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The North Atlantic could be very rough.

Heroes Remember

The North Atlantic could be very rough.

I think every sailor probably has his favourite storm story. You know, the Atlantic can be very cruel and particularly in the winter. And we ran into a storm one time, it was just unbelievable, there would be waves, I supposed they’d be what, 50 - 60 feet high. And what would happen is you would sort of chug up the side of one of them over the crest and then you’d drop into the trough with a crash and a bang. And the next wave then would wash over you. And you had a great fear because the convoy would break up under these circumstances and the ships would be up, they wouldn’t have any more control then we did. And we always feared one of them coming over a crest and falling on top of you, you know. Lost all our boats, our Carli floats, everybody on the crew was cut and bruised, broken arms, banged heads, etc. Anybody on the bridge, the upper deck, lashed themselves to something. And the cooks couldn’t cook of course, they couldn’t have a galley stove so there was nothing to eat or nothing to drink, in the way of hot tea or anything. And this just prevailed and went on I guess for a day or two. It was horrible and I still remember that so well. In fact later, I was ashore in Newfoundland on a course and I was in my hammock in the barracks and there was a big storm blowing outside and I felt guilty because I was warm and snug but I knew what was happening out on the sea, you know. And I still think of that when there’s a bad storm nowadays. You know, here I am safe and sound. After the storm, then it took us a day or two to find all the ships and get them all in line again and off we went. Oh, it was brutal. And that’s just one of the Atlantic storms. I presume we were scared stiff. I don’t really remember now but you know you had to work, you had to do your job, so that kept everything under control. We used to have a saying during the war, you know, particularly when nauseous things would happen. Keep laughing, because if you ever start to cry, you’ll never stop.

Mr. Bowen describes in very clear terms the violence wreaked by a North Atlantic storm, and the impact such storms had on a convoy.

Gerald Bowen

Gerald R. Bowen was born in Ottawa, Ontario on October 13, 1925. He attended Lisgard High School, and was a paperboy. His family had prior military experience. His uncle had served in the Air Force and his father in the Army, later becoming an historian with the Department of National Defence. Mr. Bowen enlisted in the Navy where he became a telegrapher, serving aboard a Royal Canadian Navy frigate on convoy duty in the North Atlantic until the war ended. He left the service for a brief time and re-enlisted in the Canadian Army, where he became a paratrooper and a specialist in sabotage. He later served as a peacekeeper in Cyprus. Mr. Bowen’s extensive experience in the Canadian military offers us some very informative and perceptive anecdotes.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Gerald Bowen
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
North Atlantic Ocean
Battle of the Atlantic
Ordinary Seaman
Wireless Operator

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