Of Armistice: Boy-Soldier Descendants of Ole Hemmingson (1851-1903)

Like American families across the country, sons of great grandfather, Ole Hemmingson, dutifully registered with US WW I Draft Boards. All, that is, but Matt, who had migrated to Canada. We know his patriotic heart, though, for in his Memoirs, he detailed his unsuccessful bid to enlist for the Spanish American War.1

PAUL HEMMINGSON (1903-1995): OUR FIRST BOY-SOLDIER

Shelhamer-Hemmingson Family Collection

Today, we are honoring those who queued up young and willingly at fifteen. The mandatory age was eighteen. Available World War I Draft Records show that a number of youngsters did so, although a card for our Paul Hemmingson (1903-1995) pictured right, was not found.2 That suggests there were more beyond those who became digitized, and/or Paul’s absence from the list was due to the fact that the end of war was near.

His 15th birthday was on 21 April 1918. With Armistice being signed that November, he likely saw little, if any action, but here he is looking much the adult, in uniform.

Paul married Lucille Lamb in Chicago IL where he was a streetcar conductor on the Chicago Surface Lines. Their only child, Ronald (1927-1993), served in the US Coast Guard in WW II.  Ron aged into WW II late, so that he saw much of the world, but little action.2 He married Beverly Shirmer (1934-2011) in 1953. They lived in nearby Barrington, IL, and had three daughters. He retired as a police lieutenant there, after which they moved to the Wabana Lake area of Minnesota.

There must be something in Hemmingson genes about lake life, for Birch Bay Resort was theirs.3 Do go look at that website and make you reservations, it is that enticing!  

Paul Hemmingson was born in Mason, WI of Ole’s second wife, Aletta. He lost his Dad within weeks of his birth and outlived his only child by several years. Paul, who spent his working life in Chicago, is woven into our family history here, under our “Before Memories” offerings.

ROBERT MATHIAS HEMMINGSEN (1920-2004) OUR SECOND BOY-SOLDIER

Now, Matt was forty as WW I broke out – there were 27 years between him and his half-brother, Paul. He and our Granny, Margaret Naysmith Alexander, already had three children: Margaret Henrietta, Agnes Marie, and John Oliver. William Buchanan was born during the war. Robert Mathias followed on 26 May 1920.

Just as Ole’s boy-soldier was a last child, so was Matt’s Robert. Robert’s son, Matt, said that his father, “loved the army so much, that he joined the Royal Canadian Artillery as a Boy Soldier in May 1935”.4 We asked Matt to take the lead and he graciously provided the pictures, certificate and said:

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate photos of Dad in uniform either as a boy soldier or when he served in Europe during WW II. Dad never talked about his time/experience in the war.  I think he buried those memories in the back of his mind – I think that was one of the ways he dealt with the “horrors of war”. But here is a picture of Dad at approximately 15-years old, and his Certificate as Gunner Hemmingsen, from 1935.”

The Army Signalling document reads: “This is to certify that Gunner Robert Mathias Hemmingsen of the 58th Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery (N.P.) has attended a Provisional School of Signals at Victoria, B. C., from the 9th day of September, 1935, until the 19th day of October, and having passed the required Examination is entitled to this Certificate of cation, First Class, Visual Telegraphy.

WORLD WAR II EXPERIENCE

Matt continued: “We do know that he was one of the 623 Canadian Infantry Officers that served with the British Army https://war-experience.org/the-canloan-scheme/. Dad ended up with the 7th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders. Given the statistics he was one of the lucky ones. I did meet one of his friends – John Nation – coincidentally, a fellow from Victoria who also served in the 7th Battalion. John said he was one of the lucky ones in that he lost a leg in Holland in 1944 and was repatriated home.

The 7th Battalion, from the summer of  June of 1944 through to August 1945 fought continuously from the Geel Bridgehead ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Geel) Eindhoven, Best, Helmond, Tilburg, Blerick, Nijmegen, the Siegfried Line (Netherlands/Germany border), Kleve and then across the Rhine. They then headed to Celle, near Bergen-Belsen. We believe Dad may have been part of the initial liberation of the camp in mid April as on April 29th the Battalion crossed the Elbe River and continued fighting until they reached the Kiel Canal.  

Although Dad officially left the Army on October 12, 1945, we are not sure if he had already returned to Victoria post that date.

KOREAN WAR EXPERIENCE

Four years later, on October 26, 1949, he re-enlisted. He was stationed at Shilo, Manitoba. He and my mother married in November.

In 1951 he went to Korea. Here is a photo of when he returned, in 1952.”

REFLECTIONS ON OUR OWN BOY-SOLDIER

Bob was born and raised in Victoria. He was a country boy though, as whenever possible, the family repaired to their second residence in Lake Cowichan, to a home with river frontage on the Cowichan River. Despite his adult travels, all five siblings and their spouses, were home in Victoria for their later years. Best friends all, with rich tales to tell. Bob is also found under our “Memories” section.

To our beloved descendants: Some may assess that a boy-soldier must be driven to duty by a harsh heart. No. In Bob’s case, as in most so young, it is that he sensed evil brewing, on which he could not stand idle. We knew him as one of five from Granny’s gentle wing. Gentle, in the sense that even spiders must be ushered to safety, not trod on. Fierce, in the sense of being counted, and accountable. He was that person whose empathy is felt in the moment, and cherished, thereafter. Like military families everywhere, Uncle Bob, Aunt “Ticky” and their three boys were ever elsewhere. Still, it was his special quality of kindness, and theirs, that bridged the space between longed-for visits, to find he gave enormous good guidance, throughout our lives.

Please leave comments, questions and corrections below.

COPYRIGHT: Posts authored by Doublegenealogytheadoptionwitness are copyright © marileewein.com 2018-2019. All rights reserved.

Notes and Sources

1 The “Memoirs of Mathias Hemmingsen – Victoria B.C.” is a 25-page volume dictated to his daughter Margaret Henrietta circa 1956. It is unedited and unpublished, and graciously provided by Mathias’ grandson, Matt, via the Matt Hemmingsen Family Collection. The work is protected here and published at copyright © marleewein.com 2018-2019. All rights reserved.

2 Chats with Tom, husband of Ronald Hemmingson’s daughter, Belva, beginning 13 Oct 2019. Pictures of Paul and family were gratefully provided.

3 Chat with Lorrie, daughter of Ronald Hemmingson, 7 Nov 2019,

4 Email thread with cousin Matt Hemmingsen, son of Robert Mathias . Matt provided materials and commentary concerning his father.

NOTE: Since this is a genealogy post, we cannot but add that Matt said this “My name is actually Robert Matt Hemmingsen. For whatever reason Dad did not register me as Robert Mathias… despite the fact that I was Christened Mathias. We found this out when I applied for my Driver’s License and received a copy of my Birth Certificate from the Government of Manitoba showing Robert Matt. I used Mathias for a number of documents and credit cards based on usage …

Uncle Bob, what were you thinking; that tiny detail could not only mess up Matt’s adult documention drive but also his genealogical profile? Ah, but we forgive you.

8 thoughts on “Of Armistice: Boy-Soldier Descendants of Ole Hemmingson (1851-1903)

  1. Hello my famous writer friend….. Do u have all stories in one book? You are prolific! How’s stuff in chi town? Last week had tee shirt on today hat, gloves, down coat……30 * boooo….no like!! Going to square dance now….been doing for 3 years…yee haw 🤠

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  2. Marilee,

    Thank you for this timely piece. Paul’s story is completely new to me. Remarkably, I didn’t realize that Uncle Bob served in the second war. I knew about Korea but somehow misunderstood that Korea was his start.

    love, -Sean

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    1. As Matt said, Uncle Bob didn’t talk about his war experience. I remember him being tenderly asked, once at a family feast at Granny’s. He became so sad, and what he involuntarily blurted made me grow up in an instant, that war was a bad thing. You were much too young to recall.

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