Friday 16 December 2011

Hartlepool Bombardment, December 16 1914

On this day in 1914, Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby, all towns on the British coastline, were bombarded by German warships in an attempt to draw out the Royal Navy into battle. Whitb and Scarborough had no effective means of defence, but Hartlepool, although still majorly outgunned, had a Coastal Battery armed with six inch naval guns to fight back with. The story of the Raid is taken from here - . Today I will be in Hartlepool attending a commemorative service on the anniversary and timing of the start of the bombardment, which killed Theo Jones, the first British soldier to be killed on British soil in the First World War, who was a Private in the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, a 'Durham Pals' Battalion

Over 100 people died as more than 1,000 shells rained down on the town for
about 40 minutes from the three heavy cruisers Blucher, Seydlitz and Moltke
which emerged from the mist shortly after 8am on December 16 1914. Amongst the
casualties was Theo Jones, the first soldier to die on British soil in the Great
War.The previous evening four battle cruisers, 'Seydlitz', 'Moltke', 'Von der
Tann' and 'Derrflinger'; one heavy cruiser, 'Blucher', four light cruisers and
two flottillas of destroyers had left their base, heading out into the North
Sea. The intention was to bombard Hartlepool and Scarborough, both were by now
fortified towns and considered legitimate targets.

At dawn, six miles east of Hartlepool, shots were exchanged between
them and the destroyers of the Local Defence Patrol who left to raise the alarm.
No-one in the town heard anything. The 'Seydiltz', 'Moltke' and 'Blucher'
continued to steam towards the nearest target and the rest headed for
Scarborourgh. At 8.10 a.m. as the inhabitants were readying themselves for the
day's work, the first shell was fired. They were aiming at the shore batteries
and the Lighthouse. The shell cut all the lines of communications between the
batteries throwing them into confusion. By 8.25 a.m. most of the ships had come
as close as four thousand yards and had begun to pour their fire into the gun
emplacements and the docks. Some of the armour piercing shells had delayed
action fuses and a number bounced off the batteries into the town.

Henry Smith Terrace was dangerously close to the action. There were
hundreds of people milling about, taken totally by surprise, the coastguards
were doing their best to evacuate everybody safely. The air was filled with
black smoke, the screams of shells passing overhead and the cries of children
separated from their families. For about three quarters of an hour the
bombardment continued, 1,150 shells were fired into the area killing 112 and
wounding over 200. When it was clear the attack was over people began to filter
back to the shoreline, some helping to dig out the injured from collapsed
buildings, others helping themselves to shell fragments to keep as
souvenirs.Amongst the casualties was Theo Jones, the first soldier to die on
British soil in the Great War.

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