Think Like a Historian: Introduction to the Halifax Explosion

ETHEL BOND Primary Sources Supplement Did you receive my cable? __ 298 South Street Halifax, N.S. 10th Dec ‘17 Sandy my dear, It may be beyond my power of thought to collect enough to put on paper but I want you to see my hand-writing first because that may convince you that I am all right. Both Ethel + I had a most miraculous escape and for that we are so thankful, but Sandy when we got out of the house and found our dear dad, it made us – well, I can’t describe the sensation I had. He had just gone into the mill to get some sugar which was in a [bbl?] inside the door and there we found his body. Our greatest comfort is that his death was instant and that he was ready to go. You know, Sandy that neither Ethel nor I are of a collapsing nature so as hard as it was we had to cover the body and leave it. I wasn’t half dressed. We had been up late the night before so that morning Ethel said for me to take another nap and she would get the breakfast so I did and didn’t wake til about nine o’clock. Then I hurried into my under clothes + corsets, stockings, + an old pair of boots which I didn’t button. Then I put on a heavy bath-robe + went into the bath room and I was there when the explosion occured [sic]. The first shock didn’t stun me but the church fell + I saw it go. Maybe a shell struck it or maybe it was simply the concussion then in another instant I was knocked into the hall, face down and walls + I don’t know what all began to tumble in + as I felt the stuff piling up on my back I was sure that was the end of me and all I was thinking was of you. I remember saying or rather thinking, your name over + over but when I hit the floor first and for a few seconds I was stunned + if I had never lived I’d never have known what happened [to] me or felt any pain but as it was I began to move + wiggle out from under the stuff. My face and head was bleeding considerably – I could tell by the look of the floor + also by the way the blood was dripping off my chin but for all that my knees didn’t shake a particle. I called Ethel + at the same time she called me + she came scrabbling up what was left of the stairs + met me at the top. She says she never expected to see my face whole again by the look of it then and I felt sure too that it would have to be patched up but I might as well tell you now that I don’t expect to have a scar – only two new upper front teeth to replace the ones that were broken off. The robe I had on went I don’t know where – I didn’t see it so I picked up a flannel dress + put it over my head as I followed Ethel to go outside. The whole place was like a black fog gradually lifting and the screams of the children + women + those crying for help was simply terrifying. I jumped out the side of the house and I’ve already told you what we did then. Killam’s house was all to pieces and Mr. K. blown out of his bed. When he saw me he begged me to come put something around him. I went but couldn’t get to him anyway. At last I heard Mrs. K. She had just crawled out of the cel[lar] so she said “I’m all right Bertha, and I’ll get Fred down” so then I found some more that needed looking after + finally landed at the parsonage. I didn’t expect to find a soul there but I did. Little Dorothy was unhurt but so completely pressed in that her father was doing his best to saw her out. The other two where [sic] gone. I left him + looked up some other people you don’t know + then got back to Killams in time to help him get a bed for Mr. K in our field. By now the fires were blazing in pretty good shape + one glance at the parsonage showed that urgent help was needed there. So I said Ethel we’ve got to go there quick. I’ll never forget Mr. Swetnam’s look when he spoke and if we hadn’t gone hid [sic] never in this world have been saved. Use this worksheet to support the ‘Finding Proof’ exercise in Activity 4 of Think Like a Historian: The Halifax Explosion Education Guide . T H I N K L I K E A H I S T O R I A N . C A Letter from Bertha Bond (Ethel Bond’s sister) to Alexander (Sandy) Wournell, 10 December 1917.