Relating to the Halifax Explosion


(The issues for 1917 are not on film or available at the Register office in Berwick, so I have decided to mix in some of the 30 years ago columns from 1947 ... PV)


THE REGISTER

Thursday December 11, 1947

BERWICK, NOVA SCOTIA

Thirty Years Ago

Files of December 12, 1917

Thursday last, December 6, was the date of the greatest disaster in the history of Canada. An explosion in Halifax Harbour at 9 a.m., wrecked the city, causing the death of perhaps 3000 persons, injuring as many more, destroying the homes of twice that number and causing an, as yet, incalculable destruction of property. The explosion was caused by the collision of two steamers, the French Mont Blanc, carrying a quantity of nitro-glycerine and TNT, and the Belgian relief steamer Imo. No part of the city escaped injury, but the greatest damage was in the section lying between North Street and Richmond, where fire completed the work of destruction. Among those who lost their lives, were C. B. McIntyre, of Aylesford, and H. W. Sanders, whose wife was the former Miss Bessie Creighton, of Berwick. The first relief train to reach the city was sent from Montreal by Lord Shaughnessy. Another carrying food supplies, clothing and nurses, sent by the T. Eaton Co., of Toronto, arrived the next morning, and was followed by others from Boston, Portland, Me., New York and elsewhere. The British government has granted 1,000,000 for the relief of Halifax and the Dominion and United States governments have each granted $1,000,000.

Hon. Mackenzie Bowell, once Prime Minister of Canada, died December 11, at his home in Belleville, Ont., aged 94 years.

Prince Albert, second son of King George V is seriously ill.

Fred Crichton, one of Aylesford's leading citizens, passed away November 30, in his 43rd year. He was a son of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Crichton, of Halifax, where he lived until 18 years of age, when he came to Kings County and took up farming on the Highland Farm, Woodville, later removing to Aylesford. He leaves a widow, formerly Miss Oressa George, and four children, also two brothers and two sisters. While in Aylesford he was appointed Stipendiary Magistrate. By his many sterling qualities and upright Christian character, he had endeared himself to many.

Among nurses from the Yarmouth Hospital who answered the call for help from Halifax, was Miss Hilda McConnell, of Welsford Street.

Miss Grace Gaul, of Dalhousie East, is making a good recovery from an operation for appendicitis, performed in Halifax.

R. S. Banks, bookkeeper for H. H. Banks, Ltd., Pleasant Bay, C. B., is visiting his home in Morristown. He has been transferred to the head office in Halifax.

Councillor G. R. and Mrs. Nichols entertained the young people of South Berwick, Thursday evening.

Frank A. Kinsman, who had been working in Halifax, was employed at the South End at the time of the explosion, and escaped serious injury.

Mrs. C. Colyer and children, of Halifax, are at the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. F. Dennison.

Born - At Berwick, December 6, to Mr. and Mrs. T. H. Lloyd, a son.


THE REGISTER

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18, 1947

Thirty Years Ago

Files of December 19, 1917.

The Union Government has been sustained in the General Dominion election by a good majority. The only provinces giving majorities for the Opposition are Nova Scotia, Quebec and Prince Edward Island. The election in Halifax is postponed on account of the explosion. Sir Robert Borden’s majority in Kings County will exceed 1000. He led the poll in every Ward except 1 and 7.

During the election campaign, hoodlums in Kitchener, Ont., created such a disturbance at a public meeting at which Sir Robert Borden was to have spoken, that he was unable to give the address. Many of the rioters have since been arrested and fined, and those who were employed in industrial and financial establishments have been dismissed by their employers. The City Council of Kitchener unanimously passed a resolution condemning the insult to the Prime Minister, and extending an apology to him and to the Canadian people.

Mrs. Aubrey Keddy, Millville, died at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, November 22. She had been in poor health for two years, and of late months her condition had become so serious that she was removed to Halifax in the hope that an operation might be successful. But it was found that she was too weak to undergo the operation. Her funeral was held from her late home, November 25, services being conducted by Rev. Mr. Mossman, assisted by Rev. Mr. Ryan. Her husband, three daughters and a son survive.

A meeting in the interests of the Canadian Bible Society was held in the Methodist Church, Berwick, Thursday evening, with Rev. Mr. Hockin presiding, and conducting the opening devotional exercises. The speaker of the evening was Rev. Thomas McFall, who gave an address founded on scripture references to the word of God and the duty of all to study that word and follow its teachings. On motion of Rev. Mr. Robbins, a vote of thanks was given Mr. McFall for his address. Officers were chosen: Rev. Mr. Hockin, president; John E. Woodworth, secretary; Miss M. Hutchinson, treasurer.

The body of Harry W. Saunders, who lost his life in the Halifax explosion, was brought to Berwick this morning for interment. The funeral was largely attended. The Oddfellows of Berwick Lodge attended in a body.


The Register,

January 2, 1918

Our Gratitude to Americans.

(Presbyterian Witness)

Day by day the feelings of gratitude and friendship of all Canadians and of Nova Scotia in particular, are growing warmer towards the people of the United States for their whole-hearted sympathy and splendid assistance to Halifax in her great distress. New England in general, and especially Massachusetts, have outdone all others in the promptness and efficiency of their generous help. Never can their kindness be forgotten or our thankfulness for it grow less. Nova Scotia owes its very existence as a British Province to the forefathers of the New Englanders of today. It was they who earliest recognized its importance as a British outpost. It was they who, time after time, captured its French fortifications and prevented its extensive French settlement. In spite of the rebuffs which they received through its repeated retrecessions to France, notwithstanding their protests, they persisted in their policy, with Massachusetts at their head until they had made the Peninsula of Nova Scotia permanently British. Thereafter, they showed the way to the final Anglicisation of the whole Province by their remarkable first capture of the great French fortress of Louisburg. Is it any wonder that we should be profoundly grateful to them when they now, as gallantly as ever, though in a different way, spring to our relief?


January 2nd 1918

Work of the Explosion -

A 112 ton boat, 36 feet in length, was washed or thrown 150 feet up a hill on the Dartmouth side.

A part of the ten ton anchor on the Mont Blanc was thrown to the exhibition grounds and was found in the main building. The stock of the anchor was found in one of the school building at the north end, over two miles away, and the eye of the anchor was carried in the opposite direction and pierced the stage in St. Peter's hall, Dartmouth. The wreckage of the railway pier 9 was driven over to the Dartmouth shore and on the wrecked pier are the remains of a freight car. Commander Murray's boat; a craft sixty-five feet in length, which was near the Mont Blanc at the time of the explosion, was thrown out of the water on to a pier and through a shed. The tender Trusty was pierced by a large plate from the destroyed Mount Blanc. This was one and a half miles from the explosion.

S.H. Winfield, Chairman of the Halifax relief Committee, estimates the losses by the Halifax disaster 1,500 killed; 4,000 seriously wounded; value of homes destroyed or beyond repair, $7,000,000; damage to homes that can be repaired, plus furniture and personal effects, $8,000,000; damage to civic, provincial, federal, church, institutional and industrial property, $25,000,000, showing a total property loss of $40,000,000.


January 9th 1918

Explosion:

(The following is from the pen of a son of Rev. Dr. A. and Mrs. Chipman, of Berwick.)

MY DEAR BROTHER - I was at breakfast at the Halifax Hotel at 9.06 a.m., one week ago. There came an explosion which shook the building severely but did no damage that we could see or feel. In a few seconds the concussion reached us and the glass in the upper part of the window went flying across the room. Fortunately, and I feel selfish in saying it, I am uninjured.

There were perhaps thirty of us together at the time. We made our way to the door, each of us stopping and looking back with uncertainty or fear towards the harbor wondering where the next shot would strike. Each of us had in his mind the thought that with their wonderful skill the Germans had come under our guards at the mouth of the harbour and in a submarine were having their "fling" at the town. The sensation was precisely that of a building through which a shell had passed. Glass was crashing in all directions. The hallway and lobby were two inches deep in small pieces of thick plate for the pressure came equally upon each square foot of glass. Through the swivel doors we stepped with a stoop to sidewalk and street.

Up north was a great white cloud more strange than I had seen before. Later we learned its cause - the explosion of five thousand tons of munitions of greatest power. On either side and as far north as I could see except in windows which had been open at least an inch or two no pane or plate of glass was left intact. Such was the condition throughout three quarters of the City and every building suffered at least from breakage of glass. No materials from the ship came our distance, two miles. A shower of soot was felt. Then there came from every door "a Casualty," that is a person who, though more or less wounded, could walk. There were from fifty to two hundred of these within two blocks of our hotel and thirty of our people were more or less cut on the arms or neck or face.

My first work was to assist in a drug store which immediately became a dressing station. There was shown in the people themselves a sense of a shock but not of fear or confusion and each one did what he could for the other. The offices and stores as soon as their injured had proper assistance were deserted. People went home to find how their folks had fared. Here and there a car could be used. The electrics had stopped with the explosion.

Conveyances generally were given at once to the wounded. Within a few minutes I returned to my room for hat and coat. Nothing was disturbed. My window being open saved it. But across the hall a late sleeper was dressing. He had covered his head and in this way escaped for his room was showered with broken glass.

Then I went out to make my way more than six blocks to our laundry enquiring for friends at several offices on the way. I began to realize the extent of the damage and destruction, meeting everywhere the injured who were being rushed to hospital or taken home for first aid. In the laundry everyone escaped except one woman quite severely cut with glass. I moved up to the Common past the barracks from which a great truck was bringing its first load of wounded men.

These were blue coats - French -who were on shore for a visit. The roof of the Garrison Chapel had lifted up and dropped in. The side of Park Street Church had fallen in. The force was from without and came equally from all sides except in narrow spaces or between a stone building and one of wood.

The great Armoury, costing $180,000 lost glass and window frames to the injury of hundreds of men and its heavy slate roof was broken at the edge. Across the street here was an important corner, Cunard Street crosses Park Street at an angle. A recruiting hut was quickly turned into a relief station and to this and hastily through it came hundreds of cases, while around its sharp corner and across the Common back of it there rushed, as I saw them then and later, hundreds, I think thousands, of conveyances. There were great ferries, automobiles more than I could county, express waggons, delivery waggons, waggons of every kind, carts, slovens, baby carriages and even stretchers. As I stood for a minute below the corner I saw come around it a delivery boy erect on his seat as at parade, driving an old horse. In his waggons were three or four grocery boxes. A solider found it difficult to stop him and in answer to his question, "Why don't you stop" he fairly screamed "I have to deliver these just down there." Such was his controlling idea of duty, for he was capless and above his collar his entire head was a mass of blood. I mention the incident because it clearly reveals the spirit of thousands as I saw it on every hand, that fearful day.

There were soldiers and sailors everywhere; no one suffered for lack of attendance. I offered what assistance I could and continued my way towards the scene of the explosion. But I was not to reach this and I am very thankful that it so happened. I was relieved and did not have before my eye the destruction in the area two miles square over which the force of destruction spread.

A herald came running down the street with an order from the Military to rush to the open for the powder magazine at the Dry Dock was in danger and might explode any minute. Then there formed and I became a part of a procession such as the roads of Belgium know so well. The section was a congested one. The destruction on every hand was far greater than down town. Every human being that could walk or could be carried came into the streets throughout the entire city. The great Common was covered with thousands including the lame, the blind, the dead, and dying, the out - the quick and the dead - There, within ten or fifteen minutes, were assembled in the cold of a winter's day, with no snow on the ground, a light wind and sunshine. We waited for about two hours in constant apprehension, expecting an explosion that would level the remaining buildings. Fortunately the wind was light and from the south-east, blowing the fire from the city and saving it from complete destruction.

Near me I found a boy from the Naval College in blue uniforms of light weight. He had been badly cut about the head, face and hands. He had walked a mile to the relief station, then as now without hat or overcoat. I gave him my coat and tried to learn his condition. In the four hours that he was in my care he invariably refused to admit that he was badly hurt or in pain or even homesick. He was all of these for in addition to his wounds he was almost in a state of collapse from shock. I made this boy my particular care and if, as I hope, I was the means of helping him to come through then there is something to my credit in day of need.

No central control was established until night. The uninjured were too busy to think of disorder or even of self interest. There was nothing of hysteria or panic. In general the men in khaki and in blue directed transportation and rendered first aid. During the first day there was slight conception of the far reaching effects of the explosion and the demand for skilled assistance. This consciousness came with a rush on the first night and the second day.

Men whom I met were free to express their suspicion as to the cause of it and far and near the words were heard "An enemy hath done this." Suspicion was cast upon the character of so called relief ships as they had come and gone. Rumors as to ships on fire in the harbour and the alien control of this particular relief ship were rite. I talked with an officer of a steamer within a few yards of the Mount Blanc. In his mind there was no question but that the relief ship was to blame. He saw her hold to her course in the face of certain destruction. But only a thorough investigation, and such is being held, may fix the blame. Aside from this phase of the question, there was and is in Halifax a striking illustration of the horrors of war. Only war conditions could have wrought such destruction.

There were many very narrow escapes. The ways of mysterious force which covered the city were freakish at least. In the King Edward Hotel a man on the side of his bed dressing saw his door go past him and out the window. Two men, and I talked with the survivor, were standing near the hatch of a ship in the harbour. One said to the other "How strange that looks." He was pointing towards the fire which caused the explosion. In an instant this man was gone leaving no trace. A gun from the ship was found some distance away. A man was carried on a pile of lumber one quarter of a mile and escaped with his life. A ship steward was uninjured but the cleaver with which he was about to cut a quarter of beef was fixed three inches deep in the floor at his feet and the quarter of beef had disappeared. These are mere incidents among the rest of the strange happenings at Halifax.

Broken wires prevented sending out anything until late in the day except that by wireless. St. John was reached by way of Havana and New York. I was assured that I would be in the way and that my undisturbed quarters would be of value so I came away as soon as possible in a special train from the hitherto unused terminals at the south of the city. A friend had offered me a passage to Truro in an automobile which went out with operators and some 2500 messages of the Western Union. I was ready to go on this when the train went out. It was three o'clock when we reached Truro. Few of us had slept a wink. Messages were sent by telegram and telephone from Truro for friends and myself. I gave Mabel her first word saying that I was uninjured. This she could hardly believe and the service was so interrupted that very little could be understood.

I look back upon it with increasing distress. So many are anxious to hear the story that it has become almost a nightmare. This is to lessen the necessity to talk it over in detail. We are deeply thankful to have escaped and our sympathies as never before are enlarged and deepened.

As ever your brother,

A.H. CHIPMAN.

Dec 13, 1917


JANUARY 16, 1918

Our Obligation to Halifax.

(Toronto Globe.)

The recommendation made by the committee appointed by Hon. George H. Murray, Premier of Nova Scotia, that a commission be appointed by the Dominion Government with wide powers to administer temporary relief in Halifax and superintend the work of reconstruction, should be acted upon by the Federal Administration without delay. The obligation is a national one – not one that should be left to the city of Halifax or the Province of Nova Scotia – and Canada must assume it.

The vote of one million pounds sterling by the British Government to the purpose testifies to the recognition by the Motherland and her Allies that the alleviation of distress and loss and the reconstruction of the devastated harbor city is a war responsibility. The Canadian Government should forthwith appoint a competent Commission composed of men of superior ability and staunch integrity to see that this money is carefully and wisely expended. It should also entrust such commission with the duty of supplying relief, supporting the incapacitated, maintaining dependents, compensating loss, and superintending reconstruction, as a national war obligation upon the whole Dominion.

The height reached by the flame and smoke of the great explosion at Halifax was two miles. The master of the steamer Acadian took observation with his sextant and got the exact altitude.


JANUARY 16, 1918

Appreciated.

The children of Somerset school before Christmas forwarded a gift of $67.50, to the Evening Mail, of Halifax, to supply Christmas cheer to the children rendered homeless by the recent disaster. In acknowledging the remittance the Mail says: "The self sacrifice of the children of Somerset will be an inspiration to the rest of the province and their action will cheer hundreds of homeless little boys and girls in this city on Christmas Day."


January 23, 1918

The Halifax Situation as Viewed From the Outside.

(Amherst News.)

Halifax papers are undoubtedly right in claiming that the dominion government, or the allied governments, should make good all the damage that was done to that city by the explosion of a munition ship in the harbor, but it hardly adds to the strength of the case to intimate that Halifax has been a great sufferer from the allied use of that port ever since the war began. No one ever heard of such a complaint before the disaster took place. Halifax was, in fact, one of the most prosperous cities on the continent – so prosperous indeed that hundreds of her business people were coining bigger money than was ever known before in her one hundred and fifty years’ career. The terminal works accounted for some, but the biggest stream of money set in circulation was that which came from the military, and from the naval ships in the harbor. If every atom of danger is to be gathered up, and presented as a liability against the dominion government, the other side of the story should be told, and the millions of dollars that have come to the city, should be put in the other column against the liability score. The News, and we believe every other Canadian, wants to se justice done to our capital city. Those who have been deprived of their earning power, by loss of eyesight or other injuries, are especially entitled to the government’s care. We have no doubt but that they should be put upon a straight pension basis the same as any other victims of the war. But to claim that every old building should be replaced by a new one at the government’s expense, or that every little inconvenience should be capitalized, and presented as a claim for compensation, gives too much the appearance of hogging, and will have the very opposite effect upon the public from what was intended.


JANUARY 23, 1918

Halifax Relief Commission.

The Dominion Government has decided to appoint a Commission under the name "Halifax Relief Commission" with power to receive and administer all unexpended monies and undistributed goods, and to receive contributions for the relief of the sufferers by the recent disastrous explosion at Halifax, and for the restoration of the property thereby destroyed or damaged.

The Commission is also to inquire and report:

1. As to the amounts at present available for aid and relief, and for restoration of property.

2. As to additional amounts necessary and the sources of any further anticipated aid.

3. As to any additional aid to be afforded by the Dominion Government.

4. As to any legislation by the Dominion Government or the Provincial Legislature which may be necessary.

5. As to any other matters touching the relief of those who have suffered, and the restoration of property destroyed upon which the Commission may deem it advisable to express its conclusions.

The Commission will have all the powers that can be conferred under the "inquiries’ act," and may appoint a secretary and other necessary officers, engage counsel and solicitors, obtain the services of experts and generally perform all acts necessary for carrying out its duties. The remuneration of the Commissioners will be determined by the Governor-in Council.

The members of the Commission are: Hon. Judge Wallace, of the County Court, Mr. T. Sherman Rogers, and Mr. Fowke, of Oshawa.


JANUARY 29, 1947

Thirty Years Ago

Files of January 30, 1918.

The directors of the School for the Deaf, at Halifax, have gratefully accepted a generous offer made by the governors of Acadia College through the president, Dr. G. B. Cutten, by which about sixty pupils of the school will be accommodated at Wolfville and given all the privileges of the College, such as workshops, library, recreation grounds, etc. Steps will be taken to recall all the pupils who are now at their homes all over this province and Newfoundland. As at least six months will be required to put the school building in Halifax in the condition in which it was previous to the explosion, the offer of Acadia is deeply appreciated.

Lt. –Col. Robert Innes, a returned officer, son of Peter Innes, of Coldbrook, has been appointed Director of Soldier Colonization for Ontario.

An explosion in a coal mine at Stellarton, January 23, caused the death of eighty-seven miners. Only nine men in the mine came out alive. The cause of the explosion, which occurred shortly before six o’clock, is not known.

The large mill and all the equipment of the Nova Scotia Manganese Company at New Ross was completely wiped out by fire on the morning of January 26. The loss cannot be replaced with less than $100,000, and there was only a few thousand dollars’ insurance.

The captain of the Mont Blanc and the pilot who brought her into Halifax Harbour have been arrested by order of Attorney General Daniels, on a charge of manslaughter.

The death occurred at his home in Waterville, January 15, after a lingering illness, of Burpee R. Best, aged 76 years. A widow, three sons and five daughters survive. Funeral services were conducted by Rev. Mr. Hockin, pastor of the Methodist Church in Berwick, of which Mr. Best was a member.

Fred J. Howell, Welsford Street, has leased for five years the farm at Grafton formerly owned by George Bowles.

Thomas Lawson, of the Finance Department, Ottawa, and P. F. Lawson, of Halifax, were recent visitors at their boyhood homes in Grafton.

At the annual meeting of the Parish of Aylesford, held in St. Mary’s Church, Auburn, F. E. Harris, of Aylesford and A. E. Adams, of Berwick, were elected Wardens.

Born – At Berwick, January 25, to Mr. and Mrs. George Thomson, a son.

At Brooklyn Street, January 21, to Mr. and Mrs. Starratt Sanford, a son.


February 6th 1918

Capt. Brannen's Great Work.

One of the outstanding characters who lost his life in the great Halifax disaster was Captain Horatio H. Brannen, commander of the S.S. Stella Maris, who was making an heroic effort to reach the burning Mont Blanc and tow her to a place of greater safety before the catastrophe came.

Captain Brannen was born at Woods Harbor, Shelburne county, forty-five years ago, and so was just coming into manhood's fullest prime when his life was so tragically cut off. When a mere lad, he came to Clark's Harbor, Cape Sable Island, and engaged in fishing, where his enterprise and integrity soon won for him a foremost place. He was not content to fish along the smaller lines and soon began to push out into the larger lines of lobster fishing and of deep sea fishing. His enterprise and good judgement soon attracted the attention of others and about the year 1900, he was given command of the S.S. Coastguard, then owned by the Barrington Wrecking Company and engaged in salvage operations in which a good degree of success was attained. The Coastguard, passing to the ownership of the Southern Salvage Company of Liverpool, Captain Brannen went with her into the service of that company. Later, Captain Brannen was given the command of a larger craft, the S.S. Deliverance, in which he continued his work of salvaging.

The most noted wreck upon which Captain Brannen worked was the old S.S. Hungarian wrecked off Cape Sable Island about sixty years ago. After this ship had lain on the bottom fifty-one years, captain Brannen and his crew attempted to salvage her cargo. They worked several seasons upon her and were richly rewarded. Very interesting relics of this famous wreck are to be seen today in the late home of Captain Brannen in Clark's Harbor.

When the Canadian naval ship, the Niobe, foundered off Cape Sable, it was Captain Brannen and his crew who went to her assistance, hauled her off the rocks, fixed her up so that she went to Halifax for repairs in the dry dock.

At the outbreak of the war, the S.S. Deliverance was taken into naval service and Captain Brannen went with her. The boat was engaged in mine-sweeping and so continued until run down and sunk by a Norwegian bark off Portugese Cove early last season. Captain Brannen stuck to his ship until she was going down when, after a severe struggle he escaped with his life.

After the loss of the S.S. Deliverance, Captain Brannen took command of the S.S. Stella Maris, for the Halifax Dock Graving Company. In this capacity, he went to Newfoundland to rescue the S.S. Chritianafjord and later to the Magdalen Islands and rescued two ships that had got into trouble there.

Captain Brannen had never been discharged from the naval service and, on the morning of the great disaster, he was taking the S.S. Stella Maris into Bedford Basin when he was sent to the aid of the burning ship. Aided by British blue-jackets he was trying to reach the Mont Blanc with a line in the hope of towing her to a place of greater safety when the explosion came. - Shelburne Gazette.


Wednesday, January 27, 1943

Pete Lawson Recalls Events At Halifax Explosion

Keenly Interested In Tales Told Under The Old Town Clock

Every once in a while The Man About Town drops a hint that he is “feeling his age.” He shouldn’t do that, not for another quarter of a century at least. World War II is not Armageddon, the battlefield of the Apocalypse, on which the final struggle between good and evil is to be fought. He must stick around for the big show. I’m rather annoyed at him. In The Register, of January 5, he got me deeply interested in what he said about Major Borrett’s new book, Tales Told Under the Old Town Clock. My annoyance lies in the fact that he didn’t name the price, or the publishers or anything that would enable me to get hold of that book.

My personal recollection of that Old Clock runs back more than sixty years. As a very small boy I lived for a time on Cornwallis Street and also on Robie Street. At the time of the Great Explosion in Halifax I was living on Buckingham Street and employed on the Halifax Herald. Having seen the Herald “put to bed” on explosion morning I went home about four o’clock to put myself to bed. When the windows and door smashed in I was sure a German sub had arrived in the harbor and lobbed over some shells, one in our backyard. It was not long before a special messenger came to me from the late Senator Dennis telling me to get busy on the story.

There were no cabs or taxis. The street cars had all of them, been put out of commission. I crossed Sackville Street, ran across the citadel in the shadow of the Old Town Clock, noting that it was still running with its old imperturbability. What was an explosion in its history! Over toward Richmond there was still a dense pillar of smoke in the sky. I ran in that direction.

The story of the Great Explosion has often been told. There is not space here for me to tell of my experiences that morning. The big stories were without the edge of “news” for there was no electricity or gas; the linotypes could not run and the metal in their pots could not be melted for lack of gas. The Herald and Mail had an old hand press such as The Register once had (and which I think was destroyed by fire). On The Register I had learned to hand set type and in addition to writing the first story I had the privilege of putting a part of it in type. We got out a one-sided edition of the Herald on the old hand press. It was a small edition. I think a copy of it framed, still hangs in the Halifax Herald office. Getting a few copies of it out over the province was a problem for the rail terminal had been badly wrecked. A special messenger carried them to the train somewhere near Bedford.

When I was awakened by the two blasts of the explosives on the French S. S. Mont Blanc, I said that I thought a German submarine was shelling the city. My thought at the time was that they had taken a shot at the citadel near which I lived and the possibility that the Old Town Clock provided a target.

Is there any wonder that I want to get hold of a copy of Major Borrett’s new book? I am depending upon The Man About Town to tell me how I can do so.

P. F. Lawson.

7842 Corley Street,
Beaumont, Texas.


Poem: Halifax Explosion
by Mary Ellen Debaie


Here is the poem that was written by Mary Ellen Debaie, b. 1857, dau.of Francis Debaie and Eleanor Turple.

In nineteen hundred and seventeen
O well do I remember
It was a beautiful glorious morn
"Twas the 6th day of December

The sun it rose up gloriously
And shone down bright upon us
But O how little did we think
Such ruin would come among us

At five past nine that fatal morn
All things were turned to grief
Two ships on our harbour met
One carried explosives, the other relief

The Mont. Blanc carried TNT
as we all understand
The Imo, a relief ship
was bound to Belgian land

The mind had hardly time to think
If it was an earthquake or thunder
The eyelids had scarcely time to wink
When everything was torn asunder

Houses tumbled down like dust
And smoke went to the sky
No matter where you walked and looked
You would see the dead and wounded lie

And hundreds of dear little children
Were left in the world alone
To suffer that night in the cold wind and snow
Fatherless, motherless and alone

The day was fair and beautiful
But O'tis sad to say
A mighty storm was rising
At the closing of the day

The wind blew a terrific gale
The snow, no pity had shown
To those who lay beneath it
While to God their souls had flown

Then when the crashing was over
Those living wondered what was to come
Was it an earthquake or a cannon
Or the Germans marching along

Then out on the street they scrambled
With cuts, bruises and broken bones
And the Blue sky was shelter
For none of them had homes

Thousands were maimed and wounded
And hundreds will lose their sight
and the dead, about twelve hundred
Were strewn about that night

And out there on the Commons
That cold December night
Amid the cold wind and the snow
Sweet infants were brought to light

I, too, was in that awful wreck
And got my share all right
But thank God I am all right
And thank God I have my sight

A thousand thanks to the U.S.A
Who hurried with relief
To help the distressed and wounded
In their saddest time of grief

May God forever bless them
And grant them length of day
Their humble Poet M. O'B
Will ever sing their praise


This is not to be used for publication, without the permission of Francis R. Jewers, he holds a copyright of this at this time. Nov. 3, 2003. Fjewers@aol.com

This is a poem composed by my ggrandmother. Mary Ellen Debay (Debaie Dubay) spellings change. b. Mar 1857, at Debaie's cove, d. 1945, at Somerville, Mass. dau. of Francis DeBaie and Eleanor Turple. She married Stuart Richardson, at Ship Harbour in Jan. 1879. He drowned while fishing off Bird Island in 1898. She Married, Thomas Joseph O'Brien, of Ontario, 1903, at Halifax. My grandmother was Elizabeth Ann Richardson, b. Dec. 1879, at Ship Harbour, she married, Freeman G. Jewers, b. 1878 at Beaver Harbour, on Sept. 16, 1901, his mother was Maria Jewers. b. 1852, and ???, her mother was Ruth Jewers, b 1822, and ???, her parents, were John Jewers Jr., Sarah Hawbolt.

Mary Ellen (Debay) Richardson, O'Brien. The name Debay is spelled various ways. Mary Ellen's first husband, Stuart Richardson drowned while fishing, in 1898. She married, Thomas Joseph O'Brien of Ontario, Aug 1903.

I remember, visiting my ggrandmother, with my grandmother, when I was a child, it was like going to another world, her house was always dark, and I thought that she was a nun, she always dressed in black, and had candles burning in the house. I never realize what she had witnessed , and never would until I receive this poem from the family. Francis R. Jewers

This poem and notes were sent to me by Francis and they are not to be copied without Francis permission and also without my permission.


Research Notes

From James Barnaby: - There are two reels of micro-film at the Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management which deal with the claims put in by people who lost personal affects or had property damage.  Often in these files there is a lot of information on the family and also gives an idea of what those families went through as to loss of property.  The reels are indexed by surname and reference number .............. now the actual material is off site so they have to be brought in and may take a couple of days. 

The reels are:  15129 and 15130 and are on open shelf ...... again they are indexed and I know 15129 goes from a to can't remember but then 15130 would go to ' z ' .

It gives a great glimpse into the lives of the families who put in the claims.


Related links


http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Recreation/GANS/hfxexp.pdf - Names of the Identified Dead Killed in the Explosion at Halifax, 6 December 1917. The above pdf file link is to the "The Nova Scotia Genealogist" which is located on the The Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia site at http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Recreation/GANS/ (you will require the Adobe Acrobat Reader to read pdf files).

http://www.halifaxexplosion.org/ - Website by Prince Andrew High Social Studies Department

http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mma/AtoZ/HalExpl.html - A Maritime Museum of the Atlantic web page about the 1917 Halifax Explosion with historic photos, a map, FAQs, links and reading list.

http://www.cbc.ca/halifaxexplosion/ - The comprehensive web site companion to CBC's innovative outreach and partnership program around the Halifax Explosion of 1917.

http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/virtual/explosion/ - a virtual exhibit about the explosion and reconstruction by the Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management.

http://www.archives.ca/05/0518/05180202/0518020203_e.html - A selection of images and documents from the Explosion featured as part of a virtual exhibition Canada and the First World War site.


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