A RECENT report in The Press relating how Scarborough author Graham Taylor is writing a book about the German navy’s bombardment of Scarborough in the First World War prompted reader Christine Dinsdale to rummage around in a cupboard and find a collection of old postcards of the event.

Following the Yesterday Once More feature in November focusing on the day the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet opened fire on the resort, Mrs Dinsdale’s postcards, some of which we reproduce here, show in shocking detail the damage that was wrought on Wednesday December 16, 1914.

One shows the inside of No 2 Wykeham Street, where four people were killed – two of them children.

There is a vivid account of that particular tragedy in Remember Scarborough, Bob Clarke’s gripping account of the bombardment, published last year.

No 2 Wykeham Street was a simple terraced house that was home to the Bennett family and a number of paying guests.

In his book, Mr Clarke quotes a witness, Annie Agar: “…The shell came flying straight over the railway bridge – it smashed a lot of windows in Gladstone Road School and went clean through Mrs Bennett’s house,” she said. “The place was blown up and things went flying in all directions.”

The attack on Scarborough was part of a wider assault by the Germans on English east coast towns, including Whitby and Hartlepool.

The bombardments began at about 8.10am, and by 9.30am almost 140 people were dead in the three towns, and almost 600 injured.

In Scarborough, three German warships – the battle cruisers Derrflinger and Von der Tann and light cruiser Kolberg – appeared off the coast shortly before 8am.

According to an article by J Rickard on the historyofwar.org website, the Kohlberg was sent south east to lay a minefield off Flamborough Head, while the two battlecruisers opened fire on the coastguard station and yeomanry barracks.

They then sailed south east along the coast, firing on the castle on its headland and the Grand Hotel, apparently believing it was the location of a gun battery. It was, apparently, hit more than 30 times.

Many other shops, homes, hotels and guesthouses were also hit, of course, as the shells rained down.

The bombardment’s first victim was Leonard Ellis, the porter at chemist Clare & Hunts on the corner of South Street, which was hit. Another shell destroyed the third floor of 6 Belvoir Terrace, trapping the occupant, Mrs Keble, inside, and the home of the town’s Liberal MP, Walter Rea, was damaged by a shell.

Terrible as the damage in Scarborough was, it was Hartlepool that suffered the most casualties that day.

Yet it was the attack on Scarborough that caused most anger – possibly because, contrary to what the Germans thought, the town was undefended.

So strong was the anger that the British government used Scarborough in its recruitment campaigns. One poster showed the rubble of the Bennetts’ house in Wykeham Street, under the heading “Men of Britain? Will you stand for this?”

Mrs Dinsdale, of Fulford, York, is not quite sure how she came to have the set of postcards about the bombardment in her possession.

“But my grandmother, Emily – who was born Emily Hardy – came from that area,” she says. “I think she must have been in Scarborough at the time of the bombing.”

Her grandmother never spoke about the events of that day, Christine admits, but they clearly left a mark, if it was indeed Emily who collected the cards.

Most of the postcards are photos, but one – Christine’s favourite – is an artist’s attempt to reconstruct the scene as the shells hit the castle walls.

All these years later, it is still an image with the power to bring the violence of that long-ago morning to shocking life.

• Remember Scarborough by Bob Clarke is published by Amberley, priced £12.99

York Press: The Old Barracks, Castle Hill, Scarborough

The Old Barracks, Castle Hill, Scarborough