Mrs Jean Bowen, with her husband, also in the air force, on their first wedding anniversary in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in december 1943.Jean Bowen
Mrs Bowen and her husband visited Los Angeles while on leave together, they had their picture taken in a Hollywood Studio, 1945.Jean Bowen
"I was getting used to living in a dormitory with so many women. You didn’t have much privacy. But in the group I was in, they were all very, very friendly. At the time, it was a very caring friendship. Everybody helped. We supported one another."
My [Royal Canadian] Air Force work was in Vancouver, [British Columbia]. At Sea Island, was the air base. My husband was in the Air Force and he had been overseas but had been sent back to Canada, his health had been poor. But he wanted to go back again to England so we agreed that if he was going to do that, wouldn’t it be a good idea if I enlisted and did something as my contribution to the country and we agreed on this and so I enlisted in the Air Force.
I was getting used to living in a dormitory with so many women. You didn’t have much privacy. But in the group I was in, they were all very, very friendly. At the time, it was a very caring friendship. Everybody helped. We supported one another. There were so many around that you felt that you were only a one person in this vast number of women, whereas this small group made you feel that you had a personal interest.
We were right on the site where we could see the planes landing and taking off. And as a matter of fact, the men organising or bringing in the planes were ex-air crew. And they were a little bit burnt-out. So they allowed us, on occasion, to speak to the pilots which certainly wouldn’t have been Air Force policy but they allowed us to speak to the pilots directly and direct them to land on the air base. So it was very interesting. You know, you weren’t sitting just in an office looking after files but you were right on the air field where planes were arriving and taking off.
There’s a story about that too, which was that picture of my husband and I meeting in Winnipeg, [Manitoba]. We were on Christmas leave and he was in Vancouver and I was in Ottawa, [Ontario] and it was our first anniversary, wedding anniversary, so we met in Winnipeg, crossing the half the continent. And, when he returned to his base in Vancouver, he was late, what they call AWOL [absent without leave]. And I was a little bit late going back to [RCAF Station] Rockcliffe. And during that period, we were given postings. Our postings arrived and I was assigned to the east coast but my friends knew that I wished if possible to be where my husband was so somebody spoke up and they had me change my name with somebody who didn’t mind going to the east coast. And so I took their place going to Vancouver. But it was only through the kindness of friends that this happened. Otherwise, I’d have been at the opposite end of the country, my husband at one side and I at the other side, which would have been a great disappointment.
We had one interesting little story along the way. An elderly clergyman picked us up in southern Alberta in his car and he didn’t believe that we were married, so he wanted to marry us. He said, you shouldn’t be going off like this, come to my manse and I’ll marry you and my wife can be the witness. However, he would not believe us that we were married so when he stopped to make a pastoral call in a local farmhouse, we nipped out of the car and kept on going. And that was in 1945.
My husband went to university under the veterans’ plan, which was a wonderful gift the government gave to veterans. I was going to work because my husband was going to be a student, you see, so I took a secretarial course with the idea of working. But then, I became pregnant and we had our son was born in the end of November 1946. So I never did work.