THE day of darkness was here.
Hartlepool was about to be attacked by the Germans with more than 100 people left dead.
Chris Cordner, with the help of volunteers at the Heugh Gun Battery, reports.
December 15, 1914
Telegram from headquarters in London: “Special sharp lookout to be kept all along east coast at dawn tomorrow.”
December 16, 1914
• 2.15am - Fred Collier, 15, was on the night shift at the North Eastern Railway telephone Exchange, close to what is now known as the Heaven and Earth roundabout.
A puzzling telephone call came in which said “turn all the lights down low and refrain from using the telephone under any circumstances”.
• 4.30am - The 150 troops guarding the Heugh and Lighthouse Gun Batteries are woken, ordered to parade and given 250 rounds of ammunition. They were given a can of tea and told that if nothing happened by 11am, they could have the rest of the day off.
• 5.30am -Four E Class destroyers steam out of Hartlepool harbour
• 6.30am - The lighthouse battery, commanded by Lt. Richard Trechman, and the Heugh Battery commanded by Capt Otto Trechman are now at a high state of readiness.
• 8am - The South Gare Battery, at the mouth of the Tees, spots dreadnoughts steaming North. The signal station in the lighthouse reports “three warships were coming in at great speed”.
• 8am - John Horsley, captain of the fishing boat Children’s Friend, watches as the German ships signals to the lighthouse.
The for then run up the German standard before firing out to sea on British defence forces.
The British defence ships advance bravely but they are beaten off by superior enemy firepower.
• 8am - The blast of the German guns is heard on Hartlepool soil by PC Ray, on patrol in Cliff Terrace, and two sisters Annie and Florence Kay, who were looking out of their window just behind the Lighthouse Battery.
• 8.05am - The Seydlitz opened fire with its 11-inch guns, scoring a direct hit between the two batteries. Private Theopholus Jones was manning his machine gun with three other soldiers when the shell landed and killed him. He was the first fatality of war.
• 8.05am - Gunners Houston and Spence, the two stretcher bearers, rushed out to help Private Jones and were killed by the second shell of the bombardment.
• 8.07am - The two sisters Annie and Florence Kay are hit by a shell which hit their home. They become the first civilian casualties of the raid.
• 8.10am - A soldier on parade is asked by his bosses to run for orders. He heads past the Borough Hall and saw a 10-year-old boy cut down by shrapnel. The boy died by the pump which now stands outside Verrall’s chip shop.
• 8.15am - The Baptist Chapel is rocked by an explosion, which lifts the roof, blows out the windows and leaves a six feet hole.
• 8.15am - Salvation Army Adjutant William Gordon Avery is buried beneath rubble in Victoria Place.
• 8.15am - The Heugh Gun Battery is returning fire at the Germans. The first two rounds fall short but the third is a direct hit on the Moltke which is 4,500 yards off Hartlepool. The forebridge, two 5.9-inch guns and a huge haul of ammunition is destroyed. Nine German seamen are killed.
• 8.05-8.30am - The Germans continue to pound Hartlepool, but the British had managed to fool them by putting a massive canvas screen over the gun battery. It meant the Germans were often firing at the screen instead of the battery.
It led to fewer people dying but once casualty was a donkey, the pet of the children of Henry Smith’s school, killed by a stray shell.
• 8.20am - The Seydlitz and Moltke switched fire to the centre of West Hartlepool. It led to many civilian casualties including six-month-old Eleanor Necsey.
• 8.27am - The train from West Hartlepool to Leeds leaves the station. The last carriage just clears the platform when a shell rips the northern boundary wall to shreds.
• Barney Hodgson, on his way to work, saw the danger and decided to stand guard and send children away. He was hit twice by shrapnel and died at his post.
• 8.30am - A milkman, Charles Chambers had his horse wounded in the jaw whilst driving along Sea Terrace in Middleton.
• 8.05-8.40am - The Royal Navy hits back. HMS Patrol puts out to sea with the submarine C9 abreast of her.
The Blucher spots them and hits HMS Patrol. She runs aground and blocks the channel out to sea. C9 was forced to dive in 18ft of water and hit the sand bar outside the harbour - unable to make a torpedo attack.
• 8.52 - The German ships complete their tasks and leave 119 persons lost, with eight more dying later.
Next time - the aftermath of battle.