Veteran Stories:
Gerard Haché

Army

  • Picture of Mr. Haché taken at Woodstock (Ontario) while taking a course to become a truck driver. March 1944.

  • Mr. Haché then being with his girlfriend who later became his wife. Winter 1943-1944.

  • Photograph of the basic training in which Mr. Haché took part in Edmundston (New Brunswick) in January 1944. Mr. Haché is on the front row, fourth from the left.

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"He always finished by saying, “This is René Lévesque speaking to you directly from the battle field.” It was René Lévesque who was the journalist. It was impressive hearing a voice speaking to us in French from Europe about the war."

Transcript

I started working at a very young age. At 14, I was a boiler stoker in a steam mill. I was 14 years old. I started working at 14 years old and I worked for 60 years of my life. For 60 years, for five-six days a week. Before the war, that’s what I did. After that, when I was 17, I went to work in Sorel, Québec in the construction of war ships. The company sent me to take a class in electric welding. I did electric welding for the construction of war ships until the end of 1943 when I joined the army. I was 14 years old at the time. The war didn’t mean a lot to me, but we were starting to get a bit scared. We heard people talking about the war. In 1940, we had a small radio and we would listen to the news about the war. We listened to the news at night. I was maybe about 15 years old. We stayed up until midnight to hear the news, the news on the “short waves” as we called it in those days. I was interested in a war journalist. It was around 1941. He reported on the war at around midnight every night. I remember that because I was impressed. He always finished by saying, “This is René Lévesque speaking to you directly from the battle field.” It was René Lévesque who was the journalist. It was impressive hearing a voice speaking to us in French from Europe about the war. It was rather difficult because I… They sent me to an English-speaking company in Fredericton (New Brunswick). Nobody spoke French in the group and I didn’t speak much English either. I found it difficult after five-six weeks. I asked the Army Examiner to transfer me to a French-speaking unit. So they transferred me to Edmundston (New Brunswick) where I finished my basic training. When I was transferred to Edmundston, everything was in French. All of the officers were French-speaking. It was easier. My officer was Raphaël Azi. Somebody wrote a book about him a couple of years ago. He was from Bulgaria, I believe. He was my lieutenant. He was a very good man. We appreciated him a lot. He had a big heart. He required a lot from us but he gave a lot. He said to us, “The better trained we are, the easier it will be.” At that time, they sent me to Debert, Nova Scotia. I continued working on the transportation of troupes and then in May, we learned that the war was ending to the great surprise of us all. After that, I was transferred on the morning of May 8 (1945) to Halifax because there was a riot there. The marines from all of the ships that were in the Halifax harbour had been given leave. They broke into the liquor and the jewellery stores. It was a big party. They sent us to Halifax to keep the peace probably. So we went to Halifax. When we arrived there during the day, the peace had been restored. On the main street, all of the windows had been smashed. They made a terrible mess. When they got off the ships, when they received permission to leave the ships, they started celebrating. They started drinking. They went to the liquor store. After they broke into the liquor stores, then the fun really began. We were armed and protected. It was still a pity seeing the stores like that.
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