The Lusitania Resource > People > Saloon (First Class) Passenger List > Lieutenant James A. Dunsmuir, Jr.

Lieutenant James A. Dunsmuir, Jr.

Lieutenant James Dunsmuir, Jr. (1894 - 1915), 21, was son of Canadian industrialist and politician James Dunsmuir. Dunsmuir held a commission in the Canadian Mounted Rifles, and was on board Lusitania in May 1915 to go to war. Dunsmuir was lost when the Lusitania was torpedoed by the German submarine U-20 on 7 May 1915.


James Dunsmuir, Jr., was born 28 January 1894 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He was the second son of Canadian industrialist and politician James Dunsmuir (8 July 1851 - 6 June 1920) and Laura Millers Dunsmuir (born Surles) (13 February 1858 - August 1937). James, Jr. was the grandson of Robert Dunsmuir of Ayrshire, Scotland, United Kingdom. Robert had made a fortune as coal baron in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. The father, James, Sr., was the former Premier (1900 - 1902) and Lieutenant-Governor (1906 - 1909) of British Columbia. The family lived at Hatley Castle in Victoria, which was commissioned by James, Sr. Robert Dunsmuir had ordered the construction of a larger castle, Craigdarroch, also in Victoria. From 1905 to 1911, James, Jr. was educated at Loretto, a boarding school just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. At Loretto, he was a clever light-weight boxer. Around Victoria, James, Jr. had been given the nickname of "Boy" by those who knew him. James' older brother Robert was more interested in drinking and traveling than running the family business, and his sisters were characterized as “a wild lot . . . with energy and money to burn”. As such, James, Sr. and Laura hoped that James, Jr. would continue the family business. James, Jr. received a commission in the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles. On 1 May 1915 boarded the RMS Lusitania for England to go to war. His ticket for the ship was 10868 and he was in cabin D-1. Dunsmuir was lost when the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20. His body was never identified or recovered.


British Columbia had been hit hard by the Lusitania disaster, as 44 British Columbians had been traveling on the ill-fated ship. When word reached Victoria that James Dunsmuir was among the city's 15 Lusitania victims, the city erupted into nationalist rioting. Soldiers drinking at Victoria's Kaiserhof Hotel leaped onto the bar and began singing patriotic songs. A crowd gathered to watch men climbing the hotel's fire escape to hang Union Jacks from the roof. A voice shouted "On to the German Club!" Three hundred people, singing and chanting, marched to the German Club and ransacked the building. Soon afterwards, a mob 500 strong and 3,000 spectators went about attacking any business run by people with German sounding names. Armed guards were soon posted around town, and peace was restored by midnight.

Family postscript

James' mother Laura never recovered from her son's death on the Lusitania. She had nightmares for the rest of her life and never felt sure her that son was dead. She expected James to walk through the door to the family castle at any time. James, Sr. died in 1920 in his fishing lodge. Laura followed in 1937. Hatley Castle was converted into a military college in the 1940s. James, Jr.'s room was one of many that were converted into sleeping quarters. Cadets sleeping in the room have reported seeing an old woman lifting the sheets from their faces at night, and when the woman saw a man that wasn't her son, she would pull on his legs to pull him out of bed. The Dunsmuir fortune, built up by James' grandfather Robert, did not survive three generations. James' surviving brother, Robert, gallivanted the globe and drank, not heeding the family business. James' sister Dola had a brief, unsuccessful marriage, followed by a lifelong intimate relationship with actress Tallulah Bankhead. His sister Kathleen, who wanted to be a Hollywood mogul, successfully made British Columbia a popular place to shoot Hollywood movies since the 1930s. Another sister, (Jessie) Muriel Dunsmuir, briefly married British fashion designer Edward Molyneux.

Links of interest

Hatley Castle
References Deefholts, Margaret. "A Victorian Christmas - Past and Present." Web. 3 August 2011. <>. "Victoria:  long a major player in film."  The Black Press, Ltd. 2002 - 2008.  Web.  3 August 2011.  <>. Karr, Clarence.  "Dunsmuir, James." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, 1911-1920 (Volume XIV). Web. 3 August 2011. <>. "Lieutenant James Dunsmuir."  Roll of Honour.  Lorettonian Society.  Web.  3 August 2011.  <>. Nordby, Linda. "Dunsmuir: Coal Miner to Coal Baron." 2000 - 2011. Web. 3 August 2011. <>. "James Dunsmuir Jr. ‎(I12885)‎." W. H. Auden - Family Ghosts. Web. 3 August 2011. <>. “James Dunsmuir.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 3 August 2011. <>. “Edward Molyneux.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 3 August 2011. <>. Woldseth, David Allen. "Ancestry and Relatives of David Allen Woldseth.", 2009. Web. 3 August 2011. <>.

About the Author