An article entitled "THE ATTACK ON WHITBY - COASTGUARDS HEAD BLOWN OFF - LARGE GAPS IN ABBEY WALLS. EXODUS TO THE COUNTRY" in the 18th December 1914 edition of the Scarborough Mercury. It describes the German bombardment of Whitby which followed on from the bombardment of Scarborough.
Whitby is still throbbing with excitement over the bombardment of the town in the morning hours of Wednesday, and a considerable number of householders sent their wives and children out of the place by the afternoon trains, to remain out of the way until safety seems assured. in view of the fact that at least a hundred shells were fired into the town, it is remarkable that only two persons were killed, and only one seriously injured.
Many people had extraordinary escapes, for about thirty houses were wrecked or seriously damaged, but most of the inmates were only hit by flying splinters. The cannonade lasted about seven minutes, and during that time the shells came hurtling over the town with a noise like that of claps of thunder, and with scarcely recognisable intervals between the shots
POWERFUL BATTLE CRUISERS
It was five minutes past nine o'clock when two enemy ships opened fire. Just before that time they were seen approaching the coast from the south-east at a tremendous speed by the coastguards at the signalling station, which is prominently situated on the edge of the East Cliff, near the famous Abbey ruins.
One of the men on duty was at the moment hoisting the white ensign, and almost immediately afterwards the warships, now within a mile and a half of Whitby, stopped and started to fire at the signalling station. The coastguards say that they were powerful battle cruisers of 25,000 tons each, and capable of firing a tremendous weight of metal.
A COASTGUARD SHOT DEAD
The first shot fell short, but the third killed one of the coastguards, Fredrick Randall, a married man who lives in one of the Admiralty cottages. He had just stepped outside his house when a shell burst close to one of the outbuildings and blew his head clean off. His wife was in the house at the time.
The firing was continued at a very rapid rate and in the same direction, and the Abbey itself had a fortunate escape from the complete destruction. Numerous pieces of shell were afterwards found in the vicinity of the building, and there were large gaps in the stone walls of the ancient ruins. It is not yet clear, however, whether this damage was caused by vibration or direct contact. The adjacent church of St. Mary was not touched by shellfire, but the windows were broken by the confusion.
When the warships had delivered THEIR DEVASTATING MESSAGE they suddenly turned to the east and disappeared in the mist, as silently as they had come. The great majority of the shots had passed over the East Cliff, and fell half a mile further on in the region of the railway station, where nearly all of the material damage was done.
Here, in the Fishburn Park district, houses were wrecked right and left, and here it was that the second fatality occurred. Wiliam H. Tunmore, a railwayman employed on the North-eastern Railway, was the victim. He was driving a horse and cart at the Bagdale crossing near the railway station when a small shell struck him and killed him on the spot, though the horse was absolutely uninjured.
He was sixty-one years of age, and a married man, his home being in Grey Street. The only other case was that of an invalid lady, Mrs Miller, of Springhill-terrace, who was hit in the side by a piece of shell while she was lying in bed.
ELEVEN INCH SHELLS
Other persons came off comparatively lightly with cuts and bruises. In some cases nearly the whole front of the house was torn away, and in others the shell fell on the roof and bored a gaping passage down to the kitchen floor. Furniture of all kinds was smashed, and crockery became none existent. In one case a projectile fell upon a bed which a young woman had occupied only a short time before.
The coastguards declare that the projectiles were 11 in shells, and the huge, jagged splinters that have been picked up by the score in various parts of the town indicate that they must have been of very large dimensions. A good many fell in the fields at Springhill, close to the police station, and here they made holes in the ground large enough to have buried a horse in.
P.C. Bainbridge had a lucky escape. He was walking to the police station when a shell burst within a few yards of him. He was splashed with mud and earth, but was otherwise untouched. If the cannonade had come a few moments earlier, many children's lives would have been endangered. There are two large fields in the midst of that part of the town which bore the brunt of the firing, and the way to these schools lay right in the path of the bursting shells.
CHILDREN BEHAVE WELL
For the most part the children who had only just got into school, behaved very well, much better than a good many adults. The teachers were able to keep them under proper control, and when the firing had ceased they were dismissed in good order, and sent out of the town.
Among the general population generally there was some alarm for a time, few people understanding precisely what had happened, and women ran into the streets. There followed a considerable and spontaneous exodus into the country, particularly of the poorer folk living near the quays, but later some of them returned.
It may be of interest to mention that the remains of one shell were found as far inland as Sleights, a village about three miles from Whitby. The booming of the guns was heard many miles further than this.
On Wednesday the streets of the town were unlighted, and people gathered in groups discussing the memorable morning in eager but unfrightened tones. The pier and harbour were not damaged in the slightest degree, though the shells fell in the harbour without causing injury.