Search for Bombardment Victims' Relatives

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Search for relatives of the victims of Scarborough’s WW1 bombardment

Organisers of forthcoming events to commemorate the bombardment of the North Yorkshire town of Scarborough on 16 December 1914 are eager to track down any living relatives of the eighteen people that died at the hands of the German shells in the town so they can be invited to the Bombardment Commemoration Day.

A number of special commemorative events will take place on Tuesday 16 December, including an early morning civic ceremony, organised by Scarborough Borough Council, during which a maroon will be fired from Scarborough Castle, to simulate the 1914 attack, after the name of each individual that perished is read out.  Scarborough Castle will also be lit up during the ceremony and a flotilla of boats will be stationed outside the harbour.

Later in the day, the Friends of Dean Road and Manor Road Cemetery and invited guests, which will include 18 local school children, will lay a wreath on a newly constructed commemorative cairn at the cemetery.

Search efforts to date have only thrown up leads on relatives of three of the eighteen people that lost their lives and so a renewed attempt to find people with a family connection to those that died has been launched.  Scarborough Maritime and Heritage Centre has been at the forefront of gathering information about the bombardment and has managed to paint a detailed picture of the tragic events as they unfolded…

The South Cliff area of the town was the first site to be hit where deaths occurred.  On the corner of South Street, shop porter, 49-year-old Leonard Ellis, died when he was opening the door of Clare & Hunt’s chemist.  A second shell exploded a few yards away, outside the premises of William C. Land & Co, where 45-year-old Harry Frith, the company’s driver, died. 

At 38 Esplanade, Mrs Alice Duffield had set off in pursuit of her husband who had previously gone to use a telephone during what they thought was a gap in the firing.  She reached the Granville Private Hotel but died on the steps when a shrapnel shell exploded directly above her. 

At 31 Filey Road, an imposing house called Dunollie, has its own portico, pillars and a wide flight of stone steps at the top of an impressive drive and it was on these steps that 49 year old Postman Alfred Beal was killed outright as he delivered mail by the first of three shells that exploded over the house.  Inside the house, twenty-nine year old maid Margaret Briggs was killed by the second and third shells, which exploded in the library off the main hall.

39 year old Edith Crosby, maid to Selina Tindall at 1 Belvedere Road, was the next to die.  Perhaps some twelve to fifteen minutes after the shelling started there was a pause but it was short-lived and lasted only as long as it took Von Tapken to turn the two battlecruisers round close to a spur of rock called White Nab near Cornelian Bay.

On Westbourne Park, three more victims met their deaths including the youngest, a baby.  Five houses on Westbourne Park suffered severe damage but it was at number 22, home of engineer Mr Jasper Ryalls, where forty-two year old insurance agent Bertha McEntyre and fourteen-month-old John Ryalls were killed.  Winston Churchill used this death to coin the phrase that damned the German Navy as ‘The baby killers of Scarborough’.  At number 28, John Hall, Architect and JP, was the oldest person to die in the raid and was killed by a shell smashing through his dining room window.

At 124 Falsgrave Road, home of Mary Moorhouse, twenty-eight year old maid, Ada Crowe, died as she tried to convince her employer the terrible banging was a result of Channel Fleet gunnery practice in the bay and there really was nothing to be worried about.

Terraced properties at numbers 132, 134 and 136 Falsgrave Road suffered blast damage from this shell.  Fourteen-year-old Lily Bain's picture appeared in local newspapers after she emerged unscathed from the ruins of the family home at 51 St Johns Avenue.  A 'miraculous' escape it was said and there is some truth in the fact that it was stories such as this, which gave people cause for hope.                                                                                

The next to die was thirty-year -old Emily Merryweather, proprietor of the general store on the corner of Prospect Road and Columbus Ravine.  She died ushering people into the shop cellar for safety.  At about the same time as Emily received the injury which killed her later on that day, shoemaker Harry Harland left his home on Belle Vue Street and set off for his place of work at Coe's Boot and Shoe repairers, at 78 Victoria Road, only to arrive at the same time as a salvo of shells hit the area.  He fled back home and gathered his family together and in haste they set off for where exactly?  This is unknown because he never made it further than the end of his street, collapsing after being hit by shrapnel.  Despite the best efforts of a doctor and other passers-by he died later.

Belle Vue Street's second victim was Mary Prew, aged 60.  She died instantly from an exploding shell.

The death of fifteen-year-old George Taylor was the only Boy Scout to die during WW1.  He lived on North Street and died on Albion Street after insisting on collecting the family newspaper.  It must be remembered that the scouting movement had been founded only a few years previously by Lord Baden Powell and one of its stated aims was to prepare boys for active military service.

In total, seventeen people died on 16 December 2014 and one died of wounds a short time later.  The Falsgrave Road and Gladstone Road areas of town had almost half of the fatalities.

Anyone who feels they may be a relative of any of the 18 victims (for full list, see notes to editors) or has any relevant information, should get in contact with Jan Cleary at the Friends of Dean Road and Manor Road Cemetery by emailing scarboroughcemeteries@googlemail.com or Mark Vasey at Scarborough Maritime and Heritage Centre by emailing scarboroughmaritime@yahoo.com.