CBC Halifax Explosion site  logoReturn to the main page of the CBC Halifax Explosion site
CBC Logo
Main Page
City of Promise
City of Ruins
City in Shock
Devastation
At City Hall
Medical Aid
The Community
The Dead
The Destruction
Aftermath and Recovery
Connections

For Teachers

Shattered City, starting October 26

City of Ruins

Learn More
Using This Site
Site Map
Site Credits
Contact Us

Glossary
Our Partners

TEXT ONLY





The Dead

They were everywhere.

More than 1500 people were dead…only some from the force of the blast itself. Most died as buildings collapsed and burned around them. Shattered windows flew like showers of knives at those who had been watching the fire. Some people, trapped by rubble, died of exposure in the blizzard that began on the night of December 6 and continued through the next day.

A doctor coming into the Devastated Area that first day saw "bodies stacked like cordwood" along the road. Many were so horribly mutilated as to be unidentifiable.

By nightfall, the city set up a central morgue in the basement of Chebucto Road School. Drawing on the work done in the Titanic tragedy just five years earlier, the mortuary committee established procedures to number and identify the dead as best they could, and to support the survivors who came looking for loved ones.

Military teams kept searching for bodies for more than a month, and remains were still being found in the late spring.

Lost at school, work, home

In December of 1917, some school classes didn't start until 9:30. Two children died in Richmond School, but 87 of their schoolmates died on their way there or at home.

The schools tended to be sturdier than houses; if more children had been in class, fewer might have died.

The Acadia Sugar Refinery’s seven storeys of concrete and brick collapsed on the day shift. James Pattison’s father was one of those lost.

At Richmond Printing Company, more than thirty people died, including Barbara Orr’s father. He was one of the owners.

At Hillis & Sons Foundry, 41 workers died.

In Dartmouth, the Oland’s brewery was left in ruins, with seven workers dead.

Churches too, counted their losses. In Richmond, buildings and stained-glass windows were the least of it: Kaye Street Methodist Church lost 91 parishioners; Grove Presbyterian, 148; St. Mark’s Anglican, about 200; and St. Joseph’s, the heart of the Irish Catholic community, lost 404 members of its parish.

Top of page

Morgue

The grim lessons of the Titanic tragedy came back. Halifax knew about dealing with large numbers of dead. In fact, the man in charge of the Explosion's mortuary committee, Arthur Barnstead, was the son of the man who had done the same job when the Titanic victims came to Halifax.

The city’s private funeral homes couldn’t begin to deal with everyone, and one central location would make it easier on people searching for lost loved ones.

The mortuary committee set up a makeshift morgue in the basement of Chebucto Road School.

Workers labelled and laid out bodies, cataloguing any personal effects carefully. The effects would help in identification. Failing that, they might give some hint of the deceased’s religion, which would dictate funeral rites.

The morgue saw a steady stream of ambulances, wagons and private cars arrive at its doors.

The first night, a young boy named Thomas Raddall watched soldiers set up the morgue in the basement of his school. He stood quietly as the bodies began to come in. He grew up to be a novelist, and his memoirs tell his own story.

Today, all the identified dead are remembered in the Book of Remembrance Will open a new window ol . Continue >

Top of page

 

Interactive Features
Devastation detail, interactive feature The Devastated Area, interactive feature Thomas Raddall - An Innocent Standing By, interactive feature
Flash and QuickTime players required
Galleries

Continue to Media Gallery Continue to Image Gallery
View Halifax map in 1917 Book of Remembrance
Book of Remembrance
A searchable electronic database.
Black silhouette of a child Did you know

Sent home when home is gone: In 1917, neither cities nor institutions planned for disaster. Unimaginable as it seems now, most Halifax teachers and principals sent their students home, unescorted, after the Explosion—in spite of the danger and devastation outside.


Open book symbol  ASK A LIBRARIAN
The Halifax Public Libraries'
Ask a Librarian service gives you the option of asking a question via e-mail. Will open a new window ol

CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external sites. Links showing this symbol Will open a new windowwill open in new window.

Jobs | Contact Us | Permissions | Help | RSS | Advertise
Terms of Use | Privacy | Ombudsman | CBC: Get the Facts | Other Policies
Copyright © CBC 2014