Sunday in Spring

In Toronto, April 2nd was a mild Sunday, but not a day of rest for Percy and his pals. First, their quarters were inspected by Brigadier-General Logie, and that would have required an extra effort in spit-and-polish.(1)

When the inspection was over, there was church parade: the Globe reported that there was a good turnout, and “the select martial music of the bands enlivened the bright spring morning air.”(1)

In Faversham, Kent, the town where Percy was born, the gunpowder mills took no Sunday rest. On this day, a spark from a chimney at Uplees ignited a store of TNT. The shock was felt as far away as Norwich, and explosions continued for two hours.(2)

Percy’s brother Will worked in that factory; he escaped the explosions, and helped to carry the dead and injured out of the building.

“They looked like roasted rabbits,” he said afterwards. The experience left him emotionally and psychologically scarred.

explosion image percival bbc

This image of the devastation was provided to the BBC by Arthur Percival, historian of Faversham.

(1) Item under the heading “67,420 From Toronto Since War Started.” The Globe (1844-1936) ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Globe and Mail. April 3, 1916. 6
(2) Jenny Barsby. “Faversham, Kent: Considered Worst Disaster in Explosives Industry.” BBC. July 30, 2014.

Brian Dillon’s account of this event, The Great Explosion: Gunpowder, the Great War, and a Disaster on the Kent Marshes was published by Penguin in 2105. Click here for a taste.




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