Bearing Witness

Journalists, Record Keepers and the 1917 Halifax Explosion

By Michael Dupuis  Foreword by Alan Ruffman  

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At approximately 8:45 a.m. on 6 December 1917, the Belgian Relief vessel IMO struck the munitions-laden freighter Mont-Blanc in Halifax Harbour. The Mont-Blanc exploded in a devastating 2.9 kiloton blast, which killed 2,000 people and injured 9,000. More than 6,000 people were made homeless, and an additional 12,000 were left without shelter.

Bearing Witness tells the story of the Explosion, and the catastrophic damage it caused, through the eyes and words of more than two dozen journalists and record keepers who experienced it first hand. Their accounts reveal a unique perspective, offering new detail about the tragedy and providing insight into the individuals who struggled to articulate the magnitude of the shocking event to the rest of the world.

In addition to the original work by journalists and record keepers, Michael Dupuis provides over 30 photographs and illustrations, several previously unseen, and a detailed timeline of journalistic activities from the time of the Explosion on December 6 to December 16.

This timely book brings a valuable archive into easy reach of the armchair historian. It will help readers both understand and share in the work of remembering this extraordinary event.

— Winnipeg Free Press

A compelling read, and a tribute to the courage and determination of those reporters who had to confront scenes of terrible misery, at considerable risk and with compassion.

— Janet Maybee, author of Aftershock

This documentary history will immediately establish itself as an indispensable handbook for all students of the Halifax disaster.

— Barry Cahill, biographer of the Halifax Relief Commission

  • Ebooks, History
  • ISBN: 9781552668757
  • April 2017
  • 222 Pages
  • $30.00
  • For sale worldwide
  • Kindle
  • ISBN: 9781552668771
  • June 2017
  • For sale worldwide
  • EPUB
  • ISBN: 9781552668764
  • June 2017
  • $29.99
  • For sale worldwide

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  • “This timely book, published as the centennial of the disaster approaches, brings a valuable archive into easy reach of the armchair historian. It will help readers both understand and share in the work of remembering this extraordinary event.”

    — Winnipeg Free Press, April 8, 2017 (full review)

  • “At its best, journalism provides a rich trove of detail, incident, and anecdote that help us to see the world as witnessed by those who lived it at the time. This is especially true of reporting on disasters. Michael Dupuis’s Bearing Witness: Journalists, Record Keepers and the 1917 Halifax Explosion is a case in point.” – Stephen Kimber

    — Acadiensis (full review)


  • Preface
  • Foreword (Alan Ruffman)
  • Introduction
  • The Role of Canada’s Chief Press Censor – Lieutenant-Colonel Ernest Chambers
  • Journalists Who Experienced the Explosion Firsthand (James L. Hickey and Maxwell L. Backer, Halifax Canadian Press Bureau; William Barton, Joseph H. Sheldon, Dartmouth Patriot; Peter F. Lawson, Halifax Herald; Hervey W. Jones, James L. Gowen and John “Jack
  • Visiting Canadian Journalists and the Aftermath (Alfred R. Coffin, Truro Daily News; George W. Yates; Stanley K. Smith, St. John Daily Telegraph; St. John Globe Reporter; Michael Grattan O’Leary, Ottawa Journal; Tommy P. Gorman, Ottawa Citizen; William M.
  • Visiting American Journalists and the Aftermath (Anthony J. Philpott, Boston Globe; Richard W. Simpson, Associated Press; Jerome V. Keating, Boston Herald-Journal; Roy Atkinson, Boston Post; Richard W. Sears, Boston American; James H. Hare, Leslie’s Weekly
  • Epilogue
  • References
  • Notes
  • Appendices (Journalists’ Timeline; Acadian Recorder 7 December 1917 Front-page Public Information Notice)
  • Index


  • Michael Dupuis

    Michael Dupuis is the author of Winnipeg’s General Strike: Reports from the Front Lines. He holds a BA (English) and an MA (History) from the University of Ottawa and a BEd from the University of Toronto. He resides in Victoria, BC.

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