Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman in Hartlepool visit for World War One series

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BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman has been in Hartlepool to learn more about the town’s role in the First World War for a major new television series.

The Newsnight and University Challenge star spent two days on the Headland researching and filming for A History of Britain During World War One, which will be shown on BBC 1 early next year.

His focus was the infamous bombardment of the Hartlepools by the German Navy just after eight o’clock on the morning of December 16, 1914.

A total of 119 civilians across Hartlepool and West Hartlepool were killed and more than 400 were wounded as 1,150 shells rained down.

The Headland’s Heugh Gun Battery returned fire, damaging some of the attacking ships, in what was the only battle to be fought on British soil during the First World War.

Eight of the Battery’s soldiers were killed in the naval attack, including Theo Jones, of the 18th Durham Light Infantry, who was from West Hartlepool and was the first British soldier to be killed on home soil in the Great War.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s museums service, the Headland History Group and the Heugh Gun Battery Museum worked together to help in making the programme after they were approached by the BBC.

As well as finding local people who could be interviewed and tracing documents and artefacts from the bombardment, they also helped the TV production team to scout filming locations and did extensive research which Jeremy then used in his script.

The BBC filmed in a number of locations including South Crescent, Regent Street, Cliff Terrace, Moor Terrace and in the Heugh Gun Battery Museum.

Filming also took place at the site next to the Gun Battery Museum where Theo Jones is commemorated by a plaque.

Paxman also interviewed Myra Docherty of the Headland History Group.

Myra is a descendant of the Dixon family whose children were killed in the raid, her grandmother’s leg was blown off in the attack, but she survived.

The filming took place on the exact spot where the children were hit.

To introduce his filming, Paxman was able to use the famous bombardment clock which is in the Museum of Hartlepool.

It came from a house in Collingwood Road, which was hit by parts of one of the exploding shells and its hands are forever frozen in time at three minutes past eight.

Mark Simmons, the council’s museums manager, said: “It was a pleasure to work with Jeremy, the BBC and the local volunteers.

“The programme-making would not have gone so smoothly without all our organisations working together – something which we will continue to do as the centenary of the First World War approaches.”

David Geen, of the Headland History Group, added: “We are all looking forward to seeing the first episode, especially as it will bring the story of the town’s major role in the terrible events of late 1914 to a wider audience.”