Bombardment boatman who wanted to go home for breakfast

A dockside boatman knew exactly what he thought about the German ships which bombarded Hartlepool more than 100 years ago.

Wednesday, 22nd June 2016, 10:00 am
The scene of the Bombardment.

As he watched the scene of devastation, with shells falling all around him, he told a fleeing local: “Wish they would clear off home and let me go for my breakfast. I am dead hungry.”

It was one example of the fascinating letters - which were written by survivors of the Bombardment of Hartlepool - which last saw print in 1964.

A damaged house in 1914.

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Today, we revive them as we continue our occasional look at the memories of those who lived through the darkest day in the town’s history, when more than 130 people died.

It was in 1964, 50 years after the Bombardment, that we asked the readers of the Northern Daily Mail to recollect the tragic events.

One letter came from a Mr W. Brown who recalled: “The most pitiful sights were the removal of the dead, dying and wounded.

“They were being carried on doors, wood railing, planks, short ladders, in fact anything that would carry a body.”

A damaged house in 1914.

He said he reached the ferry where the boatman urged him to climb down into a ferryboat because it was safer down there.

As soon as Mr Brown jumped down, a shell screamed over his head and crashed through the side of a ship called the SS Denebola.

Ironically, it was a German ship which had been interned in Hartlepool the day before the war broke out.

Mr Brown tried to plead with the boatman to flee the scene with him.

But the only reply he got was “not while them squares are tossing this over.”

Watch out for more letters from Bombardment survivors in the weeks and months to come.