Clarion History 27

27 The final episode. A Shocking Edition. The Clarion on Christmas
Day 1914

On 16 December German battleships bombarded East Coast towns of
Scarborough, Hartlepool , West Hartlepool and Whitby. There were nearly
600 casualties, mostly civilians, including 137 fatalities. An eyewitness
account by Thomas Beckett, headed ‘Bloody Murder’ appeared in the
Clarion, with terrible irony, on Christmas day. He began by referring to the
reassuring statements from the Admiralty about the ‘entire absence of panic.’
But what did they know? ‘We others know. By God we do!’ He continued,
‘We poor civilians who are so brave, and whose murder is to be regretted, we
have no trenches or dugouts in which to seek shelter,‘ and then gave the
following graphic narrative.

I saw a man hurrying along the street holding a girl by the arm. She was
bespattered with blood from head to foot The man was holding her arm
to stop the gush of blood. I saw a thing on a flat cart driven at a gallop;
it had a bloody flattened mass where the head should be. I picked up
a shrieking woman…she had seen her sixteen year old boy shattered
by a shell.’
He went on:
Yes, our demeanour was everything to be desired.; It was. The self-
sacrificing way in which the helpless civilians assisted each other
stands for ever as a crushing reply to the immutant law of self-
preservation Here a poor mother with five naked children flying before
the murder; and here people turning back to get clothes for these poor
naked bodies and to comfort the demented mother. And all the while
the very atmosphere rocking with the blood-dry of hell-hounds let loose.
On the same page Hilda Thompson criticised the slowness of the press in
bringing out ‘specials’ on the East Coast bombardment. It was, she said, ‘an
event which so far as England is concerned is unparalleled in the history of
generations’ Blatchford believed that fewer men had joined up than
expected because ‘they have not realised that this war is a real war.’ They
would now, she said.

 

Ian

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