War graves will be restored

Dean Road Cemetery.Jan Cleary and Pam Walgate ,viewing war graves .Picture Richard Ponter 140207a
Dean Road Cemetery.Jan Cleary and Pam Walgate ,viewing war graves .Picture Richard Ponter 140207a
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The overgrown and damaged graves of those killed in the deadly German bombardment of Scarborough are being cleared and repaired in time for the 100th anniversary of the attack this year.

The raid by German battlecruisers on the morning of 
December 16 led to the deaths of 18 people, including women and children.

A century on, the stories of those who died are being recalled in a commemoration project led by the Friends of the Dean Road and Manor Road Cemeteries in Scarborough.

Seventeen of those who died in Scarborough are buried in the town.

One of the headstones being repaired bears the names of John Shields Ryalls, who was aged 14 months, and Bertha McEntyre, 43, believed to have been his nanny.

When the bombing began, baby John began to cry and so was moved into a bedroom by Miss McEntyre, only for a shell to hit the room and kill them instantly.

They were living at 22 Westbourne Park and are commemorated on an ornate headstone which had been toppled over and could not be seen.

Now it has been placed upright, a verse to baby John can be seen.

It reads: “Oh what a happy life was his.

“To my dead baby given.

“Just one short year of earthly bliss and the rest to heaven.”

Jan Cleary, the chairman of the Friends, said the headstone also mentioned Ellen Thornton, who had died in 1911 and had been the owner of the house at number 22.

The family had links to Sheffield but more research is needed to uncover the whole picture.

Local historian Pam Walgate, treasurer of the Friends, is leading the research into those who died.

The task of finding the 17 graves has not been easy 
because of the sheer size of the cemeteries, said Ms Cleary.

“The cemetery is vast, with around 10,000 headstones across the two cemeteries, with 54,000 people buried there. Headstones are in a state of disrepair and some have been vandalised.

“We have identified where they (the 17 graves) are and we are making an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to create a self-directed tour of the bombardment graves.”

Ms Cleary is keen to hear from anyone who might know more about the Ryalls and Ellen Thornton, as it is not clear what linked them.

The work to restore the graves and remember those who died in the bombardment are part of a larger First World War project which is focused on the twin cemeteries in Scarborough.

There are 320 people with military connections who are commemorated in the cemeteries, including Commonwealth war graves and inscriptions on family graves.

Sadly, some of those who died in the bombardment got neither headstone nor even a plaque.

Most were civilians and some will have been from families who could not afford a headstone.

“One of the sad things is that for many of the victims of the bombardment there is no headstone at all,” said Ms Cleary.