Letter to Einar 1918

In Remembrance: Letter to Einar 1918 is to Einar Jóhannsson Stadfeld from his brother Hallgrímur Jóhannsson (Grímur) Stadfeld. It was in Halifax, Nova Scotia on September 22, 1918 during WW1 that these young men prepared for war, trained, competed in sports (those boys from the Riverton area were fast runners), dreamt and thought about home…..

Dear Brother,

Sincere thanks for your letter which I was so happy to receive. You will have to forgive me for how long it took me to answer, but I’m going to make up for it now.

I am absolutely fine. I have plenty to eat and little to do. I have a good bed to sleep in, and most of the men here are friendly, and easy to get along with.

I am now on a coastal ship – a trawler – that is called ‘St. Eloi’ and is here in the harbour, as is common for that kind of ship. It has one gun with a 12 pound ball (shot), and about 12 men. It is one of the best ships here and has recently been fixed up. I expect that it will leave here fairly soon.

I’m not at all sorry about leaving the ‘Niobe’ (Note: the ship Alli was assigned to). It is much more satisfying here. The first week, I was on the night watch, and that went well. We have to take turns at that – one week each month. The other ‘Landar’ (fellow countrymen referring to Icelanders from the Riverton area), have, for the most part, left the Niobe. Alli from Framnesi, was sent up to the barracks and is working in the supply depot.

Gusti is still on the Niobe. He is a stoker and not likely to be sent from there for a while. He hasn’t written recently.

Peter Hoffmann is on a trawler just like me. He came here recently.

Then I have often seen Geiri Jacobson. He came here quite a while ago, and is probably still here. He is on the ‘C.D.’, a much smaller boat than mine, and one of the worst ships. It is also difficult to get along with the captain – it seems like he has hard commanders.

Alli is still on patrol service up in the city – some sort of a policeman. They walk about in groups at a certain time of the evening to check things out, as there is said to be a lot of drinking and disorder here in the city.

They held a Sports Day here on the tenth of August, in a park that’s called the ‘Wanderer’s Grounds’, for both the navy and the military – We took a small part in the sports events. There was a relay race of 1 mile. There were four men to a side, and each ran 1/4 mile against one from the opposing team. In the Navy team were myself and Alli from Framnesi, John Holmes from Lake Manitoba, and Seymour from the Niobe, a small man, but a fast runner. John Holmes was the man in the brown clothing that you asked about when we were going to the station, an ace of a runner, and we won that race. There were four military men against us, and we were way ahead of them. The evening paper said that the race had been run in a record time. Then Alli also entered the high-jump, and John Holmes the 1/4 mile race, and the Niobe men won the tug-of –war. I had often practised the tug-of-war with them, and had planned on being with them, but quit when it had to be on the night watch. I got a pocket knife as a prize for the race, worth $1.50.

Then there was another big celebration on the second of September. Then I didn’t enter any events, but Alli tried the one mile race, but quit. John tried the five mile run but got so hot that he became dizzy in the seventeenth lap (each ¼ mile long) and quit. Then the Niobe men won the tug-of-war again. They have a very big man on the end. He is from Winnipeg, and had been a policeman for a long time before coming here, and is now a policeman on the Niobe. They have always won, and now the military men have challenged them to another round soon! The officer who is in charge of them was going to get me to help them, but then I was sent away. He is a very pleasant man. C.P.S. Dawes on the ‘Niobe’.

Well, how is everything at home? You have certainly finished haying now. You must have had a hard time getting north to your land. You were lucky to have noticed the bear, because he has certainly been aware of you there inside, and been unusually troublesome (intrusive) and likely bad-tempered. Guard yourselves against him from now on. It would be nice to be home now to shoot some ducks. Aren’t there a few of them, and geese as well? Has the ‘big one’ (or the huge body – referring to the cow – probably the Bull Moose) been on the go lately? If there is no pin in the rifle in my trunk, you should order one. It might come in handy this winter.

Well, how will it go for you this winter? Watch yourselves and go very carefully on the ice this fall. It is very dangerous for the inexperienced north in the channel, and it is better to stay closer to shore at first, and best with someone who is more experienced. I have heard that there is not much to gain by working for old John Steven. Oli Isfeld is probably among the best for paying a good wage. But whatever you do, then watch yourselves on the ice and when you’re sailing back and forth, and last but not least with the poison, if you try to use it. It is now time to quit this for now.

Just recently, I got letters from Runa, Father, Eidur and Mother, for which I am very grateful, and I will write to them all quite soon. But don’t worry about me if there is a delay in my letter writing, as when we sail out, we could be out for quite a long time, but it’s not certain.

How aweful it was that Laugi should meet his death after having made it though such a long time (Laugi Gunnlaugur Hjorleifson from Riverton). That he should have been killed – I can hardly believe that he is gone! But that is the way it goes for so many, though they are careful as he was and wanting to live. There are now not many left of the 108 Division according to what I have heard. Birni (his father – Bjorn Hjorleifsson) will be feeling very badly. Have you heard how Laugi fell? He has certainly been in the Canadian offensive in the beginning of September. The 85th Division from here was almost wiped out in that attack.

I didn’t dream much about it before, but then I dreamt that I was part of a big crowd by the river and I noticed Laugi standing a little apart from the crowd and is greeting his friends, as he had just arrived. I was going to go greet him, but it didn’t happen right away. As I was getting near him he kept moving away into the crowd, so I never did get to greet him. I did greet him, though, with eye-to-eye contact, but felt that, because I hadn’t shaken hands with him immediately, I would never be able to do so. Then I felt such overwhelming sadness and woke up.

Well, you’ll have to forgive these ramblings. I ask you to give sincere greetings to all at home, with the wish that everyone is well. So good-bye, and all the best in the future.

Your brother,

Grimur

This Letter to Einar 1918 was translated from the original Icelandic by Margaret Wishnowski, Riverton, MB. Alli mentioned is our Afi, Rosman Arelius (Alli)Sigvaldason (1896-1989).

The Family: Jóhann Guðmundsson \ Stadfeld / Ólína Kristín Jónsdóttir (F173364) Icelandic Roots Database

Written by: Hallgrímur Jóhannsson \ Stadfeld  1897 – (1484816) Icelandic Roots Database

To: Einar Jóhannsson \ Stadfeld 1899-1965 (1484818) Icelandic Roots Database