Although World War I was occurring all over Europe, Halifax, three thousand miles away from the main scene, was heavily involved in being a main player on the home front. Haligonians, young and old, invested a great many years to ensure the safe return of their boys.
Canada became involved with the war as a result of being a part of the British Commonwealth. Great Britain declared war on Germany in August 4, 1914. By the time of the Halifax Explosion, Canada had suffered tens of thousands of casualties.
The biggest aid that Halifax gave to the Allies was surrendering its port and the surrounding bodies of water to be a refuge and meeting point for different Allied countries’ ships. Because the Royal Canadian navy was of such small size compared to those of the other countries (it had recently been instituted in 1910) , the Royal Navy took the responsibility of assigning a place for the Halifax Harbour in its sea routes.
All sorts of different ships came and went into the Narrows, the body of water in between Halifax and Dartmouth. There were those that picked up supplies. Some picked up new men to send to the war front; and then others brought some home early because of amputations or other hindering forces. They were even hospitals on board ships which came to add more staff to their facilities. Neutral and military ships would sail into the Bedford Basin, waiting to be escorted by a convoy consisting of large battleships to lead them across the Atlantic.
Because the fear of German submarines torpedoing naval activity near Halifax was eminent, the city put a curfew into place so that the city lights at night could not aid the submarines in any way. They were also two submarine nets in place across the opening of the harbour at night.
Troops were placed within and outside the city, especially at McNabs Island, York Redoubt, the Armouries, and the Wellington Barracks.
There was also activity in the homes of anxious families. Women started quilting circles, gatherings where they would quilt blankets, knit socks, and roll bandages. Children would do similar projects in school. All these items were sent to the war front. Women also took over many of the jobs which were left behind by the men heading off to war.
A restlessness covered the city and its inhabitants, spurring them to become involved with the war effort. Little did they know that they would soon experience many of the same horrors that haunted and breathed through many of the soldiers’ minds three thousand miles across the ocean.