Graduating class at HMCS York at Exhibition Grounds, Toronto, Ontario, on May 3, 1944. Mr. Weldon is fifth from the left in the back row.Lawrence Albert Weldon
Cartoon from the Halifax Chronical from May 29, 1945.Lawrence Albert Weldon
Mr. Weldon at 18 years old, 1943.Lawrence Albert Weldon
Lawrence A. Welden, January 8, 2010, in Burlington, Ontario.Historica Canada
"if you double the size of a town within, what, a year maybe, and got no place for these people to do anything, naturally you’re going to have trouble."
Halifax was a very dull city in those days. It was all blacked out. Mostly. I don’t know how to explain Halifax. It wasn’t a very nice place to be but you just took it as it came. Government never supplied anything for anybody down. There was no entertainment or anything down there. So it was kind of difficult. And that’s why the riots ended up at the end of the war, because everybody was so upset. I guess the sailors going out on the ships and that for weeks on end had, and then come back to Halifax and there’s nothing there for them to do, so.
My remembrance of the war being over, they made the announcement and everybody got leave. So everybody just went down to the streets. And then that was a mistake. They had, again, they had no entertainment for them. Not only that, they closed up the, the canteens in the different bases around Halifax, they were all closed and, which was another mistake because, you know, there’s all kinds of bootleggers there to take their place. But if we’re talking about the riots, I blame the government because the government was really responsible for those riots. They blamed it onto this Admiral Murray, yeah, Murray, but he had no control. It was too, you know, if you double the size of a town within, what, a year maybe, and got no place for these people to do anything, naturally you’re going to have trouble. I think the government has mostly to blame for the riots down there.
Once you went back, that was it, they kept you in. They were trying to clear the streets off. A lot of the guys never went back to the streets. So anybody that did was there. I don’t think we got out for two or three days after that. They kept us in barracks or in the ships, whatever. I guess you might just add it all up into one word: it was a mess. Everything was just taken apart. The navy got blamed for most of it but, actually, I’ve got pictures at home showing civilians carrying out an awful lot of the stuff. I think the navy’s mostly to be, mostly responsible for stealing the liquor and the beer and that, but the civilians were all, took all the other stuff, you know, out of Eaton’s or Simpson’s or whoever it was, Woolworth’s; all those stores were all smashed up on the main street.
Actually, Halifax did very well out of those riots because they got a whole new town. As I say, when I first went to Halifax, it was kind of a dismal place to be, and I’ve been back there since and it’s just a beautiful city. So the, they fixed up a lot of the buildings and that. It’s great.
Have you heard of the explosion in Halifax ? They were unloading ships of all their ammunition, it must have been after the war I guess it happened. And they were unloading the ships of all their ammunition at their depot, navy depot and it was, they have a place called Bedford Basin at the end of Halifax Harbour. And it was kind of a basin like this, where they made up all the convoys and whatnot. And had big hills around it. And the depot was in behind the hills. Something happened, I don’t if they ever found out what really did happen but I think some, maybe the depth charges or something went up. Apparently, they were piling explosive, these depth charges, outside and they should have been put inside or something, I don’t know. I never heard too much about it other than seeing the skyrockets go up.
I was standing on the bow of the [HMCS] Port Hope at that time when that thing, the first one went off. And I’ll never forget that because I don’t know how many miles away we were but the concussion blew, was blowing my pants, making a wave, like those bell bottom pants, they had all kinds of slack at the bottom of them. And the concussion just, came down the harbour.
And then we took off out behind McNab’s Island to, I guess we were too close to the explosions so they put mostly all the ships went down the harbour, out of the way. That explosion started in the afternoon of one day and I think the following day, we came back because it was mostly all over by then. It kind of fizzled out during the night, they got control of it.