Scarborough Raid

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The Scarborough Raid was a tip-and-run bombardment by battlecruisers of the German fleet against British East Coast targets in the early morning hours of 16 December, 1914.

Background

In mid-November, 1914 the commander of the German High Sea Fleet, Admiral von Ingenohl, under pressure for action from his subordinate Hipper, decided to bombard the British coastal towns of Scarborough and Hartlepool as soon as he received the permission of the German Emperor, Wilhelm II. In the aftermath of the German naval victory at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November, Wilhelm approved the idea. The Imperial German Navy Admiralstab ordered that before the operation could commence every ship of Scouting Group I had to be available. The bombardment was consequently delayed till mid-December because of machinery problems with the battlecruiser Von der Tann.[1]

On 8 December the British victory at the Battle of the Falkland Islands prompted von Ingenohl to back up the bombardment force by taking the entire High Sea Fleet to sea, an intention he decided to conceal from the German Emperor. The well-publicised presence of the British battle cruisers Invincible and Inflexible at the Falklands lowered the British numerical superiority in the North Sea, and von Ingenohl wanted to act before they returned to the Grand Fleet. At Vize-Admiral Reinhard Scheer's suggestion, the older German pre-dreadnoughts were left stationed in the Baltic Sea so as to negate the need for a potentially suspicious transit through the Kiel Canal. The submarine U-27 was sent to reconnoitre Scarborough and Hartlepool, and reported weak defences and no mine fields.[2]

Despite the German Navy's precautions, the British Royal Navy's Room 40 was able to deduce from intercepted wireless messages that the Germans intended to send out Hipper Scouting Groups, but not that von Ingenohl would be following with the rest of the High Sea Fleet.[3] On 11 December the Admiralty informed Jellicoe that the Germans:

can never again have such a good opportunity for successful offensive operations as at present, and you will no doubt consider how best to conserve and prepare your forces in the interval, so as to have the maximum number possible always ready and fresh. For the present the patrols to prevent contraband passing are of small importance.[4]

Jellicoe passed the warning on to the commander of the British battle cruisers, Vice-Admiral David Beatty, on 12 December: "There is an idea at Head Quarters that the Germans may move during the next week or two … "[5]

At 23:40 on 14 December Jellicoe was informed:

Good information has been received showing that a German cruiser squadron with destroyers will leave the Jade on Tuesday morning early and return on Wednesday night. It is apparent from our information that the battleships are very unlikely to come out. The enemy will have time to reach our coast. Send at once, leaving tonight, the Battle Cruiser Squadron and Light Cruiser Squadron supported by a Battle Squadron, preferably the Second. At dawn on Wednesday they should be at some point where they can intercept the enemy on his return. Tyrwhitt and his light cruisers will try to get in touch with the enemy off the British coast and shadow him, keeping the Admiral informed. From our information the German cruiser squadron will probably consist of four battle cruisers and five light cruisers and there will probably be three flotillas of destroyers.[6]

See Also

Footnotes

  1. The King's Ships Were At Sea. p. 191.
  2. The King's Ships Were At Sea. pp. 190-191.
  3. The King's Ships Were At Sea. p. 191.
  4. Admiralty to C-in-C Grand Fleet. 11 December, 1914. Sent 00:20. Naval Staff Monograph (Historical). Volume XII. p. 214. Quoted in Goldrick. King's Ships. p. 191.
  5. The Jellicoe Papers. I. p. 105.
  6. Beesly. p. 51. A "précis of [the] original telegram" is given in the Staff Monograph. p. 189. The time for the message is taken from that version.

Bibliography

  • Corbett, Sir Julian S. (1921). Naval Operations. Volume II. London: Longmans, Green and Co..
  • Goldrick, James (1984). The King's Ships Were At Sea: The War in the North Sea August 1914–February 1916. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-334-2.
  • Naval Staff, Training and Staff Duties Division (July, 1921). Naval Staff Monographs. (Fleet Issue.) Volume III. O.U. 6181 (late C.B. 1585). Copy No 127 at The National Archives. ADM 186/610.