Paying respects to the Hartlepool men who gave up their lives at the Somme

British soldiers negotiating a shell-cratered winter landscape along the River Somme. Pic: PA.
British soldiers negotiating a shell-cratered winter landscape along the River Somme. Pic: PA.

It was the battle of all battles - the one in which 20,000 British soldiers died on the first day alone.

And among the fallen on the first day of the Battle of The Somme, 100 years ago today, were 53 brave men from Hartlepool.

Troops advance during the Somme offensive.
 Pic: PA.

Troops advance during the Somme offensive. Pic: PA.

Hartlepool’s museums manager Mark Simmons gave us an insight into the tragic loss of life.

The youngest soldier was just 17, the oldest 41. And the average age of the men from Hartlepool to die on that fateful day was a mere 25.

As Britain pays tribute to those heroic men, commemorations were being planned across the North East today.

They include a whole day of activities at the Heugh Battery Museum in Moor Terrace, Hartlepool.

Outlines of bodies created as part of the commemoration of the Battle of the Somme at Heugh Gun Battery.

Outlines of bodies created as part of the commemoration of the Battle of the Somme at Heugh Gun Battery.

It started with a vigil at 7am in which poems, readings and music were followed by the noise of artillery.

Then, after two minutes’ silence, whistles were blown to remember the moment that the soldiers were ordered to go “over the top.”

The sounding of the Last Post and the scattering of petals brought the ceremony to a close.

Later, students from St Joseph’s Primary School were due to present a short film about Hartlepool people and the First World War.

And acoustic folk group Fool’s Gold were scheduled to perform a musical commemoration of the conflict through the eyes of a newly-married couple caught up in the events of 1914.

Artists from Cleveland College of Art and Design added to the remembrance by creating an artwork called Somme which involved painting body outlines across the parade ground of the museum, symbolising the loss of life.

July 1, 1916, was the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. A controversial decision to order British troops to walk slowly towards the German trenches left 20,000 dead and 60,000 injured.

It took just 15 minutes for some regiments to lose three-quarters of their men.

By the end of the four-month battle in northern France, more than a million soldiers had been killed and wounded on both sides of the fighting.

The First World War would drag on for another two years.

And by the end of it all, around 2,000 servicemen from the two Hartlepools would be dead out of a population at the time of 70,000.

The UK was due to fall silent this morning for two minutes to remember the sacrifices of all those who fought and lost their lives.

The Queen and senior royals were due to lead the nation in commemoration by attending services in both the UK and France.

The Hartlepool men who gave up their lives on the first day were:

Thomas BARKER.

Thomas BEARDSMORE.

R. H. BELL.

William Thomas BERRY.

Arthur Reginald BIRKS.

Harold Victor BIRKS.

Percy BORRETT.

James BOYD.

James William BUTCHER.

Samuel L. BUXTON.

J. G. CROSSING.

James COLLINS.

J.B. CUBEY.

Charles DE MOULIPIED.

Robert GAIETY.

George GRAHAM.

Bert HALL.

William HARNETT.

Benjamin J.G. HARRISON.

R.D. HOUSE.

Frederick JACKSON.

Tom JOHNSON.

George R. LEE.

Curzon C. LITHGO.

Thomas MIDDLEMISS.

Thomas MILLER.

Herbert Ward NEEDHAM.

Andrew PARR.

Richard PICKERING.

William Vincent PIKE.

William REED.

Richard REEVES.

John REINECKER.

C. RICHMOND.

John James ROBINSON.

Robert Henry ROBSON.

John Thomas ROWLAND.

Henry. A. SCOTT.

Albert SELBY.

Joseph Miller SHAW.

James SHIRES.

John Robert SKINNER.

Alan STEWART.

Wilfred STUBBS.

Robert TAYLERSON.

Albert Clennett THORNTON.

Alfred WARD.

Robert Henry WHITE.

Arthur E. WILLIAMS.

Robert WILLSON.

William Arnold WILSON.

Frederick WRIGHT.

Fred WOMBWELL.