Bombardment: Even German shells couldn’t stop the Mail

TAKING HITS: The shell damaged Northern Daily Mail building in 1914
TAKING HITS: The shell damaged Northern Daily Mail building in 1914

ONE hundred years ago, the Northern Daily Mail came out against the odds. With our building hit by shells, the staff remained undaunted and made sure the paper hit the streets.

We refused to be beaten. The Northern Daily Mail, the predecessor of the Hartlepool Mail, was published on the day of the Bombardment - even though our building had been hit.

We produced a limited scale paper but we got it out and carried a proclamation requesting that the civilian population should keep to their homes at the present and that the situation was secure.

Heugh Gun Battery volunteer, and local historian Wally Stewart was impressed.

He said: “The fact that the newspaper carried any news at all was a tribute to the staff.

“A shell had crashed through the roof of the readers’ room, breaking windows and scattering glass into the delicate linotype machines. The gas used to heat the type was cut off.”

HOW we reported the sad day

HOW we reported the sad day

So how did we produce a paper? Paraffin lamps were used to heat the metal, and a lot of hand setting was used.

We were first to break the news.

As the news became national headlines the next day, Britain was outraged and swore revenge on the “baby killers” as more than 30 children of Hartlepool died that day.

It was a one halfpenny War Edition of the Mail which advised: “Any unexploded shell must not be touched, but information as to the position thereof given to the nearest policeman or police station.”

A NOTICE for calm in the Northern Daily Mail

A NOTICE for calm in the Northern Daily Mail

On the same front page, was proof that life was still going on in Hartlepool, with adverts for currants, raisins and almonds, and an announcement of productions about the famous explorer Scott at the West Hartlepool Empire Theatre.

Inside the paper was more details of that sad day, including an announcement from the Secretary to the Admiralty.

It read: “German movements of some importance are taking place this morning in the North Sea.

“Scarborough and Hartlepool have been shelled and our flotillas have at various points been engaged. The situation is developing.”

We even got eye-witness accounts in time for the evening edition.

The shelling could be heard from Easington, Horden and Blackhall Rocks.

Our reporter stated “At Horden, the shooting was very distinct and rattled the windows of the houses.”

Bert Hales, who watched the drama unfold from his home at Hart Station, reported: “The attacking warships seemed not more than 500 yards away.

“They were three-funnelled vessels. Afterwards, one steamed away at great speed.”

And even though it was early days, we still managed to include some detail of the devastation which had unfolded.

It read: “Very extensive damage was done on the front, particularly in the neighbourhood of the lighthouse.

“Very many of the houses on The Cliff, in South Crescent, Moor Terrace, and the smaller streets in the vicinity have been almost wholly wrecked.

“A shell passed through the chapel from end to end and entered a house that was immediately behind, injuring a woman who was in bed at the time.

“The roof of St Hilda’s has been damaged by a shell and the Rectory was almost practically unroofed.”

It added: “The two Misses Kay residing at Cliff Terrace were killed, as was Mrs Williams of Beaconsfield Square.

“Adjutant Avery of the Salvation Army was killed, his house being completely wrecked.

“At the Lighthouse Battery, a shell burst killing four men including Gunners Theo Jones and Houston, and injuring seven other men seriously.”

The shelling devastated our town and feelings were running high.

An advert called for men to join up and fight the foe. Hartlepool was to become one of the biggest supporters of the war effort in the country.