16th December 1914.
Britain ceased to be an island on November 3rd 1914, when the German navy after laying mines, shelled Great Yarmouth. Little damage was caused as most shells landed on the beach.(1)
However, the biggest attack on our East Coast came Today at 8 am over a month later, when a German Naval Battle Group,of 3 battle cruisers, under cover of darkness and sea mist, slipped past all British defences and bombarded Scarborough for 30 minutes, before moving on Whitby to inflict damage.
At the same time there was an attack on the Hartlepool Heugh Battery where the 27 years old Private Theo Jones was the first soldier to be killed in WWI, on British soil.
The town itself also suffered serious structural damage and many were killed.(2)
By October 1914 the Germans had been looking for ways to attack the British Fleet, but as we had more ships, the Germans avoided any direct confrontation, adopting a strategy to entice our ships out, with the aim to attack smaller groups or individually.
The German Kaiser was against a major action, believing that by laying of mines and drawing us away to give chase into the safer German waters nearer home, their High Seas Fleet would give battle.
So by bombing towns their aim was to alter the disposition of our ships into coastal defence, which would have gone against our aim of keeping the Grand Fleet together until needed.
The Germans were still adopting the same tactics as on 24th April 1916, when 200 houses in Yarmouth and Lowestoft were shelled, with resultant death and damage.(3)
All changed, next month, when the sparring and jockeying for position, was to see serious action and indeed, the climax of World War I naval conflict, when the Grand Fleets met at Jutland.
As a postscript, in 1920 the Secretary of State for War (Churchill), was asked by Howard Gritten MP to recommend medals for bravery at the Heugh Battery. Churchill replied that it was being considered as in other ‘exceptional cases’.
The outcome was the award of the first dated Military Medals.
(1) Though this November attack was inconclusive, the action resulted in 21 killed and one submarine sunk.
(2) On 16th December 1914. In the process over 100 civilians killed (37 children), 9 soldiers, 4 sailors and 9 German sailors.
Theo Jones was previously head teacher of the village school at Thringstone, Leicester.
(3) 25 were killed, 2 light cruisers were damaged and a submarine sunk.
Ref: BBC.co.uk/local/Bomb of Scarborough 1914. Mark Marsay.
Ref: thisishartlepool.co.uk/history/bombing of hartlepool.
Ref: Castles of Steel, Robert Massie, 2004, Jonathan Cape. London.
Ref: House of Commons Debate, 10th Aug 1920, v133, c210.