DARTMOUTH'S DAY OF ANGUISH; ... THE EXPLOSION, DECEMBER 6, 1917
Volume 21 Number 4
Harry Chapman was a member of the 1917 Explosion Commemoration Committee, which was formed in 1991 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. He has been Dartmouth editor and bureau chief for the Halifax Herald and has published articles and a book, Sketches of Old Dartmouth (Dartmouth Museum Society, 1991), on local history. In Dartmouth's Day of Anguish, Chapman has given us an account of the explosion from the Dartmouth side of the harbour, and has collected and published personal reminiscences of eleven survivors.
In 1917 a munitions ship collided with a Belgian relief ship in the Narrows of Halifax harbour, and the resulting explosion was the biggest man-made one before Hiroshima. The greatest destruction took place in Halifax, because it was the more populated area. Most accounts centre on Halifax, so this little book, which concerns itself with events in Dartmouth, is a welcome contribution.
One of the ships drifted ashore on the Dartmouth side, and the sailors fled to the woods. School children left their schools and went home to find their houses damaged or destroyed and their families injured. The children, according to their reminiscences as adults, seemed to spend the remainder of the day wandering around the town looking for adventure. The harbour ferries continued running, and some children returned home from high school in Halifax that way. A Micmac school was destroyed on the Dartmouth side and the people left the village to take up life at other sites.
The black-and-white photos that illustrate this book are a fine record of the types of structures that were located in Dartmouth during that era. The personal accounts are very well written and bring the events to life. They become a bit repetitive, as each one is an account of what happened on December 6, 1917, to a school child, but each child had a different adventure or catastrophe to recount
There are other books about the Halifax Explosion that might provide a more historically accurate account of the events, but none of them focus on Dartmouth. This is a worthwhile addition to a collection of materials about the Halifax Explosion, or to a local history collection.
Catherine R. Cox is a teacher-librarian at Moncton High School in Moncton, New Brunswick.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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