AS a pale December sun rose above Hartlepool, the town remembered its fallen of 1914.
A massive turnout packed into the Redheugh Gardens, just yards from the Heugh Gun Battery, to pay tribute to the people who died in the Bombardment exactly 100 years ago.
It was a chance to remember everyone from six-month-old Eleanor Necy to 86-year-old Catherine Marshall, as well as the rest of the 130 fallen on that fateful day.
A crisp and cold Headland greeted the congregation for the service which started with a parade from the Battery.
With drums sounding, the procession got under way.
A strong military presence included the 18th battalion of the Durham Light Infantry Durham Pals - the battalion which defended Hartlepool 100 years ago.
The bands of the training ship Trincomalee Sea Cadet Corps and the Royal Marine Corps were there, and the Hartlepool and Blackhall detachments of the Air Training Corps.
And as they waited in silence to start the commemorative service, a 25-pounder gun was fired at the battery to get the proceedings under way.
Rev Chris Collison, of St Hilda’s Church, gave the opening address and called for reconciliation between all the peoples of the world.
The Bishop of Jarrow, the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, said: “It is almost impossible for us to imagine the terror of 100 years ago. Well over 1,100 shells falling on these communities in just 40 minutes. The local people not expecting this at all.”
He added: “It occurs to me that that experience of terror is an experience that is happening even now to many thousands of people throughout the world who live in war zones and who suffer bombardment.”
He called on everyone to commit themselves to “making the world a more peaceful place. It would be good this morning if we were to commit ourselves to creating a world without fear.”
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright reminded people that the Bombardment led to the death of Private Theo Jones, the first soldier to die on British soil in the First World War and the first to be killed on British soil since the battle of Culloden in 1746.
He quoted an anonymous officer who, after the dark day was over, wrote of the people of Hartlepool: “They behaved like soldiers.
“An hour after the firing ceased, normal life resumed. It shows that the Northern people still possess those sterling qualities that we associated with their ancestors.”
He said he hoped that no town should suffer the horror that Hartlepool suffered that day.
The massed audience of 250 people joined together to sing abide with me before a reading was given by the children of St Helen’s Primary School.
Then, schoolchildren released 37 coloured balloons into the air, each bearing the name of a child who died in the Bombardment. As the balloons rose into the sky, every child’s name was read out in a moving tribute to the tragic young victims of Hartlepool’s darkest day.
Father Nick Jennings, of St Mary’s Church in Hartlepool, read a passage from the Bible before readings were given by the pupils of St Bega’s and St Joseph’s Primary Schools.
As the service approached its end, the congregation sang Eternal Father before a prayer and blessing was given by the Bishop of Jarrow.
The audience fell silent and the standards were lowered, as the Last Post sounded.
Then, a quarter guard was formed by representatives of the Royal Air Force as the parade left the ceremony to march back to the gun battery.