A weekend with the soldiers

A trip for just three days seems a little bit too short when going from Sweden to Belgium, but in this case it was worth it.

Leaving a very stressed situation at work and then directly go on a trip down to the battlefields for a few days can maybe be seen as a thing to keep up the level of stress, but in this case it is just a very nice way of refueling some energy.

I had my list of about 10 places to visit, and I managed to visit almost all of them. Below you will see some facts about the soldiers and places that I visited.

The flight arrived late on friday, and I drove in heavy rain to the hotel in Ypres. The room was facing towards the market square, and gave me a calm feeling, seeing the old Cloth Hall rising in the lights of the square, and I felt it will be a very good start next morning, when going out to the soldiers. I managed to attend to the online meeting with the Great War Group on friday evening which always is of great joy.

The first place I visited was the Oxford Road Cemetery where the Swedish born soldier Charles Anderson is buried. He fought for the Canadian Engineers in the 2nd Tunneling Coy. You can read more about him in an earlier post.

It is always very moving when standing by the headstone, and I always try to photograph them with the little Swedish flag attached, shown in the photo.

From Charles Anderson it was not far to the Passchendaele New British Cemetery where I visited the Swedish born soldier of Andrew John (Anders Johan) Johansson, and the place where he is buried. I was completely alone this morning except for some traffic of farmers on the road outside, and I sat by Andrew John for a while, trying to take in the specific feeling of the area and the spirit of the soldiers buried at the cemetery.

On my way to the next positions I passed the places and the areas where the Swedish born soldiers David Fridengard Carlson and Eric Ostberg fell. David fought for the 42nd Infantry battalion in the Australian Imperial Forces and fell near the Red Line Objective, one of the lines to reach for the troops in the Campaign that day on October 4th, 1917.

Eric Ostberg fought for the 29th Canadian Infantry battalion and fell near the area of Abraham Heights on November 11th, 1917, just west of the large cemetery of Tyne Cot.

I drove towards Ypres and the took the road down south to the small village near the border to France, Ploegsteert, and visited the resting place of the Swedish born soldier John Mattson. He is buried at the Berks Cemetery Extension which is placed near the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing.

You can really feel the presence of the soldiers when you walk around the area. John fought for 8th Australian Infantry battalion, but I have not yet been able to find any information about in which area John fell that day of June 29, 1916. It was a great feeling to commemorate him in this area.

On saturday evening I attended to the last post ceremony in Ypres, which always is a great moment of peace, listening to the signal, and see the people who are there to visit the Memorial and its surroundings.

Every time I am at the Menin Gate Memorial I try to visit one of so far 20 Swedish born soldiers who have their names on the walls, and this time I visited the soldier who made me start this project, Oscar Wikstrom, who can be found on panel 29, among the other names of those from the 50th Australian Infantry battalion who doesn’t have their own grave.

On Sunday morning I decide to visit the area of Sanctuary Wood to locate the area where the Swedish born soldier Louis John (Lars Johan) Engstrom is assumed to have fallen on one of the days between 2nd and 5th of June, 1916. He probably fell in the area between Maple Copse and Sanctuary Wood, according to the unit diary of the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles.

At this moment I also took the opportunity to try the Digital Trench Map tool from Great War Digital, which worked excellent. On the trench map picture below you can see some of the trenches that were present in the area at that time. (red lines). My position on the map is the red circle.

I went back to Brussels Airport knowing that I will be back in July this year, and will then also start to visit the Swedish born soldiers who are having their last resting places in the Somme area in France.

But I will also be back in Belgium, to visit this very beautiful part of West Flandern, which I feel so strong connected to. Who knows, maybe I have lived here in an earlier life? We will never know.

Swedes in the Dardanelles – Salient Points

It is a great feeling to see my own material finally printed and published in a magazine about the Great War. I will really try to write more articles, I have so much to tell about the Swedish born soldiers who fought and fell in the Great War, especially at the Western front.

Below you will find some photos from the article which is from the Great War magazine “Salient Points”, connected to the association “The Great War Group“. As a member you will get this magazine sent to you quarterly. The material is of high quality and there are different main topics from time to time.

Since the article was sent in I have found some more Swedes and they will be covered in another article.

Please check in my page now and then!

One of few.

I have come to that stage in my research, when I go more deep into each individual I have in my database. I have now decided to look more into those few Swedish born Brits that served in the Great War and fell at the Western Front.

One of those was 2nd/Lt George Herbert Westerberg.

George was born in Gothenburg, in Gustavi parish, June 1st, 1879. He was raised by his Swedish born mother Jemina Marshall, born Andersson, and his father Johan August Westerberg in the town of Gothenburg. George had seven siblings, five brothers and two sisters. His mother Jemina was born in the English parish department in Gothenburg, “Engelska församlingen”.

Some digitized newspapers mention that George went to England and became a businessman around 1899 at an age of 20. George is noted as absent in the Swedish churchbooks in 1901, and he probably left Sweden for England at around 1898-1899. There are no facts available for the moment that confirm the exact date when he left Sweden.

He lived near London with his wife Jane Westerberg, born Clark, and their two children. George became a natural british subject June 13, 1910, after have sworn the oath in front of Winston Churchill. George and Jane got married in the same period in 1910.

You can read more about George Herbert Westerberg through this eminent page:


The article says as follows:

Citizen of Gothenburg fallen in France.

According to information to Gothenburg, has George Herbert Westerberg, the 4th in this month, (actually the 5th according to the diary) fallen in the fightings in France. He was born in Gothenburg and son to the architect and the member of parliament J. A. Westerberg, and was at his death 37 years old. He was a businessman in England and lived near London. He participated as a volunteer in the war on the British side and had officer rank. He is mourned by his wife and his two children, and by siblings in Sweden.”

The picture below show their address, Porch Cottage, 15 Nightingale Rd, Bushey, Herts, in 1911.

George received his commission in the Royal Field Artillery, 106th Brigade in August 1915 and went to the front in March 1916.

In the beginning of September 1916 the unit fought in the battle of the Somme around the area of Maricourt in France, and in the diary from the period it is mentioned that the headquarter is stationed near the place called Briqueterie, north of the town of Maricourt. George is mentioned by name in the unit diary on September 5th, 1916. He died when a shell exploded close to him, when he was on his way back from an observation post.

George is buried at Dantzig Alley British cemetery. I will take a photo of his headstone when I visit him in July this year. On the picture below you can see the area where he was when he fell and where he is buried.

May George rest in peace.

Svenskar på Västfronten

For my Swedish visitors!

Nu är det på gång! I mitt samarbete med resebyrån Historic Travel så har vi härmed planerat in en resa till slagfälten i Belgien och Frankrike där vi besöker de platser som de svenska soldaterna stred och föll i det första världskriget. Resan kommer beröra en del av de soldater som jag följer upp i mitt projekt som ni kan läsa mer om på denna sida.

Nedan så kan ni läsa den information som skickats ut till de som följer Historic Travel nyhetsbrev.

“Svenskar på Västfronten 31/3-3/4 2023
Denna resa blir den mest gripande resa som jag har genomfört och kommer att bli känslosam för dig som följer med. Den behandlar svenskar som utvandrade till Kanada och andra delar av engelska samväldet och stupade i Första Världskriget på Europas slagfält.
Joacim Hallberg, officer på Göta Ingenjörregemente i Eksjö, har under flera års tid forskat i detta ämne i olika arkiv och kyrkböcker samt besökt gravplatser och slagfälten. Han blir vår guide på resan och personligen ser jag oerhört mycket fram mot detta. Han har valt ut några av dessa människoöden där familjebakgrund, emigration, värvning, förbandstillhörighet, striden och plats där han stupade samt graven på krigskyrkogården besöks. 

Denna resa är ett “absolut måste” för dig som är intresserad av Första Världskriget.
Vi besöker platser i Belgien och Norra Frankrike enligt utkastet bifogat i detta mail.

För detaljer och pris se längst ned på sidan.

En av de soldater som vi kommer att höra och se mer om är Bertil Lindh.

Bertil Albert LindhFödd 31 december 1891 i Hedvig Eleonora församling, uppfostrad av sin Mor Hulda Mathilda Elfrida Borg och hans far Gustav Albert Carlsson Lindh. Bertil hade tre syskon. Enligt kyrkböckerna så är familjen registrerad inledningsvis i Stockholm, i Hedvig Eleonora församling, men även I Malmö, i kvarteret Judith.  Därefter går det att utläsa att delar av familjen flyttar tillbaka till Stockholm, där Bertil registreras i Stockholms Sjömanskår under år 1913. Bertil är då 21 år, och det kan vara i Sjömanskåren som han gör sin militärtjänstgöring. Äldre digitaliserade tidningar nämner att han gick till sjöss tidigare, men 1913 är mer troligt.Bertil tar sig bedömt, i sin yrkesroll som sjöman, till Nordamerika strax efter sin militärtjänstgöring och registrerar sig för kanadensisk militärtjänstgöring i Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, på den kanadensiska östkusten, den 17 april 1915.

Han anger ingen adress i Kanada då han troligtvis registrerar sig direkt på rekryteringskontoret från sin sjömanstjänst, vilket var relativt vanligt om man jämför med andra svenska sjömän som sedan blev soldater. Vi vet idag ingen specifik anledning till att han anmäler sig för den kanadensiska armén, men mycket tyder på att han gjorde det frivilligt, då han inte var kanadensisk medborgare. Bertil lämnar Kanada, på skeppet S.S Caledonia, från Halifax, och anländer till England 29 augusti 1915.Bertil ansluter sig den 13:e Kanadensiska infanteribataljonen, The Royal Highlanders, den 4 september samma år, troligtvis i Belgien. Bataljonen tjänstgör sedan i Västra Flandern i Belgien, söder om staden Ieper (Ypres) i sydvästra Belgien.

Bataljonen strider i ett område som brigaden stridit i sedan februari-mars 1915 som kallas för ”The Bluff”, i området Palingbeek. Bertil stupar den 19 april 1916 i hårda strider mot tyska förband mellan skyttevärn nr 31 och 33, och begravs inledningsvis bakom skyttegrav 33, för att därefter flyttas till Hooge Crater cemetery ca 3 km norr hans ursprungliga begravningsplats.Bertil sörjs av sin familj hemma i Stockholm efter att dessa informerats av en brittisk befälhavare. Detta finns även noterat i kyrkböckerna i Johannes församling i Stockholm 1916.

Det preliminära programmet ser ut enligt följande:

Normalpris: 8550:- 

Erbjudande: 1000:- rabatt gäller till 30/4 (10 platser) 

I priset ingår: 

– Flyg ToR Arlanda, Landvetter, Kastrup- Bryssel 

– Tre nätter på hotell inkl frukost med del i dubbelrum 

– Alla transporter i Belgien och Frankrike (utom ev egna utflykter) – Guidning av Joacim Hallberg 

– Två luncher/middagar 

– Studiematerial

Önskar ni följa med? Anmäl er då till Jan Ågren Historic Travel via följande mailadress:


Välkomna och väl mött! /Joacim

Local Swedish brothers – Soldiers in the American Forces.

One of the things that moves me are these moments when I can meet the relatives to those Swedish born soldiers that participated in The Great War and listen to them to get more information about the individuals, but also a piece of their local history in Sweden.

One of these moments I had this Saturday morning, when visiting Gunborg, the Niece to Ernst Magnus Robert Kristoffersson and Sjunne Walter Kristoffersson, who both registered for U.S Army after they emigrated to North America from Sweden in 1913. The reason to this meeting was a result from my lecture I had in my home village in March.

One of the participants recognized one of the names I had about the local soldiers who had fought in the American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War, Ernest M R Christopherson, who we know as Ernst mentioned above in the text. He sent me Gunborgs number, and we could arrange a meeting. So glad we met.

Gunborgs mother Aina Ida Viola Kristoffersson was the only one of in total 9 siblings who did not emigrate to North America from the farm Bråten here in my home village of Taberg, in Småland, Sweden. Aina took well care about her parents here in Sweden, but had contact with many of her siblings through letters from North America, almost on a weekly basis. Aina was the youngest of the sibling, together with her twin brother Bror, almost 25 year younger than the oldest sibling.

I am so amazed to hear about those individuals and are lucky to meet people who are still alive to tell the stories.

Ernst was the only one of those two brothers who went over to France. He was registered in the American Draft in June 5th, 1917, when he lived at Wilson Place in Jamestown, NY, where he lived with his sister Bertha and her family. As far as I know his brother Walter lived there as well at that time.

Ernst went over to France in May 27th, 1918, with his unit, 307th Field Artillery (Light), which belonged to 153rd Field Artillery Brigade in the 78th Infantry Division.

If you look on the photo above of Ernst, you can see the Shoulder Sleeve insignia of the 78th Division on his left shoulder.

The first unit of the Division arrived in France May 18, 1918. The last part of the Division arrived in June 12, 1918. The Artillery Brigade supported the 90th Infantry Divison in the St Michael Offensive, and rejoined the 78th Division again in October 4th, 1918.

In between, in July 18th, the 78th division moved to the Arras Area with it’s headquarters established at Roellecourt in France, after had been conducting training in The British Sector near Ypres Front in West Flandern, Belgium.

In October 4th to 5th, the whole Division moved to Foret de la Reine, and then to Clermont en-Argonne area, in France. On october 10th they moved to the eastern part of the Argonne Forest, with headquarters in Varennes. They entered the line in October 15th and relieved 77th Division in the line between Petit Talma – Grand Pre – Chevieres – St Juvin. The unit fought hard in Bois de Bourgogne and in the end the unit had around 7245 casualties and had taken around 432 prioners.

Ernst surived the fightings and in the discharge documents in May 22, 1919, it is mentioned that he has 0 percent disability, but family can now tell me that he struggled with the hearing the rest of his life, which is not strange after had belonged to an Artillery unit.

In the church books I can read that Ernst visited Sweden at least one time during the 1960s, but he died in 1977 in U.S after has been living there since 1913. His younger brother Walter died in 1955 after struggling with a disease.

Walter was registered in the Draft in June 1918, but never served abroad according to the documents.

Both of the brothers registered for the Second World War but never went abroad.

I am very glad that I have met Gunborg and her husband today at their nice farm, just 10 minutes from my home, and after a nice chat we decided to meet again, to be able to have a more detailed dialogue about her relatives, which will be great material in my production of the article I will write in the next version of the book about our home parish Taberg. It will be about the local Swedish soldiers who were born in Månsarp parish, and fought in the The Great War at the Western Front.

Below you will find some more family photos of the soldier Ernest Magnus Robert Chritopherson.

Thank you very much, Gunborg.

Swede Missing in Aulnoy

“Nov. 1-The capture of the ground south of Valenciennes between the Rhonelle river and the Scheldt canal was of extreme importance so as to compel the enemy to evacuate the town. The Canadian Corps were holding the western approaches to the town and the western bank of the Scheldt canal, and their guns were able to batter the tongue of land where the 51st. Division had been fighting. An attack by Canadian troops in a northerly direction from about Aulnoy could thus be supported by their artillery fire from south, west and north, and offered the best and safest means of capturing Valenciennes.

The attack was made by the 44th. Battalion, of New Brunswick though originally recruited at Winnipeg, on the right, with the 47th. Battalion, Western Ontario, on the left. After taking Famars which again had fallen into enemy hands the 44th, fought their way into Aulnoy, where it was only after hand-to-hand fighting that the enemy was overcome.”

Some words from the book “Canada’s Hundred Days – With the Canadian Corps from Amiens to Mons, Aug. 8-Nov. 11, 1918” (John Frederick Bligh Livesay), from November 1st, when the young Swede Carl Frederick Youngberg went missing at the battlefield, later on declared killed in action.

Who was the young Swede? Where did he come from, and where is his final rest? I will try to tell you the story.

Carl Fredrick Youngberg, or Karl Ferdinand Ljungberg, was born in Sweden June 2nd, 1896, and raised by his parents, his mother Jenny Kristina Liljegren and his father Adolf Ljungberg. Karl had six siblings, Tekla, Ida, Marta, Ruth, Alma, and Gerda. Karl was the only son in the family. Karl was born in the small parish of Vä in Kristianstad county in the southern part of Sweden, and moved after about one year to the place where he lived when he left Sweden for North America, Skegrie, in Malmöhus county, far down south in Sweden.

Karl and his family moves to North America in August 1902, when Karl was only six years old. His mother takes all the kids on the trip over the Antlantic. When I read the Swedish church books, it looks like his father Adolf, the tailor, went over before his family, already in september 1901. which I think was quite common these days.

The transport documents also tells us the same thing.

The census documents tells us that the family settled down in St. Paul, Minnesota, after have arrived to Quebec, Canada.

Karl stated his address as St Paul, Minnesota, in his attestation documents for the Canadian Overseas Forces, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He states that he is born in Stockholm, but as in many cases, when Swedes left Sweden when they were young, they had sometimes hard to remember the exact Swedish location of their place of birth. Below you will also see in his draft papers for the American Forces that he states that he is born in Småland Landscape, but Vä belongs to Skåne Landscape.

Karl left Canada from Halifax, Canada, for Europe. He arrived in England in October 17, 1917 on the Ship S.S Metagama.

He becomes wounded in his hand by a Gun Shot Wound and is treated in Etaples, at the General hospital, in the beginning of September 1918, almost a year from when he arrived in England.

Karl is fighting for the 44th Canadian Infantry battalion when he is killed in action that day, November 1st, in 1918. The unit is fighting in the area around the region of Alnoy, south of Valneciennes, France, where Carl initially is declared “Missing”.

Karl is only at an age of 22 when he is killed. I know that he also was drafted for the American Army in June 1917, but right now I don’t know the reason why he chose to join the Canadian Forces instead. In my research I have a couple of individuals that emigrated to North America, was drafted for the American Forces but later on joined the Canadian Forces for the fightiings at the Western Front.

Carl is buried at Aulnoy Communal Cemetery in France. I will try to visit him this summer in July.

May Carl rest in peace.

One thing leading to another …

It is really great when individuals are coming back to you after you have had your lectures, and bringing more information you didn’t know about, and makes it you look for more.

In this case I was having a lecture in my home parish, one evening in March this year. One of the guests mention through my father that another name has to be added to the list about the local citiziens who participated in the Great War at the Western Front.

I decide to look it up, and I found some interesting information, and also that he is buried at the local cemetery in my parish Månsarp.

The individual is Oskar Fridolf Andersson. He is born in December 29, 1888, in Månsarp parish and is raised at Holmåsen, Renstorp, by his parents Manna Kristina Johansdotter and Peter Magnus Andersson.

It is mentioned in the church book that he is leaving Sweden for North America in May 23, 1908, at an age of 20, which means that he left before he was supposed to do his military conscript in Sweden, the reason is unknown. In October 15th the same year, 1908, his sister Sigrid Margareta also left Sweden for North America.

Oskar arrived Chicago, Illinois, in June 1908, and this is probably the place his sister arrives to later on when she is coming to the States in October same year, as this is the address stated of Oskars Next of Kin.

He later on gives the address Dixon in South Dakota in his papers, which we find in different passport applications and similar. He is living in Dixon to 1916 and is then moving to Chicago. His sister Sigrid is given as Next of Kin when he is leaving North America for France and the Western Front in September 1918.

The paper says that Corporal Oskar Andersson is belonging to 344th Infantry battalion (86th Division AEF) when he left New York on the Ship “Megantic” in September 9, 1918. They arrived Bordeaux in France where the unit built up the Headquarter, where from the 86th Division brought in reserves to the Front in Meuse-Argonne, further North-east in France, which they did until November 8, 1918, when they moved down to Le Mans in France. The war ended three days later on November 11th.

It is not known if Oskar participated at the Front during the months he was there, but he stayed in France until June 29th 1919, when the unit went back to North America, which they arrived in July 1919. Oscar belonged to The Depot Support Company in France before they went back, and it is not known when he switched between the units.

Oskar survived, as we now know, and lived in North America some more years before he went back to Sweden. We know from the passport applications above that he visited Sweden during 1916 and 1917, before he finally moved for good, back to Månsarp, to the parish where he was born. It is not known if his sister Sigrid moved back to Sweden again. Sigrid is married to Gunnar Holmström in Chicago in 1916. Gunnar is probably born in Korsberga, Småland, Sweden, in November 13, 1886, and not in 1888 as stated in the file. They get four children together.

Oskar dies in 1972, at an age of 83, and is today buried at the local cemetery here in my home parish of Månsarp, and today I visited his final resting place, where there is a stone erected as a family grave. I say thank you to Oskar for his contribution in the Great War, and now it feels great to know that it is actually a stone nearby connected to the history of what the Swedish born soldiers did for their new countries in the period of the Great War.

May Oskar rest in peace.

The Cavalli brothers

The title sounds like a movie, or could be the name of a TV series. I think it is an interesting story, and it still leaves some questions behind.

This is the small story about the brothers who emigrated from Sweden, from Östersund in Jämtland, and later became soldiers in both the Canadian Overseas forces, and one of them later fell in the Meuse Argonne Offensive, for AEF, and awarded for his achievments.

One evening this week I was looking for some more information about the soldiers that I have in my research, and I stumbled over an advert in one of the newspapers.

It is from someone, later identified as a mother, who turns her message to the homecoming, returned soldiers. She wrote:

Wadena, Sask., Canada.

If any of the homecoming soldiers knew Corporal Mike Cavalli, who fell at the front last autumn, and who met him anytime during the service in France, it would be nice to exchange letters with those. Signed Mrs L Cavalli.”

As this advert was written in Swedish I decided to look up the name mentioned in the text, Mike Cavalli. It turns out that he is from Sweden.

It took a while to find some information about his Swedish name, as I thought that this was a name that he maybe used when he went over to North America. I later find that he is mentioned as Mike Augustianus in the U.S Veterans Administration Master Index and decided to search for Augustianus in the Swedish church books. I did not find any Augustianus, but I found a person named Augustinus, and this is not common in Sweden. The person also had the name Mikael, and I felt that this could be something to look in to.

I searched for his casualty card, as I found out that he died October 7, 1918, and that could have been during the war. I found it.

I can also read from the card that he first was buried near Fleville in the Ardennes, and later moved to Meuse Argonne American Cemetery. The Emergency address is to Mrs L. Cavalli, as I later on found to be his mother Lovisa Eriksson.

I looked into the Swedish Church book again, and tried to find some information about when they left for North America, and finally I found the page that shows some interesting information. I have already started to think about when they could have changed their surname to Cavalli.

The church book says, that his father is Jöns Mikaelsson, or Mickelsson, as it is also written on some of the pages. On his row it is written “Free for another marriage”. He is not with the family when they leave for North America in January 7, 1903, when they leave the town of Östersund, Sweden. I saw that his brother Per Erik also leaves with the family and I will come back to him later.

I don’t find any information about any passenger lists where they whole family is together, but in some document I found out that Mike, and probably the rest of his family, came in through Halifax. They are put up as a family in the church register for St Marks Lutheran Church. I can here see that another man is put together with them, Ludvig Cavalli, also named as Luigi, from Italy. It is probably his surname that Mike takes when he is later on putting his name in different forms.

Mike Cavalli is born as Mikael Augustinus Mikaelsson in Häggenås parish close to the town Östersund in Jämtland, Sweden. He is born August 26, 1886, and he is around 16 years old when the leave for North America. The farm that he is born at is in the part of Häggenås called Kougsta, or today called Kogsta. Their house is not mentioned in the Church Book. When they leave for North America they live in the town center of Östersund, on Prästgatan 38.

I know now that Mike Cavalli belonged to 1st Division, 2nd M.G Battalion in the American Expeditionary Forces. He went in to the forces from North Dakota. Hefell in the Argonne region in October 1918, after hard fightings with the Germans, according the Divisional Diary. He must have made some impression to his superiors and soldiers, as he is awarded the silver star for his actions.

But something cought my eyes when searching for more information about his life. Some documents also mention that he has been registered for the Canadian Overseas Forces, and when looking for his surname I also see another person with the same surname, Pete Erik Cavalli. Both of them has registered for the Canadian Forces. And I look back in the Swedish Church book and can easy see that Pete Erik is Mike’s brother Per Erik.

Mike has been registered for both the Canadian Forces and the American Forces. I try to look for his U.S draft document, but can only find his brother Pete Erik in the U.S draft, June 5th, 1917. It is clear though that Mike fell for the AEF in 1918.

But there is someting strange with both of the brothers documents. Both of them seems to have been absent without leave the same date, October 15th, 1916. And both of them is notes as “S.O.S 15-10-16 as Deserter”. Oh my. “Struck off Strenght as Deserters”. Both of them belonged to the 223rd Battalion.

As far as I see it it is not good to have this text in your military file, but someone who knows better than me, is free to explain the situation, and what happens when this is the fact.

We know that both of the brothers were drafted by U.S Forces, but I wonder if that would be possible if you are noted as a deserter in another army?

As far I can see it, his brother never went over to France, or he survived. I can’t find any shipping documents about that he went over, and I found his census documents when he is living with Luigi and his mother Lovisa in Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1921

Mike Cavalli is today buried at the Meuse Argonne American Cemetery. I wonder how many more soldiers in the U.S Veterans Administration Master Index that are connected to Swedish individuals. If I haven’t seen that advert I would never guessed that this Mike Cavalli originally was from Sweden.

Mike is Swedish born soldier number 418 in my research, within my criterias. I will visit his final resting place one day. May he rest in peace.

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.