102 years ago this week, nine months into the First World War, anti-German sentiment boiled over in the streets of Victoria, BC. The above video clip is silent film footage from the riots that took place on May 8-9, 1915, following the sinking of the British liner R.M.S. Lusitania off Ireland by the German submarine U-20.  Soldiers training in Victoria were reacting to the deaths of Canadian citizens in the sinking, particularly that of a former comrade — Victoria resident Lieutenant James Dunsmuir of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles.  Soldiers and civilians formed an angry mob that attacked businesses owned by German-Canadians, destroying property and looting goods.

    The surviving footage is in three sections:

    • 0:12-0:30 — Shots of milling crowds, damaged storefronts and broken windows.
    • 0:31-0:52 — Uniformed soldiers can be seen throwing objects from the broken second-floor windows of the German Club, above the Dominion Express office on Government Street.
    • 0:53-1:12 — The clip concludes with shots of the crowd outside the Blanshard Hotel (formerly the Kaiserhof Hotel), at the corner of Blanshard and Johnson Streets; broken windows are visible on the upper floors.

     

    Spectators gather outside the Kaiserhof Hotel, southwest corner of Johnson and Blanshard Streets, Victoria, May 8, 1915. (BC Archives photo A-02709, detail)

    Mob and spectators gathered outside the Blanshard (ex-Kaiserhof) Hotel, 1322 Blanshard Street (southwest corner of Blanshard and Johnson), Victoria, May 8, 1915. (BC Archives photo A-02709, detail)

     

    Damage to the bar in the Kaiserhof Hotel following the Lusitania riot, May 1915. (BC Archives photo C-07552)

    Damage to the bar in the Blanshard (ex-Kaiserhof) Hotel following the Lusitania riot, May 1915. (BC Archives photo C-07552)

     

    Damage to the German Club above the Dominion Express office, Government and Courtney Streets, Victoria, May 1915. (BC Archives photo A-6827, detail)

    Damage to the German Club above the Dominion Express office, 904 Government Street (just north of Courtney Street), Victoria, May 1915. (BC Archives photo A-6827, detail)

     

    The newspaper accounts and notices excerpted below appeared in the Daily Colonist of Sunday and Tuesday, May 9th and 11th, 1915. The Mayor and the military called for calm; threatened businesses with German-sounding names emphasized their loyalty to the British Empire. But a great deal of damage had already been done.

     

                                              

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Dennis J. Duffy

    BC Archives

    Archivist (Retired)

    View Profile