When the lights went out: the centenary of the First World War
Canada is commemorating the passage of one hundred years since World War I. The cataclysmic conflict was experienced across the world and some of its long-term effects are still with us today. For Halifax, the conflict brought prosperity as the war pumped millions of dollars into the local economy. It also brought tragedy in the form of the Halifax Explosion.
The following documents were selected from sources at the Municipal Archives to provide an idea of what the war was like for Halifax and its residents.
Dartmouth cancels Natal Day in 1914
Dartmouth Council met at a Special Meeting a few days after war was declared to cancel their annual Natal Day celebrations because of the recent outbreak of war and the absence of key athletes fighting in Europe. Read the Dartmouth Town Council minutes for Aug. 6, 1914.
Prayer Service for the troops, August 1914
On August 28, 1914 a special prayer service was held at St. Paul's Church for the soldiers and sailors who were engaged in the war. This is an invitation from Anglican Archdeacon W.J. Armitage for the official presence of the Mayor of Halifax, F.P. Bligh. The letter forms part of the City of Halifax Clerk's Subject Files - Wartime and the military file (HMA 102-5A.247.19).
The Home Front
Soon after war was declared, Deputy Mayor William R. Powell telegraphed the federal Minister of Militia requesting arms and ammunition for a Halifax Home Guard (HMA 102-5A.247.44).
Dartmouth contributes to the Canadian Patriotic Fund - September 1914
Dartmouth Council declares their sympathy and support for the war effort by voting to contribute $2500 to the Canadian Patriotic Fund. This fund helped the dependents of those who were called out to active duty. Read the Dartmouth Town Council minutes Sept. 17, 1914.
Win the War!
This is an invitation to a meeting of Halifax's “Win the War” Committee which sent a delegation to the Win the War convention in Montreal. The convention had no set objective beyond achieving national unity and unifying patriotic forces across the country. View the invitation from City of Halifax Special Committee Minutes (102-1G). Additional records of the Committee are available at the Archives.
The Lights Go Out - October 1916
While the front was a continent away, Halifax’s position as a coastal city brought fear that it could be a target for marine attacks. Beginning in the fall of 1916, military orders were issued to Deputy Mayor Henry S. Colwell for the blackout of lights visible overhead or from the harbour in Halifax and surrounding areas. Lights had to be covered from one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise, and lights outside of buildings were turned out after 11:00 p.m. A person who ignored blackout rules could face a $5,000 fine or time in prison. View newspaper clippings and correspondence (CR13.2-3) between the Mayor’s Office and military authorities regarding the blackout in Colwell’s constituency Correspondence files.
Honouring the Returned Heroes
Deputy Mayor Henry S. Colwell delivered a speech in recognition of servicemen returning from action in Europe on November 30th, 1916. Read a draft of his address (CR13.3).
Public Patriotic Meeting for 3rd Anniversary of the Declaration of War
View a communication from the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia to the Mayor of Halifax about the public meetings of a patriotic and imperial nature held across Canada to mark the third anniversary of Canada’s entry into the War (102-1G).
Edna Snow of Harrigan’s Cove, Nova Scotia created this scrapbook on a catalogue from Toronto jewelers B. & H.B. Kent. Edna glued in material she collected - mostly related to World War 1 - including newspaper cut-outs of patriotic songs as well as photographs of young men she presumably knew who were fighting overseas. Other items featured include newspaper clippings of short stories, songs and jokes. View a digitized copy of the scrapbook (CR3-2-0-2).
Two brothers in khaki: Joe and James Monaghan honoured
Sergeant Major Joseph P. Monaghan, a long serving member of the 63rd Halifax Rifles is honoured for his work escorting injured soldiers to their homes. A description of his service is preserved in the City of Halifax Clerk's Wartime and the military file (102.5A.247.4).
Joseph’s twin brother, James, a Captain who served for twenty-one years with the 63rd, is presented with the Long Service Medal. Read a description of the presentation ceremony on McNab’s Island (102.5A.247.61).
Unfortunately no photographs of the Monaghans are available. The image of Captain Rev. Donaldson from the Edna Snow scrapbook (CR3-2-0-2) shows what officer's uniforms at the time would have looked like.
Proclamation of First Armistice Day, November 1919
Halifax City Council leads Canada in proclaiming November 11th as a public holiday, on the first anniversary of Armistice Day. This was before the federal government officially designated November 11th as a federal statutory holiday. View the minutes of the November 6, 1919 meeting.