A naval battle in a local park? Yes, you heard correctly. Scarborough has all the delights you would expect from a seaside holiday town – fine sands, spectacular coastlines, fish and chips and even a ruined Abbey nearby to explore. But sometimes it is nice to try something just a little different. In this respect, Scarborough will not let you down.
In the beautiful, Japanese themed Peasholm Park to the north of the town you will find a boating lake. But this is no ordinary boating lake. Three times a week, throughout the summer season, the lake plays host to a spectacular naval re-enactment based on the ‘Battle of the River Plate’ – the first naval battle of WWII.
The origins of the re-enactment pre-date WWII, with the first shows in 1927. They were the brainchild of Entertainments Manager of the Scarborough Corporation, George Horrocks. In the early days the models, some as long as 20 feet, represented the WWI ‘Dreadnoughts’ of the Royal Navy pitched against their German counterparts. The original models were powered by manpower alone, with the first electric powered models being added in 1929.
The shows continued until the outbreak of WWII, with more sophisticated models gradually introduced. During the war, the models were mothballed but, having avoided the attack on Scarborough during the Battle of Britain by the Luftwaffe, succumbed to damage in the form of dry rot and woodworm. The models were not salvageable, so a new fleet was commissioned, with boats representing the vessels involved in the Battle of the River Plate. These included the British cruisers HMS ‘Ajax’, HMS ‘Achilles’ and, most famously, HMS ‘Exeter’ and the German battleship ‘Admiral Graf Spee’. You can see a short vintage TV item about the battle from 1962 here, at the Pathe film site.
Although many of the models remain in use, and the names of the British ships are still used, references as to the identities of the participating navies have been quietly dropped and the format of the battle slightly changed. Aircraft were introduced in the early ‘60s and other vessels included over time. The battle now reflects the plight of a brave flotilla defending itself against an anonymous aggressor.
The show is an unusual and extremely entertaining way to spend an afternoon in the park and is thoroughly recommended for both young and old. The exploits of this, the smallest manned navy in the world, are becoming well known and the organisers are justifiably proud that the show has been reported all over the world and covered both by the BBC and ITV.
The first performance for the season takes place on Spring Bank Holiday, followed by shows in June, July and August. All shows lasting around half an hour.
For further details see www.discoveryorkshirecoast.com
What’s even better – Peasholm Park is a stowns throw away from the Park Manor Hotel!