If any of the Summerstown182 fancied an apple strudel, a viennese whirl or perhaps a slice of battenberg cake, they would very likely have frequented Peter Jung’s bakery at 48 Tooting High Street. On the corner of Garratt Lane, diagonally opposite where Tooting Broadway tube station now stands, this distinctive red-brick domed building is presently occupied by Carphone Warehouse. In fact as you come out of the station, King Edward the Seventh seems to be gazing over to it, as if dreaming wistfully of a nice wedge of chocolate torte. However its prominence may have played a big part in its unpleasant destiny, for on at least three occasions in the early years of the war it was beseiged and attacked by an angry mob, fired-up by a combination of anti-German hatred and perhaps a craving for sugary pastries. There were roughly 27,000 Germans living in London in 1911, the majority clustered in the east end. They were engaged in all kinds of trade but numbers involved in baking, waiting and hairdressing were significant. Indeed it was estimated in 1912, that ten percent of the waiters in London were German. Hostility against them started before the war, but peaked in August 1914 upon its outbreak when there was disorder in the east end and the breaking-into and looting of a number of bakeries and bread shops. On 3rd October, Lord Charles Beresford wrote in The Globe blaming the sinking of the Live Bait Squadron upon ‘assassins in the shape of spies’. Stories circulated about German atrocities to the Belgian population. A campaign was launched against German employees in hotels and restaurants, who were apparently ‘not only spies but depriving Englishmen of employment’. The public was urged to boycott establishments which employed ‘aliens’. In October there was trouble in Deptford, a mob of five to six thousand attacked a pub owned by a supposed Austrian. There was also violence in Northcote Road and Battersea. A man accused of bad language and threatening to throw loaves out of a baker’s shop on Garratt Lane said ‘We don’t want any Germans here. I’ve lost two sons in the war’. The judge advised him it was no reason to throw bread out of a shop.
Much worse was to come. In June 1915, the sinking of The Lusitania with the loss of 1,200 lives prompted a wave of fresh outrage in Britain. Days of anti-German rioting in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle followed. So many bakers shops were destroyed in the east end that there was a shortage of bread. That weekend, two butchers shops in Garratt Lane had their windows broken and on Wednesday Peter Jung’s bakery came under siege. An angry crowd assembled outside it from early evening, booing, jostling customers and threatening the occupants. Mr Jung, a German by birth, who had lived in Britain for 35 years and been naturalised for many of them, pulled down his blinds only to have his windows smashed by a shower of bricks and stones. The contents of the shop were ruined and the police seemed powerless to quell the disorder. At the height of the commotion a party of soldiers passed by in transport wagons to much mutual cheering. The mob which had now swelled to 600 people was only finally cleared by mounted police after 11pm but they simply proceeded to another German bakery at 110 Tooting High Street, owned by a Mr Grunhardt. The shutters were forced open and very soon these premises were also wrecked, and the contents pillaged by children. Mr Borghorst’s bakery on the corner of Fountain Road and Garratt Lane also came under attack and was only saved thanks to police vigilance. There were eight arrests in total and the judge took a tough line, telling one defendant ‘You set an example to all the roughs and scum in the neighbourhood to carry on this disorder instead of helping the police. It is not patriotism at all, it is pillage. You must pay forty shillings or go to prison for twenty one days’. The amazingly defiant Mr Jung even got his solicitors to write to the Tooting and Balham Gazette in protest, after the newspaper advised their readership that there were bakers ‘with British blood in their veins’ available in Tooting. The next significant anti-German violence occured in early June 1916 following the death of Lord Kitchener. The press stirred things up and an Evening News headline proclaimed ‘Intern them all!’ On Friday June 9th 1916 Peter Jung’s bakery was once more the focus of anti-German dissent. A crowd of between five hundred and a thousand people had assembled and they could not be dispersed until 11pm. Seventy policemen including eighteen on horseback and a number of special constables were present from about 8pm and buses were turned into the side roads. In spite of that eleven shop windows were broken and extensive damage done. A soldier, straight from the front passed along and the crowd followed him cheering. As he passed the shop a stick was driven through the window. Five arrests were made on this occasion. Two fifteen year olds appeared in the juvenile court charged with insulting behaviour and throwing missiles. A Mr Barker representing the police commissioner wished it known that doing such things were not only foolish, but unpatriotic. On the occasion of the last German riots after the sinking of The Lusitania, the ratepayers were put to the expense of £50,000. At the Balham and Tooting Traders Association meeting it was suggested that such heavy police deployment and the damage caused by traffic having to use the side roads were additional burdens for the rate payer and it was suggested the Government should take action and shut up shops held by Germans whether they were naturalised or not. There were suggestions from some quarters including Sylvia Pankhurst, that the rioters were motivated more by hunger than hatred of Germans. Certainly it does seem curious that all the reports involve shops trading in edibles. Many people of German descent anglicised their names because of all this or changed them completely. Of course the most famous family of all to do that was the one to which Edward the Seventh belonged. Perhaps he’s actually reflecting on that rather than any thoughts of sugary pastries.