December 16

This Day in History

World War I

Dec 16, 1914:

Germans bombard English ports of Hartlepool and Scarborough

At approximately 8 o'clock in the morning, German battle cruisers from Franz von Hipper's Scouting Squadron catch the British navy by surprise as they begin heavy bombardment of Hartlepool and Scarborough, English port cities on the North Sea.

The bombardment lasted for about one and a half hours, killing more than 130 civilians and wounding another 500. It would unleash a damning response from the British press, which pointed to the incident as yet another example of German brutality. The German navy, however, saw the two port cities as valid targets due to their fortified status.

Two defense batteries in Hartlepool responded to the attacks, damaging three of the German vessels, including the heavy cruiser Blucher. Hipper's squadron hoped to draw British forces to pursue them across waters freshly laced with mines. Another German fleet, commanded by Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl, sat waiting offshore to provide support. A major confrontation did not take place, however, as the British decided to keep most of their fleet—depleted by the dispatch of their major cruisers to pursue the dangerous squadron of Admiral Maximilian von Spee—in the harbor.

An attempt by the Scouting Squadron one month later to repeat the tactics used to surprise the British at Scarborough and Hartlepool resulted in the Battle of Dogger Bank, where Hipper's squadron was defeated but managed to avoid capture.

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