Heroism and Heartbreak project will remember those lost at sea

The launch of an online archive called 'Heroism and Heartbreak' .which records the lives of Hartlepools seamen in the First World War, took place at the Central Library, York Road, Hartlepool on Friday. Pictured l-r are Dave Costen of the NE branch of Nautical Archive Society, Eric James, Kevin Phillips both volunteers, Gary Green project manager, Diane Marlborough of Hartlepool Library, Mark Simmons Hartlepool Museum manager and volunteer Frances Wilson
The launch of an online archive called 'Heroism and Heartbreak' .which records the lives of Hartlepools seamen in the First World War, took place at the Central Library, York Road, Hartlepool on Friday. Pictured l-r are Dave Costen of the NE branch of Nautical Archive Society, Eric James, Kevin Phillips both volunteers, Gary Green project manager, Diane Marlborough of Hartlepool Library, Mark Simmons Hartlepool Museum manager and volunteer Frances Wilson

GONE but never forgotten - that’s the Hartlepool seamen who gave their lives on the waves and who will be remembered in a new project.

The Heritage Lottery-funded Heroism and Heartbreak project is under way in Hartlepool.

Gary Green who is appealing for more information on the brave First World War seamen of Hartlepool

Gary Green who is appealing for more information on the brave First World War seamen of Hartlepool

It was launched at the town’s Central Library yesterday.

It will tell of the town people whose stories of heroism in the Merchant Navy and local fishing fleets are all but forgotten or overlooked.

The Heritage Lottery-funded “Heroism and Heartbreak” project, led by the Nautical Archaeology Society North-East and Hartlepool Borough Council’s Library and Museum Services, is working in partnership with local groups and volunteers.

It aims to rediscover and retell the stories, but project manager Gary Green said: “We need your help.

ANOTHER shot of a  ship compiled by a German U-boat. Photograph courtesy of Martin Spaldin

ANOTHER shot of a ship compiled by a German U-boat. Photograph courtesy of Martin Spaldin

“We would love to see anyone who has photographs,letters or diaries of a relative who served at sea during the First World War. In sharing this information we can preserve their stories for future generations and together create lasting family memorials, giving all those who served at sea the full recognition they truly deserve.”

Almost every family in the town had links with the sea, with many having relatives serving in the Merchant Navy and local fishing fleets.

Within this close-knit community the loss of every local ship and crewman deeply affected a great many people, said Gary.

As the war progressed, German U-boats and mines took a huge toll of allied shipping, eventually sinking over 2,500 British merchant ships and nearly 800 fishing vessels, with the loss of more than 17,000 lives.

The Hartlepools suffered their share of these losses. More than 400 merchant ships either built or owned in the town were sunk and more than 260 Hartlepool sailors lost their lives.

Gary said the actions of these men, sailing on slow, un-armed and defenceless merchant ships, were every bit as selfless and courageous as those fighting on the Western Front, yet their stories are “all but forgotten or overlooked”.

Anyone wanting more information on the Heroism and Heartbreak project should email infodesk@hartlepool.gov.uk, telephone (01429) 242909, or call in to Hartlepool Central Library in York Road.