Dad survived town’s Bombardment

Reuben Coward with is wife Alice at their Golden Wedding in 1991
Reuben Coward with is wife Alice at their Golden Wedding in 1991
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THEY were hairy times for a young boy.

War must have seemed like a scary experience for Reuben Coward.

YOUNG MAN: Reuben Coward

YOUNG MAN: Reuben Coward

He sometimes spoke about it in later life and his son Jim remembers the stories. They were tales of his dad surviving the Bombardment of Hartlepool.

They were tales of how Reuben lived in Scarborough Street, where houses had their windows blown out and where one man had just left his home before a huge chunk of shell fragment came crashing through the roof.

They were also tales of Reuben being shoved under a table by his parents when the Germans returned days later, this time using a Zeppelin airship to attack.

Jim, a resident of Ontario in Canada, said: “My father was five in 1914, and didn’t talk about it much. I don’t know how much he actually remembered, and how much of what he did tell us was second-hand.

“We, of course, lacked the wit to press him for details. His family was living in Scarborough Street at the time but not in one of the few houses that still survive near Church Street.

“We have a photograph showing him in front of the house, and showing damage to nearby houses in the row.

“He did tell us of someone in the next street over who had a close escape when a great chunk of shell fragment landed in his bed moments after he had left it.”

These photographs show Reuben as a youngster. One shows him as a little boy peering through the railings while his aunt Ellen Douglas, grandmother Ellen Coward and uncle James Douglas look on.

Does anyone know who the other people are in the photograph?

Reuben Coward was born on May 24, 1909. His father was also called Reuben Coward, a railway stoker at the time of young Reuben’s birth. His mother was Edith Benson, who died shortly after Reuben was born.

War clearly had a profound effect on him. He quit Hartlepool for good in 1932 when he sailed to Canada, working his passage on the S.S. Britamoco which was an oil tanker built at the Furness yard at Haverton.

Jim told us: “He spent much of his career on the S.S. Britamlube (the sister of the Britamoco) sailing chiefly on the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River, working his way up to the position of chief engineer.

“He married Alice Fraser in Hamilton, Ontario, in December 1941.”

They had three children who were Jim, Roy, and Jean.

Reuben died on September 11, 1995 in Owen Sound, Ontario, aged 86.

His son Jim was born in July, 1943. He told us: “I grew up running around the Britamlube and the canals and ports she frequented.

“My career was in radio with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, mostly as an announcer in Montreal from 1966 to 1997 when I retired.

“My wife Janet and I bought an old apartment building in Perth, Ontario in 1998 and spent twelve years as small town amateur landlords. We sold the building in 2010 and now divide our time between a home in town and a cottage on an island on Otty Lake, a few minutes from Perth.

Roy told the Hartlepool Mail: “Like my brother Jim, I enjoyed my time on the Britamlube as a child and worked in furniture manufacturing most of my working life with my wife Judy.

“We bought a small farm north of Toronto, Ontario, with an apple orchard. We moved to Chatsworth, Ontario, after 14 years of hobby farming, then to Chesley, Ontario, where we live now, nicely retired.”

Historians have shown that Scarborough Street was one of the targets in the third line of fire that the German ships took.

The fleet attacking the town aimed four lines of fire at Hartlepool.

The third also included the Wesley Church, Northern Daily Mail offices, Brougham Terrace, the Mill House Inn, and Lowthian Road.

Our thanks go to Jim and Roy for sharing Reuben’s story. We would love to hear from more people whose relatives were involed in the Bombardment.

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