I was there...
• Dorothy Chisholm saw the ship blow up,

I was working at the Royal Bank at the time, and was supposed to be there about half past nine. I took the quarter past nine ferry to Halifax, about five minutes outside the dock... I was on the deck looking out, while it [the Mont-Blanc] was on fire, and while I was talking to Mr. Rosen, about the terrible fire, it blew up. We saw it... we saw the ship blow up, but I thought the heavens had fallen, I suppose it was because such a terrific cloud had come over, then again thoughts ran through my mind, I though the Germans were attacking... and I looked out at the water, and absolutely everything was flying. You could see everything flying into the water, and I was thinking, my back's, going to be full of holes... I'm not conscious of being, tossed, but I was reading that the people in the cabins were conscious of it, because they were enclosed. After it exploded I don't remember Mr. Rosen there.

The tidal wave was more in the North End, and boats were washed right up on shore, and we didn't feel it. But of course [those below] they all rushed up from the cabins, so we had to let them out. They were badly cut, a lot of them, flying glass everywhere. One of my friends, her eye was cut. So we got off the ferry, I went with her to the drugstore on Barrington Street, and It was full of people who had rushed there to get help. So then I left her, and I went down to the bank, where I was working. Of course they sent me home.

I was all right. I was out in the open, you know. It was a good place to be, in the open. I'd much rather be in the open than be enclosed. I wasn't too conscious of the noise. I wasn't conscious of the black rain. Coming back was the most horrible sight of all, to me, because all the North End of Halifax, and alI the North End of Dartmouth was just ablaze, and you knew people were trapped there. That's what made more impression on me than anything else.

We lived down in that general direction, fairly near the thing. All of our windows were gone, (all winter). When we were told to leave, in fear of another explosion, there was just mother and myself home at the time. My very dear friends were living right up there, where the ship exploded, Stanford's had a very big house up there. I thought I better go up, if there was going to be another explosion, because they were just off the munitions dump at the dockyard. That's where they thought there was going to be another explosion.

Everybody was told to leave their homes. I went up and found my friend, in bed. She'd been cut, and a doctor had been to see her. I said Ethyl, you've got to get up, you've got to get out of this house. There's going to be another explosion. We argued about it. Finally we got her out of bed. So we had to hook her into a long dress, and get her out of the house.

Ethyl's mother and Bill Chisholm's mother are sisters. She was very worried about Bill's family in Halifax. They lived in the North End, on Brunswick Street. She asked me if I would go over for her. So I ran all the way to the ferry, and all the way up to Brunswick Street and back. Then I went up to Mrs Stanford's. When I got there, Mrs. Stanford was sitting down in the cellar, that was the only place we could find a place to sit, we sat in the coal bin. They got a little fire going in the furnace, and we made a cup of tea. That house was badly damaged.

I don't remember what happened when I went over to Halifax for the second time. Bill's family, was on Brunswick. Bill's father, Doctor Chisholm was cut badly. They had a maid from Newfoundland, Beatrice, she was a great big hefty Newfoundlander. She went out on the street and commandeered a man with a team, and got the doctor to the hospital. Otherwise he would have died.

Word went around, and he had the satisfaction of reading his death notice in headlines in the the Mail. Big red headlines. The reason I remember is so well, [was that the] library in Dartmouth, for a long while, they had news revolving all the time, and that would come out.

When I got to Brunswick Street, the house was emptv. The doctor had been taken to the hospital, and I suppose Beatrice had taken Mrs Chisholm somewhere.

The next day I went back to the office. A terrible storm came up. At the office they didn't want me to go back on the ferry. The manager came down and said I shouldn't go. But they wouldn't let me go alone, so they sent one of the men across with me. The waves were coming in, of course, with no glass in the windows of the ferry.

That night I volunteered to do some work. I went to the Nova Scotia hospital. They had taken a tremendous amount of victims in there, you know. They had them all over the floors, they had them everywhere. So I stayed down there all night. There was an awful lot of shell shocked people, screaming, it was pretty nasty, they were all placed in one room. I had to get them bedpans, and give them water. We didn't have to wash them or anything. I was pretty tired, after working all night, and I think I collapsed.

A terrific snow storm had come up. They couldn't get us home until noon the next day. And of course nobody had glass in their windows, and the snow was all over everything and they were shovelling the snow out. I didn't work anymore at the hospital. That Friday was the only night I went down.

I don't remember any discomfort from not having windows, or not getting food. I was fairly young at the time, those things don't make too much of an impression on you.

Bill Chisholm: I was in the war, sometimes we got a paper over there. The first I knew  about it was from a little paragraph on the front page. That was the first day. The next day the paragraph was quite a lot bigger. That's all I knew about it. I didn't know that the house had been damaged, and that my father had been hurt. I was in France. I was worried. I didn't know how much damage had been done, and the paper wasn't very, explicit. It wasn't a Halifax paper, it was a foreign paper. I was the only Halifax man in our regiment. Newspapers used to come up to the line occasionally. I never knew where they came from. The first letters I got from my family told me about it. The house on Brunswick Street was fixed up by the time I got back.

>>Next  • Eric Davidson's Story