Hull Riots

When war began, there was much anti German feeling in Britain. This had been brewing for many years with the growth of the German navy and fear of a German invasion. An atmosphere of hate towards anything German gre during the war. This was frequently seen in rioting that occurred against people suspected of being sympathetic toward the Germans. Hull was no exception and in many ways was a divided city with much prejudice. At the start of the war, all German residents had to register with the authorities. The Hull Times reported that by the 7th August 1914, 170 people in Hull had done so, and of these, a half had been detained. However, there were many people who were either of German descent or naturalised British subjects and they became the target of mob hatred. In Hull mny of the pork butcher shops were owned by such people, and with names being prominent, they became an obvious target. The first such incident occurred on Saturday, 24th October 1914, outside the pork butcher’s shop of Mr C.H. Hohenrein. A large crowd gathered outside the shop and two men were arrested for being drunk and disorderly, they were arguing as to whether the shop should stay open. However, Mr Hohenrein, although of German descent, was a British citizen, patriotic and supportive of the war effort. A more serious riot happened on Saturday, 15th May 1915, when a large crowd of 500 people moved down Hessle Road, attacking shops suspected of being owned by Germans. The Hull Daily Mail reported that the shops of a Mr Schumm and Mr Steeg, both pork butchers on Hessle Road, both had windows smashed. Also in Charles Street, Mr Lang’s shop was attacked. In all these cases the owners were naturalised British subjects, (in Mr Schumm’s case, for forty years), and fully supportive of the war.

In response to trawler losses, (8 Hull Trawlers were sunk on one day – the 3rd May 1917), mounting war casualties and the first Zeppelin raid on Hull, on 6th June 1915, which murdered women and children and made many homeless, Anti German demonstrations again broke out throughout Hull. Women were amongst the most rowdy demonstrators, as feelings on their men away at war spilled over. These demonstrations lasted 3 days in Hull. There were 50 reported incidents of violence and many arrests for public disorder. Anything German became a target. Four German owned shops on Hessle Road and a pork butcher on Charles Street were attacked by angry crowds of up to 700 people. A mother and daughter were charged with stealing furniture from German shops, a man stole a mattress, others stole food. A German Grand Piano was destroyed. Another pork butcher’s shop called, Hohenrein, at 22 Princes Avenue, was attacked and threatened several times. The damage and theft in Hull was substantial. The Watch Committee Minutes for 27th August 1915 lists 49 claims for damages by people you suffered during the 15th May riot, and many of the names are distinctly German. In all some £258,000, was eventually paid out in Hull for compensation. The German Zeppelin raid on Hull 6th June 1915, effectively decimated the long standing, German community, in Hull. German churches, culture and businesses declined in Hull thereafter. Many Germans left Hull and those who remained changed their names, including the Hohenrein family, who changed their name to Ross to deter protesters. In the case of Mr William Schumm, he changed his name to Shaw to avoid further trouble.                         

L-9, under the control of Kapitanleutnant Heinrich Mathy (pictured), had orders to “attack London if possible, otherwise a coastal town according to choice”. However, weather conditions were to scupper the original German plans and turn the attention on Hull.
Nordholz AeronauticumCopyright: Nordholz Aeronauticum
Extract from The Zeppelin in combat- a history of the German naval airship division 1912-1919 by Douglas H Robinson:
“The shortness of the June night, and high temperatures persisting after sundown, made an attack on London hazardous, so Mathy decided to bomb Hull.
“Mist blanketed land and sea, and only after a painstaking two-hour search with parachute flares did Mathy recognise Bridlington and from this point of reference set a course for Hull.”


Other naturalised citizens, like the Gohl family, who were not German, but from Austrian and Danish descent, suffered the same discrimination. They changed the pronunciation of their name (from Goal to Goll) to avoid recriminations in the war, and issued public notices to show that the Gohl family was serving Britain during the war. Julius Gohl had arrived in Hull, from Hamburg in the 1867, at the age of two. He married an English woman, Susannah Carter in 1887. Together they established a very successful wholesale and retail confectionery business, with shops in prime locations, and a factory/warehouse in Hull. The outbreak of war in 1914 was a great tragedy for the whole family, as having the surname GOHL meant that Julius and Susannah were classified as “enemy aliens”. This was despite five of their children, all British born, serving with the armed forces. When Britain declared war on Germany, Britain hurriedly introduced the “Alien Restriction Act “ where all ‘aliens’ where required to report and register with the police. Julius placed an advert in the Hull Daily Mail showing the family’s dedication to King and Country. The illustration left, shows the five Gohl siblings in military attire. Edward Gohl was killed in the war and Harry was wounded. The Gohl’s sweet shop at 73 Queens Street was also damaged in a Zeppelin raid, which no doubt helped dispelled any local hostility towards the Gohl family.

Many culprits of the ‘anti German’ violence were unpunished or shown leniency. One particularly perpetrator escaped a prison sentence by enlisting in the army. Hatred of everything German increased and showed itself in the most detestable ways. A Hull born man, who probably did not know that his father was German, until showed a birth certificate, was dismissed from his post in the Work House. His ‘Guardian’ found it necessary to confess that he’d known him for 20 years as a docker, but never suspected this ‘Teutonic Taint’.

Hohenrein & Sons, Pork Butcher’s shop, at 22 Princes Avenue, Hull. The scene of a riot in 1915.

Another victim of these reprisals, was Max Schultz’s family, who lived at 82 Coltman Street. Max Schultz was actually a British Spy before the First World War. He was born in Hull to Pomeranian, emigrant parents, on their way to the United States. For unknown reasons, they broke their voyage, stayed in Hull and opened a shoe shop. Max Schultz became a ship owner by trade, and little is known of how he came to work for the British Secret Service. The Admiralty was suspicious that the Germans were secretly accelerating their shipbuilding program, namely stockpiling guns, turrets, and armor, well in advance of actually building the battleships. (Building the guns, gun mountings, and armor was more time-consuming than building the ships themselves, and stockpiling could cut the three years required to build a ship, to two and a half or two years.) It was suspected that construction was being started in advance of the dates scheduled by the German Navy Law, in advance even of the authorisation of funds by the Reichstag. The consequence of such subterfuge could be dramatic: instead of a 16:13 battleship ratio in favor of Britain in 1912, Britain was facing the possibility of a ratio anywhere from 17:16 to 21:16 in favor of Germany. It was in this atmosphere that Britain formed the Secret Service Bureau on 1st October 1909 and Schultz was recruited. During his travels in Germany in 1910-11, Schultz recruited four informants, the most important being an engineer named Hipsich, in Bremen’s Weser shipyards. In the two years Hipsich operated, before being detected, he had the opportunity to inform the British about Germany’s battleship plans and apparently handed over a large collection of drawings.

Max Schultz was arrested for running a spy ring in Germany in 1911, where he served seven years of hard labour. (At the same time, a genuine German spy with a similar name, Max Schulz, was arrested in Portsmouth for trying to procure naval information for Germany.) Unfortunately, Hull residents did not realize what Max was doing for Britain before the war and his wife Sarah Hilton & their 5 children suffered abuse and their house was stoned (as were many families with German sounding names). Sarah changed the family name to her maiden name Hilton. During his time in prison, Max Schultz built a model of the ship ‘Imperator’, which can be seen in Hull’s Maritime museum today. He hid a letter relating to his prison experience in one of it’s funnels. After returning from Hamburg, were he remained after the war to instigate unrest in the German navy, Max had a yacht, the ‘Lady Esmeralda’, moored on the Thames, and a mistress. He died of alcoholism in 1924, aged 49.  

* Thank You to Roger Kemple for supplying this information on Max Schultz and Brian Gohl for information on the Gohl family.

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