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P.E.I. man escapes Halifax Explosion by just one hour

Barbara Schurman points out her father, Wally Bannister, who was docked in the Halifax harbour, days before the explosion of 1917.
Barbara Schurman points out her father, Wally Bannister, who was docked in the Halifax harbour, days before the explosion of 1917. - Millicent McKay

Barbara Schurman’s father sailed out of city just before catastrophe

SUMMERSIDE – If it had been a few hours later, Barbara Schurman would not exist.

“Thinking back to 100 years ago, my father was sitting on a ship in the Halifax harbour, hours before the explosion. I wouldn’t be here if he had been in that harbour one more day,” she said with a shake of her head.

Schurman’s father, Wally Bannister, was a soldier in the First World War. He was on the S.S. Regina, which was docked in the harbour for 14 days before it set sail on the morning of Dec. 6.

Bannister had been at sea for about 45 minutes, on its way to Liverpool, England, when they heard about the explosion in Halifax.

“He always said they (the ship’s crew) had felt it at sea,” said Schurman, a resident of Summerside.

With todays 100th anniversary of the waste-laying explosion, Schurman can’t help but think about what might have been.

“I wouldn’t say it makes me feel worried, but it certainly makes me think. What would have gone through his mind when he was on the ship? When he heard about the explosion?

“As a young girl I was probably too busy playing hopscotch to be curious about that day or the war. But as I got older I became more interested.”

Schurman says her father never spoke much of the experience, unless he was chatting with his military buddies at the Legion.

“I think more about it now, and that’s probably because of the anniversary. I’m very happy my parents and family didn’t live in Halifax.”

Five Fast Facts about the Halifax Explosion:

– The explosion took place on Dec. 6, 1917

– Population of Halifax at the time was about 50,000

– Nearly 2,000 people died

– About 9,000 were injured

– It was caused by ships the Imo and Mont Blanc colliding.

millicent.mckay@journalpioneer.com

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