A Romance of the Halifax Disaster

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A Romance of the Halifax Disaster
Author Frank McKelvey Bell
Country Canada
Language English
Genre Romance
Publisher Royal Print & Litho
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 82 pp
OCLC 41760407

A Romance of the Halifax Disaster (1918) is today a relatively rare novella by Lieutenant-Colonel Frank McKelvey Bell based on the Halifax Explosion of 1917. After the explosion, Bell assisted in the medical rescue. His experience in hospital wards allowed him to write of the physical trauma suffered by Haligonians. Rather than focusing on medical professionals, though, Bell positions his narrative as a romance between a young volunteer and an injured soldier. At times the story is mere melodrama, though Bell also includes thoughts on women during the war.

Plot summary[edit]

Vera Warrington and Tom Welsford enter the narrative while floating and flirting on the Saint Lawrence River. Years later, Vera is engaged to the wealthy William Lawson and has not heard from Tom. Shortly before the explosion, Tom returns to Halifax, Nova Scotia for orthopedic surgery for a war wound. Tom is still in hospital when the disaster occurs. As a volunteer with the Voluntary Aid Division, Vera darts to the hospital only in time to witness Will’s death and her liberation from the marriage which was to occur later that day. Now free, Vera finds Tom in a hospital bed and accepts his proposal: the last line of the book belongs to Vera, agreeing to marriage.


Haligonian publisher Gerald Weir released the small novella which is today relegated to rare book collections and archival holdings; original copies are worth several hundred dollars apiece. Much of the interest surrounding this book likely arises from the rare photographs which appear on every other page, as well as a detailed list of the dead and a fold out map which are included at the end of the novella.