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Halifax Explosion 100th Anniversary

A Look Back 100 Years

2017 09 12 St. Josephs damage Halifax explosion 1917 Box 4 File 18 no. 35 600x400On the morning of Dec. 6, 1917, the outgoing Norwegian relief vessel Imo collided with the incoming munitions vessel the Mont-Blanc in the Halifax harbour. The Mont-Blanc, with its cargo of benzol, picric acid, TNT and gun cotton, caught fire. After burning for 20 minutes, the volatile cargo exploded, causing a blast unsurpassed in human history until the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.

Halifax was devastated. Approximately 2000 people were killed in the explosion or died shortly thereafter from their injuries. About 9000 people sustained injuries. Partial or total loss of sight was widespread, as the windows to which people had been drawn to watch the fire blew inward, sending shards of glass into faces and eyes. The records of St. Joseph’s Orphanage show a sharp increase in admissions and hundreds of children were left completely orphaned or with only one living parent. Many Archdiocesan properties were affected, including St. Joseph’s Church, which was destroyed. St. Mary’s Cathedral, further away from the explosion, fared better, though a bell was cracked and the stained glass windows shattered.

As we mark the 100th Anniversary of the Explosion, we present a few items of interest, drawn from the Archival holdings of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth, and other sources.

 KoC Doak ChildrenPic      List of damagesPg3   Very Rev. Charles McManus 72 

Knights of Columbus Halifax Council 1097 and Dec 6, 1917 Explosion (pdf)

Knight Ervin John Doak was kind enough to share some of the results of his research into the involvement of the Knights of Columbus in recovery efforts following with the explosion. Many thanks to Mr. Doak! 


†McCarthy-Damages list (pdf)

This list, in Archbishop McCarthy’s handwriting, shows the estimated dollar value of the damage to Archdiocesan properties. According to an online inflation calculator (in Canadian dollars) $1000 in 1917 would equal roughly $15,700 today. The damages in 1917 totalled over $2,300,000. That amount would total over $36,134,939.76 today.


Sermon (pdf)

What follows is the homily preached at the funeral of Msgr. Charles McManus, at St. Mary’s Cathedral on January 18, 1940 by Rev. Dr. Charles Curran.  Rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral when he died, Fr. McManus had been the pastor of St. Joseph’s Church on the day of the Halifax Explosion.  He worked tirelessly to minister to the dying and injured in the immediate wake of the explosion, and to his devastated congregation in the weeks, and months that followed.  This homily speaks of that experience. 


Remembering the Halifax Explosion

Remembering the Halifax Explosion

Next week Halifax commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion on December 6. The Catholic community in Halifax in 1917 was among the many groups deeply affected by this great tragedy. In the Archdiocese we are honouring those lost in the Halifax Explosion and recalling the devastation of that day in a variety of ways.

  • To commemorate Explosion victims, especially Catholic victims, Archbishop Anthony Mancini will offer a Memorial Mass at 12:15pm at Saint Mary’s Cathedral Basilica. All are invited to this Mass of Remembrance for all who died and suffered on that day in 1917.
  • The diocesan website has a page dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion that highlights the impact of the explosion on the faithful at the time. The page which includes history, stories, and photographs was put together by our diocesan Archives Office and can be accessed by visiting www.halifaxyarmouth.org/explosion.
  • The Catholic Cemeteries of Halifax has published a book titled: Gone But Not Forgotten, as we way to remember and share the stories of some of the over 400 victims of the explosion buried in two of our cemeteries in Halifax: Holy Cross Cemetery on South Park St. and Mount Olivet on Mumford Rd. Copies of Gone But Not Forgotten can be purchased at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, 1531 Grafton St., Halifax. The cost of each book is $25.00
  • Saint Patrick’s Parish, Halifax, is hosting an exhibit People in the Face of Disaster: Remembering the Halifax Explosion in the parish hall now until December 6, 2017 to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. It will not be limited to the parish story, but will feature stories of people and organizations connected to the worst disaster in Canadian history. The exhibit will be opened daily 11:00am to 4:00pm and will be free to the public leading up to the anniversary day.

Halifax Explosion pictures

Here is some pictures to remember the victims of the Halifax Explosion in the year of the 100th Anniversary.

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  • 2017-10-03-Postcard-Explosion-View-of-Wreckage.jpg
  • 2017-10-10-Postcard-explosion-St.-Josephs-Church.jpg
  • 2017-10-03-Postcard-explosion-S.S.-Imo.jpg
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  • 2017-10-10-Postcard-Explosion-Utter-Desolation.jpg
  • 2017-10-03-Postcard-explosion-Searching-for-Victims.jpg
  • 2017-09-12-St.-Josephs-Pre-Explosion-1917-postcard-Box-4-File-18-no.-769.jpg
  • 2017-10-03-Postcard-explosion-Terrible-Halifax-Disaster.jpg
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  • Chebucto-Morgue.jpg
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  • Ehibitions-building-after.jpg
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  • Funeral-Unidentified-dead.jpg
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  • Niobe--wartime-museum.jpg
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  • Patricia.jpg
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  • Pine-coffins-atVictoria-School-of-Art-and-Design.jpg
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