Remember Scarborough - new exhibition explores the impact of war on the famous seaside town
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 August 2014
A major new exhibition remembers the terrible price paid by Scarborough in the First World War
It was described by author Vera Brittain, renowned for her best-selling First World War memoir Testament of Youth, as ‘an event which Yorkshire history is unlikely to forget’.
On December 16th 1914, German battle cruisers opened fire on Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool, resulting in the first loss of civilian life due to enemy fire in the First World War.
The first casualties were in Scarborough. The attack started just after 8am and more than 700 shells are believed to have rained down on the resort in just 30 minutes. Hundreds were injured and there was extensive damage to property, including local landmarks The Grand Hotel, The Royal Hotel, department store Marshall & Snelgrove and the lighthouse.
Eighteen people died; among their number four people in the same house on Wykeham Street, and young John Shields Ryalls, who was just 14 months old.
Understandably, the town was in uproar, with rumours quickly circulating that the Germans were invading.
According to the Scarborough Mercury of December 18th: ‘Streams of people moved out of the town along Scalby Road, Stepney Road and Seamer Road. So hurried had been the flight in some instances that they trudged along in stocking feet. Cabs were also in request, and all member of vehicles took affrightened people and their goods along the roads leading into the peaceful country.’
The event caused national and international outrage, with Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, condemning the German Navy as ‘the baby-killers of Scarborough’.
An impassioned recruitment drive took its inspiration from a painting of the event by Edith Kemp-Welsh, whose image of a determined Britannia with a procession of cheering men behind her and Scarborough Castle in the background was perfect propaganda. Topped and tailed by the slogan ‘Remember Scarborough! Enlist now’, it became one of the most memorable posters issued by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee.
And now Remember Scarborough is the title of a new exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery, which commemorates the dramatic event and those who died.
Visitors will be able to see Kemp-Welsh’s original painting, which usually hangs in Scarborough’s Town Hall, the letter to the Mayor of Scarborough, Mr CC Graham, in which Churchill makes his damning assessment of the Germans, contemporary photographs of the aftermath of the event and artefacts which survived it.
Remember Scarborough project officer Esther Graham has spent nearly a year researching the event and curating the exhibition.
‘To understand what happened that morning in December 1914, our research has taken us from Scarborough to places such as the Outer Hebrides and northern Germany,’ she said.
‘The scars of the bombardment can still be seen on buildings around Scarborough and in the memories passed down from one generation to another. This exhibition will explore the bombardment and the community spirit which prevailed to bring Scarborough from the brink of devastation back to the much-loved seaside resort it is today.’
Remember Scarborough is at Scarborough Art Gallery until January 4th 2015. The gallery is open from 10am to 5pm every day except Monday, plus bank holidays.