Some details on the German raid on Scarborough by Sydney Foord from his "Scarborough records"
In the midst of the casualties, the chaos and the considerable material damage which greeted the people of Scarborough on the morning of the 16th December 1914, it was not surprising that their faith in the Royal Navy was a little shaken.
They could not believe that German cruisers like the Derrflinger, Von Der Tann and Kolberg could cross the North Sea , have time to bombard Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby, and then return home to their base without being discovered and destroyed.
The first official explanation came from the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr Winston Churchill) in a letter to the Mayor (Mr CC Graham) in which he said:
Dear Mr Mayor,
I send you a message of sympathy not only on my own account but on behalf of the Navy, in the losses Scarborough has sustained. We mourn with you the peaceful inhabitants who have been killed or maimed, and particularly the women and children. We admire the dignity and fortitude with which Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool have confronted outrage. We share your disappointment that the miscreants escaped unpunished. We await with patience the opportunity that will surely come.
Owing to the censorship it was not possible for even the First Lord of the Admiralty to give a detailed account of the action taken by the Navy but what he said was reassuring particularly the last paragraph of his letter which was in true Churchillian style:
"Their hate is the measure of their fear. Its senseless expression is the proof of their impotence and the seal of their dishonour. Whatever feats of arms the German navy may hereafter perform the stigma of the baby-killers of Scarborough will brand its officers and men while sailors sail the sea".
It was not until 1928 that the full story was told. This was the occasion when Admiral of the Fleet Earl Jellicoe visited Scarborough for the British Legion conference and received the freedom of the Borough. Replying to the address of the Mayor (Alderman EH Mathews) Earl Jellicoe, referring to Scarborough's long association with the sea said:
But of course the connection with the sea which must always be most in the minds of the people of Scarborough is the raid, the bombardment of Scarborough on 16th December 1914. The officers and men of the Grand Fleet were profoundly disappointed that the raid was carried out without the enemy having to pay a heavy toll. One of the reasons why the toll was not inflicted was because the Clerk of the Weather unfortunately threw in his lot on that particular occasion with the German High Seas Fleet.
They left their ports in full strength with all their small craft in fine weather, and that fine weather carried them right across the North Sea. That portion of our fleet which the Admiralty ordered me to send to the sea from Scapa and Cromarty, at any rate the particular portion which left Scapa, was greatly handicapped with the weather. The weather was so bad that destroyers could not get to sea at all. Two light cruisers that went out with the second Battle Squadron had to return heavily damaged by the sea and with several men washed overboard and drowned.
The Clerk of the weather, not content with having foiled us in getting our ships to sea, again allied himself with our enemy when they were retiring having carried out their work. A heavy mist came on which prevented our vessels, although they got occasional glimpses of the enemy, from inflicting the toll upon him which was due, I think perhaps, that explanation is necessary on this occasion."
Part of the Navy's story was told in a letter which Sir David Beatty wrote to his wife but this was not made public until a much later date:
...We were within an ace of achieving it (destruction of German cruisers) the other day. We had overcome all sorts of minor difficulties and we had made an excellent spot and arrived at the exact strategical situation. Our advanced ships had sighted them and then... I can't bear to write about it... If only we had got them on Wednesday as we ought to have done, we should have finished the war from a naval point of view...
During the half hour's bombardment it is estimated 529 shells fell on the town . 17 people were killed, two died of wounds and 100 were injured. Altogether 209 buildings were damaged or destroyed including 10 public buildings, 7 churches and 5 hotels.
The recruiting poster which the War Office issued following the Scarborough bombardment was based on a picture "Remember Scarborough", painted by Miss Edith Kemp Welch, the original of which is in the Town Hall.