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Your chance to step back in time - to the era of the Hartlepool Bombardment heroes

The Durham Pals, a living history group which will visit the Heugh Gun Battery in Hartlepool later this month.
The Durham Pals, a living history group which will visit the Heugh Gun Battery in Hartlepool later this month.

A tribute will be paid this month to the brave men who defended Hartlepool on its darkest day.

German ships launched the Bombardment of Hartlepool in 1914. More than 1,000 shells were launched against the town and 130 people died.

The Bombardment of Hartlepool.

The Bombardment of Hartlepool.

But a brave defence was mounted by the men of the Battery.

Among them were guards from the 18th (1st County) Battalion DLI who were also known as the Durham Pals.

They were a locally formed unit, raised by Public Subscription in early 1914, and they defended the battery along with the Durham Royal Garrison Artillery.

The current day Durham Pals, a living history group, is planning a return to the Battery on Saturday, September 29, and Sunday, September 30.

We are very excited to have them here for the whole weekend, and hope that people will take the opportunity to come along and hear the stories they have to tell about life in the 18th Battalion and the men who defended the Hartlepools

Diane Stephens

Battery manager Diane Stephens said: “The Durham Pals will be with us for the whole weekend to recreate how the original Durham Pals would have been equipped on the day of the bombardment.”

She added: “The group can often be seen at large events and do regular displays at Beamish Museum. They participate in our annual Bombardment commemoration ceremony by standing with reverse arms around the war memorial during the service.

“We are very excited to have them here for the whole weekend, and hope that people will take the opportunity to come along and hear the stories they have to tell about life in the 18th Battalion and the men who defended the Hartlepools.”

December 16, 1914, was a day which went down in history for tragic reasons.

German dreadnoughts steamed north and rained their shells on Hartlepool.

At 8.05am, The Seydlitz opened fire with its 11-inch guns, scoring a direct hit between the two batteries.

Private Theopholus Jones was manning his machine gun with three other soldiers when the shell landed and killed him. He was the first fatality of war.

Soon after, Gunners Houston and Spence, the two stretcher bearers, rushed out to help Private Jones and were killed by the second shell of the bombardment.

The modern day Durham Pals portray the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry.

Back in 1914, the Battalion had a company-sized unit of men who had been trained on a range firing on rifles.

They also had a machine gun section, deployed to the Hartlepools in late 1914 on coastal defence duty.

A number of these were on duty near to the Heugh Battery during the bombardment.

Now people can find out more for themselves about what life would have been like for the men who defended Hartlepool.

Visitors can view the Durham Pals in costumes of the 1914 period if they come along on September 29 and September 30.

To find out more about the Heugh Gun battery, visit http://www.heughbattery.co.uk, go to @Heugh_Museum, or Heugh Gun Battery on Facebook, or call (01429) 270746.