The Minute Book
Friday, 6 December 2013

A Royal Canadian and the Halifax Explosion
Topic: Halifax

A Royal Canadian and the Halifax Explosion

Barely two weeks after the Canadian assault on Vimy Ridge, a Russian born miner from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia enlisted in The Royal Canadian Regiment. It was on 23 April, 1917, that Frederick Felepchuk enlisted in Halifax, signing his attestation papers for service overseas. This was on the day after his 23rd birthday, and no-one would have predicted that he would be a casualty of the war without ever leaving the port city.

Felepchuk's attestation paper Felepchuk's attestation paper

479037 Private Frederick Felepchuk's attestation paper. The attestation papers of Canadian soldiers of the First World War can be found on line at the Library and Archives Canada website.

In December of 1917, Felepchuk was still in Halifax, serving in the garrison with The Royal Canadian Regiment. On the 6th of December, he was posted as a duty sentry on a harbourside pier. Tragically, this gave him a front row seat for the largest man-made explosion to that fatal date — the Halifax Explosion.

From the dedicated website, comes the following summary of the devastation of that morning:

"The Halifax Explosion was a disaster that occurred in a thriving city at a time of war. The Explosion was the result of a collision between two ships in the Halifax Harbour. At 9:04:35 on the morning of December 6, 1917, a munitions ship, the Mont-Blanc exploded, immediately killing more than 1600 men, women, and children. More than 9000 others were wounded, 12,000 buildings were damaged, either laid flat or made uninhabitable, barely a single pane of glass was left to keep out the weather. The destruction covered 325 acres of Halifax, and Dartmouth across the harbour."

Frederick Felepshuk's death was one tragedy among thousands who suffered death or maiming, tragedy compounded for the many survivors by the loss of loved ones, of homes and the descent of winter conditions on a shattered city. His body recovered and identified, Felepshuk was buried in the Fort Massey Cemetery in downtown Halifax.

The Government of Nova Scotia maintains a digital edition of the Halifax Explosion Remembrance Book among its collection of on line resources related to the Explosion.

Private Felepchuk's record in this on line memorial provides the following details:

  • Age – 23
  • Address – Glace Bay, NS
  • Occupation – The Royal Canadian Regiment
  • Buried – Fort Massey Cemetery, Halifax, NS
  • Family – Wife Ellen, 4 child, father Steve Felepchuk, Podolsk, Russia
  • Court of Inquiry stated Felepchuk killed by Explosion duty pier. Snow's Funeral Home 479037

Felepchuk can also be found in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, confirming him as an official casualty of the First World War. His name is inscribed on Page 236 of the First World War Book of Remembrance.

A search of the Canadian Virtual War Memorial for deaths on 6 Dec 1917 returns 54 names of Canadian sailors and soldiers. A review of individual pages shows that quite a few of them appear to have died at Halifax on that date.

Researching The Royal Canadian Regiment in the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Friday, 27 September 2013

Halifax Armouries; Floor Plans
Topic: Halifax
Cunard Street elevation

Halifax Armouries – Floor Plans

The following images, taken from a foldout plan published in Canadian Architect and Builder, Volume XI., No. 2, February 1897 show the floor plans of the Halifax Armouries, as draen by the architect, Thomas Fuller, Chief Architect, Department of Public Works, Ottawa. The "Armouries" drill hall opened in 1897. Close examination of the floor plans reveals the originally intended occupation of the building.

Click on the images to see larger versions.


Halifax Armouries, floor plan, basement level

Drill Floor Level

Halifax Armouries, floor plan, drill floor level

Balcony Level

Halifax Armouries, floor plan, balcony level

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 27 September 2013 8:55 AM EDT
Monday, 23 September 2013

Halifax Armouries; Elevations and Cross Section
Topic: Halifax
Cunard Street elevation

Halifax Armouries – Elevations and Cross Section

These images, taken from a foldout plan published in Canadian Architect and Builder, Volume XI., No. 2, February 1897 show the elevations and cross-section of the Halifax Armouries as drawn by the architect, Thomas Fuller, Chief Architect, Department of Public Works, Ottawa. The outside views show the sides of the building facing Park Street and Cunard Street, and section A.B., (through the centre of the main entrance on Cunard Stereet). The "Armouries" drill hall opened in 1897.

Click on the images to see larger versions.

Park Street Elevation

Halifax Armouries, Park Street elevation


Halifax Armouries, cross-section

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Defending Halifax: The Point Pleasant Batteries
Topic: Halifax

Prince of Wales Tower. For a sense of scale, note the starway on the lft side of the tower.


Although Halifax, Nova Scotia, was never attacked or the defences of the Citadel tested, it is the outlying fortifications that both make that prospect even more challenging to prospective attacker and show the most likely approaches that would have been taken. The Citadel is a Vauban style star fort and would have been attacked in a set piece siege to approach and sufficiently destroy its battlements for an assault.

The likeliness of congestion in the main harbour from burning ships and damaged docksides, the steep approach through the town and being under the guns of the fortress make that approach an undesirable on for an attacker. The alternatives, therefore, would be landing on Point Pleasant, or from within the Northwest Arm, the latter offering a shorter distance to move one's siege artillery. While the guns of the Citadel, as late as the 1860s rearmament, could not directly cover these approaches and landing areas, the strength of the outlying batteries, particularly in Point Pleasant itself still made this course of action a daunting task.

The map at right shows the relative areas of effective coverage of smooth bore cannons in the Citadel and outlying batteries circa 1860s. The approach up the North West Arm to assault to Citadel from landward is an obvious course of action and shows the necessity of defending not only the southern end of the Halifax Peninsula but also blocking entry into the Arm. (this map and ordnance figures below are taken from "Defending Halifax: Ordnance, 1825-1906," Parks Canada #46, History and Archaeology, 1981.

As a result, other than the heaby armament of the Citadel itself, Point Pleasant became the most heavily defended locality in the Fortress system, with the following batteries established:

In 1861, mounted ordnance in the Point Pleasant batteries was as follows:

  • Point Pleasant Battery – 10 x 32-pounder cannon, 1 x 12-pounder
  • North West Arm Battery – 4 x 32-pounder cannon, 3 x 18-pounder
  • Fort Ogilvie – 6 x 32-pounder cannon
  • Prince of Wales Tower – 2 x 24-pounder cannon

Prince of Wales Tower, commonly known as the Martello Tower after its style of construction, was the central battery in Point Pleasant and as the coverage drawing above shows, provided supporting fire to each of the other batteries. This defence in depth ensured that Point Pleasant would be a hard fought set of defences, anchoring the Citadel's outer batteries and making any enemy lodgment on the Peninsula a hard won achievement. In varying states of decay, each of the Point Pleasant battery locations can still be explored by visitors to Point Pleasant Park.

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 13 May 2013

The Garrison Chapel, Halifax, Nova Scotia (1847 to 1905)
Topic: Halifax

The image above, from a postcard with a 1905 postmark shows the Garrison Chapel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which was used by the British garrison troops between 1847 and 1905.

The Evolution of the Halifax Fortress; 1749-1928
by Harry Piers (Revised by G.M. Self, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 1947)

Before 1830 the troops attended religious service in the various churches of the town. From about November, 1830, to about November, 1837, an old building was leased, and fitted up as a garrison Chapel. In July, 1835, Lt. Colonel Jones sent to England plans and estimates £1,980 4s 1/2d, for a Military or Garrison Chapel to be erected near the foot of the Citadel glacis. It was intended to afford ample accommodation for 794 persons, the galleries being for the officers and their families and the ground floor for the NCO's and men. The corner-stone was laid on 23 October, 1844, and the building was opened for service 18 June, 1847. Its site was in from the northwest corner of Brunswick and Cogswell Streets. It was from the built of wood, about 100' by 60', designed in a classic style, the recessed portico beneath the pediment on the east front having large fluted Doric columns.

The Church of Saint Paul in Halifax, Nova Scotia: 1749-1949
by Reginald V. Harris, K.C., D.C.L. (Ryerson Press, 1949)

St Paul's was for ninety-six years (1750-1846) the church of the Army and Navy stationed in Halifax. ...

Garrison Chapel. On October 23, 1844, the corner-stone of the “new Military Chapel” at the corner of Brunswick and Cogswell Streets was laid, in the presence of troops in the garrison.

From the time it was opened until 1905 this Chapel was the authorized place of worship for all British soldiers in the garrison, except Presbyterians and Roman Catholics, and nothing could exceed the heartiness of the services held there.

In 1905 the Imperial troops were withdrawn from Halifax, and the Chapel was closed. In the following year the building was purchased by the congregation of Trinity Church, then on Jacob Street, occupying it in 1907.

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Entrance to the Citadel, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Topic: Halifax

One of the iconic views form Halifax, Nova Scotia. preserved in generations of postcards, was the entrance to the Halifax Citadel. The stone fort on the Halifax peninsula overlooking the harbour, is the fourth set of fortifications at the site and was always the central feature of a system of fortifications that grew over centuries as threats and defensive weapon technologies changed. Even as the fort itself became obsoleted it remains a central feature of the Halifax landscape, consolidating itself as a primary tourism site even as many of the supporting and later independent battery locations fell into disrepair and were forgotten even by the local residents. Some of those outlying batteries can be found in ruins, in areas like Point Pleasant Park, other enjoy their own continued maintenance and attention as tourist sites, like York Redoubt.

Notable for many over many decades until more recent restoration work, was the placement of two large calibre land service mortars over each side of the entrance. These mortars were brought back from the French Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island after the last British defeat of that French stronghold in 1758.

The current view of the entrance from Google maps streetview. (Google maps streetview.)

But the entrance to the Citadel remains a well-known view from Halifax, even though it bears little truly unique features of its own. Wide enough for a single wagon, the passage through the rim of the glacis leads to a wooden bridge crossing the ditch into the fort's interiors. (It's a ditch, not a moat. Ditches are dry, moats are wet.)

A view of the ditch and entryway bridge from the ditch. (Google maps streetview.)

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 29 April 2013

Wellington Barracks, Halifax
Topic: Halifax

Wellington Barracks was one of a number of barracks used to house soldiers of the British Army, and later the Canadian Permanent Force, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Built on land now occupied by HMCS Stadacona, Wellington Barracks was once the home of The Royal Canadian Regiment when it provided the garrison battalion in Halifax.

The Evolution of the Halifax Fortress; 1749-1928 by Harry Piers (Revised by G.M. Self, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 1947)

"The destruction by fire (11 December, 1850) of the soldiers' quarters at the North barracks very seriously reduced the available accommodation for the large force on the station ( ... the whole of the North Barracks, with the adjoining Officers' Quarters, Mess Rooms and the contiguous buildings were entirely consumed …), but it was not until seventeen years later that the erection of th present Pavilion Barracks or Married Soldiers Quarters was begun on the site of the old building. Almost immediately after the fire the Halifax Hotel on Hollis Street was leased as quarters for the Officers, and an uproarious time they had there. The rank and file were accommodated thus: the 7th Royal Fusiliers in casemates at the Citadel; the 88th in South Barracks; and the 35th, two companies at George's Island, and other harbour forts, one in the Naval Hospital, and one on the ground floor of the Pavilion Range of the North Barracks."

"Fortunately steps had already been taken to build in another part of the town large and thoroughly modern permanent barracks, later named Wellington Barracks. On 17 July, 1850, Lt. Colonel Savage had sent to England a full description and plans for permanent barracks for a battalion of infantry, to be erected on the Ordnance Field, Gottingen Street, south of Fort Needham; officers' quarters to accommodate two field officers, twenty-four officers and twenty-six servants, enlisted men's barracks for 555 NCO's and privates, and a 40-bed hospital. Authority to proceed with the work was given 30 December 1850, and the preparation of the site apparently begun in 1851. In June, 1852, the tenders of Peters, Blailock, and Peters, of Quebec, £43,271, was accepted; and they commenced work about 1 August, 1852, under the superintendence of Captain Barry, R.E. The buildings were nor complete until April, 1860."

These new barracks would also be built to the newest standards, meeting the high expectations of the reform movement seeking to improve living conditions then gaining strength in England. Accordingly, as quoted in "A Brief History of Wellington Barracks" by Barbara Winters (1989), it would include:

"...the creation of separate quarters for married soldiers, as well as separate dining facilities, day-rooms, ablution rooms and baths, laundry and drying rooms, They proposed the removal of urine tubs from the barracks, the erection of proper urinals outside the rooms, the replacement of cesspools by a drainage and sewage system and the provision of an abundant water supply."

Wellington Barracks was completed in 1858, but no troops occupied the quarters until 1860. the contract to build the barracks was fraught with problems, including the dismissal of the contractors before all work was completed.

Built originally to house the British Army garrison units at Halifax, the Barracks would house The Royal Canadian Regiment on two occasions. During the first such occasion, it housed part of the 3rd (Special Service) Battalion of The RCR, which was raised between 1899 and 1902 to garrison Halifax while the British Army focused its efforts, and its own battalions, in South Africa. Later, in 1905, when the last British garrisons were removed from Canada and The RCR expanded to create a battalion headquarters and six new companies of infantry at Halifax, Wellington Barracks again became one of the Regiment's homes until the Regiment departed for the First World War.

Wellington Barracks, after being damaged in the Halifax Explosion, was never returned to full use. Its outbuildings were torn down after the Explosion and the property transferred to the Navy in 1941.

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 19 April 2013

The Royal Canadian Regiment Gate; Halifax, Nova Scotia
Topic: Halifax

On Gottingen Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia, set into the wall of the main Royal Canadian Navy shore establishment in the city, HMCS Stadacona, is a gate named for Canada's senior infantry regiment. While most Haligonians have probably never noticed the gate, and even for those whose daily commute takes them along that street it has probably faded from notice, even fewer could probably explain the connection between an infantry regiment and a unused gate in the wall of a Navy property.

The Royal Canadian Regiment Gate (The RCR Gate) links the City to its past, when The RCR was the garrison battalion in Halifax from 1905 to 1914. The Regiment's links to Halifax reach back even further, to when a 3rd (Special Service) Battalion was raised in 1900 and served in Halifax until 1902 while the British Army was focusing its efforts in South Africa. But in 1905, the British Army withdrew its last garrison soldiers from Canada, and that led to the expansion of The Royal Canadian Regiment, with a battalion headquarters and six new companies of infantry being formed to man the defences of Halifax.

The Regiment maintained one Company of infantry in the Citadel, but for the bulk of the Regiment's solders in Halifax, their home was Wellington Barracks. Wellington Barracks was located within the bounds of the current HMCS Stadacona property, with the soldiers' barrack building near Gottingen St and the officers' quarters closer to the harbour by a hundred metres or so. And the gate? The RCR Gate on Gottingen Street was the original entrance to Wellington Barracks.

The officers' Quarters was damaged in the Halifax Explosion on 6 December, 1917. The damage to the buildings was such that it took some days for the elements of the Regiment remaining in Halifax to recover the Regimental and King's Colours from the wreckage of the Officers' Mess. This was, no doubt, an important task in addition to aiding and assisting rescue and recovery efforts after the devastating explosion of the Mont-Blanc. The officers' quarters remained unoccupied until 1931 following extensive repair work, while the soldiers barracks was repaired and reoccupied after the 1917 Explosion.

In 1941 , the Wellington Barracks property was transfered to the Navy and HMCS Stadacona was forned from the expansion of the adjoining Navy property. The current sailor's barracks, "A" Block, occupies the orginal location of Wellington Barracks soldiers' barracks, which was known as "A" Mess. In the evolving reconstruction of the Stadacona site, and particularly the need to accommodate increased traffic flow, a new main gate was built further south on Gottingen Street and The RCR Gate became a historical artifact, maintained as a link to the past.

Today, The RCR Gate remains part of HMCS Stadacona, a reminder of when the local garrison included a Canadian Permanent Force (i.e., Regular Force) infantry battalion. The gate can be seen adorned with a regimental banner and cap badge over the gates, and the emblazoned battle honours of the Regiment on the stone Gate posts. The regimental cypher also decorate the two pedestrian doors flanking the main gate.

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 19 April 2013 11:19 PM EDT
Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Halifax Armouries
Topic: Halifax

The above view of the Halifax Armouries is its most recognizable face to many people today. Haligonians whose daily commute or leisure activities take them along the main arteries bounding the Halifax Commons southwest of the Armouries would have no problem identifying the building by this profile. It is not, however, the "front" of the building as intended by the original design. As often happens when a city's evolution diverges from the orientations of its older architecture, the face of the Halifax Armouries actually fronts on Cunard Street, and not North Park Street (which runs across the side of the building as shown above).

The Halifax Armouries was constructed between 1895 and 1898 at a final cost of $250,000 (over budget by $75,000), designed by Thomas Fuller, Chief Dominion Architect for the Department of Public Works, it's original purpose was to provide new accommodation for the city's Militia regiments, a duty to it continues to serve to this day.

Constructed by J.E. Askwith Co. of Ottawa, the Armories' outer walls required $17,000 worth of freestone which was quarried in Pugwash. The the interior was lined with $35,000 of pressed brick. Construction of the foundation required 16,000 cubic feet of granite, and the whole was held together by 35,000 barrels of cement mortar.

At 50 metres wide by 92 metres long, the building provided one of the largest enclosed and unpillared spaces in the Dominion at the time of its construction, rivaled only by another Armoury in Toronto which was also designed by Fuller and used new iron and steel roof trusses to provide for a wide open drill floor. The Halifax Armouries was also he first building of its type to have electric lighting included from the design stage.


The Halifax Armouries remains the home of these Reserve units:

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 14 March 2013 9:40 PM EDT
Saturday, 16 February 2013

Halifax, Nova Scotia
Topic: Halifax

This aerial view of Halifax is from a postcard which was probably taken between the First and Second World Wars. Halifax was the Home Station of The Royal Canadian Regiment (The RCR) from 1905, when the Regiment expanded with six new companies and a battalion headquarters to take over the garrison duties in the port city (after the withdrawal of the last British garrison units). It was from Halifax that The RCR went to Bermuda for a garrison duty for the first year of the First World War, and it was to Halifax the Regiment returned briefly before proceeding to European battlefields. The Regiment returned once again to Halifax after the Great War, but did not return to permanent garrison duties, by 1920, the Regiment was relocated to Company Stations in Fredericton, Toronto, London and Montreal.

Those familiar with the city will recognize the Citadel in the foreground, The last infantry garrison troops to occupy the fortress were of The RCR. In the centre middle ground is Camp Hill Hospital, with the Halifax Commons extending to the right of the image .In the distance is the Northwest Arm, an extension of the harbour which defines the Halifax Peninsula. The Arm appears closer than it is in reality because the angle of the photo hides the falling ground extending toward the water of the Northwest Arm. At the very top centre of the image lies the cove where Melville Island can be found. Melville Island was, for many years the military proison site at Halifax.

The image below shows much of the same area, as depicted on the 1918 topographical map published by the Geographical Section, General Staff, of the Department of National Defence. (Each grid square is 1000 yards (914 metres).)

Google maps shows that, although much of the city has been rebuilt, the area of the Citadel and the area behind the hill remain recogizable.

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:42 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 16 February 2013 12:47 AM EST

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