100 years ago today…..German warships shelled a number of towns on England’s Yorkshire coast. The First World War had come home to Britain in an unforeseen way. Many had expected the first threat to civilians to come from air raids.
The first shells hit the important shipbuilding centre of Hartlepool at about a quarter past eight in the morning. Nine soldiers manning a battery and 7 sailors were killed, but most of the 100+ casualties were civilians – men, women and children.
The ships then moved on to Scarborough (pictured) where a church was hit during a Holy Communion service, while a shop that was damaged quickly put up one of those defiant signs saying ‘Business as usual’, which would become so familiar in both world wars. Whitby was hit too. The Times commented that there was ‘an entire absence of panic’, though many people fled to the countryside.
The attacks had one or two consequences the Germans may not have foreseen, with 22,000 Hartlepool men volunteering for the armed services and the town regularly winning prizes for the amount of money it raised for the war effort. For more on this story, see A Disastrous History of Britain.