Hartlepool man pens poem to honour victims of 1914 Bombardment

The grandson of a Hartlepool First World War victim has given Mail readers a timely reminder of the '˜other heroes'.

Saturday, 10th November 2018, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 12th November 2018, 12:48 pm
The Avery family, including James A Gilman's mother sitting at the front.

Britain is this weekend remembering its fallen Forces on the 100th anniversary of the First World War Armistice.

But James A Gilman highlighted the people of Hartlepool who equally deserved to be remembered - the victims of the 1914 Bombardment including his maternal grandfather, Adjutant William Avery.

James A Gilman.

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He was the commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Hartlepool and his death was front page news in papers as far away as Australia.

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As James told us: “He was accorded a military funeral through the streets of Hartlepool which were lined with soldiers as his body, laid on a gun carriage, passed by on the way to the cemetery where the Mayor of Hartlepool led the mourners.”

A report in one Australian newspaper said William Avery left a widow and five children.

William Avery. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Hartlepool/ Hartlepool Borough Council.

James, now 86, has been moved to write his own poem of remembrance. It said;

The poppies fall.

Their crimson tears

Like shrapnel, piercing every heart

William Avery and his wife. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Hartlepool/ Hartlepool Borough Council.

Of those who mourn the dying blood

Enshrouding friend and foe alike

On Flanders Field.

So scour our conscience

William Avery's house in Victoria Place. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Hartlepool/ Hartlepool Borough Council.

With your flood

Till we ensure that never more

Shall nations let Death’s bloody dance

Seduce the souls of friend and foe

Like Flanders Field.

The Bombardment of Hartlepool happened on the morning of December 16, 1914.

A total of 130 people, including 37 children, were killed when German warships off the coast fired more than a thousand shells just after 8am.

Private Theophilus Jones was the first British soldier to be killed on home soil in 200 years, and Adjutant William Avery was one of the first civilians to die in the onslaught.

More than 500 others were injured.

The Heugh Gun Battery Museum defended the town from the German attack which saw 1.100 shells land on Hartlepool soil over a period of 40 minutes from 8.10am.

This year’s annual commemoration of the Bombardment will be held as usual on December 16.

It will see people gather at Redheugh Gardens where the Headand’s war memorial is situated for 8am.

At the same time, a parade will muster at the Heugh Gun Battery Museum.

There will be free entry to the museum for the rest of the day and there will also be a small programme of events, with further information to come.