On this day in history : 16th December 1914 – German warships attack the seaside resort of Scarborough; Hartlepool and Whitby are also targeted…. 137 people, mostly civilians, are killed….

Damage to the Grand Hotel, Scarborough – Public domain

The bombardment of Scarborough began at 8am and lasted for half an hour…. Two German battleships, Von den Tann and Derfflinger, fired 500 shells – hitting the town and castle…. The townsfolk thought it must herald the start of the German invasion….

SMS Von der Tann – Public domain
SMS Derfflinger – Public domain

The medieval castle was seriously damaged, as were the 18th century barracks, which were shelled repeatedly…. It seems the Germans had mistaken Scarborough for a major military port – whereas in fact the barracks had not been occupied by troops for many years…. In all 17 people were killed in the attack, hundreds were injured and many had their homes destroyed….

At 8.30am the two ships left, headed north and shelled Whitby…. At the same time another German naval force attacked Hartlepool…. These attacks caused even more death and destruction than what had already occurred in Scarborough…. Hartlepool with its extensive civilian dockyards and factories received some 1,150 shells – hitting steelworks, gasworks, railways, 7 churches and over 300 homes…. In total 86 civilians were killed and 424 more wounded…. In addition 14 soldiers were injured and 7 lost their lives…. It also saw the first death in 200 years of a British soldier from enemy action on British soil when 29-year-old Private Theophilus Jones of the Durham Light Infantry was killed….

Ruins of a church in Whitby – Public domain
Damaged house, Hartlepool – Public domain

The raids had an enormous effect on the British public and prompted the propaganda campaign Remember Scarborough…. It also caused an outcry from other nations – neutral America cited – ‘This is not warfare, this is murder’….

Recruitment poster – Public domain

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