By Ted Ross

                                Photo by Bob Tuomi

Part One 1914-1915

The headline in the Daily Colonist of August 5, 1914 reads, "British Empire Has Declared War Against Germany."

According to the Daily Colonist, Victoria was in a prosperous period. New housing had been built in various neighbourhoods, including Beacon Hill. The third Victoria High School, a Rattenbury designed building, opened in a former gravel pit on Fernwood Avenue on May 1, 1914. Beacon Hill School, offering classes in grades one, two and three, opened in September on Douglas Street, one vacant lot south of Beacon Street, for the growing population of children in that neighbourhood.

Flipping through the August 5th paper, on page 3 a headline is, "Mobilization of the 5th Regiment; Regiment Welcomes Back Its Men From the Civil Aid Force and Serves Now as Complete Unit." The article states, "Being specially a corps for coast defence work, it is only natural that the 5th should receive first call to take the field..."

On page 4 one headline is "Regimental Orders." There is a full description of the various regiments in the Victoria area, and what their deployments will be. They include the 50th Highlanders, the 88th Victoria Fusiliers and the Victoria Squadron of B.C. Horse.

Image J-00121 Courtesy of the BC Royal Museum - BC Archives - Members of the 88th Victoria Fusiliers digging trenches on Dallas Road near Clover Point

Also on page 4 there is a headline reading, "Our German Citizens." The article states, "A local feature of the present situation is that we have living with us and playing an honorable part in our civic, business and national life a large number of Germans, whose sympathies may not unnaturally be with the country of their origin during these times of stress. We are sure that they will wisely refrain from any expressions that may be construed as offensive, and we are equally sure that our citizens of British origin will be careful to avoid anything that may tend to make their presence here uncomfortable. Although their Fatherland may be at war, they are yet our friends and trusted neighbors and business associates."

"Declaration of War Gives Satisfaction," says another headline on page 5, with the sub-head, "Victorians Displayed Great Enthusiasm in Receiving News of Hostilities With Germany."

"Veterans Ready to Again Serve Flag," is seen on page 7 with the sub-head, "Over 100 Members of Association Enthusiastically Enroll in Hope Their Services May Be Accepted." The article describes how, to a man, members of the Veterans Association would return to active duty if called on.

Another headline on page 7 states, "Nurses Volunteer." The article reads in part, "Four graduate nurses from the St. Joseph's Hospital have already volunteered for active service, and a number of others are anxious to go."

"Sport Will Suffer Slump in Victoria," says a headline on page 9. The article tells us, "Owing to the state of war in Europe and the preparations that are underway to render assistance in the preservation of Great Britain's integrity, sport here is due to suffer a decided slump."

An Extra of the Daily Colonist on August 5th announces, "Sir Richard McBride, representing the Province of British Columbia...completed the purchase of two submarines..." The boats were given to the national forces by British Columbia.

The Victoria News of November 7, 2014, remembers, "When World War I broke out, Willows fairgrounds transformed into a base for regiments training for combat.

"Gone were the horse races and festive air, replaced by mounted soldiers training at nearby Willows Beach with drills performed on the racetrack. The agricultural building became headquarters and tents filled the surrounding fields as regiments from around the province stopped in Oak Bay, before deploying overseas."

Barry Gough, in his war history, From Classroom to Battlefield; Victoria High School and The First World War, tells us, "This was the first time and the last in Canada's history that the pressure of war turned directly on the whole youth of the nation. As for the students in (Victoria High) school, those enrolled in 1914 stayed in; they could not enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) until they were eighteen, although many fudged their age and got early entry. The students in the matriculation class made plans to enlist as soon as they could. Thus, members of the 1915 class were at the Front by 1917. In that year, and particularly the next, the heavy casualties occurred; 1918 was a particularly savage year in the school's history. Right to the end of the War, news department reports coming back to Victoria told of another killed in action.

"The frustrations felt by the female students must have been acute as they saw their boyfriends going off to the combat zone. They also often had a brother or two going overseas as well.

Image A-02709 Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum - BC Archives - Rioters on the corner of Johnson and Blanshard Streets

"The female students made articles for our soldiers at the front, the unfortunate Belgians and the destitute at home. Balaclava caps, wristlets, socks, and covers for water bags were sent on to the defenders of our Empire."

The headline of the August 26, 1914 issue of the Daily Colonist declares, "Volunteers of Fifth Regiment C.G.A., Are Leaving Today for Valcartier; Troops Leave by Today's Boat."

The report says, "About seventy officers and men of the 5th Regiment, C.G.A., the pioneer militia corps of Victoria and the only artillery battery in the city, will leave for Vancouver by the 3 o'clock boat this afternoon. Their immediate destination is Valcartier, Quebec, where they will join Canada's first contingent for service with the British troops in Europe."

On August 28, five hundred Victoria volunteers of the 50th Regiment of Gordon Highlanders and the 88th Regiment of Fusiliers sailed from here en route east.

On September 4, police and firemen agreed to contribute one day's pay to the relief fund for dependents of men serving overseas.

The Victoria Times, January 7, 1915 reports, "The seventeenth overseas draft of the Army Medical Corps will leave Victoria within the next few days, marching orders just having been received at Willows Camp by Major J.S. Macpherson, the commanding officer.

Image #A-00277 Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum - BC Archives

"The draft will be composed of an officer and twenty-five men, Capt. P. Reid being in charge. The party will proceed direct to Halifax, and will there await transportation to England. The men will be distributed to hospitals either in England or France, wherever their services prove to be most needed."

Dave Obee, writing in the Times-Colonist of May 10, 2015 recalls, "Early on Friday morning, May 7, 1915, the telegraph wires started buzzing with tragic news from the waters off Ireland. The Lusitania had been sunk by a German torpedo. Almost 1,200 passengers and crew died when the ship, bound for Liverpool from New York, went down.

"On board were 15 people from Victoria, including James 'Boy' Dunsmuir who was on his way to England to enlist in a regiment there. His strong desire to serve his country gave him nothing more than a watery grave.

"The deaths of so many civilians sparked outrage throughout England, with rioting in the ship's home port of Liverpool.

"In Canada, the worst rioting was in Victoria. It started on Saturday, the day after the sinking. Angry crowds, including off-duty soldiers, attacked businesses and buildings with German-sounding names, or whose owners were known to be of German descent.

"The businesses hit by the mob included the Blanshard Hotel, which had formerly been known as the Kaiserhof, the Victoria Phoenix Brewery, the wholesale company owned by Moses Lenz, the Pither and Leiser store, E.J. Geiger's plumbing business, and the New England Hotel, which was owned by someone who had been to Bavaria.

The August 5, 1915 edition of the Daily Colonist, on the first anniversary of the outbreak of war,was filled with war news stories from page 1 to half way through page 3. On that page, under the heading, "Casualties Issued at Ottawa," there are eighty-five names on the grim list.

An article on page 6, headed, "Potatoes for Australia," shows that even in wartime, international trade out of Victoria carried on.

"The SS Niagara, which sailed last night from the Outer Docks for the Antipodes, took a large shipment of British Columbia potatoes, which were loaded at Vancouver. They are new potatoes, guaranteed free from any form of tuber diseases by the Provincial Inspectors, and were grown on the Lower Mainland. It is anticipated that further heavy shipments will be made both to Australia and the Fiji Islands."

On page 7, the headline reads, "Make Strong Appeal For Red Cross." The people of Victoria were willing to give financial support for the work of the Red Cross the article explains.

"Parliament Square and the grounds of the Empress Hotel were thronged with Victorians last evening, the occasion being a grand patriotic demonstration, under the auspices of the Red Cross Society. Coupled with the programme of music and speeches was an appeal for funds for the work of the organization, to which there was a generous response, approximately $335 being collected."

to be continued in December