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When shells and shattered chimneys rained down on Hartlepool

The Northern Daily Mail's report of the Bombardment.
The Northern Daily Mail's report of the Bombardment.

Shell attacks, chimneys raining on to the ground below, and terrified children cowering in the street – they are all part of one woman’s memories of the Hartlepool Bombardment.

Thanks to Gillian Hunt, as well as the excellent help she received from authorities including St Hilda’s College at Oxford University, we can share the story of Mary Farrow, who was the wife of 2nd Lt Charles Farrow of the Royal Field Artillery.

The devastation caused by the Bombardment.

The devastation caused by the Bombardment.

His story is one we will turn to soon.

But it’s Mary’s account of the Bombardment which first gets our attention and Gillian explained more.

She was only 21 when the German fleet shelled Hartlepool.

She was, at the time, a student of Cherwell Hall Training College in Oxford, set up by the Church of England to train women to teach in secondary schools.

Mary was caught up in the terrifying events of the bombardment of Hartlepool. Cherwell Hall encouraged their students to write about their experiences for the college magazine and a quite remarkable account by Mary of events of December 16, 1914 for the 1915 college magazine has survived

Gillian Hunt

Cherwell Hall was a strict place for students with 1d fines for each drawing pin stuck in the bedroom wall and 3d for each item found under the bed. There was a strict curfew of 7pm to 7am when students weren’t allowed to leave the college grounds without permission.

It must have seemed bliss to have come home to Hartlepool for Christmas 1914, even though there was the worry of her husband serving his country abroad.

Gillian said: “It would be a mistake to think that, apart from the worry of having her husband serving abroad, the war passed Mary by.

“Mary was caught up in the terrifying events of the bombardment of Hartlepool. Cherwell Hall encouraged their students to write about their experiences for the college magazine and a quite remarkable account by Mary of events of December 16, 1914 for the 1915 college magazine has survived.

“She writes of the confusion, seeing a fatal shell strike on a neighbour’s house, terrified children cowering in the street and taking shelter with her family in a cellar while roof tiles and chimney pots rained down. Emerging into the aftermath of the attack, she describes the scenes which greeted her and going to the hospital in the afternoon to volunteer her services to help the injured.

“Life at Cherwell Hall was occasionally interrupted by the blast of the railway hooter signifying an air raid alert, necessitating everyone trooping down to the cellar.

“What Mary’s feelings were, having been caught up in an enemy attack, we do not know.”

But Gillian added: “It is strange to think that Mary came under enemy attack in her own home before Charles saw action in France.”

A remarkable story and so is that of her husband.

We have more on a Hartlepool couple’s story of war to come soon.