Exhibit of the Week: German U-boat periscope, Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre

German U-boat periscope from UB-107, found off Flamborough Head in the early 1980s.
German U-boat periscope from UB-107, found off Flamborough Head in the early 1980s.

Today’s object of the week shows part of a German U-boat periscope, from UB-107, thought to have been attacked off the coast of Scarborough on July 28, 1918. The wreck was found off Flamborough Head in the early 1980s in about 30 metres/100ft of water.

The periscope was raised and was legally declared to the British Receiver of Wrecks and now belongs to Scarborough Sub-Aqua Club in St Mary’s Street.

The periscope brings back memories of a fateful summer’s day, just over 100 years ago, on September 4, 1917.

The sea was calm and Scarborough’s South Bay visitors were enjoying the early evening sunshine when a German submarine suddenly surfaced in Cayton Bay after spotting a fleet of minesweepers at anchor.

The minesweepers were actually armed trawlers crewed almost entirely by fishermen.

The submarine opened fire with its deck guns in a surprise attack lasting 10 to 15 minutes, weighing anchor, the minesweepers returned fire. The U-boat quickly submerged and disappeared.

Early reports of the incident emphasised that a bombardment of the town had taken place but in fact the minesweepers had been the intended target. About 30 rounds were fired as roughly half landed on the town and half in the sea with the minesweepers escaping unscathed. Small pleasure craft made a dash for the shore as shells exploded in the sea around them.

Back on shore the attack was not met with panic and visitors looked on with curiosity. Some did run for cover but others stood as spectators. 
Unfortunately, some casualties occurred in the town due to the shelling where three people died: Mrs Elizabeth Scott, Lance Corporal JW Parry and Thomas Temple Pickup. Six others were injured including 17-year-old Alice Appleby who was wounded in the leg whilst walking on Longwestgate. She later had to have the leg amputated.

An hour after incident the town resumed its normal 
appearance and the places of entertainment were full again.

A shell that struck the house at 107 Hoxton Road smashed the brickwork and not a single article of furniture remained whole in the sitting room. Women’s jackets and hats were torn to shreds.

There was little national press coverage. A few pot shots taken by a submarine were of no importance as the nation was becoming immune to the mass slaughter of World War One.

The victims of the 1917 U-boat attack were all innocent people. The daughter of Elizabeth Scott gave a sorrowful account of her mother’s death at the inquest. Her father was so upset he had to leave. At the inquest of Mrs Scott and Mr Pickup the coroner said the Germans had the absurd idea that the murder of children, women and old men would cause such terror in England that we would desire a disgraceful peace. He said it was an utterly foolish dream and the effect would be just the opposite. One thousand people turned up on the West Pier to show their sympathy.

l The Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre and the Sub-Aqua Club have very close links with each other.