Nova Scotia Archives

'An East Coast Port'

Halifax in Wartime, 1939-1945


The End of It All

As Bill Naftel describes in his background article elsewhere on this website,

"It all ended with, literally, a bang. The long-expected allied victory in Europe was declared on 8 May 1945. Focusing on the need for thoughtful celebrations to commemorate the great sacrifices of the last six years, civic and military authorities in Halifax were caught by surprise when it rapidly became apparent that a substantial number of residents had other ideas. Spearheaded by thousands of naval ratings, the centre of Halifax succumbed to twenty-four hours of mob rule and looting.

By and large, the ratings focused on booze and the civilians on shoes and clothing. Although there were three deaths, some definite nastiness and much wanton destruction, by the standards of later years only the downtown merchants and the provincial Liquor Commission seem not to have had what generally passed for 'a good time'. The damage, however, was immense — both economic and political."

After cleaning up from the Riots, however, there was still one more last big bang to come. The Naval Magazine, on the shores of Bedford Basin, caught fire in the late afternoon of 18 July 1945. For the next twelve hours the air and ground trembled to the sound of exploding ammunition, and the north ends of both Dartmouth and Halifax emptied as citizens waited in fear for the 'Big One' which would repeat the catastrophe of December 1917. Good luck prevailed, however, and the efforts of local firemen and RCN personnel meant that by dawn the next day, the thud of exploding shells and charges had died away to nothing.

The virtual exhibit presented here features never-before-seen photographs of the VE-Day Riots and the Magazine Explosion, then moves on to show Canada's 'East Coast Port' returning to normal — whatever that was going to be. Troop ships brought thousands of soldiers and sailors home, heroes visited, naval vessels still crowded the harbour. Six years after the beginning of war, some parts of Halifax looked very different, while others showed battle fatigue. The city seemed perched on the cusp of becoming something else, not yet quite defined. Perhaps the best signal for the unknown future that lay ahead was the happy arrival of the War Brides, bringing their infants and small children. Life, after all, does go on — even after war.


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Captured German Submarine  
Date: 1945
Reference no.: HB Jefferson Collection Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1992-304

The End of It All

Uboat Surrender - film clip 
Date: 1945
Reference no.: Motion Picture Heritage Fund of Nova Scotia Collection Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1989-33 Vc 194

The End of It All

Suggestions for the Day When Germany Defeat is Celebrated 
Reference no.: Osborne R. Crowell Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2008-058 8

The End of It All

Honourable A.S. MacMillan 
Date: 7 May 1945
Reference no.: NSARM Photo Collection Nova Scotia Archives Places: Halifax: Special Events: V-E Day

The End of It All

Music by P.L.F. Band 
Date: 7 May 1945
Reference no.: NSARM Photo Collection Nova Scotia Archives Places: Halifax: Special Events: V-E Day

The End of It All

Uncle Mel's Artists Entertain 
Date: 7 May 1945
Reference no.: NSARM Photo Collection Nova Scotia Archives Places: Halifax: Special Events: V-E Day

The End of It All

The Teenagers Celebrate 
Date: 7 May 1945
Reference no.: NSARM Photo Collection Nova Scotia Archives Places: Halifax: Special Events: V-E Day

The End of It All

Thousands gather for the morning celebration on the Garrison Grounds 
Date: 7 May 1945
Reference no.: NSARM Photo Collection Nova Scotia Archives Places: Halifax: Special Events: V-E Day

The End of It All

Programme from 'Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication On the Cessation of Hostilities on the European Front' 
Date: 8 May 1945
Reference no.: NSARM Library Nova Scotia Archives V/F vol. 319 no. 17

The End of It All

Service men remove flags from T. Eaton and Company Limited s.e. corner of Barrington and Prince Streets 
Date: 7 May 1945
Reference no.: NSARM Photo Collection Nova Scotia Archives Places: Halifax: Special Events: V-E Day

The End of It All

Service men remove flags from T. Eaton and Company Limited 
Date: 7 May 1945
Reference no.: NSARM Photo Collection Nova Scotia Archives Places: Halifax: Special Events: V-E Day

The End of It All

Looters in a department store 
Date: 7 May 1945
Reference no.: David Hall Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1981-412 4

The End of It All

VE Day Riot - film clip 
Date: 1945
Reference no.: Lionel L. Shatford fonds Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1986-04 Fb 2133

The End of It All

T. Eaton and Company Store, the day after 
Date: 8 May 1945
Reference no.: NSARM Photo Collection Nova Scotia Archives Places: Halifax: Special Events: V-E Day

The End of It All

T. Eaton and Company Store, the day after 
Date: 8 May 1945
Reference no.: NSARM Photo Collection Nova Scotia Archives Places: Halifax: Special Events: V-E Day

The End of It All
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