Scalby and the 1914 Bombardment

St Laurence's Church from Scalby High Street around 1900

St Laurence’s Church from Scalby High Street around 1900

On 16th December 1914 at about 8 a.m. Scarborough was shelled from the sea by two German cruisers, the Derfflinger and Von der Tann.  In his excellent book, ‘Bombardment!’ Mark Marsay says they fired 489 shells on the undefended town for 25 minutes, killing 18, injuring 84 and damaging 209 properties, 7 churches, 5 hotels and 10 public buildings, some of which had to be pulled down.

In Scalby, young George Halliday was visiting his grandmother, Annie Cooper, and her daughters Barbara and Emily.  They lived between St Laurence’s and the current vicarage (photo above).  When interviewed years later George remembered “A shell passed over the church tower which did not explode but buried itself halfway up Hay Brow Hill …crowds of families came through Scalby marching for the moors, carrying their belongings.”

George’s story was repeated by May Thompson, who lived at 10 Mount Pleasant in what was the telephone exchange run by her parents, Oliver and May.  The bombardment had caused total panic in Scarborough, where some rushed to the Post Office to withdraw their savings, convinced that the Germans were about to invade.  Others made for the railway station, waiting for a train anywhere, wearing only what they had been dressed in when the bombardment had begun.

Some reports told of a man dressed only in a shirt and carrying a razor; while another told of an old woman in a plum-coloured flannelette night-dress, while yet another told of a man in a top hat with a parrot for a companion!  All the routes out of the town were littered with people on foot, horseback, cart and car.

Marjorie Davison, aged 12, lived at 99 Commercial Street, close to the Bennetts’ house on the Corner of Wykeham Street where 4 people were killed.   A neighbour took them out to Scalby, along with another couple and an old lady in a bed.  Marjorie remembered “We were taken in by a very kind family called Halliday-Huggan (I think) for the rest of the day.  They fed us and gave clothes to those who had not had the time to dress properly at home.  My father came up for us in the afternoon and we didn’t know what to expect when we got back home.”  This would have been Crimbles Court, the newly-built home of Halliday and Edith Huggan, and their 16 year old daughter Kitty on Scalby Road.  Edith’s sister Violet was married to Richard Hartley Sagar Wilkinson, one of the 27 men later to be remembered on the Scalby war memorial.  The photo below is believed to be of Halliday Huggan.  It was found by Mrs Sally McIntyre who believes it was deliberately placed under the floorboards of the attic.

Photo found at Crimble Court, believed to be Halliday Huggan

Photo found at Crimble Court, believed to be Halliday Huggan.

Another family taken in by the Huggans were the Warleys, of 71 Hampton Road.  Their baby was hit by some shrapnel from the shell that exploded on the Bennetts’ house on Wykeham Street.  The son later recalled how his parents “Put the baby into her pram and set off running along with the rest of the panic-stricken crowd, along Scalby Road, heading for the open countryside.  We reached a lane (now known as Coldyhill Lane) and a man directed us to a doctor called Tenison.  He attended to my baby sister’s wound and she recovered.  The people of Newby and Scalby were marvellous and served the shattered Scarborough people with hot tea and food.  We were then taken to a family called Huggan, who were very kind to us.  After a while Dr Tenison sent us home in his car (my first ever motor ride).  We reached home at about dinner time, still very shaken.  I recall we did not go back to school until well into the New Year.”

Dr Adolf Tenison lived on Station Road, Scalby and practised in the village until he and his wife left for Cornwall in early 1918.

A lady known only as Audrey, who lived in Newby also saw the shell that landed at Hay Brow.  In a letter written that evening she told how the shell went right over her house.  She said she and her father “Saw streams of men, women and children coming from Scarborough, many with no shoes on and not half-dressed, carrying babies, etc.  A man brought two kids into our house.  They’d no shoes or stockings on and were bitterly cold.  He said he was bringing a few more.  Of course we said all right, and kids and mothers (poor people) came streaming in until we’d 25 people in the house!!!  We had them in the kitchen and gave them tea and bread and jam”.  As she went to fetch more bread she heard, “heavy though distant firing towards the north.  We supposed that our ships were chasing them up towards Whitby … People were off their heads.  Some passing through here said, “Scarborough is in flames!”.  Others said the Germans had landed.”  Later Audrey and her family went into the town to see the damage and they learned that Whitby and Hartlepool had also been attacked.

The fact that a shell was seen flying over the church probably explains why St Laurence’s Church took out additional insurance in May 1916 for the sum of £3,000 in the event of “damage to any part of the church by aerial craft (hostile or otherwise) or bombardment by hostile guns”.  The premium was £4 10s.  Presumably this threat was deemed to have lessened by May 1918 when the premium dropped to £2 5s.

Policy taken out by St Laurence's against aerial craft

Policy taken out by St Laurence’s against damage by aerial craft

On 16 December 2014 at 8 a.m. Scarborough Borough Council held a ceremony outside the Town Hall to commemorate the centenary of the bombardment.  The names of the victims were read aloud, 18 maroons were fired from the castle, a flotilla of boats laid wreaths on the water in memory  of the mariners killed by sea mines during and after the raid and 18 poppies were placed on a WW1 commemorative bench by children from Gladstone Road School, which was damaged during the bombardment.  The Last Post was followed by 2 minutes’ silence, and Reveille.  Events were also held in Whitby and Hartlepool, attacked on the same morning.  In the afternoon a wreath was laid at a new memorial cairn in Manor Road Cemetery, where 17 of the 18 victims are buried and children from Barrowcliff School sang ‘Silent Night’ in English and German.  There were other commemorative events during the day; Scarborough Art Gallery held an exhibition entitled, ‘Remember Scarborough’ and the Western Front Association held a day conference at the Stephen Joseph Theatre exploring Great War themes around the bombardment of the east coast towns on 16 December 1914.

Scarborough Town Hall, 16 December 2014, 8.30am

Scarborough Town Hall, 16 December 2014, 8.30am

The flotilla lays wreaths off Scarborough Harbour

The flotilla lays wreaths off Scarborough Harbour

Poppies on the memorial seat

Poppies on the memorial seat

The Memorial Cairn at Manor Road Cemetery on 16 December 2014

The Memorial Cairn at Manor Road Cemetery on 16 December 2014

The memorial seat in January 2015

The memorial seat in January 2015

The memorial seat and South Bay, January 2015

The memorial seat and South Bay, January 2015

Quotes taken from ‘Bombardment! The Day the East Coast Bled’ by Mark Marsay.  ISBN 0953520412

The Friends of Dean Road and Manor Road Cemetery have published a guide to the graves of the victims of the 1914 bombardment of Scarborough.  Details on or


5 thoughts on “Scalby and the 1914 Bombardment

  1. Just come across this while doing some research. Thank you for mentioning my book. I am delighted people are still reading it and finding it of interest. Mark Marsay, author, ‘Bombardment! The day the east coast bled.’

    • I’m so pleased to hear from you, Mark. I tried to contact you via your publisher’s address in your excellent book, but my letter was returned. I was trying to obtain permission to quote you. Do you ever give talks about the bombardment? Would love to hear you.

  2. Was that the old PO Box we had? Royal Mail suddenly doubled the price overnight so we dumped it (a Yorkshireman knows the true worth of stuff . . . LOL). You can still visit the Great Northern Publishing website, and contact details are on there. Sadly, as to public speaking, i did do it for a good few years after publishing the book, but my health isn’t what it was and so i don’t give talks anymore. But I am still writing, editing and publishing, so as busy as ever. But I do have to confess that I consider ‘Bombardment!’ my greatest achievment by far despite everything else I have done since. It took a vast chunk out of my life – over 6 years just doing the research – and I lived and breathed it 24/7. It is always a great honour when people make nice comments about it and most appreciate the work that went into it.

    • Mark, I’ve just come across Pte John Robert Brighty Fearnside on the list of Scalby men serving at the front that was published in the Scarborough Mercury on 24 Nov 1916. Seems he was with 5th Green Howards from enlisting as a 15 year old boy in the Territorials until he was demobbed in 1919. His 2 page burnt record shows he sailed with them to France on 17.4.1915. He’s not mentioned in your book ‘Baptism of Fire’. Have you come across him since? He died in Scarborough in 1948 aged 54.

  3. My Dad was a child aged 6 and remembered the bombardment, he did an interview for the local radio and recalls hiding under the stairs and shaking with shock.

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