Forces are gathering to ensure the commemoration of the centenary of Scarborough Bombardment is one of the best and most informative in the country.
One project is being spearheaded by Scarborough Museums Trust – which has been awarded £170,000 to make its plans a reality.
The cash has come from the Arts Council which was impressed by the bid to include galleries and communities in Scarborough, Whity, Hartlepool, Ryedale and the East Riding.
Professor Pete Rawson, chairman of Scarborough Museums Trust, said: “The First World War is a hugely important historical event, and the Bombardment was a key moment.
The loss of civilian life in Scarborough led to a major recruitment drive. It’s really important that we commemorate its 100th anniversary, and we’re delighted that the Arts Council has recognised this.”
On 16 December 1914 German battle cruisers opened fire on Scarborough, Whitby andHartlepool, resulting in the first loss of life of civilians due to enemy fire in the First World War.
Two hundred shells were rained down on the town, 90 people were injured in the bombardment and 18 people were killed - the youngest being 14-month-old John Shields Ryalls.
His death, in the arms of his nurse Bertha McIntrye , 42, who also died, at his home 22 Westbourne Park caused Churchill to label the attackers: “the babykillers of Scarborough”.
It shocked a nation into believing the threat from the Hun really was on its doorstep, provoked outrage and sympathy in equal measure.
Scarborough Castle, the Grand Hotel, the art gallery in the Cresent, the Lighthouse were all hit,
Between 8.05am and 8.35am on that fatal day, the guns of two German battlecruisers, the Derfflinger and Von Der Tann, fired more than 200 shells on Scarborough.
German ships also attacked Whitby and Hartlepool.
The museums trust project will include working with other museums and communities in putting together a major exhibition for next year.
Included are: The Wagoners’ Museum, Sledmere Hous, Whitby Museum, Pannett Park Art Gallery, Whitby, Beck Isle Museum, Pickering, Scarborough, Castle, Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre, Heugh Battery, Hartlepool, York Museums Trust and The Western Front Association – Yorkshire branch.
One of the first jobs is to recruit a project officer who will drive forward the centenary commemoration. building on partnerships in the region and involving as many people from the community as we can in this exciting project.
“We hope to learn a lot from this new way of working.”
The project officer will lead research and engage the community – including schools and collecting memories from the families of those involved not only in the Bombardment but the whole conflict.
“Before the bombardment, people saw the First World War as something that was happening on the continent but when the premiere seaside resort in Britain was attacked that made them realise it affected them,” said Debbie.
In 1914 Scarborough was a very different place. It was the place to come for the season and had aristocratic assocoations in the Londesboroughs and Sitwells. Marshall and Snelgrove – the Oxford Street store – had a branch here and tea was taken at Rowntrees.
“There is now no-one alive who remembers the Bombardment or the First World War but we want to collect as many memories from relatives as we can. If we don’t do this soon they will be lost for ever,” said Debbie.
The museum does have artefacts in its collection already but hopes links with other organisations – and loans from residents – will add to those.
The exhibition will run from the summer of next year for six months, “The Bombardment effected nearly every street in Scarborough. It was a significant turning point in the First World War That is not widely known.
“Hopefully, this project will get that across – that and the emotion of the event. People usually link loss of civilian life with the Second World War,” said Debbie.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the attack inspired thousands of men to join up – and a recruitment poster with “Remember Scarborough” was issued to persuade men to enlist for duty in the trenches.
Debbie said research will help show whether this was actually the case.
Cluny Macpherson, regional director of Arts Council England, said: “We are pleased to be supporting Scarborough Museums Trust in this ambitious project to mark next year’s centenary of the start of World War I and the Bombardment of Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool. The award will help the Trust attract new visitors by involving the community in a diverse programme of exhibitions and events and strengthen its partnerships.”
The Trust will be holding meetings with its project partners to discuss next steps.