Shortly before 3am on Tuesday 15th December 1914 as German Admiral Franz Von Hipper led his squadron of fast battlecruisers and support ships from the mouth of the River Jade, his opposite number in the Royal Navy, Rear Admiral David Beattie was engaged on more or less the same thing but on the other side of the North Sea at Rosyth.
During the next twenty-four hours the German squadron headed for the East coast whilst the British attempted an intercept based on information received and decoded by Room 40 at the Admiralty in London.
Intelligence giving details that Hipper was at sea was received by the Admiralty almost as soon as he had sailed but neither his destination nor ultimate objective were broadcast and other than the fact a sortie was likely to be in the southern portion of the North Sea and might possibly involve an attack somewhere on the British coast, not much else was much was known.
Beaty failed to intercept Hipper and the result was the two opposing forces blundered past each other over the southern stretch of Dogger Bank with both sides light forces spotting and exchanging fire without grasping what the other forces actually consisted of.
Bad weather, bad signal control and plain bad luck allowed the Germans to slip through and the first indication the Admiralty had that something had gone wrong with their interception plans was when telephone calls and telegrams were received from Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool respectively informing their Lordships they were under attack by vessels unknown.
The three towns were caught completely unprepared and, as far as Scarborough and Whitby were concerned demonstrably undefended and this was the subject of much public debate in the days and weeks to come.
Notwithstanding the endless rumours of impending invasion which had been circulating in town almost since the outbreak of the war when an attack did arrive there was no real plan. At the end of the day it was an early and rough lesson in what would become total war.
When the dust settled and the numbers of dead and wounded were known all three towns were in a mess. The sheer scale of the attack and the enormous destruction to property caused, at least in Scarborough's case, a bizarre tourist trade in souvenirs. Many people came to have a look. Not all were impressed by the town's resilience.
Sylvia Pankhurst came on Christmas Eve and found the town "too depressing for words" and fled back to London. The popular press of the day stirred up the mix. "What," they demanded to know, "had the Navy been doing while this happened." Churchill himself called the Germans "Baby killers."
The wider game of cat and mouse being played out across the North Sea by the navies of both countries was not fully understood by the population at large at that time. They still expected some sort of dashing Copenhagen or better still, an instant Trafalgar and doubtless most people would have taken it as a given that the British coastline was protected.
In that rather brutal statement we can now understand with a century of hindsight behind us that whatever the people of this island expected of a navy constructed at vast expense and never far from its consciousness via newspapers and the new medium of cinematography it was not the same as the role intended for it by its creators.
This difference between expectation and delivery was to cause a great deal of misunderstanding throughout the war. Part of that question was answered very clearly at dawn on 16th December 1914.
The story of that day in Scarborough is the subject of our centenary Bombardment exhibition. Some of our primary research conducted during the course of the last two years is now in the public domain and so following on from this we intend to display and discuss one or two things related to the attack which perhaps have not been seen before so please visit us. We have also produced a book to mark the occasion, contact us for details.
Our six panel pop-up exhibition about the Bombardment has been seen in Leeds, Saltburn By Sea, Scarborough & Filey. It will continue to be available throughout the year, free of charge, to community groups, schools and charities. Please contact us on 01723 369361 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scarborough Art Gallery, run by the Scarborough Museums Trust, hhave their own Bombardment exhibition in three rooms on the first floor in The Crescent. Exhibition highlights include the two massive bells belonging to the ships which attacked Scarborough, German naval charts from the period and the actual telegram Churchill sent the Scarborough Mayor, Councillor Christopher Colbourne, shortly after the attack.
Other partner organizations in the Remember Scarborough WW1 centenary event include: The Heugh Battery Museum, Whitby Museum, Pannett Art Gallery, Whitby, The Western Front Association, Beck Isle Museum, Museum of the Wagoners' Special Reserve, Sledmere House. Funding for this project came from an Arts Council England grant.
On December 16th 2014 there will be a commemoration at the town hall at 07.50am followed by a chruch service at 11am at St Mary's. At 13.30 there will a laying of wreaths at the new centenary cairn in Manor Road cemetery. A representative from the German Naval Memorial will be present.
This page features over sixty articles on the German bombardment of Scarborough most of which are short articles from the 'Scarborough Mercury' and 'Scarborough Pictorial' at the time.
• Essay on the German bombardment of scarborough in 1914
• German bombardment - 1st anniversary article which recalls the sudden nature and shock of the attack
• An account of the German bombardment of Scarborough by historian Bryan Berryman
• 20th anniversary article in the Scarborough Mercury about the bombardment
• Sydney Foords account in Scarborough Records
• German spies - the German liner visited Scarborough
• Remember Scarborough - the bombardment boosted recruitment
• Archbishop's rousing speech on the German bombardment of Scarborough
• A poem inspired by the German crime
• The Kings sympathy for the people of Scarborough
• New York papers opinions on Scarborough raid 1914
• Following the bombardment many buildings remained unsafe. Some had to be demolished
• Mementoes - souvenir hunters soon started looking for bits of shells after the bombardment
• Guisborough recruitment meeting - the Scarborough raid boosted recruitment
• What were the targets?
• Mayors statement - Scarborough raid
• Commemorative medals - the Scarborough Mercury sold commemorative medals to help raise money for the victims
• German Unexploded bombs - TNT expert gives advice
• False reports and gossiping
• Prepare for invasion: The raid raised the possibility of invasion and soon Scarborough was using barbed wire and sand bags as defences
• Lighthouse: The damage to the Lighthouse
• Soldiers write home in sympathy
• Robbed of his bride - the most tragic story of the bombardment
• Wykeham street - the tragic story of the Bennett family where 4 people died in the bombardment
• Coroners inquest on the victims of the bombardment
• Dunollie was a large mansion house on a hill above Filey Road. It was hit during the bombardment
• The funerals of the German bombardment
• German raid on Scarborough - Gladstone road
NAVAL AND GOVERNMENT
• Room 40 - did Churchill know about the raid on Scarborough?
• Aberdeen Emergency Committee preparations for a similar bombardment
• British naval policy remained unchanged after the bombardment
• East Coast raids - compensation
• German raid and compensation
• Winston Churchill - the villain after the German raid
• Battle of Dogger Bank 1915
• Battle of the Falklands -1914
• Letter from Churchill to the people of Scarborough
• Officers on leave - a possible reason for the Germans getting away
• Plaques - the need to commemorate the German Raid on Scarborough
• German bombardment - the policeman who kept the flag flying on castle hill
• Refugees desperate to escape the bombardment of Scarborough
• Naked child during Scarborough bombardment
• Boy worries about his pet dog
• German bombardment of Whitby in 1914. After attacking Scarborough the Derfflinger and Von Der Tann bombarded Whitby
• Coastguard's account to the coroner about how close the ships were in
• Children evacuated from Westlands School after the raid
• German raid on Scarborough - the shells
• Refugees flee the town
• Locals who saw the German warships set off from Hayburn wyke shortly before the raid on Scarborough
• Gladstone Road school's log book describing the damage to the School Hall
• The big guns could be heard as far away as Bridlington
• Falsgrave - details of the falsgrave area during the bombardment
• A remarkable escape as a shell passed between two people
• Some short stories from the newspapers of about the bombardment
• Some stories - German bombardment of Scarborough
• The German bombardment of Scarborough
• The German bombardment of Hartlepool which started at exactly the same moment as the Scarborough Raid
• Story of an old lady feared dead during the bombardment
• Narrow escape - A lady has a remarkable escape during the bombardment
• Scarborough bombardment heard at Malton
•A sailors narrow escape
• A soldiers first hand account of the bombardment
• Lily Bains amazing escape
• An article from a German Newspaper defending the raid
• Admiral scheer's account of the Scarborough raid written in 1920
• A German sailors first hand account of the raid on Scarborough
• When the Germans tried another raid they lost the Blucher - a battlecruiser involved in the raid on Hartlepool. This article is a first hand account from a survivor.
• German newspapers opinions of the Scarborough raid
• Minesweeper lost on Christmas day off Scarborough
• German bombardment - mines
• After the raid the light cruiser Kolberg laid over a hundred mines near Scarborough disrupting shipping for weeks
OTHER WORLD WAR ONE LINKS
•war diaries: These records are the war diaries of the first three cavalry and the first seven infantry divisions of the British Army in the First World War.
•BBC: The BBC website and research on World War One
We have produced a 'pop-up' exhibition about the 1914 Bombardment consisting of six pull-up panels that can be loaned out to schools and community groups. Please contact us if you would like more information or to book them?