For a period of time I became rather (healthily!?) obsessed with WWI naval battles, in particular the clashes between the British and German fleets in the North Sea.  The conflict pitted the massive British Grand Fleet against the upstart German High Seas Fleet.  The two sides met in  a variety of battles including the big one everyone has heard of at Jutland, and by the end of the war the German fleet was still mostly intact with ships rusting at anchor and its sailors rioting against the conflict and starting to drift toward the same Communist revolutionary ideas that had already taken root in Russia.  

Rather earlier in the war the Germans, despite an aggressive battleship production program, knew they didn't have the numbers to confront the British directly with much hope for victory.   So they instead conducted a series of raids designed to boost morale, stir up the British and hopefully lure part of the British fleet into a trap where the overall numerical difference between the two sides wouldn't matter and where a piece of the British fleet might give chase and be lured into facing the entirety of the German fleet.  The ships chosen for this mission were the hottest vessels of they day, the battlecruisers. These were a new class of ship with the firepower of the largest battleships afloat but with less armour and therefore much greater top speed and the flexibility to perform a variety of missions.  In sum...a unique combination of speed and power.    

In December 1914 four battlecruisers and one slower armored cruiser were sent to raid the British coast where they ultimately shelled Hartlepool, the resort town of Scarborough, and the town Whitby, firing more than 1,000 shells killing 100+ people and damaging 300 houses and churches.  One of the churches in question is Whitby Abbey, pictured below during a "pilgrimage" I made there.  Shelled by two of the German battlecruisers in the raid and severely damaged, it marked one of the places one can come closest to the WWI naval war onshore in the UK today, and where one can stare out into the North Sea and imagine the battle cruisers Von Der Tann and Derfflinger looming out of the fog and ruining a bunch of people's morning.  

The aftermath of the attack was that the German main fleet wasn't able to ambush the British battlecruisers sent to chase the German raiders.   Instead the British had signals intelligence warning them of the attack and so opted to try and turn the tables on the Germans.  In the final analysis both sides avoided traps set by the other largely by accident  and thanks to poor weather and failed to capitalize on the opportunities presented.  The attack resulted in Briitsh public outrage towards the Germans for conducting the raid on what were seen as innocent civilians and against the Royal Navy for not having prevented it.  It also marked the first casualty on British soil during the Great War.

The Abbey here had been in decay for years prior to the attack, so the Germans don't get full credit for what you see here,.  However, being able to walk amidst the ruins, further degraded by the battlecruisers shelling, as the sun completed its decent for the day made for a fantastic evening.               

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