Letters

Ramses prisoner of war on board Adelaide with Mac and getting a list of the prisoners

(See this letter and this article too.)

Dear Sir,

I just came across your site late last night so i have yet to take a thorough "stroll" through it. However, at first glance, it looks great.

I am an American free-lance journalist living in Germany.

My father-in-law (Afrika Korps) had a cousin who was in the Germany Navy in WWII. Willy was in the prize crew on the Doggerbank from Bordeaux to Kobe (Jan 42 - Sep 42) . Two months later he sailed with Ramses from Japan. They scuttled the ship and he spent the rest of the war plus a couple of years in PoW camp in Australia.

I got a two-hour interview with him in Spring 2002. At present I am polishing up the transcript in German and getting it ready to translate into English. Unfortunately, Willy died a couple of months ago so the version will still have a few open questions. Willy gave me copies of lots of pictures and verbal permission to publish this; but I want to get written permission from his widow.

Would parts of this be of interest for your site? If you are interested I might be able to contact two crewmen of the raider Kormoran.

Best regards,
Ward Carr

Willy Schruefer Crew on Ramses

Willy Schruefer, on the right with his friend who suggested that they both join the German Navy.
Willy was a crew member of the German Blockade Runner Ramses, scuttled in an engagement with the light cruiser
HMAS Adelaide in the Indian Ocean on the 28th. of November 1942.
Photo from Willy Schruefer, used with permission.


Hello Ward,

I was delighted to have your E-Mail. If you look for the story on AHOY, called Blockade Runner, that is about the sinking of Ramses, when I was serving in HMAS Adelaide. Willy would have been among the German POW's we took on board that day, so in fact we were both in her at the same time. I would be pleased to have anything about him you care to share and it will be added to that article, plus any relevant photographs would be wonderful please.

It can indeed be a small world, I never cease to be suprised at all the coincidences that come up as the result of some one visiting Ahoy and contacting me.

This site is a joint effort between Terry Kearns, my friend in Atlanta Georgia who does all the hard bits and translates all my writing, and then presents the face of Mac's Web Log to the world. Without his help, expertise etc none of it would happen. We are both equally excited when we get a message such as yours Ward.

Should you be able to have contact with two crew men from Kormoran, that too would be reat, if they would share their recollections of her action with HMAS Sydney, that battle still rates as the greatest loss of life in WW2 for any action with a ship from the Royal Australian Navy. We would love to be able to add an "I was there" piece to our Sydney story in Mauruders of the Sea, German Armed Merchant Raiders of WW2

Thank you for writing, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards from Terry and myself.
Mac. Gregory.


Hello Mac,

Thanks much for the picture. You were on the Adelaide? Great, because it would be great to complement Willy's narrative with your comments.

Do you have copys of Adelaide's logs?

I will let you know when we get the interview into English. Also - any interest in the Korimoran vets' comments?

Best regards,
Ward


Ward,

As I indicated in my first E-mail to you, if you go to ALL ARTICLES at the bottom of Ahoy home page, and look for Blockade Runner, my story about Ramses is already up on my site.

We would love to hear any comments from former crew members of Kormoran, and I did say that in the first E-Mail when I responded to your note, perhaps that did not get to you.

No I do not have the log from Adelaide, yhey may be stored in our National Archives in Sydney.

I look forward to Willy's story and anything you can give me about Kormoran and Sydney.

Best Regards,

Mac.


Update: 29 September -

Hi Mac - Three things:

1) We just talked with Betty, Willy's widow, and she said she would sign the waiver for permission to print. That means we can start with translation work right away. Also lots of pictures, PoW Camp Murchison among them.

2) Willy mentions Adelaide had radar. Also that they talked with you all "Sailor to sailor" as he said and you said - Why didn't you let us capture you? We would have gotten XYZ puonds sterling had we captured you." There are a couple more things I can get you before the translation is ready.

3) Betty said there was a man from Nuremburg who was in PoW camp with Willy. The man used to go to Australia every couple of years. I remember that Willy mentioned him. Betty will call and get the mans name, telephone numbner etc and intoduce me. That could be very interesting becuase he was a Kormoran man I believe.

See you,
Ward


Update November 5, 2003

Hi Mac,

Last Friday 31 Oct I invited Ludwig & Lotte Ernst and Betty Schruefer to lunch. Betty is Willy's widow and Ludwig Ernst is a Kormoran Vet. He was gunnery range finder and can give a detailed account of the battle & PoW time.

We spent the time chatting and getting to know one another. I plan to get an interview with him over the phone and have it transcribed in the next several weeks.

Linda Gross, who come from Australia, has started on translating Willy Schruefer's interview from German into English. She will do the Ramses section then PoW time in Australia first. Ludwig & Lotte Ernst have told me that two Kormoran vets live in Australia and I sent them a printout of the "Blocakde Runner" story from your website.

I hope to be able to get to the Kormoran vets one by one and get their stories.

Would TV interviews be of interest too? I worked as a freelance TV & radio journalist for a German station.

Best regards,
Ward


Hello Ward,

My thanks for yor message, you are making progress both with the Ramses story,
and talking to ex Kormoran people.

Yes I would be interested in any transcripts from your TV interviews too.

Is there still interest in Germany about WW2 stories of Naval actions for TV?
eg U Boat U-767 was sunk in the English Channel back in 1944, she had but one survivor, a stoker who escaped from a torpedo tube. The boat was found in 2002, dived on by an English team.

I was able to trace his name, and now have had an E-Mail from Vancouver to say he is still alive and living there. I am still trying to get his son - in- law to get Walter to tell me his story about his escape so long ago.

Ward, I am grateful for our interchange, and if I am able to assist you with anything that might help your work in Germany please let me know.

All the best,

Mac.

 

Hi Mac,

Did you get my last email?
Here is a picture of Ramses in harbor in Japan before Willy and his Navy prize crew boarded.
Betty, his widow, indicated on the phone she would sign the release forms. I will also include a picture of Willy - but please do not publish till I get the written permission.
Bes regards,

Ward
Attachments: 2
PS Willy is on the right.

I now have the OK to use Willey's photo, (see the top of this page).

Willy was rescued and taken on board Adelaide with all the crew from Ramses, at that time I was serving in the cruiser as a Sub Lieutenant RAN, thus wec were both on board at the same time.

Unfortunately Wily died recently in Germany, and this photograph is published with the permission of his widow Betty.

Mac.


11 November 2003

Hi Mac,

Great news! I sent you an email last. It may have gotten lost in the shuffle.
1) Yes - you may publish the photo of Willy. See point 3 below

2) On 7 Nov I had lunch with Kormoran vet Ludwig Ernst (gunnery section, range finder), his wife Lotte and Betty, Willy Schruefer's widow.

3) Betty signed the permission form to publish Willy's interview & Docs. We are working on getting a repo of his "formal" Navy picture - the portrait. I will also get the name of his buddy in the picture you have. Betty says his buddy was the one who suggested they join the Navy.

4) Better yet, Linda Gross, an Australian friend of ours here, is translating the whole interview. She has already finished the parts where Ramses leaves Japan and you all stop her and Willy's journey to PoW camp. As soon as I polish it up I will get it over to you.

5) Kormoran: Ludwig and Lotte have copies of articles from your Website and they are running the correspondence for the Association here. There are two Kormoran vets actually living in Australia.
I am going to do a telephone interview with Ludwig Ernst in the next several weeks. It will cover his whole story from Naval basic training till release from PoW camp. I can, of cours, have the Sydney - Kormoran battle processed from the transcript first. Are there any specific questions you want me to ask about this engagement? Ludwig was able to observe the whole battle. When they closed to under 1000 meters, he was, as he states "out of a job" I alos plan to contact and interview other veterans who want to talk.

6) I worked here as a TV and radio journalist for a German station. If any Australian TV station is interested, I may be able to do TV interviews with them (?) I have to run now,

Best regards,
Ward


Hello Ward,

Indeed, your message is great news.

I do have a number of questions I would like you to pose to Ludwig please, here goes:

1. At what stage in the confrontation with Sydney, did Kormoran lower the Dutch flag she was flying, and hoist the German Battle Ensign?

2. Did Captain Detmers order the survivors not to talk about the action to the Australian authorities, or did he tell the crew members what they should say about this action?

3. Did Sydney appear to be at action stations when she came as close as 1,000 meters to Kormoran?

4. When Sydney was last seen from Kormoran, was she on fire, and what was her course and speed estimate?

5. Was any explosion heard in Sydney?

6. Does Ludwig know Kormoran's position at the time of the fight with Sydney?

7. What damage did Kormoran's main armament do to Sydney?

8. Did Ludwig see Sydney launch any boats or life rafts?

9. Did Ludwig see Sydney fire any torpedoes?

10. How far away was Sydney when last seen?

11. How many torpedoes did Kormoran fire? and were they launched from the under water tubes or the tubes on deck?

12. Were any of Sydney's crew members seen in the water?

Thats it with my questions thanks.

I am unsure if any Australian TV stations would be interested in an interview with you, let me make some enquiries.

Mac.


Ward,

Thank you for sending on the note from Lawrence, interesting about the Cap Tally.

Here is the release to the press the Australian Prime Minister made at the time Sydney was sunk. I came across it in the Australian Archives.


Hi Mac,
I just got this last night. Very interesting - the last paragraph! I will certainly tell Ludwig Ernst this and ask him to distribute the information to other Kormoran vets.
I will ask Linda if she has inserted the last review comments into Willy interview.

See you,
Ward


Hi there Ward and Mac, just thinking about our last words, in 1964 William opened a steel sea chest full of his life's memories from his early days in India right to the end.

Amongst his items were a Luger pistol with loaded clips from his captured German officer from WW1 and, maybe of interest to you guys, a German sailors hat band with the name "Kormoran" on it. I have recently checked with our family and they are all sure that the name was that. Now for the good bit. I remember Will, my father and me going through his possessions and asking him about a certain letter. This letter was the last one Will received from the owner of that hat band and the date was from memory 1959? This date was possibly the year the German survivor died, however the contents of said letter mentioned directly to William as one of the finest men this sailor had ever met. For what it may be worth although the letter has long disappeared our memory of it is one of great joy as these men were not natural enemies and I believe had a deep admiration of what each had endured.

William was a very human man and had some sort of aura about him that would turn mortal enemies into placid deep thinking people. His police records and WW1 records prove this. I sent you the last email about William so you can build an idea of how the German and Italian POW's would have been treated. I know that you know this but the hat band thing is new.

This sailor mentioned something about William saving his life and how he would be forever thankful. Is it not amazing how an incident so long ago can still have small pockets of hidden info awaiting us?

William was regarded as a strict disciplinarian with a kindly nature. Hope this helps your thirst for info. Will admired these men however, my father mentioned that some of the stuff Will had taken or been given were in the home shed for years. One item was a beautiful hand carved pine sword with reverence to Adolf and other finely burned markings about the Reich etc.

My dad mentioned that some were true Nazi's, He was born in '24 so he was a real sticky beak and pumped his old man for info from 1930 on. My old man is now dead, however he was a history whiz and remembered in great detail his experiences from the inside. Very interesting.

Hope I am not being a pain. You had to understand a bit about Will so as to help build a more accurate understanding as to their (prisoners) well being. Makes me proud to be an honorable Aussie when we can brag about that.

Our Co - author is the WA police service historian and he has full records of the day and who was involved in the pickup of the survivors so we do have a lot of info, most of which you would be aware of.

OK enough. Hope you enjoy the contact

Ward can you send this onto Mac?

Thanks guys and good luck.
Laurie Harvey
Executive Producer
Perth Digi Film Productions


(7 February 2004)
Hi Mac,

Things are taking off now.

I put an advert in the German Navy Magazine "Leinen Los" saying that you were looking for members of Ramses, both merchant marine and Kriegsmarine.

Mr. Heinz Kostka from Magdeburg called me today. He was on Doggerbank from Bordeaux to Japan and on Ramses from Japan to the Indian Ocean. He remembered Willy well. Heinz gave me the names & telephone numbers of two other Ramses prize crew members. He also gave the name of a Kormoran crewman. Heinz remembers the jail in Freemantle, so I will include information from Laurie when I mail him.

So, now it is time to get down to work and get some interviews.

All the best,
Ward


Ward,

Good news, thanks for the info.

My end not so good, the Tatura/ Murchison camps do not have any way of sorting out what German POW's might have been in Ramses. So the search goes on.

Best wishes.
Mac.


Hi Mac & Laurie,

I will contact the other two crewmen via phone the next day or two then write all three right afterwards.

I have a standard set of questions for Wehrmacht veterans  (hometown, basic training, theaters of war, units or ships served on, campaigns,etc) which I will send to them along with copies of Willy's interview.

Are there any specific questions which you would like answered? Please let me know. Further, would you all be interested in getting video interviews with them?

Laurie - sorry about the two " E's" in Fremantle. The Indian names in the States are a constant source of mistakes - trying to remember how many "E's" and "S's" are in Tallahassee, Florida. It stil sends me to the dictionary
once in a while.

See you,
Ward


Ward,

Thank you for your two Ramses messages.

I imagine you ask anyone you find ex Ramses, if they have or know where to find a crew list from the ship who went into camp in Australia as POW's. Any interview you have will bring our their side of being found by the Adelaide, being sunk, rescued and as a POW.

Best regards,
Mac.


Ward,

I think a video interview would add a lot to any thing that we might subsequently put up on Mac's Web Log.

But your subjects may not like that idea, guess you test the water in due course, and get their approval if they agree.

Mac.


16 February 2004
Ward,

I am indeed grateful for all your help in providing your interview with Willy for putting up on our web site: Ahoy. Mac's Web Log. We will of course acknowledge all your work, and the approval of Betty to use it.

A small note, for those who served at sea, we always refer to serving in a ship rather than on a ship. One lives in a house and not on a house, likewise when serving in a ship. Ward, this is not to carp, but many who served at sea get irritated when on is used.

Again, my grateful thanks for an unique addition to a story told about a wartime experience, now 62 years ago, its adds another dimension to it all.

Best regards,
Mac.


Hi Mac,

Here are two pictures of Heinz Kostka - then and now.

Although Heinz gave me verbal permission to publish them, I would rather you wait till I get written permission before putting them up on your site.

Heinz Kostka WW2

Heinz Kostka WW2

Heinz Kostka today

Heinz Kostka today

 

As soon as I get some breathing room I will interview Heinz, Ludwig Stalter and Heinz Butschan - all Doggerbank, Ramses and Murchison mates of Willy's.

See you,
Ward


Hi Mac,

I just talked with Heinz Kostka again. He said please feel free to use the pictures on your site.

I have attached a copy of a picture taken of the Doggerbank crew in Japan Sep 1942.

The caption reads:

"2nd half of of the crew from ship 53 M.S. Doggerbank in Hakone, Japan. Sept 1942"

The left column "schwarze Buchstaben" means black letters
The right column "weisse Buchstaben oder Zahlen" means white letters or numerals

Willy is in the very last row just to the right of the center.
Fellow Ramses men Heinz Kostka is # 7 - first row, 2nd from the right. Heinrich Butschan is # 6, first row third from right. I will find out where Ludwig Stalter is in the group.

Heinz says that the people on the Ramses prize crew did not want to leave Doggerbank. It turns out they were lucky as Doggerbank was sunk on 3 March 1943 by mistake by the German U-43 with the loss of all but one man.

Best regards,
Ward

Doggerbank crew in Japan Sep 1942

Doggerbank crew in Japan September, 1942

 

back to letters index


   

This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2013 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved