Thematic Guides - Halifax Explosion

This guide consists of specific archival references and a selected bibliography relating to the Halifax Explosion of 1917.

The Halifax Explosion occurred on December 6, 1917 when two ships, the Imo and the Mont Blanc, collided. The French Mont Blanc was a munitions ship coming from New York with cargo to join the convoy for Bordeaux. The neutral Norwegian-registered vessel, Imo, was a chartered ship on the way to load relief supplies in New York for Belgium. The 2,750 tons of explosives devastated the city of Halifax, killing 1,600 persons and causing another 9,000 casualties.

This guide was revised in December 2000.

Archival References

Government Records

Records of the Privy Council Office (RG 2)

  • Order in Council 3372 to 3377, December 8, 1917, Disaster; special warrants
    (RG 2, vol. 1185 or reel T-5033)
  • Order in Council 3428, December 24, 1917, Disaster; restoration, shipping and transportation facilities at Halifax; Cook Construction Co. contract
    (RG 2, vol. 1185 or reel T-5033)
  • Order in Council 3429, December 24, 1917, Disaster; authority to commandeer, lumber and material for restoration, and appointment of officer to take charge
    (RG 2, vol. 1185 or reel T-5033)

Records of the Post Office (RG 3)

The Post Office kept records about how the explosion affected postal services in Canada.

  • Reports in connection with Halifax disaster, 1917
    (RG 3 C2, vol. 644, file 87629)

Records of the Department of the Secretary of State (RG 6)

The Department of the Secretary of State kept reports on Halifax just before the explosion.

  • Harbour protected from submarine raids
    (RG 6, vol. 564, file 231-9, reel T-63)
    Includes photographs.
  • Belgian relief ship ashore and "Halifax Pounded to its Knees"
    (RG 6, vol. 349, file 350, reel T-102)
    Includes photographs; appeared in The Mail, February 12, 1916.

Records of the Office of the Governor General (RG 7)

The Office of the Governor General created a report on the disaster.

  • Halifax Explosion
    (RG 7 G21, vol. 549, file 14 071 I, reel T-2339)

Records Relating to Indian Affairs (RG 10)

Records relating to Indian affairs are included because of the large impact the explosion had on the Mi'kmaq community called Turtle Grove destroyed in the Halifax Explosion.

  • Halifax County Agency; Tuft's Cove School; administration; teachers, 1913-1918
    (RG 10, vol. 6026, file 52-2-1, reel C-8146)
  • Halifax County Agency; Tuft's Cove School; building maintenance; supplies; accounts, 1913-1918 and 1924
    (RG 10, vol. 6026, file 52-2-5, reel C-8146)
  • Hobbema Agency; a $100 donation by Samson's Band to the Halifax Relief Fund, 1918
    (RG 10, vol. 4088, file 507827, reel C-10185)
  • Halifax County (Hants County) N.S. Agency; removal of Micmac Indians living at Elmsdale on the South Bank of Shubenacadie and from Tuft's Cove and Enfield (accounts and map), 1901-1931
    (RG 10, vol. 3119, file 327 and 352, reel C-11327)
  • Halifax County, N.S.; correspondence regarding the settlement of Indians from the County on Reserves, 1910-1928
    (RG 10, vol. 3160, file 363, 417-1 and 417-2, reel C-11332)

Records of the Department of Transport (RG 12)

The Department of Transport kept records about the investigation into the collision between the Mont Blanc and the Imo.

  • Investigation of the collision between the Mont Blanc and Imo, 1917-1968
    (RG 12, vol. 2827, file 9704-244, 2 vols.)

Records of the Department of Justice (RG 13)

The Department of Justice kept reports of claims filed as a result of the explosion.

  • Naval Service; claim of Rhodes Curry and Co. regarding damage to barracks caused by Halifax Explosion, 1918-1919
    (RG 13 A2, vol. 229, file 1918-2666)
  • John H. Barker, Dartmouth, N.S.; claim on account of son killed by the Halifax Explosion, 1920
    (RG 13 A2, vol. 249, files 1920-1945)
  • Mrs. Maria M. Bauer, Lynn, Massachusetts; claim regarding Halifax Explosion, 1923
    (RG 13 A2, vol. 283, file 1923-2020)

Records of the Department of National Defence (RG 24)

The Department of Defence kept extensive records about the impact of the explosion on Canada's military at the time.

  • (RG 24, vol. 3594, file 45-2-8, pt. 2)
  • Casualty reports, medical services reports and inquiry reports
    (RG 24, vols. 1825, 4547-4550 and 6359)
  • Halifax Dockyard; explosion, December 6, 1917; general, 1918-1939
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5634, file 37-25-1)
  • Halifax Dockyard; explosion, December 6, 1917
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5635, Reports of damage, file 37-25-3;)
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5635, Damage to Naval College, 1917-1918, file 37-25-4;)
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5635, Use of Admiralty property for housing, 1917-1918, file 37-25-5;)
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5635, Compensation for injuries, 1918-1939, file 37-25-6;)
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5635, Particulars of affair, 1918, file 37-25-7;)
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5635, Handling of vessels, 1915-1943, file 37-25-8;)
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5635, Naval report, 1918-1919, file 37-25-9;)
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5635, Services rendered by naval officers, 1918, file 37-25-10;)
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5635, News clippings, 1917, file 37-25-11;)
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5635, Official photos, 1918, file 37-25-12)
  • Medals, ribbons and decorations; Albert Medal regarding Halifax Explosion, 1917-1938
    (RG 24 D1a, vol. 5653, file 54-8-5)

Records of the Marine Branch (RG 42)

The Marine Branch was responsible for the investigation into the cause of the explosion.

  • (RG 42, vol. 274, file 39796)
  • Investigation into the Halifax Explosion
    (RG 42, vol. 596)
  • Appeal Book and other records
    (RG 42, vol. 597)

Selected Private Records

  • Anonymous Irish-American in Halifax at the time of the explosion
    (MG 30 E90, 14 pp.)
  • Robert Borden Papers, Halifax Explosion, 1917-1918
    (MG 26 H)
  • Wilfrid Laurier Papers, Halifax Explosion
    (MG 26 G)

Selected bibliography

Bronson, Howard L. "Some Note on H.E.," in Royal Society Series III. Vol. XII (June and September 1918), pp. 31-35

Metson, Graham. "The Halifax explosion: December 6, 1917." Compiled and edited by Graham Metson, Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1978, includes complete text of "The Halifax disaster" by Archibald MacMechan

Monnon, Mary Ann. "Miracles and mysteries: the Halifax explosion December 6, 1917." Windsor: N.S., Lancelot Press, 1977

Other resources

Blog: The Halifax Explosion: Records at Library and Archives Canada

Halifax Explosion 1917 Online Resources 

Historical municipal sources on the Halifax Explosion

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