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The Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby was an Imperial German Navy raid against three English coastal towns during the North Atlantic naval theatre of World War I. The German High Seas Fleet killed 137 civilians and wounded 455 more in a display of the Royal Navy's inability to protect its homeland.

Background

The threat posed to his most important warships by mines and submarines forced Admiral John Jellicoe to curtail operations in the North Sea. He could still impose a naval blockade on Germany from a distance by controlling the entrance to the English Channel and the passage between Scotland and Norway. These distant blockades, however, allowed the German fleet to attempt surprise sorties into the North Sea.

Raid

On 16 December, a German battlecruiser squadron under Rear Admiral Franz von Hipper bombarded the English east coast towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby. British naval intelligence had given warning of the sortie but the Grand Fleet failed to intercept Hipper's raiders. The bombardment caused more than 700 casualties, including 137 people killed, mostly civilians. In Britain, it aroused public indignation against German brutality, but also outrage at the failure of the Royal Navy to defend the country. By the end of 1914, it was clear that naval enthusiasts, especially British ones, were not going to have the war they had expected.

Aftermath

Rapid advances in technology transformed naval warfare at the end of 1914. The Imperial German Navy deployed airships for reconnaissance and the Royal Navy used float aircraft, winched over the side of a ship to take off from the sea. The first raid by seaplanes on a shore target was the Royal Navy Air Service's attack on airship sheds at the German port of Cuxhaven on Christmas Day 1914. Meanwhile, another sortie by German battlecruisers led to the Battle of Dogger Bank in early 1915. In February 1915, Germany initiated its first phase of unrestricted submarine warfare, leading to the sinking of the cruise liner Lusitania the following May, antagonizing the United States.

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