(Pitt Meadows Museum)                                British Lusitania souvenir medal with circular.

(Pitt Meadows Museum) British Lusitania souvenir medal with circular.

Looking Back: medal or medallion?

Propaganda item produced by the Lusitania Souvenir Medal Company for British Naval Intelligence.

On occasion, we receive, at Pitt Meadows Museum, an object we retain, not so much for its value in documenting area history, but more for its unique and curious value.

One such object came in this past summer and will eventually be on exhibit with other artifacts related to military history.

The object – a medallion (that was referred to at the time as a medal) originally struck just after the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915.

RELATED: The real story behind Maple Ridge and Mission’s famous train robber.

The medal, cast in bronze, is a propaganda item produced by the Lusitania Souvenir Medal Company for British Naval Intelligence in the weeks following the sinking and in direct response to an almost identical medal – also a propaganda tool – privately struck in Germany after the attack.

Karl Goetz, the artist who engraved the German medal, was well known for his satirical work that was done to provoke and ridicule, and his Lusitania medal was no exception.

Directed at the British, it included the inscription “no contraband goods,” implying there were war supplies or arms on the ship that justified the torpedoing of a passenger liner, and the reverse side showed passengers buying tickets from “death” even though there was a clear threat from U-boats in the North Atlantic at that time, thus implying they should have known what was coming.

It is clear Goetz believed the Germans were faultless as they had warned the passengers, including the Americans onboard through newspaper advertisements about U-boats, and the Allied forces and Cunard line negligent in their duty by not heeding the warnings.

In the first minting, the German medal appeared with a date of May 5, two days before the actual torpedoing, and it was this inaccuracy, likely Goetz’s mistake, the British took aim at when they replicated the medal and sold it along with a circular that rebuked the blatant German militarism that targeted civilians and then produced a medal with a date that clearly indicated what Naval Intelligence wanted the British public to believe was a pre-planned attack.

The British replica medal came in a box with the circular that included minting information – “the Lusitania Souvenir Medal Committee … All profits accruing to this committee will be handed to St. Dunstan’s Blinded Soldiers and Sailors Hostel.”

And, in order that the public not be fooled by the keen likeness to its German counterpart, a header as follows: “Please do not destroy this. When you have read it carefully through kindly pass it on to a friend”.

The circular goes on to remind the reader of the callousness of the attack and finishes with the following comment on Goetz’s engraving of the sinking ship: “This picture seeks apparently to propound the theory that if a murderer warns his victim of his intention, the guilt of the crime will rest with the victim, not the murderer.”

As many as 300,000 British copies were produced and distributed as “medals,” implying blame for the German medal/medallion rested with their government rather than a private venture.

This tactic appears to have worked, as by January 1917, the Bavarian War Office had forbidden any further minting of the original medal and instructed existing medals be confiscated whenever possible.

Their British counterparts did not suffer the same fate, thus we now have this curiosity in our collection.

Leslie Norman is curator of Pitt

Meadows Museum.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A map of CP's proposed logistics park.
Pitt Meadows city hall and residents oppose new CP Rail operation

Company announces plans for CP Logistics Park: Vancouver

RCMP responded to a pedestrian accident Wednesday in Pitt Meadows. (The News files)
Senior pedestrian struck by vehicle in Pitt Meadows

Driver stayed on scene, ticketed by RCMP

Protestors stand outside Alouette Heights Wednesday afternoon. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
Supportive housing residents protest guest ban

A dozen or so people gathered in front of the Alouette Heights… Continue reading

Rent banks have been opened to help tenants in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. (Black Press files)
Rent banks open in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows for tenants in need

Provide loans to help keep people from falling into homelessness

Art artist rendering of the new Pitt Meadows Fire Hall.
Pitt Meadows council picks fire hall builder

Pitt Meadows council picks fire hall builder on $12.8 million facility

Surrey Pretrial centre in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey Pretrial hit with human rights complaint over mattress

The inmate who lodged the complaint said he needed a second mattress to help him manage his arthritis

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is investigating after a 30-year-old woman died in a Newton alley early this morning after being found with gunshot wounds in a vehicle. The incident happened in the 13700-block of 75A Avenue. (Photo: Lauren Collins).
Woman, 30, dead after early morning crash, shooting in Surrey

Surrey RCMP looking for vehicle, video surveillance in area of 13700-block of 75A Avenue

Most Read