On the 16th of December 1914, Hartlepool had one of its darkest days. Three German
battleships sailed up the coast and started firing shells at the Heugh Battery, which was
manned by soldiers of the territorials of the Durham Light Infantry. Unfortunately,
because of the position of the lighthouse, which was directly in front of their gun, they
could not return the fire. Sadly, because of this, the shells from the German battleships
were going over the rooftops and landing in the streets around Hartlepool. This resulted
127 adults and children losing their lives and many more were injured. My father was
injured and two of his brothers and his sister lost their lives. His mother, my Grandma,
had her leg blown off so the rest of the family were looked after by aunts and uncles.
I would love to hear this tale when I was a youngster and remember a large photograph
of three children always hung on my Grandma's wall. I never remember any of my
father's family being morbid over this incident. The family seemed to have been brought
closer together after the tragedy and Grandma had more children and ended up with a
family of six.
During the second World War we would all go to their house on a Sunday night and we
would play cards until about supper time and then everyone had their own special party
piece and we would have a sing-along with actions included. Around 10.15 my own
family would get the bus home and as the pubs closed at 10 o'clock then, we would be
sitting with all the happy men and me as a child of about five years used to enjoy
listening to their banter. I do remember, because of the black-outs that the bus windows
had blinds which would be pulled down and the headlamps were covered by grills so
that very little light would show in case of aeroplanes seeing them.
Another memory I have of the war years were the large water tanks that were situated
around the town. These were huge and built of galvanised steel, riveted together and
full of water. We as children would hang over these tanks and sail paper boats and I
don't remember anyone ever falling in. Also around this area, which was near the
railway station and the docks, there were barrage balloons. They were situated opposite
the Station Hotel and the purpose was to entangle any aeroplanes that tried to attack
the ships. I lived in this area and I remember one night while we were in the shelter in
the back yard, an aeroplane flew overhead firing his machine gun and the next morning
we could see where all the shells had clipped the window sills.
Everyone lived in dread of the telegram boys riding into the street on their bikes as they
almost always were bringing bad news. All the families looked out for each other and
would swap food ration coupons with each other. I lived in a street where we had lovely
neighbours and although there must have been a lot of fear for the parents, there was
also a very close bond between everyone.