Halifax Explosion - Halifax Herald Front Page

Date / Period
December 6, 1917
Place
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Object Type
Books, Guides and Manuals
Credit
Halifax Herald
Topics
Disaster Management
On December 6, 1917, a massive explosion in Halifax devastated the city and shocked the country. The ensuing disaster relief effort became the first in which the Canadian Red Cross ever participated. This front page newspaper story hints at the scope of the damage and magnitude of the rehabilitation work required.
 
Canada’s eastern seaports were important centres of wartime activity during the First World War (1914-18), and none more so than Halifax, with its deep, protected harbour. On the morning of December 6, 1917, two steamships, the Imo and the Mont Blanc, collided in the harbour. The impact ignited the munitions carried by the Mont Blanc and caused an explosion and tidal wave that killed nearly 2,000 people and left 10,000 others homeless.
 
The Canadian Red Cross had no experience with disaster relief before 1917, because of its wartime-only mandate. By contrast, the American Red Cross had pioneered disaster relief work for decades. As soon as word of the explosion reached nearby Boston, the American Red Cross sent a team of relief experts and medical personnel (plus new clothing and hospital supplies) to Halifax in a show of international Red Cross support.
 
Under the direction of the American Red Cross experts, the Canadian Red Cross played an important role distributing medical supplies throughout the city, while 300 women Red Cross volunteers spent five days sewing bandages non-stop in the Halifax Technical School. Local and provincial Red Cross branches across Eastern Canada sent medical personnel, clothing, and hospital supplies intended for war relief to Halifax instead.
 
The Halifax Explosion marked the first Canadian Red Cross involvement in disaster relief an activity that would become a core element of the society’s work after its mandate was broadened in 1919 to include peacetime involvement. It also inaugurated a tradition of Red Cross disaster relief cooperation across the Canada-U.S. border. Since 1917 the Canadian Red Cross has provided tangible assistance to people coping with thousands of disasters ranging from local house fires to tsunamis overseas.

Halifax Explosion - Halifax Herald Front Page

Halifax Herald front page
Front page of the Halifax Herald, Friday, December 7, 1917
Halifax Explosion
SS Imo aground on the Dartmouth side of the harbour after the explosion. Credit: Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management / Canadian Navy Heritage Project. Ref. no.: NSARM / negative: N-138
Halifax Explosion
1917 or 1918. Emergency Relief Hospital in the YMCA after Halifax Explosion, Barrington Street, Halifax. Source: Lola Henry Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management accession no. 1979-237 no. 8 / negative: N-7024