Digest>Archives> March 1996

The attack on Scarborough


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In last months issue we published a photo of the lighthouse in Scarborough England showing severe damage from a German shell piercing the lighthouse and asked our readers for some background information. Thanks to information supplied by Richard Dodds, of the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland, we can give you the rest of the story ...

Early in the morning of December 16, 1914 the lookout at the Castle Hill Coast Guard Station telephoned the town declaring that the German Warships were approaching the coast. Within seconds the attack began in what was described by the local press as, "Scarborough's baptism of fire".

The resort town not only was the first civilian area to be attacked in the First World War, it was also the first foreign attack since 1797 and the only one involving a major loss of life since the Norman invasion in 1066.

At the time of the attack there was not a single gun located in the town to defend itself. The three German warships fired upon the town recklessly and indiscriminately for nearly 30 minutes firing over 500 shells at the civilian population.

Winston Churchill, at the time the First Lord of the Admiralty, wrote, "Practically the whole fast cruiser force of the German Navy . . . have been risked for the passing pleasure of killing as many English people as possible, irrespective of sex, age or condition . . . Whatever feats of arms the German Navy may hereafter perform, the stigma of the baby killers of Scarborough will brand its officers and men while sailors sail the seas."

The Germans saw the situation in a different light claiming it was one of their best victories to date. A German newspaper stated, "For centuries their coast was secured. For decades they could rob and get rich in all corners of the world without being punished. The much smaller German fleet put the glories of England in the shade."

Whatever the case, the lighthouse survived the attack and never suffered a direct hit. The hole in the lighthouse was caused by a shell which ricocheted off Scarborough's Grand Hotel.

This story appeared in the March 1996 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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