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Tears for the town’s fallen

A cross made from knitted poppies stands outside St. George's Church on York Road to commemorate the start of the first world war.

A cross made from knitted poppies stands outside St. George's Church on York Road to commemorate the start of the first world war.

THE lights will go out over the UK tonight as millions of people emotionally remember the fallen of the Great War.

Hartlepool and East Durham were joining in with the commemorations which were due to include a poignant candle tribute late tonight - to mark the very point in time when war broke out 100 years ago.

At 11pm on August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany, ushering in four years of darkness, despair and appalling tragedy.

Until the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, millions of lives were lost, including 750,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers, in what was the bloodiest conflict the world had known.

The occasion was not lost on Hartlepool where the lights were due to go out at 11pm, followed by thousands of candles being lit.

It will happen at the same time as an oil lamp was being extinguished at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Westminster Abbey - the exact hour war was declared.

The lights-out commemoration was a reference to then-foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey’s famous remark on the eve of the outbreak of war, when he said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”.

Meanwhile, Hartlepool’s ceremonies, which stretched from the weekend and throughout today, were a fitting reminder of a town which suffered more than most in the world’s bloodiest ever conflict.

Hartlepool suffered the Bombardment of the town on December 16, 1914. More than 100 people died as a barrage of more than 1,000 shells rained down.

The 40-minute attack by the German ships Blucher, Seydlitz and Moltke, took Hartlepool completely by surprise. Among those to die was Private Theo Jones of the Durham Light Infantry. He was the first soldier to die on British soil during the First World War.

To mark the war, events were held across Hartlepool, including a display of knitted poppies on a huge cross at the St George’s United Reform Church in Park Road.

Church elder Chris Eddowes said: “The people in our hobbies group knitted and sewed them. Every Easter, we put out a cross and decorate it with daffodils. We thought we would use the same cross and covered it in poppies. We dedicated the cross on Sunday and covered it in poppies.”

Yesterday, bell ringers from the town attempted a quarter peal at St Aidan’s Church in Oxford Road.

Andrew Frost, from the Durham and Newcastle Association of Bell Ringers, said it was not the only tribute to bell ringers from Hartlepool who fought in the First World War.

“We know that there were a number of them who fought and were killed between 1917 and 1918. We plan to ring on the dates that they died, and we are still researching to find the dates of others who fell.”

Around 50 people of all ages attended a short service today at Greatham War Memorial in the grounds of St John the Baptist Church led by Reverend Paul Allinson. It included prayers and the singing of the National Anthem.

Rev Allinson said afterwards: “It was a wonderful community experience. It was so lovely to see such a good turnout.

“It is really nice that we can gather as a community and remember those who sacrificed so much for our freedom.”

Afterwards, many of the people who attended the service went across to the community centre where there was table top displays of war memorabilia.

It included information on 13 men from the village who died in the Great War. Members of the Greatham In Bloom group are compiling as much information as they can about the village’s First World War soldiers as part of a project to make a booklet for every household in Greatham.

 

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