Swedes in the French Foreign Legion – they fought – they fell – watch the movie

Sometimes a movie with photos and text can bring a lot when it comes to understand a subject. In this case I decided to do a short video about those Swedes who fought and fell for the French Foreign legion in the Great War. I also chose to include some of the other Swedes who participated and survived.

You can find the video in the website area to the right. Thank you for watching.

Died as a Prisoner of War

There are so many things I want to know when reading about certain individuals who I come across when I do my research about those Swedish born soldiers who fought in the Great War.

In this case I look into Axel Herman Larson’s eyes, in his photo, and wonder how he experienced his last days in a German prison, where he died in Dysentery, a day in November, 1918.

Axel H Larson (Axel Herman Larsson), was born in Sweden October 4th, 1891, in the parish of Södra Vi, in Kalmar county. He was raised by his mother Hulda Karolina Augustdotter and his father Lars Magnus Larsson.

He grew up at the farm of Brunnstorp, in the area of Hoppeskogen, in Södra Vi, together with his 4 other siblings, his brother Carl, and his sisters Emmy Sofia, Gerda Charlotta and Anna Karolina.

Axel decided, reason unknown, to move to North America, and left Sweden September 2nd, 1910, with the Ship “Calypso”, via Hull in England. He arrived around 1910, and probably settled down in Red Oak, Montgomery, Iowa. I can’t confirm this with any census documents but will try to look for them later on.

Axel was drafted on 5th of June, 1917, and joined the Company I, 7th Infantry regiment, 3rd Division, in the American Expeditionary Forces.

I haven’t found any documents about when he left North America for France, and it is hard to find any documents about when he was taken prison, but I know he ended up up as a Prisoner of War. Axel Herman Larson died as a prisoner of War and was buried in Germany, near the town of Worms in the SE part of Germany, on a cemetery in the part of Hochheim.

He is declared dead in some German documents, which mention his birthplace as Gullringen, which is quite close to Södra Vi in Kalmar county, Sweden. In the American casualty cards his brother Carl Larson (Karl August Larsson) is mentioned as his Next of Kin. Carl left Sweden for North America in August 15th, 1912, and I assume the lived together in Red Oak, Iowa. In the American casualty cards it is also mentioned that Axel died of Dysentery.

Axel is transported from France to North America between October 14th to October 25th, 1921. Oscar Wenstrand, who was born in North America, received Axels remains in November 1st, 1921. Oscar Wenstrand lived in Red Oak, Montgomery, Iowa, and I assume it was in this Red Oak Axel and his brother Carl lived as well. At this moment I don’t know how Axel and Oscar was connected.

In the Swedish-American Newspapers It is mentioned that he is reported in American documents to be a Prisoner of War in September 24, 1918, right before the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. it is also mentioned that Axel was transported back from Germany to France, as a released prisoner, which can make you believe that he was released alive, but I think the newspaper didn’t had all the information about Axels situation on tha specific date. In March 1919 it is finally reported that he died in prison, and that he fell in German hands alive.

Axel is now buried in Evergreen cemetery in Red Oak, Montgomery, Iowa. The Swedish-American Newspaper mentioned that his remains was buried Sunday of November 20, 1921.

May Axel rest in peace, he is not forgotten.

Widen my research

As you know by now this site is commemorating those Swedish born soldiers who fought, fell in The Great war and are buried at the Western Front. At this moment I have 455 soldiers in my database within those criterias, which I have followed up with documents about the soldiers.

But it was so many more Swedish born soldiers who actually fought and fell at the Western Front, but are buried either in Sweden, North America, Canada, and in the UK.

At this day, November 11th, the Armastice Day, I have decided to include those soldiers as well in my research. I hope you will find it interesting to continue to follow me on my journey.

Below I will tell you the story about Oscar B Nelson, or Oskar Bernhard Nilsson born in Sweden, April 15th, 1880.

Oscar was born in the Village of Knäred, at the farm of Parken, in the county of Halland, Sweden, and raised by his mother Ingegerd Johansdotter and his father Jakob Nilsson, together with his siblings Carl Edward, Johan Leander and Anton Walfrid.

When Oscar was around 10 years old the family emigrated from Sweden to North America November 4th, 1890. They settled down in Wapello, Iowa, and from the census document you can read that their names changed, as they often did, when the Swedes went over to the states.

Jacob kept his name while Ingegerd became Ingrid, Carl Edward became Edward, Johan Leander became John and Anton Walfrid became Otto. I find it interesting, and it gives me also som information for future research when it comes to searching after individuals, especially those who emigrated to North America.

When it comes to Oscars period when he was drafted, I haven’t found his Draft document, but he left US for France from New York City with the S.S BALTIO, White Star Line, November 23rd, 1917. At that time his rank was 2.nd Lt. His family and Next Of Kin lived in Ottumwa in Wapello county in Iowa.

Oscar belonged to 168th Infantry Regiment, 42nd Division, the Rainbow Division, American Expeditionary Forces.

At the date of his death, October 16th, 1918, his unit was fighting in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, and below you will find a snippet from the diary of 42nd Division. Oscar was severely wounded in action at LaTuilerie Farm, in France, and died from wounds.

His casualty card says that his rank was 1st Lt, but he was promoted to Captain while on active duty.

For his actions he was posthumously decorated by King Albert I, of Belgium, in the “Order of the Crown,” or “Chevalier de I’Ordre de la Couronne,” with rank of Chevalier, in recognition of heroic service. He was also decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross (D.S.C) by General Pershing. In the image to the right, below, you can read more about why he received these decorations.

His body was disinterred July 23rd, 1921, and was transported to Iowa September 16, 1921. Oscar is now buried Ottumwa Cemetery in Wapello county in Iowa. May Oscar rest in peace.

Swedish officers in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces

The larger part of my research is about those soldiers who fell in the Great War at the Western Front, but I will also try to cover other Swedish individuals who fought in the different armies. Sometimes I find really interesting facts in both books and archives that is worth to mention in a wider context.

Below I will give you the short story about the Swedish born Lieutenant in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, Adolf Berner.

Adolph was born in Hammenhög parish in Skåne, Sweden, as Adolph Bernhard Bengtsson and raised by his parents, his mother Karin Wedberg and his father, Abraham Bengtsson. One thing that I am thinking of when I see his surname is that maybe he chose to call himself after his second name, Bernhard, and use that as a surname, or maybe his fathers surname, Bengtsson, became Berner when he moved to Canada.

Adolph was born according to the book of birth in November 24, 1882, and is the same date as he also wrote in his Canadian Attestation papers. But in most of the other Swedish Church Books chapters the date is October 24, 1882, which made it a bit hard to find the correct data.

One other thing that I have discovered are some notes in the Swedish Church Books of an Adolph Bernhard Berner, so maybe he went back from North America? Here he also mentioned with his alternative date of birth, November 24, 1882. Below you will find some data about that some sources says that he left Sweden already in 1901. In this case I haven’t found any data that confirms my thoughts.

According to one source Adolph left Sweden for Canada in 1901, but I can only find the documents about when he arrived to US in April 1903. Adolph signed his attestation papers for the first time in 1915, for the 16th C.R Battalion, but also in 1917 when he signes his Officers Declaration Papers in June 1917.

He seemed to have found his right element in the Army. In 1918 he was a Lieutenant but was noted as a A/Capt.

When he participated in the fightings around Bourlon and Raillencourt in France in September 1918 he did a great job and was nominated to Military Cross, which he also later recieved. The motivation:

For conspicuous gallantry and ability during operations before Bourlon and Raillencourt, September 26/28th, 1918. He led his company excellently throughout the operations and by his display of tactical ability saved many casualties. At the end of the first phase of the operations, when he was the only company commander remaining, he took charge of the reorganization of his own and other companies making all necessary dispositions to repel any counter-attacks. During the second phase he did excellent work, and throughout showed great coolness and ability.”

The diary below mention Lieut A Berner in the diary from the period, when he fought for the 47th Canadian Infantry Battalion. The small map snippets below shows the area where he was fighting in each situation.

A few months later he received the bar to his Military Cross, when he fought in the region of Valenciennes in France, in November 1918. The Motivation:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the action in front of Valenciennes on 1st November, 1918, in command of a company. When other companies became disorganized through loss of officers and NCO’s, he at once assumed command and personally rushed two machine-gun nests which were holding up the advance, in spite of the fact that they were firing at them at short range. His determination and great courage were a powerful factor in maintaining the moral of the whole unit under very heavy fire and trying circumstances.

In the unit diary from November 1st, 1918, he is mentioned in the situation, which you can see in the diary below.

Adolph is assumed to have died in Vernon, Canada, in October 16, 1953, at an age of 70. I haven’t been able to find a photo of Adolph, but as soon I find any, I will put it up here in this article. May Adolph rest in peace.

Visit the Swedes

I have now developed some new functions on my webpage and now you can find the possibility to use the links about the soldiers in the Main menu, and through those find that the list are searchable and can be filtered.

I can be a nice function for those who are visiting the FWW battlefield cemeteries and want to know how many Swedish born soldiers there are in that specific cemetery.

Below you find a screenshot of how it looks now.

The links in the screenshot below are now updated with new functions.

Do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions.

Mother visiting her son, the fallen soldier.

Amanda Gustafva Svensdotter was born in Denmark December 19, 1871. She is noted in the Swedish Church books together with her sister, Hilda Vilhelmina Olsdotter, also born in Denmark. They are noted to live with their mother, Christina, but father unknown.

They are taken care of, which I translate into some kind of Poor relief, “fattigvården”, in the small parish of Göteryd, Kronobergs County in Sweden.

The small daughters doesn’t have the correct papers and I can imagine it must be hard to grow up in these conditions. Amanda later became Amanda Gustava Olson.

Amanda worked as a maid in different families in Kronobergs and Kristianstads Counties during her time in Sweden, and in 1895 she gives birth to a son, Oscar Sigfrid, who is born in February 27, 1895 in Västra Broby parish, Kristianstads county, Sweden. His father is also unknown, so in this family the mother and the son doesn’t knew who their fathers were.

There is a note in the church book that Oscar, before his first birthday, is taken care of his foster parents Asserina Nilsdotter and Nils Nilsson, already in October 29th, 1895.

Amanda left Sweden for North America in April, 1904, and later on became Amanda Erickson when she became married to Enoch William Erickson, from Uppland County in Sweden.

Oscar grew up together with his foster parents in the parish where he was born, Västra Broby in Kristianstads county. There is a note about his service within the Swedish Army, in the Crown Prince Cavalry, K7. Oscar left Sweden for North America in September 1912, which means that he was quite young when he did some kind of service in the Swedish Army.

In North America Oscar was drafted early in 1917. I have not yet found the registration form from the Draft, but some documents says that he was drafted right after the declaration of War. He lived in Chicago, Illinois, during his time in the states. He joined the 23rd Infantry Regiment in the 2nd Division, American Expeditionary Forces, and went over to France.

The first unit from the 2nd Division, AEF went over already in June 1917 and the last unit arrived in March 1918. Oscar probably arrived quite early within that time frame. the 1st and 3rd Battalions took over the line from Bouresches to Le Thiolet, in the Chateau Thierry area, relieving the Marines. These two battalions attacked late in the afternoon June 6th, gaining their objective with heavy losses.

Oscar had at this time the rank of 1st sergeant. Oscar was killed in action June 8th, 1918 in that area. He was buried in in some different places but later moved to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.

The documents above shows a photo which is assumed to be Oscar Anderson. He looks quite young, and it can be from his period in the Swedish Army. The photo is found under his name at findmygrave.com, but his date of birth was from another Oscar Anderson.

The other documents describes his casualty card, where his mother’s name is mentioned on the back side of the card, Amanda Erickson. The last documents describes the situation when his body was exhumed from some old graves and later on moved to his final resting place.

The documents contains some very interesting information.

His mother Amanda was invited to participate on a Mother’s Pilgrimage trip to France in 1929, to be able to visit her sons grave. The next of Kin were offered to apply for a trip to Europe and were also asked if they wanted the body of their soldier to be left in Europe or transported to US. Amanda and her new husband must have chosen to let thye body of Oscar stay in Europe, and she took the offer of going on a pilgrimage trip to Europe, which she later on did in 1930.

Below you can look through some of the documents connected to that trip. They are really interesting to read and gives you a good picture of how well the US government took care of the realtives to the soldiers.

These types of documents are not scanned for every soldier who fell for the AEF, but the National Archive has scanned some of those soldiers who has a surname that begins with an “A”. I hope they will be able to scan more documents as these files gives you a very good picture of how the process was regarding the burials of the soldiers and how their relatives later on acted within the situations

I have a few more soldiers in my database who have those scanned documents and I will try to tell you some other small stories in the future.

Some documents mention that Amanda was born in the landscape of Småland, Sweden, but the church books says Denmark, and that is probably correct.

Amanda died in Cook County, Chicago, Illinois in September 11, 1941.

May Amanda and Oscar rest in peace.

Who were they, actually?

Most of the time my research about the Swedish born soldiers is going quite smooth, reading and using the facts that are stated in the papers. The facts from the different papers and documents that I find in the archives often gives me the correct data which I later can verify in the Swedish archives and church books.

But sometimes I find some names in documents, together with facts that points me in the direction of Sweden, not regions or villages in other countries called “Sweden”, but to the actual country of Sweden, which I can´t confirm in any Swedish documents like church books or other archive files.

This makes me curious. It doesnt mean that they are not there, but so far I haven’t been able to confirm some of them. Maybe some of you out there who reads this can bring some more light to the stories.

Below you will find three of the individuals that I am struggeling with for the moment, with some thoughts or reasons of my own, why I cant find them.

Oscar Osk

In the Canadian Military attestation papers it says that Oscar is born in Scona, Sweden, which probably is the landscape of Skåne in Sweden. I can also read that he served three years in the Swedish Army, which means that he left quite late from Sweden as the Swedish Conscript age at that was 21. His father is named as Ola Osk on the front page, but later in the documents I find that his father is specified as Ola Martenson, which is Ola Mårtensson. There is also an address to where his father lived in Sweden, when this information was added.

When I search for the address in the Swedish church books, I find Ola Mårtensson at the correct address. When I do this, I also find the date of birth of Ola Mårtensson, which can lead me to other periods, which can show if there has been an individual called Oscar connected to Ola Mårtensson, with the specified date of birth, Marsch 7, 1890.

I searched with different combinations, like excluding surname, changing the date of birth, but there is no Oscar connected to Ola Mårtensson in the Swedish church books.

There are surnames in Sweden like Osk, Ask and similar, but not even this have solved the case. I will try to search within more combinations, but so far the mystery about Oscar Osk is unsolved. That doesn’t take away what this individual went through.

Maybe Oskar didn’t want to use his real name, or did he had other reasons not to use his real name? I can imagine that not everone had a totally honest life. Or did the Canadian authorities looked for his next of Kin, and then just found an “Ole” or “Ola” in Sweden? Probably not, as it is a quite common name, and I still think Ola Mårtensson was his father.

Oscar fought for the 28th Canadian Infantry battalion when he was dangerously wounded and later died of his wounds August 24, 1917. He is buried at BARLIN COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION in France. Whoever you are, Oskar, rest in peace Lest we forget.

Olaf Olson

Olaf is also not yet confirmed in Swedish Church books and here are some fatcs about him from different digital sources.

From the Canadian attestation papers I find that he is noted to be born in Sweden. There is no village or town specified, but the next of Kin is his mother Mary Olsen. There are some canadian addresses connected to Mary like Midman Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but also East Street, Winnipeg Manitoba.

Olaf is according to the papers born in January 29, 1897, and is quite young when he sign his papers in 1916. He will become 19 same year, in 1916. When

Olaf can be Olof in Swedish and his name is changed from Olsen to Olson with a pencil on the document, and in the CWGC archive he is named Olaf Olson. It is easy to think that he could be born in Norway as it is quite common with nemes and surnames like Olaf and Olsen, but I haven’t looked into any Norweigian archives.

His mother Mary can Also be Maria in Swedish, or some other common name like Marie, Ann-Marie or similar.

As I haven’t found any more information about any Mary, with a son called Olaf, in some Canadian archives, I can’t find any data that can help me to search for any information in the Swedish Church books. Maybe I will find some more information later on.

In the papers there are some information about his period in 90th Winnipeg Rifle Bugle Band, maybe that can be a source of finding more information that can lead me to more facts about Olaf. I find Olaf quite young on the photo below and I assume that if he emigrated from Sweden he probably did that when he was young.

Olaf belonged to 144th Battalion, Winnipeg Rifles but was fighting for 8th Canadian Infantry battalion CEF when he was reported wounded and later on Missing. He was later on declared to have been killed August 15, 1917. Olaf has no known grave and are commemorated with his name at Vimy Memorial in France. May he rest in peace.

William Matheson

When it comes to find more information about William Matheson, who was, according to the Canadain Attestation papers, born in Sweden May 16, 1888, it was a bit more positive than the other two mentioned above.

But still I haven’t found the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to confirm his birth in the Swedish Church books of birth.

William also, as Olaf above, belonged to the 144th Canadian battalion, Winnipeg Rifles, and he also signed his papers in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which he did in December 22, 1915.

I tried to search for him in the Swedish Church books using his date of birth, and also tried other versions of names. William is almost in every case a change from the Swedish/German name of Wilhelm, and that is what I try to search for. I also use the stated place of birth which in this case is Kalix, quite far up north in Sweden.

I find him in the Swedish archive of Arkiv Digital, a very nice database portal that have connection to a large amount of archive files. Here he is noted to be Mattias Vilhelm Mattsson.

On this page he is mentioned alone, and not connected to any family of his. His profession is notes as “arbetare”, worker in english. The place mentioned on the top of the page is Axelsvik, not far away from Kalix. The book also mention the parish in which he is born, and it says Nederkalix. On the same row, to the right, it is mentioned that his parents are from Finland.

This could be the correct facts, but I cant find the confirmation of birth in the other Church books. I have tried with some other combinations when it comes to date of birth, but no result.

When I do a search for him on google I find a nice page from Canada, that commemorates those individuals from Kenora, earlier known as Rat Portage, in Ontario, Canada, who fought in the Great War.

Information from that page mention that his father, Matts Mattsson, was from Finland, which confirms the notes in The Swedish Church books. The page also mention that his mother, Anna Eriksdotter Nygärd, was born in Råneå, close to Kalix, in Sweden. It is also mentioned that his mother had another son from another period, Erik August, born in 1874, which I can confirm in the Swedish Church Books.

But Nygärd seems to be Nygren according to the notes. Her first son is born outside a marriage, not good in these times, and the notes below also tells us that Williams mother later on met his father, Matts Mattson, from Finland.

In this moment I can’t confirm that William Matheson was born in Sweden, even if parts of the Church book says that. I will continue to look for him.

William Matheson fought for the 52nd Canadian Infantry battalion and was killed in action, by GSW in legs and face, August 8, 1918. He is buried at HOURGES ORCHARD CEMETERY, DOMART-SUR-LA-LUCE in France. May he rest in peace.

For the moment I still have 24 unconfirmed Swedish born soldiers in my research, of 443 soldiers in total. I will continue to try to confirm those, as I really want to find all the details about those individuals who paid the ultimate price out there on the Battlefield.

Lest we forget.

Faces from the past

Finding a photo of those soldiers I have in my research is always interesting. In this case I got a message from one of my followers which contained some files and photos of some of those soldiers who fought in the French Foreign Legion.

The photo contains individuals from both Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and it was also explained who each individual was, where they came from and in some cases where and when they fell.

It has been very hard to find photos of the Swedes who fought and fell for the French Foreign Legion, but through this message I can now add faces to some more of the Swedes that I have in my database.

The Swedes who fell for the French Foreign Legion are commemorated outside the Swedish Church in Paris.

Below you will find the names of those 16 Swedes who fell. It is estimated that around 40-50 Swedes in total served for the French Foreign Legion in the Great War.

Below you will find some basic documents connected to each individual. Some snippets are from Swedish newspapers, others from the Swedish church books.

Emile Herman Benzien (Emile Herman Benzeen)

Pascal Bergman (Paul Pascal Bergman)

Charles Brener (Herman Perres Bremer?)

Olof Edmann (Olof Edman)

Erik Adolf Erikson (Erik Adolf Eriksson)

Edmond Petrus Hilmez Eriksson (Edmund Petrus Hilmer Eriksson)

Erich Agne Göthlin (Agne Walter Erik Johansson)

Yvan Lonnberg (Ivan Lönnberg)

Eloi Gaston Nilson (Elof Nilsson)

Karl Olsson

Rudolf Petersen

Auguste Sporre Wend Pettersson (Sven August Petersson)

Nils Pihl (Document from Memoire Des Hommes is missing)

Bur Courad Sjoberg (Bror Konrad Sjöberg)

Ivar Svenson (Ivar Svensson)

Gustaf Albert Wiren (Gustaf Albert Wirén)

Source of casualty card documents: https://www.memoiredeshommes.sga.defense.gouv.fr/

Above presented snippets are just a few documents of the data I have, and I will add more data to each individual when I find it.

If someone who reads this have more information of Nils Pihl, I would be very greatful. There is no casualty card to find at this moment, and due to lack of skills in the french language, I have also hard to search in other french sources.

More to find

On the memorial there is a name, B Thorin. According to some data I have found he was born in Sweden. Below some text from the book “War Letters of Kiffin Yates Rockwell”.

Thorin, Daniel William. “Billy” Thorin was born in Sweden, but went to America when very young, and became a United States citizen. He recovered from his wounds received in Champagne, September 28, 1915, and rejoined the Legion at the front, but after a few months contracted tuberculosis. After a long stay in hospital, he was invalided out of the army, and returned to America. Mr. John Jay Chapman sent him to a sanatorium in Arizona, where he died, September 25, 1918.

In the documents below it says he was born in September 11, 1886, but it is actually 1883, according to Swedish Church Books. He has no known father, but probably takes his surname from his mother’s husband.

“Billy’s” last request was that he be given a military funeral and this wish was complied with, the Governor of Arizona sending a regiment of troops to escort the Legionnaire’s remains to their final resting place.

In the top group photo above there is also a man called Nyberg, who, according to the information in the documents, also fell in the war. I will try to find more information about him.

May they rest in peace.

Stories from the battlefield – John Larsson, 39th Canadian Field Artillery.

The diary says “Killed in Action”. John ended his days in the French soil during the battle between Regina Trench and Desire Trench in November 1916. Who was John?

John Larsson was born in Mönsterås parish i Kalmar county in Sweden as Johan Gustaf Larsson on July 2nd, 1878. In this case it is a bit unusual that he actually keeps his Swedish spelling of the surname with two “s” as it is more common in the most cases when it comes to spelling of Swedish names in the documents, connected to their time in the the armies in their new countries, that they change it to just one “s” in the Scandinavian “son-surnnames”

He was raised by his mother Hedda Christina Johansdotter, but without a known father, and is noted as “oäkta” in the Swedish churchbooks, which means directly translated “illegitimate”, which was not seen with good eyes in those times, but was fairly common. They lived on the farm Blackemåla, south of the village of Ålem in Kalmar county.

When reading the documents from the Swedish Church books I see that he grew up together with his mother during the years before he emigrated, but sometimes also together with his mother’s new husbands and also with his mother’s parents. In one case one of Heddas new husbands, Gustaf Edvin Johansson is declared “insane” and is put on a mental hospital, and Hedda is declared pauper. It must have been a hard time for the family.

John is early noted as a sailor and it is beleived that he belonged to Oskarshamn’s shipping house from around 1894 until he emigrated to North America in 1898, at an age of 19, and he did not start nor fulfilled his military conscript in Sweden.

According to the 1916 Canada census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, John created his little family together with his Swedish wife Constance that he probably met when he had emigrated to North America. They had two sons and two daughters, who were Ethel 10, Arvid 8, Clarence 7 and Jeanette 5, all born in Alberta.

The Larsson family lived in Lethbridge, Alberta, and in my research I find other Swedish born soldiers who lived there before they went out to war. I don’t have any information right now if they knew about eachother, but probably they had som kind of knowledge about other Swedish citizens in Lethbridge. Those I have in my research are from different parts of Sweden.

John’s unit, the 39th Field Artillery Battery, which belonged to the 10th brigade, 3rd Divisional Artillery, left Saint John, Canada, in February 1916. John enlisted in Lethbridge and went overseas from Saint John in February 26, 1916 and arrived to Plymouth, England March 13, 1916. He landed in Le Havre in July 14, 1916.

According to the unit diary the unit supported the attacks towards Desire Trench from Regina Trench in the area north-west of the village of Courcelette during the battle of Ancre Heights. John is noted to be killed November 16, 1916, most likely in his support position, a bit behind the area mentioned above.

During my trip to the Somme area of the battlefield in France in July 2022 I visited the area where John was killed in action and where he is buried. Johan is buried at the Sunken Road Cemetery, which is located south of the village of Pozieres, south-west of Courcelette. It always feels good to find the headstones of the Swedes when I visit the cemeteries, and I always plant a little Swedish flag (made of paper and wood) to commemorate their Swedish origin.

May John rest in peace.

This was the first short story from my visit to the battlefields in July 2022. More stories will be told, about other Swedes who I visited during this trip, who fought and fell at the Western Front in the Great War.

Swedes against Swedes

In my research I follow up Swedes in the Great War, especially those who fell and are buried at the Western Front. In my database I have Swedish born soldiers who fought for different nations, such as Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany and North America.

I read a lot of material and I especially like to find text in diaries from Swedes who participated in the battles. A quick analyze shows that it was often the Swedish officers notes who became books which they often wrote when they came home, after having survived the War.

In some notes I can read information about where and when they fought in a specific region, and it is very interesting but at the same time a great challenge to figure out if it could have been like that, that they fought against eachother, from a short or long distance, or met eachother. I know it will be very hard to find out, but it is highly likely that they of course where in the same area, where some of them paid the ultimate price, their lifes.

I will write more about this subject in an upcoming article, but will give you an example in this blog post.

Carl Belfrage (Karl Mauritz) was born in Mölndal (Fässberg) parish April 28, 1887. He was raised by his mother Jenny Elfrida Gustafva Lagerlöf and his father Knut Arcadius Belfrage, together with his twin brother George Knut and their older brother Nils Gustaf.

Carl took his officer exam in December 19, 1908. At new years day in 1908 he became an “Underlötjnant” (sub lieutenant) and at new years day in 1914 he bacame a lieutenant.

When Swedish officers applied for going to War for another country, they were in all cases denied to do that, so they had to resign as officers. Carl did that June 3, 1915, and became a lieutenant in 162nd Prussian infantry regiment.

He participated in the War at the Western Front in following battles:

  • Roye-Noyon July 7, 1915 to September 28, 1915
  • Autumn battle between La Bassé and Arras in 1915.
  • Giessler hight east of Souchez in February 21, 1916.
  • Fightings at Givenchy en Gohelle May 21, 1916 to June 2, 1916.
  • Battle of the Somme July 20, 1916 to August 21, 1916 and September 25, 1916 to October 7, 1916.
  • Fightings at the Yser, October 18, 1916 to February 5, 1917.
  • Siegfried front at Ribe-court in Artois April 24, 1917 to May 15, 1917
  • Artois in June 5, 1917 to August 9, 1917 and September 17, 1917 to September 29, 1917
  • Arras and Albert April 1, 1918 to April 20, 1918
  • Hebuterne July 15, 1918 to July 28, 1918
  • Monchy and Bapaume August 21, 1918 to September 2, 1918.
  • West of Cambrai September 3, 1918 to September 6, 1918
  • Armentieres and Lens September 7, 1918 to October 11, 1918
  • Antwerpen-Maas stellung October 12, 1918 to November 4, 1918.
  • Went back through the German area to Germany between November 12, 1918 to December 16, 1918.

Carl became a Captain October 5, 1916. He received the Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd Class, and he left the German Army in March 31, 1920.

In the book about “Swedes in War”, (Svenskar i Krig) by the Swedish Historians Lars Gyllenhaal and Lennart Westberg, there is a short story from one of Carl’s colleague, the Norwegian officer Lyder Ramstad, when they were out on a patrol in no mans land around Ypres:

“We, as the englishmen, often did patrols. One night we heard only some meters away and small talk from the other side. My comrade grabbed me in the arm and said; – It sounds like when you and Belfrage speaks to eachother! It was like that, the talk was made in perfect Swedish. (Norweigian and Swedes understand eachothers language) We crawled around them and shouted – Hands Up! The three men immidiately gave up. The were very surprised when I talked to them in Norwegian. When we came back to our lines , and Belfrage talked to them in Swedish, they looked very surprised. They were three sailors who fought for the Brits (It doesn’t tell for which commonwealth country). Belfrage decided to help them back to Sweden”

Belfrage wrote his own diaries and they have been made into a book by one of his relatives, Bengt Belfrage, and is called “War memories – The hell on the Western Front” (Vanvettet på Västfronten).

As mentioned above, I will try to compile more analyzes and stories from other sources into a larger article, which I probably will send to the Great War Group.