Life in Canada

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 …


Carefully Registered

The Canadian army has registered Ivar Eskil as ‘son of Lars John Alfred and Nanny Elina Lindstrom of Donalda, Alberta, Canada. Brother of Ranger (Ragnar), Uno, Jerald (Gerhard?), Leonard, Enga (Inga) and Thora.’

The siblings left in Sweden are not named and some names does not match the names specified as their first names in the book about Stensele Municipality where the family originally comes from.

Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of Ivar Eskil, just one of the family in Canada.


To the left is Ivar Eskils parents, John and Nanny. The boy to the very right is his brother Leonard who died in a strange place called Uranium City in 1977. The picture below is from the book Donalda Root’s and Branches. A kind librarian in Donalda has photocopied it for me.


Private Lindström Was Not Hard to Find

It was a cousin of mine who found out that one of our grandmother’s brothers, Ivar Eskil Lindstrom, died in World War II where he was a soldier in the Canadian Army. She just googled his name – and there he was!

Private Lindstrom’s young life ended in connection with a military offensive called “Melfa River Crossing” on 24 May 1944. He was born in Stensele in Västerbotten in the north of Sweden the 8th May 1916. He was 11 years old when the family emigrated to Donalda in Canada.

Ivar Eskil enlisted in Edmonton in December 1942 when he was 26 years old. Over 40 per cent of all Canadian males of military age participated in the war. Maybe they were attracted by messages like this:


Ivar Eskil belonged to a Canadian regiment, Westminster Regiment (now the Royal Westminster Regiment). His tomb – a real stone – is in the Cassino War Cemetery which is located approx 140 kilometers south of Rome.

Many lost their lives
The result of the four-month fighting at Monte Cassino was that the British and American divisions could begin their march on Rome, which was captured by the Allies on June 4, while the German troops left the city. Along with Ivar Eskil seventeen of his comrades from Westminster Regiment also lost their lives in connection with the offensive on May 24.(Much has been written about the battle of Monte Cassino. I will write more about that another day.)

Cassino War Cemetery seem to be very well organized. When I found this page I decided I really had to go here, sooner or later.