The View from Sailors from St. Thomas, Ontario
The Halifax Explosion December 6, 1917 was the largest man-made explosion until the nuclear era. There are many excellent resources about this event. What follows are the memories of two St. Thomas men writing home to their parents in the aftermath. Seaman Gunner James A. Cluskey and Seaman Owen George Young were serving in the navy as members of the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve (the precursor to the 'Wavy Navy'). They were witnesses to the catastrophe and the aftermath.
Seaman Gunner James A. Cluskey VR2238
We Were Right in the Middle of It
…We just arrived in from the sea on Thursday the 6th about 8:15 a.m., and had nicely tied up and had breakfast and were about to start work. I, with a couple of more were on deck having a chat and all at once there was an explosion, followed by another awful one and then there was an awful pour down of pieces and parts of ships and pieces of projectiles, all sizes. One piece of shell just missed me by a few inches and hit the deck with such force that it put quite a dint in the deck. I cannot tell how our ship was so lucky because we were right in the middle of it.
It Looked like a Zeppelin
The greater part of Halifax is ruined and fire started all over both Dartmouth and Halifax and if there had been a north wind blowing there wouldn’t have been any Halifax left.
Every available place such as churches, Y.M.C.A. and shops of all descriptions are used as hospitals and morgues.
The gun which was on the French ship was found buried in the ground three miles away. The city is under martial law and I suppose it will be for some time to come.