‘Remember Scarborough’ - drive to commemorate centennial of seaside town’s bombing

Victoria Road in Scarborough after the 1914 German bombardment
Victoria Road in Scarborough after the 1914 German bombardment
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Britain was urged to “Remember Scarborough!” after the 1914 German bombardment and on the forthcoming 100th anniversary the seaside town will be remembered once again.

Maritime researchers have promised that Scarborough will have another 15 minutes of fame on December 16 as it commemorates the centenary of the shelling which left 18 people dead.

Poster encouraging men to enlist

Poster encouraging men to enlist

A maroon will be fired from Scarborough Castle, to commemorate the attack, after the name of each of the victims is read out at a special dawn ceremony in the town.

And another service will be held at Manor Road Cemetery, where wreaths will be laid on a new cairn bearing the names of all those who died.

Michael Knaggs, a volunteer at the Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre, said: “Scarborough will have another 15 minutes of fame on the morning of 16 December, we know that.”

The bombardment of Scarborough began just after 8am on the cold December morning - the early hour and the winter weather meaning the number of casualties were fewer than they might have been.

Damage to the lighthouse in Scarborough after the 1914 German bombardment

Damage to the lighthouse in Scarborough after the 1914 German bombardment

Two schools in the town were hit.

Mr Knaggs said: “If they had been hit a little later, a lot of school children would have died. At one of them, 200 children would have been killed easily. So in that sense, it was quite lucky that it was early in the morning.”

But 18 civilians were killed as a result of the raid, including 14-month-old John Shields Ryalls, which led Winston Churchill to call the Germans “baby killers”.

The outrage caused by the killing of innocent civilians led to the Government using the Scarborough bombardment in its recruitment drive.

Mr Knaggs said: “Its most important thing was the fact they used it publicity-wise to stir up bad feeling against the Germans after what had happened in Belgium earlier in the war. So, for propaganda reasons, it was very important.”

One propaganda poster simply stated: “Remember Scarborough! Enlist now.”

Another, issued within weeks of the shelling, bore the headline: “Avenge Scarborough - up and at ‘em now.”

The text read: “The wholesale murder of innocent women and children demands vengeance. Men of England, the innocent victims of German brutality call upon you to avenge them.

“Show German barbarians that Britain’s shores cannot be bombarded with impunity. Duty calls you now. Go today to the nearest recruiting depot and offer your services for King and home and country.”

Mr Knaggs said: “At the time, Scarborough was a very famous holiday resort, lords and ladies and the royal family had been here.

“It was quite wealthy and so it was quite famous and everybody in Great Britain knew about Scarborough, so that’s why the Government used Scarborough in all its ‘Remember Scarborough’, even though four times as many people died in Hartlepool and there was five times as much damage.”

Four of the fatalities that day came from the same family and the Government used photographs of their house on its posters.

Mr Knaggs said: “Out of the 18 deaths, the four, the Bennett family in Wykeham Street, that was the most tragic. Four people out of seven in the one household.”

Another victim was 15-year-old George Harland Taylor - the only Boy Scout to die in Great Britain during the First World War.

Mr Knaggs said he had discovered new information through his research into the Scarborough bombardment.

He said it was originally believed that Scarborough was hit by around 500 shells but he has now confirmed that 776 shots were fired at the town.

“Eighteen people died in Scarborough and about 200 were injured. Over 200 buildings were hit. There were 776 medium format shells fired in 29 minutes, which is quite something,” he said.