It was Scarborough's fishing fleet that first felt the effects of the war as far as enemy action was concerned. Fishing was only allowed between the hours of sunrise and sunset. The first incident occurred on the night of 12 Jan, 1940 when two Scarborough trawlers were attacked whilst fishing off the coast. The German plane dived bombed and machined gunned them. Four bombs fell around the trawler Persian Empire with skipper Thomas Robson of 8 Potter Lane at the helm. The plane then circled and dropped another 4 bombs. Mr Robson fired off his rockets and it seemed to frighten the raider off. They swung their small boat out but it was holed through with machine gun fire. The other trawler was the Riby with Joe Winship the skipper. The plane dropped four bombs which missed but the blast wrecked the compass, dynamo and wireless.
The next attack came on Friday, 9 Feb, 1940 when the crews of three open motor cobbles – the “Hilda”, “B.S. Colling” and “Our Maggie” and a keel boat, “Courage” had an unnerving experience. They were attacked by enemy aircraft off the Yorkshire coast but managed to reach home safely. William Pashby the skipper of the “Courage” said that one of the planes had come so low that he could see the rear gunner. British fighters arrived three quarters of an hour later.
Skipper Harry “Pip” Sheader of the “Hilda” had his boat bombed and machine gunned by two planes which also attacked two trawlers. They lost 10 lines. The planes dropped about 30 bombs around them. The explosions lifted the boats out of the water. The Germans followed them for about one and a half miles till they were nearly in port and then they were chased off by British fighters.
On 22 Feb, 1940 the trawlers “Cardew”, “Emulator” and “Crystal” arrived back in port and reported that they had been attacked and fired upon by enemy planes. Another trawler the “Aucuba” which was armed drove the planes off. Later on two trawlers, the “Persian Empire” and the “Riby” were also attacked. Some of the bullets hit the “Aucuba”. The skipper was Mr. A. Normandale who reported that no damage had been done. At 10am on Sat, 24 Feb, 1940 the “Persian Empire” was attacked again when very close to the shore. The skipper Tom Robson said that they were machine gunned but no damage was done.
At the beginning of March, 1940 there was much activity off the coast from 3am. The motor fishing boat “Courage” with skipper Bill Pashby at the helm and a crew of 3 – 16/17/18 year olds – was bombed by enemy planes. The bombs fell very near and the blast burst a silencer. One member of the crew suffered severe shock.
On 2 March, 1940 two planes machine gunned the “Hyperion” and “Mary Joy”. The drifter “Silver Line” landed on Wed, 3 April.1940 five German airmen whom they had rescued from their sinking bomber after helping to bring it down. The Heinkel was attacked by a Spitfire and then crashed into the sea. One German was taken to Scarborough Hospital while the others were taken to the Police Station to await the Military. The skipper of the drifter was W. Watkinson and he witnessed the fight between the two planes. The German flew over the boat and the boat’s crew fired at the plane with their Lewis gun. The already damaged plane was hit by the Lewis gunners which caused it to crash into the sea. The drifter went alongside and in doing so knocked off a wing. The crew were then taken off covered by a rifle held by one of the boat’s crew. The Germans said later that ten bullets from the Lewis gun had hit their plane. An official account of this is as follows. 3 April, 1940 The worst incident happened on 16 October, 1940 when the “Pride” sailed out of the harbour mouth and hit a mine. This resulted in the death of three fishermen.
The crew of the 'Pride' were –
- William J Colling 39,1 Gasyard house,Sandside,husband of Mary and Father of Billy,Jack,Jean and Franky. Buried at Filey (see Mercury 25 Oct 1940)
- Francis Henry Crawford, 23 East Mount Flats, though some reports said he lived at Spreight Lane Steps
- John Robinson,Husband of Lizzie and father of Alan and Arthur, 84 Gordon Street. His body was found two days later at the South Bay bathing pool.
From that date on although the fishing fleets did attract the attentions of enemy aircraft it was Scarborough itself that was to suffer from German bombs. As a matter of interest Plaxtons factory became a munitions factory from 1939 under control of the Ministry of Aircraft Productions. It made ammo boxes and 4.5in flares. Also engine castings for Rolls Royce and Bristol aircraft. A fire broke out in 1943 and Cyril Quarton (fruit and veg grower) loaned them some of his premises.
On Thursday, 4 July, 1940 a mine was caught in Whisper Cammish’s nets on the trawler “Connie”. A Mr Dunwell put it on his van and took it through’ town to theCorporation Depot to be weighed. They soon told him to get it away so it took it to Mattie Webster’s scrap yard in William Street and he said the same to get rid of it. It was then taken back to the sands and dumped there. There are many theories as to just why it exploded as it did. The most acceptable which comes from a reliable source is that whilst the mine was being emptied of its explosive mixture it somehow rolled over and the hole which had been made to draw out the filling got blocked up. This caused a build-up of pressure inside and the mine went off. Whatever the reason the mine did explode and in doing so killed a 9yr old boy. Thirteen other people were injured including PC Stanley smith of 193 Seamer Road who suffered a crushed foot and hit it operated on at the Hospital and Dennis Blogg. The Foreshore and Eastborough were covered in broken glass from the many windows that had been shattered.
TRAWLERS ATTACKED Trawlers fishing from Scarborough were attacked by enemy aircraft on 8 occasions.
BODIES WASHED ASHORE 4 bodies were washed ashore and later identified as members of the crew of S.S.Stanburn which was bombed and sunk off Flamborough Head.
SHIPS' CASUALTIES LANDED AT SCARBOROUGH
- 1 dead and 3 wounded from S.S. “Yewdale”.
- 1 wounded from S.S. “Rose of England”.
- Both ships had been bombed and machine-gunned by enemy aircraft.
CASUALTIES DUE TO SEA MINES
- Mine being burnt out on South Sands. 1 dead 13 injured Dead
- Keel boat “Pride” 4 dead.
MINES WASHED ASHORE
- 7 mines were washed ashore and dealt with by the Naval Authorities.