Wednesday 27 January 2016

Sir John Craig Eaton's Relief Train

"What can we do to help?"
(The response of Canadians and Americans to the Halifax Explosion, 1917)

When Sir John Craig arrived in Halifax on a train from Toronto in mid December of 1917, he was greeted by a scene from a battlefield.  The shattered city, still smoking from the explosion which wracked it only a few days before, was now coated in fresh snow.  Two ships had collided in Halifax Harbour, the Imo and the Mont Blanc, resulting in an explosion which would not be surpassed until Hiroshima.  Two thousand people were killed, nine thousand were wounded and six thousand were homeless (see "Ashpan Annie" at

"What can we do to help?" was the question posed by ordinary Canadians (and Americans).  Wealthy Canadians also stepped up to the plate.  Lord Shaughessy sent a relief train from Montreal.  The following day, Sir John Craig also felt compelled to help the Haligonians dig themselves out from the rubble and rebuild.  His train arrived loaded down with building supplies, furniture, clothing, food, nurses and medical supplies (  It would take Haligonians years to rebuild their city, but it was the contributions from individuals like Sir John Craig Eaton, which helped them get back on their feet.

Note:  More will follow on the role of the Americans' role in the Halifax Explosion Relief Effort later this year. 

The Shattered City in December of 1917 courtesy

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