Family Roots: Zeppelin attacks that cost Ralph his life

YORK Road in Hartlepool in the aftermath of the Bombardment. Photograph courtesy of the Hartlepool Museums Service
YORK Road in Hartlepool in the aftermath of the Bombardment. Photograph courtesy of the Hartlepool Museums Service
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IMAGINE the horror that Ralph Snaith must have felt at watching his hometown being shelled by the Germans.

Ralph, a man of Duke Street, lived through the Bombardment of Hartlepool on December 16, 1914.

THE grave of Ralph Snaith who died after a Zeppelin attack on the North-East in 1915

THE grave of Ralph Snaith who died after a Zeppelin attack on the North-East in 1915

He was so affected by the dramas of that day that he decided to leave the town and look for work in Jarrow, thinking he would be safer there.

But on June 15, 1915, he was working at Palmers Shipyards of Jarrow when it was raided by the Germans.

Ralph, along with 16 other men, died in the attack which was carried out by the dreaded Zeppelin airships.

Ralph’s story can be shared thanks to Philip Strong from Australia. He was researching his own family tree and found that one of his relatives died in the raid on the Jarrow shipyard in which Mr Snaith also died.

Philip told us: “Zeppelin raids on the North-East coast in the First World War were not reported in detail in newspapers. Even resultant court cases were held secretly “in camera”, all due to censorship.

“I have been researching the raid on Palmers Shipyards of Jarrow which killed my great uncle Joseph Lane and 16 other men.

“Good history is best written using contemporary first-hand reports and this story has remained like a jigsaw with many missing pieces.

“I have been searching for Ralph Snaith descendants without success, in the hope that first-hand family stories have been passed down through the generations.”

What we do know is that Ralph’s wife was Mary Pounder Snaith, and they had three children who were called John, Ethel and Norman.

Philip added: “Ralph Snaith had variously worked as a turner in the turbine works, an engineer’s turner and an engine fitter.

“He had worked for Palmers for three weeks up to the time of his death, at the rate of £3. 1s. 6d. a week.

“At first sight it is strange that Ralph was not working in the shipbuilding town of Hartlepool. However, six months before Ralph died at Jarrow, Hartlepool received a very heavy German naval bombardment on December 16, 1914.

“Shipbuilding operations in Hartlepool would have been put into some confusion after the bombardment and Ralph might have been unemployed or at least under-employed.

“One week after the bombardment, Palmers Shipbuilding was advertising for workers under the patriotic heading of OHMS, with the explanation “owing to urgent work for his Majesty’s Navy this class of workmen are wanted immediately.”

“Perhaps Ralph responded to these advertisements?”

Can anyone help with more details on Ralph and his family. Philip would love to know more and so would we.

Get in touch by contacting Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377 or by emailing chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk