Bill had an interesting early life - he was born in the United States, then lived in Belgium for a year while he was a young child. The family returned to the United States in 1901 and they lived in North Dakota, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. His main residence for the remainder of his life was Elrose, Saskatchewan, but he and his family, plus his descendents, were great travellers over the years.
Bill helped his father on the farm at Elrose until he was in his late teens. When the First World War broke out in 1914, Bill decided to enlist in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Forces.
Bill's Attestation Papers
Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force
However, Bill's enlistment prospects hit a snag. When his mother found out that he'd enlisted, she told him, "You are underage! I didn't move to America just to have you go to war - that's one of the reasons why we moved from Belgium! You need my consent and you don't have it!" She wrote to the Canadian government and told them that Bill was under age and that scuttled his plans to join the Canadian army.
Later Bill moved to International Falls, Minnesota, where he worked in a paper mill and also for the Minnesota and Ontario Power Company. He met his future wife through a friend at work. She was a very petite, pretty, dark-haired French girl, with large brown eyes. Her name was Valerie Boucher, and she was staying with her sister, Vitaline, the friend's wife. Bill and Val started courting and fell in love. Bill was a barrel-chested man, very handsome, with lots of dark curly hair which was worn quite high in the style of the day.
You had better watch what you wish for, because you just might get it, and the timing might suck. In 1918, Bill was drafted into the United States army and was due to ship out the end of June or early July. By this time, Bill and Val were very much in love and planning to marry. As luck would have it, Val became pregnant just before Bill shipped out. Times were so uncertain then and they were so much in love!
It is interesting to note that the address listed for his mother on Bill's draft notice was Mrs. Nellie Boerjan, Rock Island, Illinois, not Canada. The date on his draft notice was June 5, 1918.
Bill had lots to occupy his time in Europe. Armistice took place on November 11, 1918 with the Treaty of Versailles being signed on June 28, 1919. Bill served with the Army of Occupation as a Sargent in the Medical Corp - he drove ambulances and picked up and transported the sick, wounded and dead. Conditions in Europe at this time were appalling - most of northern and eastern France had been devastated by combat which left widespread damage and hardship for the surviving French people, who had lost 1.8 million during the war. Desolation and a sense of forlornness dominated Europe after World War I. The "Glories of War" that had been promoted at the beginning of the war were completely dispelled. Millions of civilian lives were lost - the elderly, woman and children. The lands were completely destroyed at battles such as at Passchendaele.
American Field Hospital inside ruins of Church
(Photo by USASC 27410)
For more about the American Expeditionary Force, go to http://www.usaww1.com/American-Expeditionary-Force/ .
For more information on Belgium, go to www.MijnPlatteLand.com