It soon became obvious to Germany that the Grand Fleet was not going to mount any close blockade so the only realistic strategy was to try and force a situation in which the entire High Seas Fleet could engage a weaker portion of the Grand Fleet. This could only be achieved if Britain divided the Grand Fleet. On November 3rd Admiral von Hipper was dispatched with three battle-cruisers in a dash across the North Sea, arriving off Yarmouth at dawn. The only ship in his way was the old gunboat Halcyon, lying 10 miles off Lowestoft on fishing patrol duties. Despite German shells raining all around her, she managed to escape by a zigzag course and a smoke screen provided by two destroyers which arrived shortly after. AT 7 o’clock the bombardment of Gorleston began with 11” and 12” shells but little damage was done.
Hipper was safely back at base long before the Grand Fleet could intervene. The raid certainly raised fury in Britain, but it did not persuade Jellicoe to dispatch part of the Grand Fleet to more southerly bases.
The next raid, commended on December 15th, was bolder, as Germany was aware that some of the Grand Fleet had taken part in the Battle of the Falklands. The north east coast of England was the target but this time the High Seas Fleet was to follow the raiders hoping to catch a portion of the Grand Fleet sent to deal with the raid. British intelligence was aware another raid was being planned and plans were made to trap the raiders. Tyrwhitt’s force from Harwich was ordered north to gain touch and report on the raiders while part of the Grand Fleet steamed south to cut them off. This was exactly the situation that Germany wished for – an encounter with a detachment of the Grand Fleet with the entire High Seas Fleet.
However chance intervened – the scouts of the Grand Fleet encountered the scouts of the High Seas Fleet. The German Admiral of the Fleet, von Igenohl, uncertain what size of force the enemy scouts were scouting for and in fear of going against the Kaiser’s wish not to risk the High Seas Fleet, turned for home leaving von Hipper to his fate. On the early morning of Dec 16th, von Hipper’s ships arrived off the English coast at Scarborough and Hartlepool and began to shell the towns at 8am at close range. After half an hour both forces vanished into the mist, only to reappear off Whitby and shell that town. Now it seemed that Hipper would be trapped by the Grand Fleet detachment but he was able to escape due to the uncertainties of battle and bad weather conditions.
Above: Left - damage at Scarborough. Middle - damage to Whitby Abbey. Right - Recruiting Poster; the raids caused outrage and where used to encourage recruitment into the Armed Forces.
At Scarborough four children, eight women and four men were killed and hundreds others injured. At Whitby two men were killed and four children injured. The casualty total for Hartlepool was 117 men, women and children killed and 527 wounded. Many civilians thought that this was the beginning of an actual invasion. The British press was enraged that the Navy was powerless to stop Hipper and his “baby killers”. This time Jellicoe could not resist pressure to send part of the Grand Fleet further south to Rosyth.