Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The War Hits Home

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The War Hits Home

Article excerpt

IT came as the biggest shock of the war so far.

At 8.03am just as people had risen from their beds and were preparing their breakfast before another working day, heavy gun shells started bursting in Hartlepool.

Wednesday, December 16, 1914, will be forever etched in the collective memory of the town because the casualties and damage suffered were devastating.

Tomorrow marks 95 years since the event rocked the town.

The shock of what happened was extreme for a number of reasons. It has to be appreciated that in December 1914 there had not been a military casualty on British soil since the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

In 1914 Great Britain seemed immune from its enemies because it possessed the most powerful navy in the world. So when three large German warships loomed out of the mists, the lookouts at the Heugh Battery guarding Hartlepool could hardly believe their eyes.

The three German ships were the battlecruisers Seydlitz and Moltke and the armoured cruiser Blucher.

At 8.03am the Germans opened fire on Hartlepool, and eyewitnesses said that they looked as if the ships were just 100 yards off the breakwater. Shells from the huge guns tore into the town, the gasometer blew up spectacularly and the Evening Gazette reported that, "shells were bursting everywhere, wrecking homes and dealing death and destruction".

People were seen to be rushing in the direction of the park anxious to escape the shells and falling masonry.

Children were hurried along to the supposed safety of the park while the sick and housebound were carried further inland.

The Germans spent nearly an hour relentlessly pouring 1,150 shells into the town.

For the terrified local people it must have seemed it would never stop.

At 8.52am the German squadron fired its last shell and quickly it withdrew into the mists of the North Sea.

They left 102 people dead including nine soldiers, seven sailors, 15 children and 467 wounded as well as damage to seven churches, 10 public buildings, five hotels and over 300 houses.

On January 24, 1915, the same German ships were at sea again, but this time the British battlecruisers were waiting for them. …

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