In the morning, evening, at night…

Ole Berget

Private Ole Berget, 31st Battalion CEF, Missing in action, Fresnoy, 3 May 1917. (Author’s family)

Om morgonen, kvelden, natta*

In the darkness of the early morning the men of Alberta waited for the barrage to commence which would send them “over the top.” In spite of the heavy enemy bombardment, there were few casualties before the opening of the attack; but in front, swept by rifle and machine-gun fire and an open target for enemy shells, lay “No Man’s Land,” and beyond that – the enemy wire.

Promptly at 3:45 a.m. the barrage came down on the German positions, the whole terrain erupting suddenly into red flashes of bursting shells. In the darkness the men of the 31st Battalion climbed the parapet and went forward to the attack. Even as they did so the German counter-barrage fell on the leading companies and the deadly German machine-gun fire slashed through their ranks.

Onward and upward over the gently-sloping ground the attacking waves pressed at the double. In the darkness men stumbled over debris and pitched into shell holes, to rise and again push forward. Others fell, riddled with machine-gun bullets or disrupted by bursting shell, to rise no more.

(H.C. Singer, History of the Thirty-First Battalion C.E.F., pages 216-217)

French village of Fresnoy En Gohelle (Fresnoy)

The now peaceful and rebuilt French village of Fresnoy En Gohelle (Fresnoy). (P Ferguson image, 2009)

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In 2009 I drove to Fresnoy, France with two friends for an exploration of the village of Fresnoy. It was here, to the north of the town, that my Great Grandfather was to lose his life…missing in action…commemorated on the Vimy Memorial. Today, near to a hundred years ago, I know it is time to return to this village. A time to wander this ground again and to include in my visit a nearby Commonwealth War Graves cemetery where there, amongst the markers, perhaps a Canadian soldier, Known Unto God.

*In the morning, evening, at night…we will remember them.

The first language of the Berget family who lived at Alderson, Alberta, near Medicine Hat was Norwegian*. Ole Berget left behind his dear wife Emma, and six children. Emma’s brother, Private Bernard Kyllo, 50th Canadian Infantry Battalion, was killed in action at Souchez, 1 February 1917 and is buried at Villers Station Cemetery, France.

Berget Children

The Berget children identified L-R back row; Willie and Myrtle, second row L-R; Florence “Flossie” and Edwin, front row L-R; Hazel and Mabel (undated). (Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Accession 0596.0004)


About The Author

pferguson
Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

Comments

4 Responses to “In the morning, evening, at night…”

  1. pferguson pferguson says:

    Hello Kathleen,

    Thank you so much for this information.

    Flossie is certainly a name I now recall hearing my grandmother Hazel speak about. I have wondered if a relative might have this information. Thank you so much.

    As a result I have adjusted the photo caption to record “Florence “Flossie” rather than “unknown [possibly Rugna]”. The latter name is another that was mentioned on occasion and I am not sure now how she is related. The same too for another relative named Rugna. All the best,
    Paul

    • Robert S Richards says:

      Also to add Rudy, Olga and Ragna were the children of Emma and her first husband before Ole. I believe his last Hansen but I’d have to check .. sad that Emma was widowed twice .. a hard life for a woman at that time.

  2. Robert S Richards says:

    Ole was also my great grandfather thru Mabel Berget , as a child grandma would tell me of her father and he was like a hero to me. I remembered her telling me how they had spelled his name wrong on the cenotaph in Medicine Hat honoring the local war dead. While doing Ole’s history for my kids I found the story to be true. I approached the local legion and Ceterans Affairs and in the late 90’s they changed it from C Berget to the corrected O Berget … least I could do for a Norwegian immigrant who at 38 volunteered to go back overseas to fight for his new homeland and never returned. I have the 31st war diaries that recount all actions before and after the Battle of Fresnoy … his last sighting g was wandering the field suffering from shell shock then listed as MIA and finally KIA ..

  3. pferguson pferguson says:

    Hi Robert,
    Thank you for your email. Always good to hear from family members. Other blogs on this site that directly relate to Ole are Vimy Ridge – Expression in Stone, My Vimy, Storm of Steel and Its a Lucky Man. Keep in contact. By the way I have been to Medicine Hat to photograph their war memorial. All the best.
    Paul

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