Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 22, 1888
Place of BirthJuni, Njurunda, Västernorrland
CountrySweden
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinPeter Bergsten, father, Sundsvall, Sweden
Trade / CallingCarpenter
ReligionLutheran
Service Details
Regimental Number2383508
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion16th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedConscripted
Place of EnlistmentPort Arthur, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentBox 205 Kenora, Ontario, Canada
Date of EnlistmentJanuary 14, 1918
Age at Enlistment30
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathNovember 1, 1966
Age at Death79
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
Plot17E-2-1

Bergsten, Erik Herbert

Erik Herbert Bergsten was born on 22 January 1888 in Juni in the parish of Njurunda in the county of Västernorrland, Sweden. Njurunda was located at the mouth of the Ljungan River and later was absorbed by nearby Sundsvall. His father Per Olof Bergsten was from Njurunda while his mother Lovisa Bergström was from Sunne, Värmland. The couple married in 1886. Herbert had an older sister Anna Karolina and five younger siblings, Per Valter (1889), Eleanora Josefina (1894), Ivar Joel (1896), Hillavy Ingeborg (1901), and Axel August (1904). Over the years the parish books gave Herbert’s father’s occupation as arbetare (labourer). In 1903 the family left Juni for Nyland, Njurunda.

Two of the Bergstens were to immigrate to North America. According to parish records, Herbert left Sweden on 7 June 1907. He arrived in New York aboard the Campania on the 26th, on his way to Soldiers Grove in Wisconsin. Located on the Kickapoo River the area was home to both lumber and flour mills. By the time Herbert’s brother Walter arrived in October of 1909 Herbert was living south of Soldiers Grove in Petersburg. At some point Walter moved to Kenora, Ontario and Herbert followed in 1911, first finding work as a bridgeman for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Ignace.

With occupation given as carpenter and his father back in Sweden as next of kin, Herbert signed his recruitment papers in Port Arthur, Ontario on 14 January 1918. He’d had his medical examination in November of 1917 in Kenora. With English as a second language, there were numerous misspellings in his service record. His name was recorded as Herbert Bergstein and his place of birth as Sundavott (likely referring to Sundsvall).

With a draft of the 1st Depot Battalion Manitoba Regiment, Herbert embarked from Halifax aboard the Cretic on 19 February 1918. Once in England he was posted to the 11th Reserve Battalion and then on to the 16th Battalion, joining the unit in France on the 30th of August.

On October 1st, along with other battalions, the 16th Battalion was involved in the actions in the taking of the villages of Sancourt, Blecourt, and Cullivers, with the 16th responsible for Cullivers. Entering the village early in the morning, the 16th consolidated a line. However they were later heavily attacked, and as communications had broken down, their position became untenable. Losses were high for the battalion: 21 killed in action, 205 wounded, 103 missing. Among the wounded was Private Herbert Bergsten. Suffering a shrapnel wound to the head, Herbert was admitted to the No 56 General Hospital in Etaples the next day and was invalided to the Fort Pitt Military Hospital in Chatham in England on the 11th. From there he was moved to the Military Convalescent Hospital Woodcote Park, with discharge on the 1st of November. With the end of the war Herbert returned to Canada aboard the Empress of Britain, arriving in Halifax on the 22nd of January. He was discharged from service on the 24th of February in Winnipeg.

Herbert returned to Kenora where he worked as a carpenter for the Canadian Pacific Railway. His brother Walter had married Ruth Holmstrom, daughter of Eric Holmstrom, a commercial fisherman on Lake of the Woods. Both Walter and later Herbert worked as commercial fishermen, likely for the Holmstroms. Herbert was a member of the Lutheran Church in Kenora as well as the Kenora Branch of the Canadian Legion.

Herbert died on 1 November 1966 at St Joseph Hospital in Kenora. At the time he was survived by his sister Hillavy Anderson in Sweden and his brother Walter in Kenora. Herbert is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora.

by Judy Stockham

1918 newspaper article: courtesy of Thunder Bay Public Library
War Diary entries: Library and Archives Canada

Bergsten-Erik-Herbert-1 Bergsten-Erik-Herbert-2 Bergsten-Erik-Herbert-3 Bergsten-Erik-Herbert-5

 


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