A couple of weeks ago we looked at a postcard depicting the destruction of the Baptist chapel in Hartlepool, however it was not just public buildings that were damaged in this naval bombardment. Much civilian property was also destroyed and tonight’s postcard depicts the ruins of housing in Victoria Place Hartlepool:Victoria Place is on the headland at Hartlepool and this row of Victorian houses suffered heavy destruction at the hands of the German attackers. At 8.15 at the same time the Baptist chapel was being hit by shellfire, the houses of Victoria Place were hit and Salvation Army Adjutant William Gordon Avery was killed and buried beneath the rubble of the houses.
Censorship of newspapers had not yet been rigorously enforced, so the following day the Daily mail was able to run a detailed story outlining the attack on the town:
Hartlepool and West Hartlepool, two of the most thriving ports on the east coast, had today the unenviable distinction of being among the first English towns to suffer from a German bombardment.
They were attacked shortly after 8 a.m., and for forty minutes were subjected to a rain of heavy shells. Twenty-nine people were killed and 64 wounded, some very severely. Some damage was done to the town.
Official information is not to be obtained, and those who were manning the trenches and saw most of what occurred have been prohibited from giving any information, but the above figures are the nearest estimate I can make from careful inquiry in the two towns.
As near as can be made out, firing commenced at 8.04 a.m. and only ceased at 8.45. Various reports are current as to how many vessels took part in the bombardment, but the most careful sifting seems to indicate that there were certainly three warships, and possibly four.
Several shells landed in the battery at Hartlepool and one killed five men, but the guns were not put out of action and continued to fire until the enemy steamed away southwards.
The Hartlepools lie in a crescent-like formation, with old Hartlepool as the apex, and the German ships lay off this point and fired fan-wise, with the result that shells swept both towns for a distance of a couple of miles inland, striking most of the important buildings with the exception of the town hall and post office at West Hartlepool. The latter, however, was largely incapacitated from working by a large number of wires being down through the wrecking of telegraph poles or the actual cutting down of the wires themselves by exploding shells.
SEVEN “PALS” KILLED
There were many terrible tragedies, but three stand out pre-eminent. The seven soldiers killed were members of the Durham County “Pals” battalion. These seven were standing together on the front and a shell burst in the middle of them. Two other cases are those of civilians.
FAMILY OF EIGHT DEAD
A family resident in Dene-Street, whose name I have not been able to obtain, had a shell burst in their house, with the result that the father, mother and six children were killed instantly.
The third case was that of the Misses Kays, who live in the end house of Cliff-terrace, just behind the Lighthouse, at the point nearest to where the hostile vessels lay. The Misses Kays were aroused by the sound of firing. They let their maid servant out at the back and told her to run, and returning to their house went upstairs to gather some things. While they were in the bedroom a shell burst, carrying away the end of the house and killing both of them.