Today is May 7, 2015, which marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Lusitania by a German submarine. The sinking of RMS Lusitania marked the first time in history that a passenger liner had been sunk without warning as a deliberate act of war.
Seven Victoria residents were among the passengers and crew who died. Victoria saw two nights of anti-German riots following after; downtown businesses were vandalized, and the Riot Act was read for the first time in the city’s history. Rioters targeted businesses believed to have German owners or investors, but in many cases they were misinformed. For example, the Victoria-Phoenix Brewery had been sold to British capitalists; a German-sounding name on the business was enough to trigger the wrath of the mob.
Victoria’s Lusitania riots were unique in North America and were reported around the world, alongside reports of anti-German riots in British and South African cities. To commemorate this event, there are a series of tours and talks planned. The tours are part of the Discover Walks series, and will focus on these anti-German riots that erupted when the news of the Lusitania reached the city.
Ending the month will be Dr. Diana Pedersen’s illustrated lecture for the Victoria Historical Society. “Victoria and the Sinking of RMS Lusitania” will examine the Lusitania’s eight-year career as viewed from Victoria, the sinking of the ship and the fates of the fourteen Victoria passengers, and Victoria’s anti-German riots and their aftermath.
Three years ago, Dr. Pedersen learned of Victoria’s connections to the Lusitania disaster and now, she is publishing her research. She is an independent historian and freelance editor in Victoria, who taught Canadian history at Concordia University in Montreal. Next month she will share some of her findings in two downtown walking tours, a cemetery tour at Ross Bay, and an illustrated lecture to the Victoria Historical Society.
More information about the tours can be found on the website of the Victoria Historical Society.