Back to top

Halifax Explosion

In December 1917, Halifax was one of the busiest war time ports on the eastern seaboard of North America. It’s status as the largest ice free port on the western Atlantic coast and the fact that it was the closest ice free port to Europe contributed to the hustle and bustle that it experienced in the war years.

December 6, 1917 was no exception. The harbour was full of activity. A number of ships were arriving and departing the port. This accelerated activity along with a failure to abide by naval conventions and miscommunications contributed to the Halifax Disaster when Norwegian ship Imo enroute to New York to receive relief supplies for Belgium and the French munitions ship Mont-Blanc, which was in Halifax to join a trans-Atlantic convoy, carrying benzol, picric acid, TNT, and gun cotton collided in the Narrows of the harbour. The resulting explosion became known as the largest man-made explosion prior to the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. Nearly 2,000 people died in the explosion, but the number of deaths which can be directly attributed to the disaster is estimated to be much higher. The total damage to the city was estimated at $30 million.

Government and civilian response to the disaster was almost immediate and Halifax received relief support from all over the country, and the world. Below are listed some of the contributions from Governments for disaster relief. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but shows that the world recognized Halifax’s time of need.

Jurisdiction

Amount provided

Amount provided (CAD $)

Adjusted to 2017 levels

(CAD $)

Document links

Official correspondence and newspaper articles

Notes

Canada

$1,000,000

 

 

$13,181,690

 

 

$12,000,000 (Canadian Annual Review : CAR)

$1,000,000

 

 

$13,181,690

 

 

$12,000,000

$14,000,000

 

 

$184,500,000

 

 

$168,000,000

Public Accounts

 

 

Canada Gazette

 

Halifax Relief Commission – 1st Report

 

May 18, 1918 Debate (Halifax Relief Commission)

$14,181,690 to $19 million (sources vary).

 

 

British Columbia

 

 

Greater Vancouver

$50,000

 

 

 

$56,180 (CAR)

$50,000

$700,000

Public Accounts

 

 

 

Order In Council

 

Victoria Colonist

 

 

Alberta

$10,050

$10,050

$140,700

Budget

Proclamation

Public sector contributed $105,000

 

Saskatchewan

 

 

Regina

$25,000 (CAR)

 

$5,000

$25,000

 

$5,000

$350,000

 

$70,000

 

Newspaper Articles

 

Sympathy for Halifax

 

Journals

 

 

Manitoba

 

Winnipeg

 

Winnipeg Free Press Fund (CAR)

$25,000

 

$25,000

 

$85,011

$25,000

 

$25,000

 

$85,011

$350,000

 

$350,000

 

$1,200,000

Public Accounts

Provincial Secretary’s Recommendation

 

Order in Council

 

Newspapers

 

Uncertain if the Winnipeg Free Press Fund includes the Public contributions.

Ontario

 

Toronto (CAR)

 

Hamilton (CAR)

$200,000

 

$100,000

 

$7,500

$200,000

 

$100,000

 

$7,500

$2,800,000

 

$1,400,000

 

$105,000

Public Accounts

Newspapers

Provincial funds provided in funds and supplies.

Quebec

$100,000

$100,000

$1,400,000

CAP 2, 1918

 

 

New Brunswick

$10,000

$10,000

$140,000

CAPs 4 and 52, 1918

Order in Council

 

Letter from Reconstruction Committee

 

 

Prince Edward Island

$8,000

$8,000

$112,000

 

Executive Council Minutes

 

Newspapers

 

 

Nova Scotia

$35,000

$35,000

$490,000

CAPS 18-19,61 of 1918 and 34 of 1919

 

Throne Speech

 

Journals 1918

Public Accounts

$35,000 provided for repairs to Capital Assets.

Newfoundland (CAR)

 

St. John’s (CAR)

 

$50,000

 

 

$10,000

$50,000

 

 

$10,000

$700,000

 

 

$140,000

 

 

 

United States

$0

$0

$0

 

Message of Sympathy

 

Joint Resolution

$5,000,000 was promised, but never received – verified by Library of Congress.

Chicago

Committee

(CAR)

$130,000

$131,615

 

$1,800,000

 

 

 

 

Massachusetts Relief Committee

$750,000

$759,317

$10,600,000

 

Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety

 

Report of the Halifax Relief Expedition

 

Provided in services and real materials as well as financial donations.

Maine

 

 

 

 

Adjutant-General Annual Report (1917-19)

Services and real materials.

(No dollar value provided).

New York Special Fund (CAR)

$75,000

$75,932

$1,000,000

 

Chamber of Commerce December Bulletin

 

$5,000 from New York Chamber of Commerce.

United Kingdom

 

Lord Mayor’s Fund of London

£1,000,000

 

 

$4,704,179

 

$600,000

$65,900,000

 

$8,400,000

Debates

 

£5,000 from His Majesty King George V.

 

 

Australia

£50,000

$235,209

$3,300,000

Gazette

 

Budget

 

Parliamentary

Papers

 

Newspapers

 

 

New Zealand

£10,000

$47,042

$658,600

 

Newspapers

 

 

Jamaica

£1,000

$4,704

$65,800

 

Newspaper

 

 

Bermuda

£500

$2352

$32,900

 

Halifax Relief Resolve

 

Newspapers

 

Hong Kong

£10,000

$47,042

$658,600

 

Legislative Council Debates

 

 

 

Federated Malay States

£25,000

$117,604

$1,646,500

 

Newspaper

 

Singapore

 

Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce

£10,000

 

$6,000

$47,042

 

 

$658,600

 

 

 

Newspaper

 

Newspaper

 

Organizations

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Red Cross

(CAR)

$125,000

$125,000

$1,750,000

 

 

 

Bank of Nova Scotia

(CAR)

$100,000

$100,000

$1,400,000

 

 

 

Dominion Iron and Steel

(CAR)

$50,000

$50,000

$700,000

 

 

 

Royal Bank of Canada

(CAR)

$50,000

$50,000

$700,000

 

 

 

American Red Cross

$132,000

$133,000

$1,862,000

 

1918 Statement

 

All told, the amount of relief received was close to $30 million, which amounts to roughly $525 million in 2017.