The Halifax Explosion

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The Halifax Explosion



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A city destroyed: The Halifax Explosion, 100 years later in 360-degrees

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Despite this warning, none of the firemen knew that the ship carried munitions. Fire Chief Edward P. Condon and Deputy Chief William P. Brunt were next on the scene, arriving from Brunswick Street in the department's McLaughlin Roadster. The heat was so overwhelming, no one could look at the inferno. Chief Condon pulled the Box 83 alarm again. In the final moments before the explosion, hoses were being unrolled as the fire spread to the docks. Retired Hoseman John Spruin Sr. Duggan was travelling from Isleville Street's Station 7 with another horse-drawn firefighting wagon. None of the firemen knew the danger that they faced as arrived and brought the explosion that obliterated the dockyard fire site.

Broderick, Captain G. Teamsters John Spruin and John Duggan were both struck and killed by shrapnel en route to the fire. Their horses were also killed instantly in the blast. Patricia hoseman Frank D. Leahy died on December 31, , from his injuries. Nine members of the Halifax Fire Department lost their lives performing their duty that day. The only surviving member at the scene was Patricia driver Billy William Wells, who was opening a hydrant at the time of the blast. He recounts the event for the Mail Star , October 6, ,. That's when it happened … The first thing I remember after the explosion was standing quite a distance from the fire engine … The force of the explosion had blown off all my clothes as well as the muscles from my right arm….

It is explained that Billy was standing again as the tsunami came over him. He managed to remain on land. Some with their heads off, and some thrown onto the overhead telegraph wires … I was taken to Camp Hill Hospital and lay on the floor for two days waiting for a bed. The doctors and nurses certainly gave me great service. Notably, firefighter Albert Brunt also survived the blast, by chance, as he slipped while attempting to jump onto the Patricia as it rounded a corner on its way to the docks. Efforts to subdue the blazes were hampered when firefighters arriving from nearby communities had difficulty connecting their hoses to the differently sized connections of Halifax's hydrants, a problem which inspired standardized hose fittings after the war.

On the 75th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, December 6, , the Halifax Fire Department erected a monument at the current Station 4, at the corner of Lady Hammond Road and Robie Street, in honour of the fallen members who died fighting the fire on Mont-Blanc. Eric Davidson was two and a half at the time of the explosion. He was playing with his toy train on the sill of the living room window, when he, his mother and sister saw the smoke of the fire in the harbour. When the blast occurred, the window shattered in front of Eric's face, blinding him completely. Despite his disability from an early age, Davidson went on to be a mechanic for the City of Halifax until his retirement in Anne M.

Her house on north Barrington Street was ripped apart by the force of the blast, killing her mother Anne, brother Edwin and her father. Annie was blown under the stove by the explosion, landing in the container of ash underneath the appliance. The still-warm ashes kept Annie protected against exposure to the December weather amidst the destruction, until she was discovered 26 hours later by a soldier named Private Henneberry. Her grandmother and aunt retrieved her from the Pine Hill Convalescent Hospital, where she had been cared for after being recovered from the wreckage. Bill Owen was born May 16, He was six months old during the explosion and continues to live in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

He says he may be the last survivor of the explosion. Many people in Halifax at first believed the explosion to be a German attack. Even later, during rescue efforts, that fear still existed. Blackout laws were rigidly applied, hampering some efforts. The newspaper Halifax Herald was noteworthy in continuing to propagate this belief for some time, for example reporting that Germans had mocked victims of the Explosion. Johansen was arrested on suspicions of being a German spy [80] when a search turned up a letter on his person, supposedly written in German.

Later it turned out that the letter was actually written in Norwegian. Burchell, "Imo" counsel, stated that Johansen had been mistaken for another man and was hereby exonerated Imo vs. Mont Blanc, Appeal Book, Vol. II, p. Immediately following the explosion, most of the German survivors in Halifax had been rounded up and imprisoned. Evan Wyatt see "Investigation" section. However, the scapegoating of these three individuals can be viewed from an historical perspective as a convenient political manoeuvre to assuage public anger and fear. The actual objective of the government was to take over the Halifax Pilotage, which it eventually did by invoking the War Measures Act in March It is also important to remember that Jurisdiction issues prevented an accounting from British authorities in New York for sending the ship to Halifax with full knowledge of her cargo.

Because of the continued sinking of ships by German U-Boats, the desperate French government had been forced to use older, inadequately maintained ships to carry highly explosive cargoes. Therefore, as no witnesses from the Royal Navy, the British Admiralty or owners of the French vessel could be called to the inquiry as witnesses, the facts surrounding the contributions by countless unnamed persons to the sequence of events leading up to the Halifax disaster remain obfuscated to this day.

A judicial inquiry known as the Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry was formed to investigate the causes of the collision. Proceedings began at the Halifax Court House on 13 December Evan Wyatt, the Royal Canadian Navy 's chief examining officer in charge of the harbour, gates and anti-submarine defences, for causing the collision. Soon after the fifteen-minute decision had been read, the pilot and captain were arrested.

Wyatt was arrested the following morning. All three men were charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence at a preliminary hearing heard by Stipendiary Magistrate, Richard A. McLeod and bound over for trial. Mackey was discharged on a writ of habeas corpus and the charges dropped 15 March This left only Wyatt to face a grand jury hearing. On 17 April , a jury acquitted him in a trial that lasted less than a day. Justice Arthur Drysdale, the judge at the inquiry, oversaw the first civil litigation trial. His decision 27 April found Mont-Blanc entirely at fault.

Commander Wyatt, his reputation and career ruined, left Halifax for the Boston area with his wife, Dorothy and continued for several more years working as a merchant mariner. Francis Mackey, on the other hand, remained in Halifax. Although he had voluntarily turned in his pilot's licence after being arrested, its return was denied by C. Ballantyne, the minister of marine and fisheries, even after the charges were dropped.

Mackey spent his life savings and four years fighting for reinstatement. His licence was finally returned by the newly elected minister, The Hon. Ernest LaPointe on Valentine's Day, Francis Mackey and his family were forced to endure the stigma of his being the pilot of Mont-Blanc even after his death on 31 December The North End Halifax neighbourhood of Richmond bore the brunt of the explosion.

In , Richmond was considered a working-class neighbourhood and had few paved roads and irregular garbage pick-up. Adams, inspired by the Victorian Garden City Movement , aimed to provide public access to green spaces and to create a low-rise, low-density and multifunctional urban neighbourhood. Ross and Adams specified that the homes be built with a new and innovative fireproof material, blocks of compressed cement called Hydro-stone.

Once finished, the Hydrostone neighbourhood consisted of homes, businesses and parks, which helped create a new sense of community in the North End of Halifax. Adams and Ross were revolutionary in their enlightened approach to the reconstruction of the working-class, poor neighbourhood. The construction of this new and cutting-edge urban neighbourhood was criticized by many upper-class Haligonians who thought the Hydrostone was too extravagant for its working-class residents. The Halifax Explosion Memorial Sculpture in For many years afterward, the Halifax Explosion was the standard by which all large blasts were measured.

For instance, in its report on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima , Time magazine wrote that the explosive power of the Little Boy bomb was seven times that of the Halifax Explosion. The Halifax North Memorial Library was built in to commemorate the victims of the explosion. The library entrance featured the first monument built to mark the explosion, the Halifax Explosion Memorial Sculpture , created by artist Jordi Bonet. However, the sculpture was dismantled by the Halifax Regional Municipality in and some parts have been scattered and lost. A memorial at the Halifax Fire Station on Lady Hammond Road honours the firefighters killed in their response to the explosion. Simple monuments mark the mass graves of explosion victims at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery and the Bayers Road Cemetery.

A Memorial Book listing the names of all the known victims was created in Copies of the book are displayed at the Halifax North Memorial Library and at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic , which has a large permanent exhibit about the Halifax Explosion. The canonical novel Barometer Rising by the Canadian writer Hugh MacLennan is set in Halifax at the time of the explosion and includes a carefully researched description of its impact on the city. Following in MacLennan's footsteps, journalist Robert MacNeil penned Burden of Desire and used the explosion as a metaphor for the societal and cultural changes of the day.

MacLennan and MacNeil exploit the romance genre to fictionalize the explosion, similar to the first attempt by Lieutenant-Colonel Frank McKelvey Bell , a medical officer who penned a short novella on the Halifax explosion shortly after the catastrophic event. His romance was A Romance of the Halifax Disaster , a melodramatic piece that follows the love affair of a young woman and an injured soldier. There is also a young adult fictional story in the Dear Canada series, named No Safe Harbour , whose narrator tries to find the other members of her family after the blast.

More recently, the novel Black Snow by Halifax journalist Jon Tattrie followed an explosion victim's search for his wife in the ruined city, [93] and A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve has a story-within-the-story set in Halifax at the time of the explosion. The explosion is also referred to in some detail in John Irving 's novel Until I Find You as well as Ami McKay 's The Birth House in which protagonist Dora Rare travels to Halifax to offer her midwifery skills to mothers who go into labour after the explosion. In the novel, Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon , the shadowy schooner Golden Fang is revealed as a reoutfitted Preserved , a vessel said to have survived the explosion.

In , Halifax writer Jennie Marsland published her historical romance Shattered , which is set before the explosion and in its aftermath. An award-winning play entitled "Shatter" [94] by Trina Davies is set in the explosion and explores the racial profiling of German-speaking citizens after the event. The miniseries follows soldier Charlie Collins through a romantic affair and his recovery from posttraumatic stress disorder. The movie exploited computer technology in order to achieve impressive special effects on a budget.

However, the film was panned by critics and criticized by historians for distortions and inaccuracies. Aspects criticized were the representation of German spies in the city and countless other distortions of historical fact. Jim Lotz's The Sixth of December also toys with the fictional idea that Halifax was home to a network of enemy spies during the war. In , Halifax sent a Christmas tree to the City of Boston in thanks and remembrance for the help that the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee provided immediately after the disaster. The gift was later taken over by the Nova Scotia Government to continue the goodwill gesture as well as to promote trade and tourism. Knowing its symbolic importance to both cities, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources has specific guidelines for selecting the tree.

Military Wiki Explore. Popular pages. Project maintenance. Register Don't have an account? Drysdale also oversaw the first civil litigation trial, in which the owners of the two ships sought damages from each other. His decision 27 April found Mont-Blanc entirely at fault. Efforts began shortly after the explosion to clear debris, repair buildings, and establish temporary housing for survivors left homeless by the explosion. By late January , around 5, were still without shelter. Partial train service resumed from a temporary rail terminal in the city's South End on 7 December. Full service resumed on 9 December when tracks were cleared and the North Street Station reopened.

The Canadian Government Railways created a special unit to clear and repair railway yards as well as rebuild railway piers and the Naval Dockyard. Most piers returned to operation by late December and were repaired by January. After the explosion, the Halifax Relief Commission approached the reconstruction of Richmond as an opportunity to improve and modernize the city's North End.

English town planner Thomas Adams and Montreal architectural firm Ross and Macdonald were recruited to design a new housing plan for Richmond. Adams, inspired by the Victorian garden city movement , aimed to provide public access to green spaces and to create a low-rise, low-density and multifunctional urban neighbourhood. It has now become an upscale neighbourhood and shopping district. Every building in the Halifax dockyard required some degree of rebuilding, as did HMCS Niobe and the docks themselves; all of the Royal Canadian Navy's minesweepers and patrol boats were undamaged. The Halifax Explosion was one of the largest artificial non-nuclear explosions.

An extensive comparison of major explosions by Halifax historian Jay White in concluded that it "remains unchallenged in overall magnitude as long as five criteria are considered together: number of casualties, force of blast, radius of devastation, quantity of explosive material, and total value of property destroyed. For instance, in its report on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima , Time wrote that the explosive power of the Little Boy bomb was seven times that of the Halifax Explosion. The many eye injuries resulting from the disaster led to better understanding on the part of physicians of how to care for damaged eyes, and "with the recently formed Canadian National Institute for the Blind , Halifax became internationally known as a centre for care for the blind", according to Dalhousie University professor Victoria Allen.

His insights from the explosion are generally credited with inspiring him to pioneer the specialty of pediatric surgery in North America. The event was traumatic for the whole surviving community, so the memory was largely suppressed. After the first anniversary, the city stopped commemorating the explosion for decades. The second official commemoration did not take place before the 50th anniversary in , and even after that, the activities stopped again. The library entrance featured the first monument built to mark the explosion, the Halifax Explosion Memorial Sculpture , created by artist Jordi Bonet.

A memorial at the Halifax Fire Station on Lady Hammond Road honours the firefighters killed while responding to the explosion. Simple monuments mark the mass graves of explosion victims at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery and the Bayers Road Cemetery. A Memorial Book listing the names of all the known victims is displayed at the Halifax North Memorial Library and at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which has a large permanent exhibit about the Halifax Explosion. Hugh MacLennan 's novel Barometer Rising is set in Halifax at the time of the explosion and includes a carefully researched description of its impact on the city. This work follows the love affair of a young woman and an injured soldier. In , Halifax sent a Christmas tree to the City of Boston in thanks and remembrance for the help that the Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee provided immediately after the disaster.

The gift was later taken over by the Nova Scotia Government to continue the goodwill gesture as well as to promote trade and tourism. In deference to its symbolic importance for both cities, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources has specific guidelines for selecting the tree [] and has tasked an employee to oversee the selection. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the disaster. For other uses, see Halifax Explosion disambiguation. A picture of the pyrocumulus cloud. See also: Halifax Explosion in popular culture.

Canada portal History portal. Archived from the original on 14 May Retrieved 25 February Time Home Entertainment. ISBN The Publications of the Champlain Society. Halifax: The First Years. Formac Publishing. The Seabound Coast. Dundurn Press. Journal News. Canadian Military History. The Northern Mariner. X 4 : 39— The Boston Daily Globe. System Failure Case Study. Commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.

Archived from the original on 29 November Retrieved 21 January Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The Halifax Explosion. Archived from the original on 24 September Retrieved 13 June CBC Archive. Campbell of the inbound Canadian merchant ship Acadian , using a sextant approximately 28 kilometres 17 mi from the harbour approaches. History of shock waves, explosions and impact a chronological and biographical reference. The Maple Leaf. Archived from the original on 1 April Canadian Rail : — Retrieved 25 April Canadian Railway Hall of Fame.

Archived from the original on 15 June Global News. Retrieved 15 May The Chronicle Herald. Archived from the original on 8 June From one moment to the next: the Halifax Explosion. University of Virginia. Archived from the original on 2 January Halifax Professional Fire Fighters Association. Retrieved 29 April Halifax Magazine. Naval Institute Press. Winter Retrieved 20 January The Canadian Encyclopedia. University of Illinois Press. Calgary Daily Herald.

Fall Public Archives of Nova Scotia. City in Shock. Retrieved 30 April Tourism Halifax. African American Review. S2CID New Maritimes. Hartford Courant. The Gazette. CXLVL The seabound coast. PMID All of the crew survived, except for one sailor who may have died of blood loss after being hit by debris from the blast, [25] year-old gunner Yves Quequiner. More than 1, houses were levelled by the explosion, with another 12, damaged.

The explosion blew the Mont-Blanc into shrapnel, which may have injured many people in the blast zone; about people lost an eye to either the shrapnel or in-blown window glass shards, and 37 people were blinded. The blast was regarded as the largest man-made explosion disaster in history until Hiroshima. A judicial inquiry known as the Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry was formed to investigate the causes of the collision. Evan Wyatt , the Royal Canadian Navy's chief examining officer in charge of the harbour, gates and anti-submarine defences, for causing the collision. Demers ' opinion that "it was the Mont-Blanc' s responsibility alone to ensure that she avoided a collision at all costs" given her cargo; [29] he was likely influenced by local opinion, which was strongly anti-French, as well as by the "street fighter" style of argumentation used by Imo lawyer Charles Burchell.

Henry, this was "a great surprise to most people", who had expected the Imo to be blamed for being on the wrong side of the channel. McLeod , and bound over for trial. Russell agreed there was no justification for the charges and released the prisoner on 15 March As the captain had been arrested on the same warrant, he too was given a written discharge though he had not spent any time in jail. There were many people who were most displeased with Russell's decision, including Attorney General Orlando Tiles Daniels. On 2 April, an attempt by prosecutor, Andrew Cluney , on behalf of the attorney general's office to overturn the decision in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in banco failed for lack of jurisdiction as did two subsequent bids to indict Mackey on 9 April and 2 October O'Hearn pointed out the lack of jurisdiction from the outset of the proceedings.

Justice Arthur Drysdale was the lone dissenter. Ultimately, Justice Russell's decision was final. The case, In re Mackey , was added as a citation to the Criminal Code of Canada beginning in under Section entitled, Manslaughter defined. Russell also presided over the Commander Wyatt's grand jury hearing 19—20 March and trial 17 April The trial proceedings took less than a day and ended with an acquittal on both charges. In his autobiography, Russell reflected upon these particular proceedings. He stated: " Civium ardor prava jubentium gave me all that I could do in disposing of the cases with which I was bound to deal.

One of these concerned the official in charge of the wiring across the mouth of the harbour. To suppose he had anything in the world to do with the disaster was an utterly lunatic notion. Yet my impression is that the Grand Jury insisted on finding a true bill and placing him on trial.

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