After weeks of isolation because of the Spanish Flu, news of the armistice in November 1918 brought crowds to downtown Victoria—and a surge in flu cases. Ultimately, the pandemic lasted until 1920.

“I am not surprised. The crowds are to blame; the general progress from day to day shows that. If the people will only realize that the instructions we have given are for their own good, and not simply idle words meant to be disobeyed, we will have the epidemic mastered completely in a few days and it will be possible to lift the ban on meetings, theatres and churches—but not till then.” 

Those could be the words of British Columbia’s public health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, in 2020. But, in fact, the quote is from Dr. Arthur G. Price, Victoria’s public health officer in 1918. 

Armistice celebrations, Beacon Hill Park in Victoria

In addition to spontaneous celebrations and a parade, a thousand people gathered outside the Christ Church Cathedral shortly after noon on November 11. The Daily Colonist related, “In calling the service, the second there in two days, Anglican Bishop Schofield defied the ban on public meetings in place since October 8. The bishop ‘asked for God’s help in the removal of the influenza epidemic.’” 

Despite the warnings, people continued to gather in large groups, and after each event, new flu cases were reported. According to the website, The Spanish Flu in Victoria, “The Spanish Flu did its deadliest work in the shadow of the Great War. When the war ended, the collective hope, already sick of death, embraced the peace. Yet the ‘plague’ raged on for another eighteen months.” A sobering reminder as we face our own pandemic in 2020 with COVID-19. 

A crowd at the Armistice Day open-air service of Thanksgiving, Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, November 11, 1918

For more information about the Spanish Flu in Victoria, visit:

Photos courtesy of British Columbia Archives.

Originally published in Victoria Genealogical Society Journal, Summer 2020 edition. This and all material on this website copyright KM Lowe and the Relative Writer unless stated otherwise.