EGBERT the tank brought Hartlepool together in a massive fundraising drive 95 years ago.Last week, we told how the battered First World War relic inspired a £2.3m cash gathering drive.Schoolchildren were just as keen as the adults to raise the money. Chris Cordner reports.
TANKS of the early 1900s evoked an air of excitement in Hartlepool.
With the First World War in full swing, a massive bid to raise money for the war effort was under way.
As reported in Family Roots last week, Hartlepool led the campaign raising a massive £2.3m and some of the biggest names in town industry came forward with funds.
Perhaps less well known is that funding came from another source - the children of the town.
The pages of the Northern Daily Mail in February 1915 showed how schools supported the cause and many of the children were the ancestors of today’s town residents.
To stoke up support, the Government sent a tank called Nelson to tour towns. It came to Hartlepool.
A Mail extract from February 5, 1918, said: “The wave of enthusiasm evoked by the presence of Nelson in our town has not been confined to the adult population alone. Even the children have shown and are showing their practical interest.
“For the past week or two the children have been encouraged to save all they could and, like their elders, invest in the tank.”
They put aside money, knowing towns which raised the most would get their very own tank which had fought at the Front.
The pupils did themselves proud. From Brougham School, St Joseph’s, Newburn, Church Square and Ward Jackson Schools, they raised an absolute fortune.
So did the children from Elwick Road, Oxford Road, St Aidan’s, St Cuthbert’s, Lister Street, Jesmond Road, Lynnfield, Avenue Road, Park Road and Scott’s High School.
On February 9, 1918, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Andrew Bonar Law sent a message to the town saying: “I congratulate the Hartlepools upon having achieved such as splendid record of subscriptions per head of population so early in Tank Week.”
And Coun M.Thompson, later to be Mayor, gave a speech the same day. He said the town was so passionate about fundraising because the Imperial German Navy subjected Hartlepool to a bombardment on December 16, 1914 - the first time that British civilians had been directly involved in conflict. It only served to act as a rallying call.
Coun Thompson, whose speech is extracted from the Northern Daily Mail, said: “We did not believe in singing Keep The Home Fires Burning Til The Boys Come Home without doing something to get fuel to the coalhouse.
“Furthermore, we in the Hartlepools had something to wipe off the slate. We were not likely to forget December 1914 in a hurry.
“And the best way to defeat the Kaiser and his hordes of savages was not for those at home to knock nails into a wooden image, but to put every possible penny into the Tank.”