A long-lost World War One letter has been discovered in which Winston Churchill brands the German navy as ‘the baby-killers of Scarborough’.
The letter, sent to the town’s mayor after the bombardment of December 16 1914, will form part of major new exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery.
On 16 December 1914, German warships fired hundreds of shells on Scarborough, an offensive which became known as The Bombardment. Hundreds died, and many were injured.
In Scarborough, 18 people died; the youngest, John Shields Ryalls, was just 14 months old. It was the first attack of the war on British soil and caused great public outcry: ‘Remember Scarborough!’ became the slogan for an impassioned recruitment drive.
On 19 December 1914, Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, wrote a letter to the Mayor of Scarborough, Christopher Colbourne Graham (usually known as CC Graham), expressing sympathy and condemning the actions of the German Navy.
He wrote: “Whatever feats of arms the German Navy may hereafter perform the stigma of the baby-killers of Scarborough will brand its officers and men while sailors sail the sea.”
Esther Graham (who is no relation to the 1914 Mayor) is project officer for the exhibition, Remember Scarborough, was discussing her research with a friend, Niall Harrison, who told her that his family in the West Country had a letter from Churchill that might interest her. When Niall brought the letter to Esther, she was astonished to find that it was the original letter; CC Graham was Niall’s great-great-grandfather. Debbie Seymour, Chief Executive of Scarborough Museums Trust, said: “You really feel as if you’re holding history when you touch this letter and read Churchill’s words.”
Remember Scarborough can be seen at Scarborough Art Gallery from July 26.