( photo's submitted by Paul Harmon - Petite Riviere )
After V-E Day the Navy was busy calling in ships and men from the Atlantic and preparing to switch its efforts to the Pacific. For two months Canadian naval craft had passed up the harbour and put ashore their ammunitions.
By July 18th, the Bedford Basin magazine held enough shells, bombs, mines, torpedoes, depth charges, and a quantity of the new secret explosive RDX to blow Halifax off the face of the earth.
Much of this ammunition was stowed away in carefully designed and segregated buildings, but of necessity a good deal had been stacked outdoors for lack of stoarge space, and these dumps extended close to the jetty on the Basin shore.
At the end of a sweltering afternoon, an ammunition barge suddenly blew up at the magazine jetty. The blast shook the whole metropolitan area and shattered windows at Rockingham, Fairview, and the North End. There followed an uneasy silence, but the exposed dumps had caught fire and soon there began a chain reaction which went on for more than twenty-four hours.
From time to time a major explosion sent a huge yellow flame, and all threw themselves flat, the worst came in quick succession about four o'clock in the morning of the 19th, rocking the buildings, shattering more panes.
As if their dangers were not enough, the parched woods all about the magazine on the Burnside slope caught fire and burned for two days. When the fires and the last small explosion had ceased, picked squads of naval officers and men began to work in the magazine area, removing to safety a great number of live shells, depth charge and other explosive objects which had been flung in all directions by the blasts.
This photo was submitted by Gerry MacLeod
The casualties were miraculously small. Only one man was killed by the first explosion in the vicinity of the barge and jetty. There were a few civilian casualties and no lives lost. The city itself received a bad shaking. Merchants who had just replaced the plate glass broken in the May riots found their shop fronts gaping once more. But this time there was no looting, no disorder of any sort.
These excerpts were taken from "Halifax - Warden of the North" by Thomas Randdall and there is much more details of this disaster within it's pages.
Back to Halifax City