Hartlepool museum visitors get a taste of the town’s darkest day

Members of the 18th Durham Light Infantry (The Durham Pals) renactment group were on parade at the Heugh Battery
Members of the 18th Durham Light Infantry (The Durham Pals) renactment group were on parade at the Heugh Battery

Visitors to a Hartlepool museum were able to take a step back in time this weekend.

Living history group Durham Pals were at the Heugh Battery to talk to visitors about the brave men who defended Hartlepool on its darkest day.

Mark Naylor of the 18th Durham Light Infantry (The Durham Pals) renactment group on parade at the Heugh Battery.

Mark Naylor of the 18th Durham Light Infantry (The Durham Pals) renactment group on parade at the Heugh Battery.

German ships launched the Bombardment of Hartlepool in 1914, with more than 1,000 shells fired against the town, which killed 130 people.

A brave defence was mounted by the men of the Battery and among them were guards from the 18th (1st County) Battalion DLI, who were also known as the Durham Pals.

The present-day Durham Pals, a living history group, were at the museum yesterday and again today to help people take a step back in time.

They were there to give visitors the opportunity to hear the stories about life in the 18th Battalion and the men who defended the Hartlepools.

They also recreated how the Durham Pals would have been equipped on that dreadful day more than 100 years ago.

Back in 1914, the Battalion had a company-sized unit of men who had been trained on a range firing rifles, and they also had a machine gun section for coastal defence duty.

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

The Durham Pals explained to visitors who went along at the weekend about what life would have been like for the men who defended Hartlepool.

Battery manager Diane Stephens said they were very excited to have the living history group on site.

She said: “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.”

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

At 8.05am, The Seydlitz opened fire with its 11in 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, making him the first fatality of the 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.