Sinking of the Lusitania
The Lusitania was a passenger ship of the Cunard line sunk off the southern coast of Ireland by a German U-boat submarine on 7 May 1915. The ship was travelling between Britain and the USA. There was great public outcry at the sinking, in which 1,195 people were killed. The German government claimed the ship was a legitimate target, as it was carrying large quantities of munitions. Although this was later proved to be true, the British and American governments denied this, and used the sinking to fuel anti-German propaganda.
Until the outbreak of war, aspects of German culture and food had been enjoyed and generally accepted as part of London life with its bustling mix of cultures and influences. For many Germans who chose to stay in their adopted country (often those naturalised or of the second generation) the next four years would prove to be a very difficult, if not devastating period.
Strong, local anti-German feeling was reported by Richmond’s newspapers following the use poison gas by the Germans on 31 January 1915 and after the Lusitania was torpedoed. The 15 May edition of the Herald, under the heading ‘Aliens were rounded up’, reported that local Germans had been rounded up for internment in Southend and that police were stationed outside some homes for their protection. One resident unsuccessfully protested that he was Swiss. Another story entitled ‘Rioting on a small scale’ reported on shopkeepers who had had their windows smashed:
“A mineral water bottle thrown through a window of Mr Herpy’s hairdressing shop in the Quadrant. A brick thrown through the window of Messrs Rickert & Tietze’s shop at the corner of Eton Street and Lower George Street. A threatening crowd outside Mr Rompel’s jewellers in Lower George Street, which was dispersed by police.”