The day war almost returned to the town

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.

MORE than 100 people died in the bombardment of Hartlepool on December 16, 1914. But few people know the story of the drama on December 18, 1914. Thanks to Lizzie Cooney, her memories of the day are recalled in a new book compiled by her ancestor Henry Cairns and his wife Margaret. Chris Cordner reports.

LIZZIE Cooney and thousands of other Hartlepool people had just come through the bombardment.

But within 48 hours, their fears were raised again and all because of rumour.

The town, shaken from events two days earlier, panicked when word spread that another bombardment was beckoning.

Lizzie remembered it all. She recalled the “excitement” which started when an Army commander who was based in Hartlepool got word of a possible airship attack on the town.

Civilians were told to stay in their cellars if they spotted an enemy craft, she remembered.

But as the rumour of an attack spread, it became more and more outrageous.

Eventually, the word was that the Germans were already in Hartlepool bay and an attack was going to happen any time soon.

The people were told that there had been an ultimatum that shelling was going to begin in two hours, Lizzie recalled.

Lizzie was sent to stay with other relatives half a mile away because that was deemed to be a safe distance from the German bombs.

But she remembered some of the other rumours which circulated at the time.

Word spread that the roads out of Hartlepool were packed with horse-drawn carts, with handcarts and even with prams. People were so fearful of a second attack that they were taking all their belongings to safety.

As for Lizzie’s own family, most of them somehow got out of town and made their way to a relative’s house in Crook in County Durham.

They were safe, if a little uncomfortable.

There were five sisters and the tiny house meant the five of them had to sleep in the same bed.

All of Lizzie’s recollections have been preserved forever thanks to her ancestor Henry Cairns and his wife Margaret.

They spent many an hour in the 1980s, carefully making notes of Lizzie’s colourful memories of times gone by.

All of them have been turned into a newly published book called Croft Original which is now available at £8.50.

Henry and Margaret may now live in Carlisle but they are both originally from much closer to home.

Henry is a Hartlepool man who made a career out of civil engineering. Most of his work was on road and bridge construction.

Margaret was a PA to people in major offices within the engineering trade. Both were keen to preserve memories of their relative’s past, hence the publication of the book about Lizzie called Croft Original.

Copies 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.

Next week - the final part of our look at Croft Original.