11 March 2017
Guest speaker : Donald Davies of SA Military History Society
Donald set the scene by introducing John Frederick Baumann who arrived in Durban in 1851 and established a business as a bread baker and grocery store. He and his nephew, John Michael Leonard Baumann who was an apprentice baker in Germany joined him many years later (1880) after JML had established his own bakery in London. A great seller was the “Ships Biscuits” supplied to sailing vessels and various garrisons stationed about the country. (And who does not know of ‘Bakers' biscuits?). Baumann Baking Co. West Street, Durban 1895 (Courtesy of www.triton.co.za) The Baumann business was one of the German-owned businesses that were severely affected by the ‘Avenge the Lusitania' campaign (ironically, the Baumann sons were fighting on the British side). Latent animosity built up from 1899 (Boer War events) and continued during the course of ‘The Great War' in South Africa between the English and Afrikaans-speaking sectors, and the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915 perhaps sparked the flame. The Lusitania (passenger ship) was headed towards an English port and was hit by a torpedo from a German U-Boat and sank in the Irish Sea 18 minutes after the strike. There were 703 survivors from 1900 passengers and crew. Despite warnings by the Germans in April of that year they would attack in the sea vessels, and a published piece in USA on 1 May 1915, the Lusitania went on its journey. Aboard were a small number of shell casings, but not live ammunition. An official of the Cunard Line stated “no submarine will catch the Lusitania”. (A few potential passengers did not board for the journey as they took heed of the German Embassy warning, rather than the reassurances of the Cunard official).
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