|Date of Birth||March 25, 1894|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Augusta Brynelson (mother), Starbuck, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Bank Clerk (Merchants Bank of Canada)|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||1st Battalion, Canadian Engineers|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Gull Lake, Saskatchewan|
|Address at Enlistment||Gull Lake, Saskatchewan|
|Date of Enlistment||February 1, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||21|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||June 23, 1952|
|Age at Death||58|
|Buried At||Pleasant View Cemetery, Unity, Saskatchewan|
Sapper Oscar Brynelson enlisted in February 1916 and served for three years in Canada, Great Britain, France, Belgium and Germany. He enlisted again in the Second World War.
Oscar was the son of Nels and Augusta Brynelson of Starbuck, Manitoba. Nels and his wife were both born in Norway and immigrated to Canada in the mid-1880s. They settled in northwestern Ontario where Nels became a section foreman for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He worked at several railroad stations just east of Rat Portage, including Summit and Scovil. Their oldest son Chris was born in Oslo, Norway in 1885 and at least nine more children were born in Canada. The first three were twins Richard and Gunhilda (ca1888) and son John Lewis (1890).
Twin boys were born in Summit in September 1891 but they died as infants. Oscar was born in Rat Portage (later renamed Kenora) on 25 March 1894. He was followed by Randina (1895), Nels (born in Scovil in 1897) and Raidar (born in December 1898, died in February 1899). Raidar is buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in Kenora. By the time of the 1901 census Nels and his family had moved to Manitoba. They settled in the village of Starbuck where Nels was one of the first railway section men. Oscar and his brothers and sisters attended Starbuck School and the family became involved in the local Farmer’s Co-op and the Starbuck Lutheran Church.
By the time Oscar enlisted he was living in Gull Lake, Saskatchewan and working as a bank clerk for the Merchants Bank of Canada. He signed up in Gull Lake on 1 February 1916, joining the 229th Battalion. He was 21 years old and next of kin was his mother Augusta in Starbuck. At the end of May he was transferred to the 197th Battalion (Vikings of Canada), which was being recruited among Scandinavian men in western Canada. After training for a year Oscar headed to the east coast with the battalion in January 1917. They embarked from Halifax at the end of the month on the SS Scandinavian, landing at Liverpool on 6 February. Shortly after arriving the recruits were absorbed into the 11th Reserve Battalion.
On 28 March Oscar was transferred to a new unit, the 107th (Timber Wolf) Battalion, and sent to France. The 107th had arrived in France the previous month as a pioneer unit. Pioneers worked closely with the engineers and spent a large part of their time at or near the front lines. Their work included mining, wiring, burying cables, tunnelling, railway and road work, constructing water systems, and building and repairing trenches and dugouts. They also served as infantry when needed. Oscar joined the battalion in early April and a short time later he was admitted to a hospital in Boulogne, due to chronic ear infections. He spent a week in the hospital followed by a month at No. 3 Rest Camp and rejoined his unit in mid-May. In June he came down with the mumps and he was out of action for three weeks, returning to his unit on 1 July.
That summer the 107th Battalion was in the front line near Arras and in August they took part in the Battle of Hill 70 (15-25 August 1917). On the first two days of the operation they followed immediately behind the assault troops, digging new communication trenches. One company also helped to bring out the wounded and bury the dead. In October and November the Canadians were at the Battle of Passchendaele and over the winter of 1917-18 they held a section of the front line between Lens and Arras. The 107th Battalion spent most of April and May 1918 repairing and reinforcing the trench systems. In late May the 1st Battalion Canadian Engineers was formed from the 1st Field Company and part of the 107th Battalion. Oscar was transferred to the 1st Battalion Canadian Engineers on 29 May. He served with them for the next year. In the summer of 1918 the Canadians were given several weeks of intensive training in open warfare and they were heavily involved in the last three months of the war.
After the Armistice Oscar’s unit took part in the March to the Rhine and stayed in Germany with the occupying forces for about a month. They were back in Belgium early in 1919 and they returned to England at the end of March. Oscar embarked for Canada on 26 April on the Empress of Britain, arriving in Quebec on 4 May. He was discharged on demobilization on 7 May in Winnipeg with his intended residence listed as Starbuck. His brother Nels Austin Brynelson was called up in May 1918 and served in Canada for 14 months.
By the time the 1921 census was taken Oscar was living in the village of Senlac, Saskatchewan. He was working as a bank clerk and lodging with the bank manager. Also living in Senlac was Lillie Jeffrey, the daughter of Alexander and Henrietta Jeffrey. Lillie was born in 1905 in Norfolk, England and came to Canada with her family in May 1906. Oscar married Lillie sometime in the 1920s and they made their home in Senlac where he worked at the bank and later as a merchant. Oscar served again in the Second World War. He passed away on 23 June 1952, at age 58. Lillie died in 2001, at age 96, and they are both buried in Pleasant View Cemetery in Unity, Saskatchewan.
Oscar is commemorated on the Merchants Bank of Canada Honor Roll for the First World War.
By Becky Johnson
Grave marker photos are from PrairieSouls.com