Kin & Roots

My father's story.

My father was born on the 7th of July 1915 at a place called Fagerholts-engene in the community of Idd outside the city of Halden in the southeastern part of Norway. He was baptized Johan Hilding Andersen on the 2nd of January 1916 in Idd Church, but all his life he only used his middle name Hilding. His father Johan Alfred (known as Alfred), was not at home at the time my father was born. He was working with the construction of Dovrebanen - a railway track in mid-Norway. From his papers one can read that he spent two seasons away from home doing contractor's work in the year 1915. Dovrebanen was being completed on the stretch from Dombås to Støren. My grandfather was stationed at its highest altitude - 1000 metres above sealevel - at a place called Kongsvoll. His first period was from the 3rd of July till the 1st of September, and the second period from the 13th of September till the 14th of December. I expect he was given a fortnight off from work to visit his newborn son.

Alfred and his wife Hedda lived in a small house called "Bakkeli" close to the quarries at Fagerholt. They lived with Alfreds parents Johan Fredrik and Charlotte Amalie who had immigrated from Sweden some time during the 1880's. They already had a daughter - Borghild - born in 1913. Johan Fredrik was a stonemason, and Alfred followed in his father's footsteps.

The small house must have been pretty crowded by the time my father was born. In the Census of 1900, 11 people were living in the house. Apart from Johan Fredrik and his wife's 4 sons and 2 daughters, another swedish stonemason and his wife rented a room together with their 12 year old son Anton. Of their children, Karl was the oldest, born in 1886, then came Nils, born in 1889, then Ferdinand, born in 1890 and the last of the brothers was my grandfather Alfred, born in 1892. Later two girls were born, Anna in 1894, and Helga in 1898.

So at the Census in the year 1900 there were living four adults and seven children in the house, ranging in age from 2 to 14 years. The house was rented from the farmer and landowner Adolf Fagerholt. One can also read from the census that they produced 1 1\2 hectolitres of potatoes, had 7 fruit-bearing trees and 4 bee-hives in their garden. They also kept two pigs 17 hens and 7 roosters.

In the year 1915 I expect still more people were living in the house. The children were growing into young adults, and my grandfather's family constituted 3 more mouths to feed. So already the following year Alfred and Hedda and their two small children moved to Greåker, a small village ouside the city of Sarpsborg. Alfred had found work in the quarries there. They lived in a small white house in the mountains - close to the quarry. In a neighbouring house lived my grandmother's brother Johan and his wife Amanda. Johan was already working in the quarry. In his past time he was a fiddle-maker.

Familiebilde 1930
Borghild (17), Nancy (7), Alfred (38), Hilding (15), Hedda (41)

In 1922 my father started at Greåker school. He completed school in 1929 with very good marks, especially in the subjects Mathematics and Drawing. My father however kept on drawing and painting in his pasttime. A couple of his teenage oil-paintings are preserved and framed. They look very promising, and it is really a shame he wasen't able to develop his skills in this area. In spite of my father's promising intellectual and artistic capasities, he had to start working when school-time was through. Like his father and uncle he began work in Forsberg's Stonemasonry at the age of 15. He worked in the quarries for 10 years. During this time my father became influenced by the Syndicalistic Movement - widespread ideas among the stonemasons at the time. The Syndicalists were also pasifists, so when his military service was due, my father refused to enroll. He told me he had to serve three weeks in prison (on bread and water) for this refusal in 1936.

In February 1940 my father left the Stonemasonry with the following credentials :

Stonemason Hilding Andersen has worked at Forsberg’s Stonemasonry for 10 years. During this time he has executed all parts of his work very conscientiously, and I can only give him my best recommendations.

Greåker den 1/3/40

Forsberg's Stonemasonry
Carl Thulin

Later that same year my father went to sea. He signed up as a crew-member on the Motor-Tanker "Bianca", leaving from Liverpool on the 27th of March.
From his private accounts one can read that he left from Oslo on the 19th of March, and on the 21st he spends his first night abroad in The Scandinavian Sailor's Home in Liverpool. His wages was 42 kroner pr. Month (£ 10), and his work was in the engine-room.

My father's career as a seaman was to become a short one. M/T Bianca reached Kingston in Jamaica on the 20th of April. From Kingston they went to the Island of Aruba in the Dutch Antilles, and arrived here on the 12th of May 1940. War had by now broken out in Norway, and the ship, like other Norwegian merchant ships, was directed back to England. They reached Gibraltar on the 18th of June, and was back in Southampton on the 6th of July. The day after my father turned 25. He signed off in Grenock on the 19th of July, receiving his last pay of £ 2-11 sh. Because of the war the crew was paid an additional salary. Altogether my father must have earned around £ 40 as a seaman.

According to my father he had no intention of joining the Norwegian Forces in Scotland, but as he himself put it : "I got drunk one night in a pub, signed some papers, and the next morning I was on a train to Scotland." He arrived in Dumfries, the birthplace of Scotland's National Poet Robert Burns. He was however stubborn on one point - he refused to carry weapons. So it was my father ended up in the army kitchen and canteen - and stayed there during the war. Once he had the honour of serving the Norwegian Crown Prince Olav, when he visited the troops in June 1941. The first soldiers arrived at Dumfries on the 6th of June 1940. My father must have arrived some time in the end of July.

The norwegians arriving in Dumfries were all quartered in an old shut down mill - Troquer Mills. Almost all of them were either sailors or whalers. The whalers had just ended the best whaling season in mans memory, and were loaded with money when they arrived in Dumfries. This made a false impression on the local inhabitants. The norwegians soon made a deep impression. They were heavy drinkers and soon emptied the towns storage of whisky. Their favorite hang-out was "Ye ol' Hole in the Wall".

Many of the boys were quite young and eager to fight the Germans. After some time in Scotland many of them got disillusioned and depressed. They were put to all kinds of preparing shores, like making sharp field-posters to prevent the Germans from landing by parachute. Mostly they were waiting for orders of invasion – orders that never came.

After some time in Dumfries my father was moved to Callandar, a small town north of Stirling in the Midlands. Here he stayed the rest of his time, apart from a short stay in Dingwall in the winter of 1942/1943, where he must have met my mother, who was working in the NAAFI - canteen in Lossimouth.
(For continuation, see my mother's story).

My father must have arrived back in Norway sometime during the summer of 1945. My mother arrived Norway on the 16th of October, so my mother had some time to make one of the most difficult and important decisions of her life. My father must have convinced her through his letters. He was a very proficient letter-writer, and during the war he wrote love-letters for many of his fellow companions in the camp. Back in Norway he had to continue his military service. He was then stationed in a camp in Sandaker in Oslo, and was at last dismissed from the army on the 25th of October 1945.

My parents moved into my grandparents' wash-house at Greåker. It seems my father was unemployed most of the time the first year. In the winter of 1945 - 46 he attended a course in drawing at Norsk Korrespondanseskole with very good credentials,

but on the 5th of September 1946 he started working as a lumper at the Mechanical Works in Sarpsborg. He worked here until the 22nd of March 1948. On the same date he notified the authorities about moving to Oslo. In the meantime I was born on the 19th of February 1947.