An eyewitness account of anti-German riots in Liverpool (1915)


Pat O’Mara was a labourer working in Liverpool in 1915. Here he describes his involvement in anti-German riots that broke out after the sinking of the Lusitania:


It was five o’clock one evening, and I was watching the home-coming dockers when a newsboy came racing down from Park Lane, yelling: “Sinking of the Lusitania!” The men stopped short; women peered from doorways. I joined one anxious group, poring over the fatal news. It was right – the ‘Lusy’, the fine boat I had left Joe and Harold aboard not two months ago, had been torpedoed…

We walked around Scotland Road listening to the cries of the women whose husbands and sons had gone down in the ‘Lusy’ and we heard the bitter threats made against Germany and anything with a German name. We walked down Bostock Street, where practically every blind was drawn in token of death. All these little houses were occupied by Irish coal-trimmers and firemen and sailormen on the Lusitania; now these men who, barely two weeks ago, had carried their bags jokingly down the street were gone, never to return… Something was afoot; we could sense that and, like good slummy boys, we crowded around eager to help in any disturbance.

Suddenly something crashed up the road near Ben Johnson Street; followed in turn by another terrific crash of glass. We ran up the road. A pork butcher’s had had its front window knocked in with a brick and a crowd of men and women were wrecking the place. A little higher up the same thing was happening – everything suggestive of Germany was being smashed to pieces… Everyone had a brick or a stick or something tucked under his or her coat or apron and there was much pilfering. The police themselves, imbued with bitterness, were the most passive guardians of the law…

Mr Yaag, a big, wholesome fellow allegedly had been born in Germany, but I don’t think he remembered much about it. Two of his nephews were with my cousin Berny and the Eighth Irish over in France. I always liked Mr Yaag, but not quite so keenly as I liked to break his window without…

As we converged on the big shop, Mr Yaag came out, pipe in mouth and with his usual broad smile; this vanished instantly as someone kicked him in the belly and a volley of bricks sent in the huge windows. From the sawdust floor the astounded man had the pleasure of seeing his choice sausages kicked down and thrown about and the furnishings reduced to shambles. “You’ll sink the bleedin ‘Lusy’, will you!” yelled our Joan, waving a shillelagh over his prostate form…

Cook’s pork butcher’s in Mill Street came next. Mr Cook knew as much about Germany at the time, I think, as I did. Later investigation proved that he came from strictly Yorkshire stock… But he had a pork butcher’s shop, and as pork and Germany were identical items, we left his shop in a shambles and himself stretched across the counter groaning. I began to get sick from all the free sausage I’d been eating.

If the Germans had torpedoed the Lusitania, we certainly had torpedoed everything German in our immediate vicinity – certainly all the pork butchers’ shops.