Sunday, 9 February 2020

The Great Halifax Explosion

Finished February 6
The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism by John U. Bacon, read by Johnny Heller

This narrative of the Halifax Explosion of 1917 is new one on this tragedy. I've read a few, both fiction and nonfiction, and find it endlessly fascinating to find out the stories of the individual people affected by this terrible event. This particular books has one focus on the relationship between Canada and the United States, giving some historical background, showing how Boston in particular came to the aid of Halifax, and how the cooperation between the countries changed the way they related to each other.
Bacon also chose to look at the experiences of one soldier, from nearby Wolfsville, John Ernest Barss, who worked in Montreal before the war, enlisted as a matter of character, was passionate about the need to fight for several months until he became disillusioned and then injured, and returned home shortly before the explosion. He responded as a medical helper, and this experience caused him to become a doctor. His story brings the actual war experience into the story, as well as giving some family history that relates to the theme of the relationship between Canada and the U.S.
Like the other books I've read on this, it covers the actions of the two ships involved up until their collision, and looks at the effect on a number of individuals in the city, on the surrounding area, and at the longer outcomes, such as the court cases involving the owners of the two ships.
The other books I've read didn't really look at the chemistry of the explosion itself, with the enormous power involved and the heat generated.
As I'm planning to visit Halifax for the first time later this year, I was glad to be reminded of this terrible event in the town's history and it's ongoing effects.


  1. I’m not familiar with this event, thanks for sharing your thoughts

  2. I've got this on my "to be read" list.

    I just spent the weekend in Halifax (my sister lives there) and had a fun time!