The Tragedy of the Sadler Family

This month we hear from Feona Mann. Feona has been volunteering at the Archives for 18 months. Here she tells us a little bit about herself and an interesting story she found whilst working on the Dundee Roll of Honour.

My name is Feona Mann. I was born in England but brought up in Grangemouth from the age of 5 months. I moved to Dundee when I was married in 1977. I started training as a nurse at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Falkirk Royal Infirmary. I moved on to work at Timex and NCR then went back to Nursing at Ninewells Hospital.  I retired  in 2015 and now volunteer for the Dundee Central Company of St. Andrews First Aid. I’ve lived in Dundee for over 40 years but still regard myself as a Portonian.

I started volunteering at Dundee City Archives in July 2016. I was introduced to it by my mother-in-law, Mrs Grace Mann, who has been a member of the Friends of Dundee City Archives for over 25 years and has done amazing work on various subjects of Dundee history.

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David Robertson Sadler listed in the Dundee Roll of Honour

I have a great interest in the First World War. At Dundee City Archives I’ve been working on finding out what happened in Dundee during WW1. This can be frustrating in some records, as due to the security at that time there was not much detail recorded. I have also worked on updating the Roll Of Honour for Dundee. Having finished that I’ve went on to the Roll Of Honour for the Seamen of Dundee.

One interesting person I came across what David Robertson Sadler. David was born in Dundee on 31st October 1886 and was a bookbinder by trade. He emigrated to Winnipeg in 1911. He is in the Roll of Honour for Dundee and also on the Dundee Seaman’s Roll of Honour. On the Seaman’s ROH  I noticed that underneath his name was also the names of his wife and child: Jemima Sadler and Janet Powers Sadler, aged 1. Jemima and David were married in Winnipeg on 16th April 1915. Jemima was born in North Berwick but lived in Dundee at the time of the 1911 census. We don’t know when she left for Canada or if she knew David before they both emigrated. He Joined the Canadian Navy the day after they were married on 17th April 1915. When I investigated David further I discovered that he was a signalman in the Canadian Navy on H.M.C.S. Niobe and they lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At the time of his death he was attached to the CGS Speedy. He died on the 9th December and his wife and child died three days earlier – so what happened?

Halifax,_Nova_Scotia,_looking_north_from_a_grain_elevator_towards_Acadia_Sugar_Refinery,_ca._1900
Halifax, Nova Scotia before the War

After a bit of research I found out that on the 6th of December 1917 there was a massive explosion in the dock of Halifax. The explosion was a massive a maritime disaster. Two ships collided just off the shore of Halifax. One was the French cargo ship S.S. Mont Blanc, was carrying explosives and the other was Norwegian vessel S.S. Imo. They were sailing through narrow Straights into the Halifax Basin when they collided which caused a fire on board the S.S. Mont Blanc. The ship then exploded near the Richmond district around 2000 people were killed and 9000 injured – 124000 hectares of land was destroyed. The explosion was heard over 500 miles away and it light up the skies.  This is what killed Jemima and Janet. David, who had just returned home after being on duty, died three days later of his injuries.

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The District of Richmond, Halifax in the aftermath of the Explosion

Read more about David’s story.

Find out more about the Halifax Explosion.

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