bombardment of hartlepool 1914The Museum of Hartlepool has kindly allowed the WFA to use the images below to show the effects of the bombardment of Hartlepool in December 1914. Most of the text below is also from the Museum's Flickr site.

The bombardment of Hartlepool is one of the most significant events in the town's history. Although the First World War had started several months before, the British public were not prepared for what was about to happen. On the morning of Wednesday, 16 December 1914 Hartlepool (on the north-east coast of England) came under attack. This was the first time British civilians had been in the line of enemy fire during a major conflict - probably since the civil war. There were similar raids occuring on Scarborough (and then Whitby) to the south.

The people of Hartlepool were going about their daily business as three German warships, Seydlitz, Moltke and Blucher, led by Vice Admiral Hipper, approached the coastline. The warships had been met further out at sea by the British destroyers, Doon, Test, Waveney and Moy. Attempts were made to stop the warships going further but the British destroyers had to admit defeat. Other efforts to prevent the bombardment were made by the light cruiser HMS Patrol and submarine C9 but both ran aground.

Nobody in Hartlepool was aware of what had happened out at sea and what followed took the town completely by surprise. Shortly after 8am the three warships began firing shells, continuing to do so for about 40 minutes. The coastal defence batteries were the main target and the lines of communication were quickly cut.

The coastal defences of the port were made up of the Heugh Battery, which had two six inch guns and the Lighthouse Battery, which had one six inch gun. The coastal batteries, manned by the Durham Royal Garrison Artillery, fired 123 rounds. Two companies from the 18th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry were also stationed in Hartlepool at this time. Some damage was inflicted on the German warship Blucher and some of the crew were killed and injured but, despite efforts to defend the town, the two batteries were outgunned by the German warships.

Over 1,000 shells were fired during the bombardment causing much devastation to the town and its people. More than 100 people were killed and in excess of 200 were injured. Many buildings were damaged or destroyed. Here are some of the photographs from our collection, which show the aftermath of the bombardment.

The raid had an enormous effect upon British public opinion, both as a rallying cry against Germany for an attack upon civilians, and in generating criticism of the Royal Navy for being unable to prevent it. The attack became part of a British propaganda campaign, 'Remember Scarborough', used on army recruitment posters.

You can watch a slideshow of the photographs of effects of the bombardment below. Please use the expand icon to view the slideshow in full screen, press "Esc" on your keyboard to return.


Read more about the raids on Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool.

You can also watch a video on the bombardment.

Please visit The Museum of Hartlepool. Our thanks to them for the use of the photographs and the body of the article above.


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