Cruising a corvette across the Atlantic


Lt. Donald Bowman aboard the HMCS Edmunston, 1944

Before 1942, Donald (Don) Bowman (BA’49, BE’49) had never been to sea. Halfway through his courses at the University of Saskatchewan, Bowman and a friend, Murray Leddy (BComm’48), joined the Royal Canadian Navy to serve during the Second World War.

Bowman was assigned to the HMCS Edmundston, a Canadian corvette. The country built and crewed hundreds of corvettes since Canada was charged with protecting all north Atlantic convoys during the war. Because of the rapid expansion of Canada’s navy, some of the sailors who manned these ships, including officers like Saskatoon-born-and-raised Lieutenant Donald Bowman, were sent to sea despite their limited experience on the open water.

Following training in Saskatoon and HMCS Cornwallis in Nova Scotia, Bowman took advantage of some leave to marry Muriel Beatty (BHSc’42), who graduated from the U of S as a dietician. Shortly afterward, Bowman was assigned to duty. “Everyone worked for the war effort. Muriel worked in a laboratory; I went to sea,” said Bowman.

Bowman described corvettes as “small, not designed for trans-Atlantic crossings.” Despite that fact, Bowman and his mates crossed the Atlantic 26 times. “They tossed like corks, they were wet, and they were crowded,” said Bowman. “The weather was the visible enemy; you never saw the other one. But he could be there, maybe was there, just below the surface.”

After the war, Bowman completed his U of S education, then entered the family business, Bowman Brothers. He worked for the Saskatoon-based automotive wholesaler for many years. Later he went into business for himself, farming in the Lumsden – Craven area of Saskatchewan, where he and Muriel raised four children. He also operated Sentinal Sales, an import – export business that dealt primarily in Japan and other Asian regions. He is now retired and lives in Regina.

Life aboard a corvette during the war was never well-documented—until now. Bowman penned his first book, My Battle of the Atlantic, as a narrative taking readers to the interior spaces of the ship, the ports, the pubs, the view from the bridge, the convoys, the icebergs and the weather. It also includes previously unpublished images from the Canadian Department of National Defence.

Listen to Lt. Donald Bowman: Donald Bowman shared his story as a veteran with The Memory Project, an online archive of stories of service and sacrifice.