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Day They Shelled Scarborough

Scarborough has the dubious distinction of being the first place to experience total war, and this excellent documentary has rare footage from the time and eyewitness accounts.

Documentary 1977 19 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


This is a fine documentary on what some have claimed to have been the first example of ‘total war’, with civilian casualties, as Germany brought the war to Britain in December 1914. Presented by Austin Mitchell, the documentary has rarely seen cine film taken at the time showing the damage caused by the shelling of Scarborough by German battle-cruisers, and interviews with people who were there at the time.

It isn’t clear why Yorkshire Television decided in 1977 to make a feature on the raid of Scarborough. It did, however, mean that we have interviews with people who were there at the time. The raid was quickly followed by the shelling of Hartlepool and Whitby. In total 114 civilians and 16 military personnel were killed. It seems that the target was the Naval Wireless, so it isn’t certain whether civilians were deliberately targeted; but if it was intended to strike a blow against morale, it seriously backfired. The documentary was presumably made just before Austin Mitchell left Yorkshire Television, which he had been with since 1969, to be elected as a Labour MP for Grimsby in a by-election in April 1977.