World War One Halifax explosion: Unseen pictures revealed

By Claire Jones
BBC News Online

Related Topics
image captionRoyal Navy Lt Victor Magnus managed to survive the explosion

Unseen pictures from World War One have been released showing what was then the world's largest explosion.

Sailor Victor Magnus captured the scene when a ship carrying explosives caught fire in Halifax, Canada, resulting in the deaths of 2,000 people.

The explosion, on Thursday 6 December 1917, almost wiped out the town.

Mr Magnus's daughter, Anne Foreman from Cornwall, is to take the pictures to the Imperial War Museum in London.

media captionUnseen pictures of the world's largest man-made explosion in World War One have been revealed.

It was 09:04 (GMT) when Halifax suffered the world's greatest man-made explosion at the time, when the two ships involved in the war effort collided.

Standing on the shoreline was Royal Navy Lt Victor Magnus.

The French ship SS Mont Blanc, which was loaded with wartime explosives, collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo.

The cataclysmic explosion occurred after a fire broke out on SS Mont Blanc, all of which was caught on camera by Mr Magnus.

image captionAfter the explosion parts of Halifax were flattened with more than 1,900 people killed
image captionMr Magnus captured plumes of smoke and a town littered with ash on snow

SS Mont Blanc was described as a huge 'floating bomb' because of her formidable cargo.

There were more than 2,000 tonnes of picric acid, 200 tonnes of TNT, 56 tonnes of gun cotton and 223 tonnes of motor fuel on board.

Records show the ship exploded and disintegrated in seconds.

Altogether 3.8 sq km (1.5 sq miles) of Halifax was flattened and more than 1,900 people perished.

image captionLt Victor Magnus took his pictures from the shoreline

Avid photographer Mr Magnus managed to capture plumes of smoke and a town littered with ash in his photographs.

After the war Mr Magnus had three children. His daughter, Anne Foreman from Hayle, Cornwall, decided to share her father's photographs during the anniversary of the outbreak of World War One.

She said: "This has brought him to life again. It's amazing, it brings tears to my eyes.

Ms Foreman, aged 89, said her father was on watch during the morning of the explosion when he took the pictures.

"The blast absolutely blew Halifax town into oblivion, the whole of the harbour and the town was devastated.

"The thing that struck me most was a cannon that was blown three miles in land.

Ms Foreman said her father was "a kind and lovely man with a great sense of humour".

"There are so many things I've found out about him and his experiences from these photographs. I'm so happy he's been brought back to the forefront of our minds," she said.

More on this story

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.