To the editor,
One day I was visiting my step-grandfather Rubin Dickson and my grandmother at Pictou Landing. Rubin had lots of stories from his native Magdalene Islands, his early lobster fishing in the Northumberland Strait, complete with trophies for high catch, and his carpentry and boat building.
One day I saw a framed oval picture of a young sailor. I asked if he was a sailor in WWI and he said he was but since our Navy lacked ships he was attached to a British Cruiser.
His ship was in Halifax Harbour the day of the Halifax Explosion. He told me the story as if it just happened yesterday. The blast hit his ship and drove it over but not enough to capsize her. It was damaged, but the captain and crew were able to manoeuvre the ship. As quick as they could the ship was put on immediate duty.
After the explosion came a 15-metre tsunami, which added more devastation as it washed spectators and civilians into the harbour from wharves and low areas. Both living and dead were floating or swimming in the harbour. It was sheer panic everywhere, even on his ship.
Rubin told me he and his shipmates were ordered to man the ship’s dories and over the side they went saving as many as they could. They rowed and rowed all day and were exhausted. They had to row and continually bail the dories but most was blood they bailed over the side. They handled both the living and the dead.
To make things worse a snow storm came up and the order came to the cruiser to get out of the harbour and defend the port as it was felt the Germans might have been involved with the explosion, so they did their duty in the harbour then defended Halifax Harbour Port from the entrance making sure who came and went.
Several medals were issued for saving people but Rubin thought some were given to members of Canadian warship HMCS Niobe, which also had Pictou sailors aboard, including a Macleod from Westville. Rubin said the medals were given for saving lives in the harbour doing what they did all day.
I am sure one of Rubin’s relatives has his medals, which would allow searching his serial number to get the ship he served on as a Canadian seaman during that terrible explosion. Rubin, thanks for the memories!