- On the morning of 14th December 1914 only a few short months after the start of hostilities, out of the thick sea fret just off shore thre heavily armed German ships the battle cruisers Seydlitz, Moltke and Blucher appeared menacingly. Other ships attacked Scarborpough and Whitby further down the coast but Hartlepool would be hit the hardest.
Children were eating breakfast and about to go to school. Fathers who had already started work rushed home to collect families. In a 50 minute reign of terror men women and children fled the town as best they could.
An astonishing 1,100 shells rained down on the ship building town as well as the two gun batteries built to protect it. 114 people were killed and many hundreds injured. Nine of the dead were soldiers from the Heugh battery. The batteries were outnumbered but still managed to fire over 140 shells at their attackers.
Houses in streets close to the Heugh battery such as Moor Terrace Victoria Place and Cliff Terrace were particularly badly damaged. An archive project in the 1980’s inetrviewed one of the survivors Edith Reed who told them what had happened and she thought at the time the world was coming to an end.
Salvation Army adjutant William G Avery was among the first civilians to be killed when his house was hit by a shell in Victoria Place. Great bravery was witnessed and defiance of the German shells by survivors.Private Theo Jones of the Durham light infantry was the first soldier to die on British soil.It was certain that other sea side towns like Whitley bay and Tynemouth were terrified if thy same thing might happen to them. The museum at Heugh battery is well worth a visit to speak to the many guides who bring the day to life.