What we did
Valiant Whitby by Philip Boville
We looked at the bombardment of Whitby as part of our research into the effects of World War 1 on Whitby and the surrounding area.
Whitby had a lot of exposure to the War in the early days of it, and the people must have thought this is what it was going to be like for them throughout. Luckily nothing much happened here after 1914, although the people were still affected greatly as lots of the young men from the town and surrounding villages went away to fight and consequently women’s lives were changed drastically too.
There wasn’t a great deal of material on the Bombardment but we found various references online to Whitby, and also to the shelling of Scarborough and Hartlepool that took place during the same raid.. The attacks on the other towns lasted longer and caused more deaths, injuries and damage than the Whitby one.
On March 1st 2015 we went to see an excellent play about the Bombardment at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. “Real Life: Retold” was produced jointly by Scarborough Museum’s Trust and the Theatre’s outreach department and, although Scarborough focussed, gave a brilliant portrayal of the period and the events of the day of the Bombardment. One of the most interesting scenes was where German battleship crew members on board their ship were discussing the plans and we witnessed their mixed emotions.
We have also had a couple of visits to the York Castle Museum’s World War 1 exhibition; “1914: When the World changed forever”, where the bombardment was mentioned in one of the exhibits.
There is a new memorial to the Bombardment of Whitby on West Cliff, which we also visited. It is like a mini museum as it depicts a scene of a bombed out house and a display panel with information.
Karen Mason, from our group, wrote a play about the Bombardment. It is 6 short scenes about the various people and groups involved, from the crew of the German battleships to the schoolchildren. However, we felt it was too similar in style to the Stephen Joseph Theatre play so we wrote another sketch which we performed at the Festival’s two Christmas Shows, almost exactly 101 years after the event. It was decided that, as we didn’t have the material or the time to try to recreate the event in a show, and as it had already been done so well in Scarborough we would create a different type of production.
With the help of Teesside writer, Maggie Kraus, we worked on a contemporary school setting where a group of us acting as students responded to our teacher asking questions about what we had discovered in our research. It gave us the opportunity to tell the audience about the awful day and incorporate it into a Christmas show to emphasise how this must have affected people in the area at this time of the year.
Click here to see the Whitby Bombardment Project Script