I am sure that all of you have heard of the Halifax Explosion of 1917. If not, then hang your head in shame and read our article on The Halifax Explosion of 1917! While the Halifax Explosion of 1917 was a calamity, it was not the only major wartime explosion suffered by the locals. Most people believe that World War II ended with V day on 8th May 1945, but the reality was that, after the resolution in Europe, war continued in the Pacific. While most Canadians returned home following VE day, people and material moved to the Pacific theatre.
Halifax Explosion of 1945
Atlantic vessels were refit for their new duties in the Pacific. As part of the refit process, all ammunition was removed from ships in port. The ammunition was stored in the Canadian Naval Ammunition Storage Depot at Bedford Basin, just inland from the main port of Halifax.
July 18, 1945 was a fairly peaceful night in Halifax. However at about 6:30 PM, the calm was broken by a tremendous and earth moving flash and explosion. What was once the Depot was now a mushroom cloud billowing up to the heavens.
Ammunition and small explosives “pickled off” throughout the night and by midnight the “show” seemed to be over. A final bright and loud explosion almost precisely at midnight announced the end of the display.
The last report on the explosion stated that a fire, of unknown origin, which started on the dock, had spread to the ammunition depot. Although there was only one casualty (a workman who was on the jetty at the time of the first explosion) and very few injured, the explosion brought back dark memories for the local population. Up to 15,000 people in Halifax and another 10,000 in Dartmouth spent the night in parks, well away from the effects of the explosions.
But it could have been worse as some 50,000 depth charges were reportedly saved from the fire.
A number of eyewitness reports tell of the calamity caused by the explosion:
Janet Gorden was a very scared seven-year old kid living one block south of Quinpool. She recalls: “None of the storage buildings, which were full, caught fire, nor did they explode – the munitions stored outside is what went up as a result of a brush fire generated by the first explosion on the jetty – as the fire reached each dump and the firefighters retreated to safety, that dump went up; these explosions continued until close to 4 AM at which time there was a very large blast, but the fire was brought under control at about that time, avoiding the explosion of a very large dump of depth charges.”Russell McManus was a seven-year old: “I was sitting on a radiator next to an open window when the first boom went off and it blew me off the radiator unto the floor. My Father, a Master Gunner, was at the ammo dump a few days earlier inspecting the storage of artillery shells and he said that if the dumps had not been designed to blow up instead of sideways there would have been a lot more damage. Anyway we spent several hours on the Halifax commons and spent the night in the Halifax Armory.”
In 1995, some 50 years after “Halifax Explosion II”, the military began to remove some of the ammunition that fell into the harbor. They used the subtle method of blowing it all up (click the thumbnail image on left). Could that be called Halifax Explosion III?
Thanks to Lisa Stone and Derek Baker for helping correct some errors in the original story.
my uncle was in that explosion sammy s macadam he became a berobelic died 1950
We were outside playing just after supper and had gone to the woods next door when we heard the thump thump of what must have been a giant. We ran up the front stairs and immediately thrust to the floor by an RN officer visiting and having a coffee by the front window.The glass shattered with the blast and covered us and no injury. Over the rest of the night the blasts continued, lighting up the sky with various colours an shaking the ground as we and refugees from the city sheltered rough behind a small cliff next to Dutch Village Road overlooking the NW Arm Cadets were mustered to help with traffic control and in the case of a disturbance were armed. Several folks were put up in our house for the rest of the week as the City remained on alert. Even today the Bedford Magazine is operational directly across the water from the Halifax Peninsula. I don’t know any other nation which does that!
My name is Robert Groves and lived on Tupper Grove and was 9 years when the disaster
went off the hill. My recall was that morning near 7:45 am my mother called to see a big
cloud. I looked over toward Dartmouth and saw a high black mushroom very high.
That night the air raid people were telling us because of flying glass to injury.
The all clear was about 2 p m in the afternoon. Only I thought was September 18 , 1945. Knew two of the air raid and brought us blankets to keep warm.Was I out and why no news for so long. Thank you.R.F. Groves.
I recall that I was in the alley-way of 28 Kane Place (my grandparents home) when the first burst went off.. The next thing I remember is the order for all residents to take cover in the Boulevard, which was between each row of houses in the Hydrostones. I remember a nursing sister giving solice to several residents.. We were given the order to evacuate the north end and my parents (Fred & Shirly Nicoll) loaded me in a pram (I was not yet 4 years old) and began a journey to the south end, As we passed a drugstore on a main street (Kaiser’s??) the plate glass window blew out and my dad was blown into the trolley tracks. We finally arrived at my Uncle’s finance’s home on South Park?? I remember the sky being bright yellow, red and green. Will never forget it although it was 72 years ago!