a small child when he emigrated? Could so be …

I am trying to find Edward in Kall parish, and I search through a lot of combinations, with different date of birth, but no success. I decide to try again with Ancestry and also with CWGC, to look for an Edward who died October 8th, 1916. No luck in CWGC with that combination, but with Ancestry I get a hit on a specific Edward Lynn, who actually died October 8th. Could Lynn be Lind? Really interesting! But there are a lot of Edward Lynn, but I find only one who died the date mentioned.

I recognize Ishpeming, Michigan, He states that he is born December 17, 1884, not in 1882, that we had from the article in the newspaper, and also that he is born in USA, not in Sweden. He has a Next of Kin though, who he calls E. Lynn. Could it be Eric Lind? The father?

I look more into the documents from the Canadian archives as I now have his regimental number, 9689, and I also find E Lynn in CWGC archive, that states the date of death, and also the unit he fought for, 3rd Infantry battalion, CEF.

And here I find some more interesting documents, that connects info that we have from earlier documents. Remember Eric P Lind and Marie? We also have Ishpeming, Michigan.

OK. Most likely I have connected an Edward, who is stated to be born in Sweden according to the census, and also we find the same names Eric and Marie in the Canadian documents, but still no evidence that we have found the correct Edward, because different place of birth is mentioned in the two documents.

I decide to try to look further in Ancestry, with combinations of all the facts that I have. Here I spend some more hours. Suddenly I find something interesting.

I find Per Edward, born in Sweden December 17, 1883. Hm. Same date as in the Canadian documents, but another year, that could of course be normal as that have happened before, especially when soldiers have emigrated in early years.

And I also find some more info, who connects a lot of other facts from earlier. In the document from the Swedish church book I also see the name of the parents to Per Edward. Erik Lind and Märit Ersdotter. Also Kall, Huså and Jämtland is mentioned. I dont think I can come closer at this stage. This must be them.

I also find the document from the church book, that I found in the earlier Swedish archive, Arkiv Digital.

This document says that Eric Person Lind is going to North America in July 1883, And his wife Märit moves over in November 1886.

I think it is like this. Edward Is not born when his father leaves for North America, he is born i Sweden, as we also find in the Census document. But when I read the explaining text to the census it says that Edward emigrated to North America in 1885. Maybe that year is wrong, or just estimated. In this case I cant exlain this.

Edward Lynn is probably Per Edward Lind, a lot of facts points in that direction. I dont say I am 100% sure, but most likely I have found the correct individual.

Edward Lynn is buried at Adanac Military Cemetery, Somme region, in France, after has been killed in action October 8, 1916.

I will also put some prints from the diary of 3rd Infantry battalion, CEF, which explains in which region he was when he was killed. I will also put some snippets from the trench maps.

The fight which Edward participated in was cruel. From the 14 officers and the 481 Other ranks who started this specific battle, only 1 officer and 85 Other ranks were left when the day was over.

Please feel free to point me in another direction if you find some info above, that may be wrong, but I will put him in my database as soldier #409 until anything else comes up.

May Edward rest in peace. We will remember them.

One letter too late

The letter from the Oskar reached Carl a couple of months too late. The letters had many questions and wishes to meet again, but also some information about the situation back home in Sweden.

I find out that a soldier named Carl E Anderson in killed in action, but it was a bit of detective work again to really find out who he was and where he came from. Not much information to work with, and the names, Carl and Anderson, are among the most common names in Sweden, even today. But I found him, and also some other interesting facts.

In these times we know quite fast what is happening around the globe, within hours, sometimes within minutes. We have too much information sometimes. Imagine how it would be to not know exactly what is going on in the world all the time?

I am so impressed about the organisation when it comes to handle letters and post during the Great War. They took care of so much letters from the soldiers, we almost can’t imagine. I have read somewhere that the British post managed 11 bags of mail, daily, during a period in the war. Amazing.

I can order something today on internet, but I know I will have to wait almost a week nowadays, before I receive it. I know a friend who posted a package with a gps tracker, just to see where it went, before it came to the receiver, and he could follow the package heading to the central terminals in the country, quite far away, before it went back again after a couple of days, to the receiver, who just lived around 20 kilometers away.

Probably it took some time before the letters came to the correct receiver, and also it was probably a lot of letters and cards that never came through.

This was the case when it comes to the letter from Oskar, who he sent to Carl, who he thought was in North America, in February 23, 1919. He did not know that Carl actually was killed October 14th, 1918, in fights near Exermont in France, when he fought for the 167th Infantry Regiment, 42nd Division in American Expeditionary Forces.

I was not sure if I had found the correct Carl E Anderson, but after som research from different dates of birth and dates of death that was presented in different archives, I am now pretty sure that I have found the correct soldier.

He is, in some documents, stated to be born in August 25, 1893, and also that he he was killed both the 13th and 15th of October. The Casualty card above says 14th of October, and that is most likely the correct date. Below you will fins some documents from the Swedish church book that also says that he was born August 29th, 1893, which I also find in the draft from 1917.

Carl is born in Lundby parish, in Gothenburg, Sweden, 1893, as Carl Edvin Anderson Frimodig. I can read from the church books that his brother Oskar is mentioned as Oskar Sigfrid, and I also find the name on the envelope of the letter, and also in the letter, where he signed it with the name Sigfrid. From the church books I have not found any date about when Carl is leaving Sweden but he is noted “absent” in 1914-1917. In the letter Oskar also mention the other brother, Bror Olof Waldemar, with the name Olof.

This was one of the leads to, that I probably have found the right Carl. Below you will find some pictures from the letter. The letter is written in Swedish. In the letter Carl is called Calle, a very common way of calling people who has the name Carl, even today. Oskar is like Carl also a sailor. I think that is the way Carl came to North America, he probably went there with the ship he worked on, because I cant find other travel documents.

Above you can see the place, Sörgården, Krokslätt, and that is also mentioned in one of the church books, below, as a place where they lived in one period.

Some text from the letter that I translated:

“Thank you so much for your letter, is it good to hear that you are alive …” When Oscar is writing this letter, Carl is already dead, and buried at the initial burial site near Exermont, Ardennes, France.

“… You haven’t heard anything from Hammarström, I wrote them as well to ask them where you were, but I did not hear anything from them, probably they moved from the address where they lived then. As you know I came to New York 1916, in the autumn, when you were supposed to meet me, but you had travelled up to Buffalo, I wrote a card to you, but you did not answer as you did not receive it, I believe …”

“… It was meant that I would have been travelling to you, I had brought up a lot of cash, and if I had met you I thought I could have stayed by you, I was walking around for 4 days, but I had to go on the ship again as I did not meet you …”

“… It is quite bad here now (in Sweden) so you have to send home some dollars, that can be good to have when you are coming home again …”

“… I can tell you that I will try to get on a boat this summer, as it should be really fun to see you again!”

” … If you think you will come over this upcoming summer, just write us a letter in advance, so we know that you are coming.”

The letter itself is really interesting, and I found it in the US archive together with some other documents below, that tells us when Carl was moved from his first burial to The Meuse Argonne American cemetery, which is his final resting place today.

I hope that I one day can visit the place of Carl’s final resting place, and also the first burial site that he was in, after he fell that day, during the Meuse Argonne offensive, togehter with his unit. The coordinates are mentioned on the casualty card.

The story above, and especially the letter, moved me a bit, and I so wonder how it felt for Oskar to finally be told that his brother actually died before he wrote that letter. Below you will find some notes from the Swedish death book and also a photo of his headstone.

May carl rest in peace.

Recapture

Looking back to the long weekend I spent in Belgium recently makes me happy, even if it from one perspective was really heavy, but these moments is luckily small in comparison with those moments I had when it comes to the people I met.

I am so grateful to have found new contacts during my journey in the history world, connected to my research.

The flight in itself was a disaster, but brought some good, when I could see more than I had planned, as I stayed one more day in the region. Below you will find some highlights during my research trip.

Before I went I planned to continue to visit some of the Belgian sites and cemeteries, one of these was new, and I had to take photos of their headstones.

Here I especially want to mention the great Twitter companion with a white cat as her profile picture, Danielle Roubroeks, who, the latest years, has joined me on my trips at the battlefield. It is great to have her company, she knows so much, and it is nice to exchange knowledge, both during the lunches at Hooge Crater Museum restaurant, and at the cemeteries, she has been “everywhere” and you can follow her work at her homepage here.

We met up on friday at the Flanders Field American Cemetery, which really surprised me with its very beautiful cemetery, chapel and visitor center. It is well worth a visit. I left the place with both photos of the headstones from the four Swedes that have their last rest there, but also with info that will lead me further in my hunt for more information about those Swedes. Thank you for the great company, Danielle!

Just to calm down anyone who thinks that I have put stickers on the stones, I say now that it is only small fabric flags, which are kept up by the moist on the headstones. Now we have sorted that out.

After the visit at Flanders Field American Cemetery we continued to some of the cemeteries where other Swedes are buried, such as Belgian Battery Corner Cemetery, to visit Swedish born soldier Gust Hallstrom, one of only seven Canadians at the cemetery, who died for the Canadian Labour Corps.

The trip went further to Dozinghem Military Cemetery, which is a really huge cemetery, and this day it was a lot of water still inside, and made the grass really muddy, probably from the great rain the day before. In the cemetery we visited Eric Ostberg, 29th Canadian Infantry Battalion. May Eric rest in peace.

The trip went on to Hooge Crater Museum restaurant, to have some of their eminent toasts with a suitable beer to that. Great as always. After the lunch we once again visited the place where Bertil A Lindh is buried, who fell just south of the cemetery, near the Bluff, when he was fighting for the 13th Canadian Infantry Battalion.

We travelled further in to the town of Ypres, where I have found one more Swede at the walls of the Menin Gate Memorial, William Eastland, who fought for the 11th Canadian Machine Gun Corps. William has no known grave.

On the rampart of the city wall, there is also right now a installation from the artist Jan Fieuw, Faces of war, with 139 faces carved into old railway sleepers. A installation that really makes you think about the individuals who once where involved in building the railways during the war.

We ended the tour that day with a nice beer at St. Arnoldus, City of Ypres, as usual, when we meet up at the battlefields in the Salient.

The rest of the Friday evening I spent with good friends from the region, which is always great, with good food and drinks (Belgian Beer, of course!)

On the day after, saturday, I had some vague plans, but decided to visit two of the woods that Paul Reed has talked about in his great Podcast, Old Front Line, which you can find where you find podcasts.

First stop, Plogsteert Woods, just around 20 minutes straight south of Ypres. I just say, wow … just follow the trail down south from the parking at the so called Christmas Truce monument, and head into the woods. Totally alone in there, totally quiet, when I visited the cemeteries in the area. Well worth a visit.

These cemeteries really made an impression on me.

I walked back to my car and headed for Polygon Wood up in the Zonnebeke area, and parked at the parking near Polygon Wood Cemetery. I walked the path through Polygon Wood Cemetery, and moved further into Buttes New British cemetery and ended up with visiting the bunkers inside the polygon Wood. So nice to walk these paths, almost alone this saturday afternoon.

I can really recommend a lunch at Johans restaurant, De Dreve, just 1000 m from the parking at Polygon Wood. Nice lunch and a visit upstairs in his small museum in the attic.

On saturday evening I had a meeting at 7 pm at the Ypra Inn, the pub near the monument of Menin Gate, to meet up with another Twitter contact, through his wife, Sara. I met hers Pete Smith right on time, what a nice guy! Amazing contact for further explorations at the French part of the battlefield, as they live in Flers.

It was not planned but we also met up with the two amazing ladies from Great War Group, Alexandra and Bethany, to together join the Last Post ceremony, which always is nice to attend to. After the ceremony we ended up at The Kleine Stadthuis for a good, warm Flemish Stew. What an evening it turned out to be!

On sunday I continue to visit another soldiers grave, who fought on the German side during the war. I went in to a completely empty cemetery, a very special feeling, to commemorate Markus Grundberg, who fell in battle April 13th, 1918. May he rest in peace.

As I got an extra day on monday, I decided to go to the soldier Karl Eskil Stromwall, who is buried at the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery near Poperinge, west of Ypres. It was a beatiful morning, and for me he is a special soldier as he fought in a british unit, Leicestershire Regiment, and only 19 years old, died of wounds after a gunshot in his head, the clerk in London, who was born in Sweden, and ended up here. May Karl rest in peace.

What a great little trip, made me really warm in my heart after great moments, and this only makes me more eager to soon book my next trip to the battlefields in Flanders and in France.

I hope you will join me.

Swedes in the Ypres-Lys and Scheldt River Offensive 1918

During my upcoming trip to Belgium I will visit the Ypres Salient again, I think it will be the 43rd time, but who is counting …?

During my latest trips, which have been during my research period, November 2019 to todays date, I have trying to document the terrain of those places where I beleive that the soldiers in my research have fallen during the battles and offensives at the Western Front.

This time, during November 4th to November 7th, I will mainly visit the Flanders Field American Cemetery and commemorate four of those Swedes that I have in my database, and are buried there. I will also try to walk in their footsteps by visiting the area and terrain of the offensives in which they participated in. It will be really great, and I hope I will learn even more about that part of the front and about those who fought for the American units in that sector.

The four individuals are:

  • 1208247 Pvt Charles O Lind, 53rd Brigade, 106 Inf Regt, 27th Div, AEF.
  • 1208441 Cpl Ringius Williams, 53rd Brigade, 106th inf Regt, 27th Div, AEF
  • 3333873 Pvt Axel B Johnson, 74th Brigade, 148th Inf Regt, 37th Div, AEF
  • 2286286 Pvt Axel T Rydell, 181st Brigade, 362nd Inf Regt, 91st Div, AEF

Charles, Karl Olof, who was born in Sala, Sweden, in 1894, went over to US at a very young age, he went over with his family already in 1895. Ringius, who was born in Ronneby, Sweden, left Sweden much later, in 1910, and probably they met eachother first, when they joined the Army. There is quite a distant between Sala, in the area North West of Stockholm, and Ronneby, in the southern part of Sweden.

Both Charles and Ringius lived in Brooklyn, New York, with their families, and it would be very interesting to know if the families knew eachother, but right now there is no information about that.

When it comes to Axel B Johnson he was born in Jönköping county (My own county), Sweden, in 1892. He left Sweden for US in 1912, and settled down in Roseburg, Minnesota. Axel T Rydell was born not so far away from Axel B, in Kronoberg county, and is noted to be absent in Swedish church books around 1909, and he fills in his declaration of intention in Montana, but he is drafted in the June 5th draft 1917, in Seattle, Washington.

I find that Charles O Lind and Ringius Williams are both fighting in the same unit. They belonged both to the 106th Inf Regt, and the same Company, Company I.

Charles was killed in action August 31st and Ringius was killed three days later, September 2nd.

They participated both in the Ypres-Lys offensive and in the unit diary from the 27th Division, American Expeditionary Forces, (AEF) we find the following text:

On July 3rd, the division proceeded to Belgium under the British 2nd
Army, where for further training units were brigaded with troops of the British 19th Corps in the Dickebush Lake and Scherpenberg sectors southwest of Ypres from July 9 to August 23, 1918. On August 23rd it relieved the British 6th Division in Line southwest of Ypres, and participated in the Ypres-Lys Offensive from August 31st to September 2nd, 1918, in the battle before Mt. Kemmel. On September 3rd, it was withdrawn from the line, and proceeded to the Beauquesne Area, near Beauval

We know from above that Axel B Johnson belonged to the 37th Division, AEF, and Axel T Rydell belonged to the 91st Division, AEF.

From the American Battle Monuments Commission education material, we find the following text:

“The United States 37th and 91st Divisions arrived in mid-October to reinforce a further thrust across the Scheldt River south of Ghent. This crossing was successful, and the advance continued until Armistice Day”

I choose to put in pictures from the diary, from the 37th Division who says as follows:

We can also see the maps from the area where the 37th Division were in November 1st, when Axel B Johnson was killed in action.

Axel T Rydell was fighting with the 91st Div, AEF and the diary from the unit says as follows:

We can on the map below see in which area Axel T Rydell was, when he was killed in action on October 31st, 1918.

All four soldiers are now finally buried in the Flanders Field American cemetery in Belgium, and I will soon visit all four of them, at the burial site. During November 5th and 6th I will visit the areas were they fell, and I will build up my material with photos and text for my future product from my ongoing research. As you may know I will try to make some kind of guide books where those who want, can follow in the footsteps of those Swedish born soldiers who fought and fell at the Western Front in the Great War.

May they rest in peace.