Battle of Halifax, The
DESCRIPTION: "Now gather 'round children and to you I will spill The tale of the raid upon Oland's old still." People rush through Halifax drinking and robbing. The authorities, instead of stopping it, join in. It's the armed forces' revenge on those who stayed home
EARLIEST DATE: 1979 (Hopkins-SongsFromTheFrontAndRear)
KEYWORDS: soldier disaster police drink robbery revenge recitation
1945 - The Halifax Riot
FOUND IN: Canada
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Hopkins-SongsFromTheFrontAndRear, pp. 100-101, "The Battle of Halifax" (1 text)
NOTES [443 words]: According to Milner, p. 156, "[T]he short-sighted city fathers of Halifax closed the bars and liquor stores on VE-Day. That prompted sailors to exact revenge for nearly six years of overcrowding, overpricing, and priggishness. The VE-Day riots left much of downtown Halifax a shambles." Many blamed L. W. Murray, the area naval commander, and he got no help from Ottawa, where a rival was in charge of the navy, causing Murray to resign and move to England.
The whole thing affected Navy men coming home to be discharged. Small ship skipper Lamb, p. 168, wrote of his ship's return there, "Halifax had taken on a special meaning for us since the disgraceful riots that had disfigured VE day. The news of the drunken debauch hid had gone on for days had made us ashamed of our service; once again, it seemed to us, the shore navy, the barracks idlers and incompetent officers and the whole ramshackle edifice of Slackers, had made outcasts of the seagoing men, blackening the name of the navy and distorting our repatriation. We looked on it as a place to get our discharge as quickly as we could."
Bruce, p. 264: "News tat Germany had surrendered reached the world on May 7 and, in Halifax, ignited the most spectacular riots in the city's history. They lasted two nights and a day. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and thuggish civilians all participated in the anarchy that saw wholesale window-smashing, public fornicatin in broad daylight, and the theft of at least 150,000 bottles of beer, liquor, and wine. The consensus among sober Haligonians who had witnessed the destruction was that the chief culprits were sailors from the navy's main Halifax base, HMCS Stadcona [which, despite its "ship" name, was in fact a base.]" A newspaper reported that "Commercial Halifax... lies in wreckage today." Two men were said to have died, one of excess alcohol consumption, the other of a fractured skull.
Bruce, p. 265: "The federal government commissioned Judge Roy L. Kellock of the Supreme Court of Canada to investigate the riots, but as war correspondent Douglas How later wrote, 'The commissioner was a judge who had never seen war service, a puritanical man who detested liquor, and sat in judgment on perhaps the biggest drunk in Canadian history.'
"Finding the navy chiefly responsible for the mayhem and the damage to 564 Halifax businesses, and blaming the command of Rear Admiral Leonard Warren Murray for failing to prepare adequate celebrations or quell the disorders, Judge Kellock ruined the previously distinguished career of the best naval officer Canada had ever produced.... Naval veterans would later see Kellock's ruling as a tragic injustice."- RBW
Last updated in version 6.2
- Bruce: Harry Bruce, An Illustrated History of Nova Scotia, Nimbus Publishing Ltd./Province of Nova Scotia, 1997
- Lamb: James B. Lamb, The Corvette Navy, 1979 (I use the 1988 Macmillan Paperbacks edition)
- Milner: Marc Milner, Canada's Navy: The First Century, University of Toronto Press, 1999
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