People of Hartlepool took news of D-Day ‘very quietly’

Empire Theatre circa 1918.
Empire Theatre circa 1918.

The D-Day “Invasion Armada” of 4,000 ships and 11,000 planes made front page news in the Hartlepool Mail on June 6, 1944 - with Churchill “confident” it could help win the war.

“This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever occurred. It involves tides, wind, waves and visibility from the air and sea,” stated the paper.

But, while Thomas William Smith and other brave men from Hartlepool were getting ready to “invade” France, life back in their home town was rather more mundane.

Indeed, hundreds of people flocked to the cinema - with Standing Room Only on at the Majestic, Madame Curie at the Forum and In Old Oklahoma at the Regal.

Meanwhile, at the Empire Theatre, a show featuring “top radio personalities” - such as George Scott-Wood, Miff Smith and Henry Bekker - pulled in the crowds.

“If the reception given by people in the Hartlepools to today’s big news was typical, then the country received it very quietly and with little obvious emotion,” said the Mail.

“Indeed, many local people did not know that the invasion had begun until long after the first news flash was released; they were told by friends, neighbours or colleagues.

“They then gathered in the streets to exchange scraps of information, the usual greeting being ‘So it’s begun’ or ‘We’ve started’. There was a feeling of relief, rather than concern - as if people were pleased the uncertainty had ended and the inevitable had at last happened.”