Monday, 19 December 2011

North Eastern Railway and the Hartlepool Bombardment, 1914

December 16th 2011 saw the 97th anniversary of the Bombardment of the Hartlepools (see previous post here On December 16th 1914, German warships shelled Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool in an attempt to lure the Royal Navy out into battle. Whitby and Scarborough were undefended but Hartlepool was defended by a coastal battery of six inch guns and was able to fight back and cut short the planned hour long bombardment by twenty minutes. On the 15th I was at the Ken Hoole archives researching the North Eastern Railway in the First World War, and as on the 16th I attended a ceremony at the memorial for those killed in the bombardment, I researched the effects of the Hartlepool bombardment on the NER - all information is from The North Eastern Railway Magazine

At West Hartlepool Station, shortly after the Liverpool service departed a shell smashed through the station wall at the south end of the 'up' platform. The same shell damaged the brake of the train due out at 0850, and the passenger line to the south was cut in several places. At first the staff ensured their families were safe, but after ascertaining that they were, they returned to their posts.

At Hartlepool Station only four staff plus the stationmaster were working at the time of the bombardment. Mr Walker, a ticket collector, gave first aid to a sailor on the SS Phoebe in dock close to the station, who had been mortally wounded by shrapnel. Mr Llewellyn, a Porter, made stretcher and ambulance materials ready, and Mr Willey, a Porter, gathered women into the waiting rooms away from falling glass, as roof squares were constantly falling, especially at the west end of the station.

In the docks, shunters and engine drivers stayed at their posts until it was foolhardy to stay there. In many places the rails were cut by shells or blocked by debris. Railway operations for the rest of the day were mainly disrupted by both the damage to portions of track and damage to telegraph wires.

Two North Eastern Railway men were killed in the bombardment. George Dring, a mooringman, was wounded in the chest by a piece of shell and died later in the day. With around a dozen others he took shelter behind the dock masters offices . A shell struck one of the crabwinches which controlled the dock gates, smashing it, and wounding six or seven men and killing four, including George Dring. Mr Dring joined the North Eastern Railway in 1894, originally working on a dock dredger used by the Dock Engineers Department. In 1904 Dring was appointed to the position of mooringman (a Dock Pilot, in the Dockmaster's Department). He was known as a quiet and well conducted man, and left a widow and six sons and daughters, two of which were still at school.

William Sarginson, a Shunter at West Hartlepool, was the second NER casualty. He died in Hospital on January 4th 1915 from wounds received in the bombardment. He was on duty at Stag Island in the docks, and was dealing with wagons when he was struck by fragments from a shell. He called to his mate, Mr R Coates, for assistance, which was promptly rendered. When he was being carried away on Mr Coates' back he was again struck, injuring Mr Coates as well. William Sarginson suffered twenty injuries in total to various parts of his body. Sarginson was 22, unmarried and well respected and had been in North Eastern Railway since 1913.

Following the raid, on June 18th 1915, thirty-four members of North Eastern Railway local ambulance classes were given medals by General Manager Sir A Kaye Butterworth for distinguishing themselves under fire during the bombardment. After the June 18th presentation it was discovered that two ticket collectors had also rendered rendered special services but had escaped official recognition. Sir A Kaye Butterworth agreed these men should have medals obtained for them also, and the two men, Mr James P Devlin and Mr James Walker were presented with the medals by General Superintendent Major HA Watson on September 21st 1915.

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