Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthAugust 12, 1869
Place of BirthTorsas, Kalmar lan
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinFrida Maria Swanson (wife), Kenora, Ontario
Trade / CallingTailor
Service Details
Regimental Number913040
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionNo. 30 Company
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Forestry Corps
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Address at EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentFebruary 24, 1916
Age at Enlistment46
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathOctober 28, 1950
Age at Death81
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotChapel Grounds Block East, 7E-15-3

Swanson, Carl Johan

Private Carl Johan Swanson was married and a father of nine when he enlisted in 1916 at age 46. He served in England and France with the Canadian Forestry Corps and returned to Canada in May 1919.

Carl was the son of Sven Olsson and Kristina Jönasdotter of Torsas, Kalmar lan (Kalmar county), Sweden. Sven and Kristina were married in 1866 and Carl was born in Torsas on 12 August 1869. His name in Sweden was Karl Johan Svensson. He had two brothers, Per Olof and August, and two sisters, Hilda Maria and Hanna Lydia. There were other children who died as infants.

Carl served in the Swedish navy for two years and like his father he was a tailor by trade. He married Frida/Freda Maria Andersson on 28 April 1893 in Torsas and their first five children were born in Sweden: John Herbert (1893), Bertha Augusta (1895), Karl/Carl Adrian (1897), Gustaf/Gustave Bernhard (1900) and Bror Edwin (1902). In 1902 Carl immigrated to Canada and settled in the town of Rat Portage (later called Kenora) in northwestern Ontario. Frida followed a few years later with their five children. Three more sons and two more daughters were born in Kenora: Fred Wilhelm (1907), Iven Arthur Edwin (1910), Harry Walter (1911), Verna Evelin Alfrida (1913) and Irene Rita (1915). Sadly, Edwin died in a shooting accident in 1909, at age seven, and he’s buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. The family was living on Fourth Avenue South in Lakeside at the time and they had anglicized their surname to Swanson.

The war started in August 1914 and Carl enlisted in Winnipeg on 24 February 1916, joining the 197th Battalion. The 197th, known as the Vikings of Canada, had just been organized in Winnipeg in January and it was being recruited among men of Scandinavian origin. Carl was 46 years old at the time but when he attested he shaved a couple of years off his age. His medical exam described him as 5′-9″ tall, 160 lb. with blue eyes and black hair and he was found fit for overseas service. While he was training in Manitoba he was transferred to the 230th Battalion, a forestry unit that had its headquarters in Brockville, Ontario. Carl was sent to Brockville in a draft of about 160 men in early February 1917. After a short time there they left for the east coast and embarked from Halifax on the SS Ausonia on 3 March. In England the recruits were absorbed into the Canadian Forestry Corps, which was based in Sunningdale on the outskirts of London.

A month later Carl was assigned to a new unit, No. 30 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps, and he arrived in France with them on 21 April. No. 30 Company was in Forestry Corps District No. 1, based southwest of Paris in the town of Alençon. Carl served with his unit in that general area for two years. Forestry work included cutting timber, running sawmills, preparing railway ties and helping to clear terrain and build airfields and aerodromes. Other work listed in the war diaries included ‘clearing sites, ditching, draining, trimming and felling trees, hauling gravel, levelling, making culverts and drains, earthing, grading, ploughing, scraping, filling depressions, uprooting hedges, re-sodding, cutting pickets, stripping turf.

No. 30 Company returned to England in January 1919 but Carl remained in France and was transferred to No. 1 District Headquarters, serving there for another two months. At the end of March he had 14 days leave in the UK and when his leave ended he was kept in England and posted to the Canadian Forestry Corps Depot. He embarked for Canada on 14 May on the SS Bohemian and arrived in Halifax about ten days later. He was discharged on demobilization in Winnipeg on 30 May, two months before his 50th birthday. His son Carl Adrian Swanson had moved to the U.S. and he served in France during the war with the American Expeditionary Forces.

An article in the Kenora Miner and News on 4 June 1919 said that Carl had just returned home from service. When the 1921 census was taken he and his wife were living on Sixth Avenue South in Lakeside and six children were still at home, the youngest five years old. Carl had returned to his work as a merchant tailor and he became an active member of Bethesda Lutheran Church, serving as deacon and trustee. The 1940 voters list showed him living at 514 Sixth Avenue South and still employed as a tailor. His son Sergeant Harry Swanson served overseas in the Second World War with the Westminster Regiment (Motor Division). He was killed in action in Italy on 3 September 1944, at age 32, and he’s buried in the Gradara War Cemetery in the Province of Pesaro, Italy.

Carl passed away in Kenora on 28 October 1950, at age 81, and his wife died in March 1960, at age 86. They are buried in Lake of the Woods Cemetery. Their sons Edwin and Fred and their daughter Irene (Mrs. Oscar Cardinal) are also interred there along with other family members.

By Becky Johnson

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