Ok, so now we're all up to speed, let's press on with the story. Like I said a few weeks ago, it's a cracker.
In 1990, my Dad was clearing out his Mum's house. She had recently moved into a nursing home and there were boxes to sort. Amidst the paperwork in her desk, there was a notebook belonging to his Dad. Apparently it'd always been there, but this was the first time he'd shown the rest of us.
|Alf in 1951.|
Back to 1990 and the notebook. It was very old, full of handwritten pencil and had been used as a diary. It's first entry was 6th December 1917. I don't think I got how huge this was in 1990 when I was twelve. It was just an old notebook with my dead Grandad's writing in. It's only now that it makes more sense. This was an honest-to-God historical source. The little my Dad did know about his father came from his Mum and sister, Marie. But they didn't know him in 1917. He married my Gran in 1932, and Marie was born three years later. The diary from 1917 was a whole life time before that. He was twenty-three and in the midst of the First World War. Reading it all those years later was pretty cool, even if I only realise it properly now. (I'm sure 'pretty cool' is official historian terminology)
|Hand model and photo |
credits to my sister, Lucy.
On 6th December 1917 Alf Bond was on a boat in the port of Halifax, Canada. That morning two other boats in the port crashed in to each other. The collision that resulted, caused the 'largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons'. Yeah, let that sink in for a second. The largest explosion before the atomic bomb! Page one of Alf's diary provides his eye witness account.
|A legit primary |
source from 1917.
|Also, my |
Now it is AtI. (After the Internet). I can find it all out. And honestly, the Halifax explosion is a big deal. There are loads and loads of resources online to read if you're interested, and in recent months I have. It wasn't just a collision you see. One of the boats was filled with munitions for France. When the boats crashed, it caused a fire. The fire grew until it got out of control and reached the stored munitions. Then it exploded. The upshot is, on 6th December 1917, the town of Halifax was decimated. Two thousand people were killed, nine thousand were injured, burning debris was thrown through the air, and wooden buildings were burnt to the ground. It sounds utterly horrific. And Alf was there. This is what he wrote about that day...
|My Dad's 1990 typed up copy is now a digital version. This extract |
covers the first three pages of the handwritten account.
[Square brackets show my Dad's added notes]
The more I read and discover about the events of that day, the more incredible it is that Alf survived. But survive he did. He came home, met my Gran, had my Dad who then had me. Next month marks the 100th anniversary of the explosion. There are all sorts of events taking place to commemorate the tragedy. I'll be there for some of them, along with a few other family members including my Dad.
It's a very odd feeling, having a connection to a place nearly three thousand miles away, because of the experience of a person you've never met. But there we have it. That's the story. That's why I'm going to Canada in a few weeks.
Obviously, I'll report back when I've been. But for now, I am still concerned with finishing my Christmas shopping and finding non-unattractive thermal underwear for the trip. I am sure Alf had similar problems back in the day.
Have a lovely week, folks.