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Interviewer: Help me Mr. Haegert, you made a comment about how there was no convoy necessary for your ship, why was that? Why were there no escorts necessary? They couldn't spare them. We had no... We always went without any escort at all. As a matter of fact, I wasn't on the ship when she was sunk, the Italians sank it, five hundred people lost their lives, including the person in my job. But they had no escort at all and they just hoped to hell no one could catch them. You know, see, but they had to look after the troops, you know. So when there were troops there were all kinds of people around, you know, ships and small ships and oh, in fact we had one huge thing, the Ramillies was with us in one trip. Interviewer: The Ramillies is a British battle ship? Yes, a big battle ship, he was with it too. Interviewer: What happened when the Ramillies was with you? Well, she went, as a matter of fact we took some people to New Zealand and she came there and they put on a bit of a show, they dressed up as though they were crossing the line, everybody clapped, you know, that sort of thing, it was a very friendly sort of a feeling you know. But there's a very sad thing about it that I could tell you, I might as well tell it to you. You know, I am of German decent you see and the man on the Ramillies was my boss in the Canadian hydrographic and in front of everybody, in front of everybody, on both sides on the table all these surveyors, I sat at the, I was the senior technician. He said looked at me and he say's "Anyone who has a drop of German blood they should be just torn to pieces." And what could I say? And of course the royal family's all German you know. More German than I am, I'm not German, I'm English, I consider myself, I was brought up in England, I feel like an English, I wear an English tie, I speak like an Englishman. I am nothing to Germany, I've never been to Germany. I speak German, I speak French beautifully and I speak several other languages too you know, I could learn anything. I spoke Japanese quite well too. Interviewer: So you were insulted by the remark? I felt sorry for him actually, I felt sorry for him. I thought, what a stupid person you are, that's what I felt, I didn't feel angry at all.

Mr. Haegert describes how there were no escorts for the ships unless they had troops onboard.

Joseph Haegert

Joseph Haegert was born in Bethel Mission, India. He was part of a military family of noble descent. His father was Prussian and moved the family to England, where he trained as a doctor in London. His father died when Haegert was three years old so Haegert had to be entirely self-sufficient throughout his life. He was taken out of school at the age of thirteen and put to work. At the age of sixteen, Haegert took a class in wireless telegraphy and was employed as a wireless operator and purser on the Gray, a supply ship. In 1918, he taught himself Latin. He wanted to go to Queens University so he learned German as well. He went to UBC, but was penniless and got traumatic fever, which lasted six months. After that he decided to go back to sea where he rejoined his original ship as a wireless operator. His brother, Sam, was killed in World War One in the Battle of the Somme. He wanted to be a field medic and stretcher bearer in World War One, but was too young. He celebrated the end of the war in Victoria, BC. He came to Canada on the Corinthian and married a Jewish lady. He worked as a civilian for the Western Air Command and with the Empress Line during the 1920s and 1930s as a wireless operator.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Joseph Haegert
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Merchant Navy
Empress of Canada
Wireless Operator

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