THE First World War tragedy which saw 130 Hartlepool people and armed forces personnel killed has been commemorated close to where it happened.
The congregation at St Hilda’s Church, on the Headland, gathered yesterday for a special service to remember those who died in the Bombardment of the Hartlepools on December 16, 1914.
With the conflict then just four months old, German ships shelled the town from their position in the North Sea.
As well as the horrific death toll, around 600 people were left injured by the raids.
The service, led by Reverend Chris Collison, included readings about the history of the tragedy.
Private Theo Jones, who was also a schoolteacher at St Aidan’s Primary, is believed to have been the first person killed in the shelling, aged just 29.
Speaking in the church, Rev Collison said: “If you look at the war memorial on the Headland, you will find there are only 50 names, but today we have 119 names as it does include the soldiers who died in the bombardment.
“The people of Hartlepool were furious at the bombardment.
“They ended up giving more to the war effort than any other town in Britain after that.”
After hymns were sung, the colours of the Boys and Girls Brigades of Hartlepool were presented.
The names of each of those who died in the attack were read out, 10 at a time, before boys and girls laid flowers on a table to represent each life.
Those present were then invited to light a candle each, symbolising those who were killed.
Speaking after the service, Rev Collison said: “It’s very important that the people have gathered today and have remembered those who were killed in the bombardment.
“When it happened, it was a massive thing that took place right on the Headland.”
The main commemoration of the bombardment takes place at the Heugh Battery, from 8am tomorrow.
A new Bombardment Memorial, on land near the Headland lighthouse, will be unveiled by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, Mrs Sue Snowdon.
Representatives of the four military organisations – the Durham Light Infantry, the Royal Engineers, the Royal Artillery and the Royal Navy – have been invited to lay plaques at the memorial.
Wreaths will be laid by Dale Minks, on behalf of descendants of the families which died, and by the Friends of North Cemetery, while veterans’ groups will present their standards.