How Lizzie faced the 1914 bombardment

Family tree researcher Henry Cairns has penned a book about his Hartlepool ancestors.
Family tree researcher Henry Cairns has penned a book about his Hartlepool ancestors.

LIZZIE Cooney was 15 years old at the time when the German bombardment devastated Hartlepool. It was a time when lives were lost and hundreds of people injured. Lizzie was there to witness it all and thanks to her descendants, Lizzie’s story lives on. CHRIS CORDNER explains more.

IT has been a 20-year labour of love for Henry and Margaret Cairns.

Family tree researcher Henry Cairns has penned a book about his Hartlepool ancestors.

Family tree researcher Henry Cairns has penned a book about his Hartlepool ancestors.

The end result of their research is a book packed with Hartlepool’s history, seen through the eyes of Henry’s mother Lizzie Cooney.

Henry and Margaret, both 77, now live in Carlisle. Their origins are in the Hartlepool and East Durham area.

Henry, a former pupil of St Bega’s Primary and Henry Smith Grammar Schools in Hartlepool, said: “We did an original version of the book in 1994 when my mam was 90. It was just a typed one for family consumption.”

The larger 70-plus page version is now available at £8.50.

Family tree researcher Henry Cairns has penned a book about his Hartlepool ancestors. From Page 5 of the book, Elizabeth Cairns.

Family tree researcher Henry Cairns has penned a book about his Hartlepool ancestors. From Page 5 of the book, Elizabeth Cairns.

It’s a fascinating read titled Croft Original. Its “star” is Lizzie who lived from 1899 to 1994.

The book’s details are based mainly on conversations she had with her family in the 1980s. In all, ten hours of memories were recorded.

In a dramatic opening, the book tells of Lizzie’s memories of the events of December 16, 1914.

It was the day when Hartlepool suffered the German bombardment and, thanks to permission from Henry and Margaret, we can now share some of it.

Lizzie remembered that the first explosion made her jump. It was ten past eight on a damp Wednesday morning and the kitchen fire that Lizzie had prepared was well alight.

Lizzie was living at her granny’s house in Sussex Street in the Croft at the time and was expecting to have a normal day of household chores. “The Germans soon put a stop to that,” she said.

The noise of whistling shells and deafening explosions was terrifying, she said. When a nearby house, which belonged to “Ditts” Davison was hit, everyone ran outside.

As the explosions continued, everyone ran to the seafront including Lizzie who flip flopped her way there in “someone else’s slippers,” she recalled.

There were reports of men running down the streets in long johns and women in their bloomers shawls over their heads.

And there was Lizzie’s granny, waving her shoe at the Germans and “shouting herself hoarse”.

History shows the German forces – including the armoured cruiser Blucher – spent around one hour and more than 1,000 shells on the bombardment of Hartlepool.

They left 102 people dead and 467 people wounded.

Umpteen buildings were damaged including seven churches and more than 300 houses.

But Lizzie remembered that, in the face of German guns, her gran would never have surrendered to the opposition.

There’ll be more from Croft Original next week. Copies at £8.50 are available from Atkinson Print in Lower Church Street, which can be contacted on (01429) 267849.

They are also available from Mr and Mrs Cairns at a cost of £8.50 plus £1.50 for postage and packaging. They can be contacted on (01228) 525204.