The German bombardment of Scarborough in December 1914 was followed by another attempted raid in January 1915. This time the Royal navy was ready and the raiding party got caught. One of the ships involved in the raid in December was sunk (The Blucher - which attacked Hartlepool), and another, the Derrflinger (which attacked Scarborough and Whitby), was heavily damaged. This article features a first hand account of the Blucher sinking and a description of the chase of other ships. These reports appeared in the Scarborough Mercury.
Here is an account of the sinking of the Blucher from one its survivors:-
"On the subject of the disaster to the Blucher the man spoke without reserve, although it was evident that, beyond the actual happenings to the ship in the recent action, he had been allowed to see and know very little with regard to the German Fleet. The German squadron, he said, left late on Saturday evening for the attack upon England. They steamed all night in clear weather, the sea being very calm. There were slight banks of mist over the English side of the North Sea in the early hours of Sunday morning. The decks at that time were all cleared for action, and the crew understood that within two hours or less they would be at some point on the English coast. What that point was he could not state".
"There was great excitement in the ship at the prospect of action. Suddenly a British destroyer came in sight, and immediately after the forms of several great British warships were seen through the mist. The excitement on board the Blucher when it was seen that there was to be an engagement was intense".
He could not say if signals for flight were issued from the flagship. He did not think so. He believed, but could not state as a matter of fact, that there was an understanding that if the British Fleet was encountered the GERMAN SHIPS SHOULD AT ONCE RETREAT. They had been approaching at full speed, and they had immediately sheered off and made for their harbour. He knew at once that the Blucher had the poorest chance of all the German big ships, as she had not great speed. He had said so at once to some of his mates. As they ran for open water the weather was clearer, and he knew that this big ship was within range.
The first British ship opened up at something like ten miles' range, he thought, and the carnage on the Blucher began.
"We were under fire first in the action and last,"
he said. Practically every English ship poured projectile and shell upon us. It was awful. I have never seen such gunnery, and hope that as long as live I never shall. We could not fight such guns as the English ships had, and soon we had no guns with which to fight anything. Our decks were swept by shot, and the guns were smashed and lying in all directions, their crews wiped out.
One terrible shell from a big gun I cannot forget. It burst right in the heart of the ship, and killed scores of men. It fell where many men had collected and .....
... the work of the Lion in the course of the engagement is spoken of in the Fleet in terms of warm admiration.
From the point at which the raiding squadron was encountered on Sunday morning, it appears practically certain that their objective was Newcastle primarily, and that the Hartlepools also were to be called upon to suffer a repetition of the attack delivered in mid December. That the raiding squadron was within two and a half hours of the English seaboard when it encountered the waiting British ships is no indication of lack of knowledge as to their purpose or their whereabouts.
That the Lion, the Tiger, the Princess Royal, and the Indomitable wrought terrible havoc on the enemy is certain. The fire of the Derrflinger and the Seydlitz grew weaker and weaker as the terrific running battle proceeded.
Within half and hour's run of the mined area the Derrflinger was on fire forward. Masses of flames were sweeping her foredeck; her decks were strewn with the wreckage of shattered upper works, and when she got within the shelter of the mined area she had no answer to give from her guns to the hail of projectiles which followed her home. On board that vessel there must have been great loss of life.
The third vessel in the German line at this point, believed to be the Moltke, suffered even more severely. She had come under the fire of the Lion, and received something from the Tiger and also the Princess Royal. She had received also great deal from the Indomitable. She was in a terrible plight. One after another her guns had been smashed out of action. Great execution had been done among here crew, and she was a silent ship, steaming desperately for shelter, with the whole of her afterdeck ablaze when she reached the shelter of the mined area.
Mean time the Lion had turned her attention to the struggle between the light cruisers. Using her speed and gun power with great effect, she worked to head off the German light cruisers and drive them down upon the British vessels, which were in hot pursuit. This was a difficult task due to the large number of ships engaged.
The British flagship did great damage among those vessels, but they succeeded in getting away. Some of them were seriously damaged. With in some cases guns were swept from the mountings, and with battered hulls, a number of the enemy's light cruisers cannot be fit for action for a long time to come.
From the direction of Heligoland came a huge Zeppelin airship and a number of aeroplanes.
The airships did not prolong their attack but turned homewards, and followed the disabled raiders towards Heligoland.