Hartlepool Marks Bombardment Centenary

16 December 2014, 06:00 | Updated: 16 December 2014, 06:10

Hartlepool will hold a major event to commemorate the centenary of its bombardment by the German Navy in the First World War.

A total of 130 civilians and military personnel were killed and more than 500 were wounded when German warships fired more than a thousand shells on the Hartlepools just after eight o'clock on the morning of 16th December 1914.

The Headland's Heugh Gun Battery returned fire in what was the only battle to be fought on British soil during World War One, and one of the Battery's soldiers, Theo Jones of the Durham Light Infantry, became the first British soldier to be killed by enemy action on home ground in the war.

One hundred years to the day, on Tuesday 16th December, Hartlepool will pay tribute to those it lost in a day of civic and community events organised by Hartlepool Council in partnership with the Heugh Gun Battery Trust.

The highlight will be the unveiling of the new Bombardment Memorial on land near the Headland lighthouse by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, Mrs Sue Snowdon.

Representatives of the four military organisations which lost personnel in the bombardment - the Durham Light Infantry, the Royal Engineers, the Royal Artillery and the Royal Navy - have been invited to lay plaques at the memorial. Wreaths will be laid by Dale Minks on behalf of descendants of the families which died and by the Friends of North Cemetery and veterans' groups will present their standards.

The names of the 130 victims will be read out and pupils from St Aidan's Primary School - where Theo Jones was a teacher - will plant 130 ceramic poppies from the recent Tower of London display and 130 wooden crosses.

Later in the day the poppies will be moved to the Museum of Hartlepool, where they will go on display the next day in the bombardment exhibition.

There will also be a chance for people to see a re-creation of one of Hartlepool's wartime Tipperary Clubs in the Borough Hall, which in the afternoon will play host to invited guests from the local and regional area and beyond at an 'At Home' hosted by the Mayor of Hartlepool's Consort Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher.

During the evening there will be a new outdoor theatre performance in the Headland Town Square from 6pm to 7pm.

Called 'Homecoming' and created by acclaimed theatre company Periplum, the show will use pyrotechnics and specially-commissioned music and visual effects to tell the stories of local residents' contributions to the war effort, both on the home front and on foreign battlefields.

Hartlepool's Ceremonial Mayor Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher said:
"The bombardment of the Hartlepools was an event of massive significance, not only locally but nationally.

One hundred years to the day, the Hartlepool community is coming together to remember those who died and to unveil a lasting memorial to their memory.

It is especially poignant that descendants of the civilians who were killed will be taking part in the day, together with representatives of the military organisations which lost personnel.

This is an event for the whole community and any other serving representatives of the military or ex-service personnel and members of the public wishing to join us will be warmly welcomed."