105 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 RMS Lusitania off the coast of 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. The stores shown are Simon Leiser and Company, wholesale grocers, 524 Yates Street (0:12-0:21), and Lenz & Leiser, wholesale dry goods, across the street at 527 Yates (0:22-0:30). [The Simon Leiser building still stands, in recognizable form, on the north side of Yates at Waddington Alley.]
- 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. [The hotel building still stands today, housing the Kent Apartments and the Shine Cafe.]
More archival photos showing the aftermath of the Lusitania riots in Victoria can be viewed online via the BC Archives search page. Many of the images were made by Victoria photographer Ernest Crocker.