Hard Times For Young Men

Many young men of Swedish origin living in Canada joined the military forces during WWII. Why?

Ivar was 11 years old when the Lindström family arrived in Canada. He was 13 when the stock market crashed in 1929 and the depression started – and lasted till WWII started in 1939, when he was 23.

In a book called ‘The Last Swedish Voices’ an old Swede tells: After the stock market crashed times were very tough in Canada. Then the war started and all of a sudden there seemed to be an awful lot of money in the system.

During the depression many young men had huge difficulties finding jobs and many drifted along starving and searching for temporary jobs. For young women it was easier finding jobs and families could get a little support from the authorities, but for single men life was very tough.


A ’Drifter’ or ’Fretare’. Back and forth they went by train (without tickets) searching for jobs. Their belongings in a sack and their nice trousers under a worn pair. GAC (From the book The Last Swedish Voices, Gunnar Nilsson).

Thousands of Swedes enlisted
According to the book ‘Swedes in Canada’ (Elinor Barr, p 118) there were 243 Swedish-speaking men from Alberta in Canada who joined the military forces during WWII. In total 1 305 Swedish speaking men living in Canada enlisted, most of them the army (1 076), but 163 joined the air force and 66 the navy. There must have been thousands of men of Swedish origin who went on war for Canada and the USA during WWII.


‘The Second World War is generally credited with ending the Depression. Hungry men who had been riding the rods only a few months earlier in search of work were now in demand as soldiers. Rather than having to buy their own work clothes, and sometimes tools, they were given uniforms, guns, and enough money for tobacco with a bit left over.’ (Elinor Barr, p 117).

I don’t know how the situation was on the farm in Meeting Creek in Alberta where the family settled, if Ivar was still living with them, but the 1st of December in 1942 he enlisted in Edmonton at the age of 26. Perhaps he did it for the money – as many young men always has been doing, and still are …


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