A town remembered the traumatic day a century ago when the First World War tore into the North East.
A total of 130 civilians and military personnel were killed and more than 500 were wounded when German warships fired more than a thousand shells at Hartlepool just after 8am on December 16, 1914.
The town was defended by three six inch naval guns on the seafront - two at Heugh Battery and one at Lighthouse Battery
One of the battery soldiers, Theo Jones of the Durham Light Infantry, became the first British soldier to be killed by enemy action on home ground in the conflict.
The force which attacked Hartlepool included the battlecruisers Seydlitz and Moltke, and the armoured cruiser Blucher.
The destroyers HMS Doon, Test, Waveney and Moy were on patrol when at 07:45am Doon saw three large vessels approaching, shortly before they opened fire. Doon fired one torpedo, which missed.
The shore gunners found their shells had no effect on the armoured sides of the German ships, so instead aimed at masts and rigging. Eight German sailors were killed and 12 wounded.
In the harbour, the light cruiser HMS Patrol attempted to put to sea. The ship was struck by two eight-inch shells, forcing the captain to run her aground.
The raid had an enormous effect upon British public opinion because of its targeting of civilians, and became part of a British propaganda campaign.
Yesterday a series of civic and community events paid tribute to those who died in a programme organised by Hartlepool Council in partnership with the Heugh Gun Battery Trust.
The bells at All Saints Stranton church were rung from 8.10am for half an hour, followed at noon by the bells of the former Christ Church in Church Square.
A new Bombardment Memorial was unveiled near the Headland lighthouse by the Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, Mrs Sue Snowdon.
Representatives of the four military organisations which lost personnel in the bombardment – the Durham Light Infantry, the Royal Engineers, the Royal Artillery and the Royal Navy – laid plaques at the memorial.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of descendants of the families which suffered fatalities.
The names of the raid’s victims were read out and pupils from St Aidan’s Primary School – where Theo Jones was a teacher - planted 130 ceramic poppies from the recent Tower of London display and 130 wooden crosses.
Later in the day the poppies were moved to the Museum of Hartlepool, where they will go on display in an exhibition on the bombardment.
A formal outdoor service was held, organised by the Heugh Gun Battery Trust and led by the Bishop of Jarrow, followed by an open house at the battery itself.
Local historian Steve Robbins led First World War walks around the town A time capsule was also buried.
One of Hartlepool’s wartime Tipperary Clubs was re-created in the Borough Hall, and last night there was a performance of new outdoor theatre production in the Headland Town Square.
Called “Homecoming” and created by theatre company Periplum, the show used pyrotechnics and specially-commissioned music and visual effects to tell the stories of local residents’ contributions to the war effort, both on the home front and on foreign battlefields.
The day ended with the sounding of The Last Post followed by the bells of the former Christ Church, St Oswald’s in Brougham Terrace and St Aidan’s in Stockton Road – 24 bells in total – being rung for an hour.
All the bells were sounded half muffled, in which a thick leather cover is strapped to one side of each bell’s clapper – the traditional bellringing method for sombre commemorative events.
Andrew Frost, secretary of Hartlepool Bellringers, said: “Church bells have been rung for this kind of important commemoration for hundreds of years and we feel very privileged to play our part in remembering the victims of the bombardment a century ago.”
Hartlepool’s Ceremonial Mayor Stephen Akers-Belcher said: “The bombardment was an event of massive significance, not only locally but nationally.
“One hundred years to the day, the Hartlepool community came together to remember those who died and to unveil a memorial to their memory.
“It is especially poignant that descendants of the civilians who were killed took part in the day, together with representatives of the military organisations which lost personnel.”
Tug Wilson, chairman of the Hartlepool Combined Ex-Service Association, said: “We were pleased to give our support to this historic event for Hartlepool and its people.
“In presenting our standards at the new memorial we proudly honoured the memory of all those so tragically killed on that fateful day in December 1914.”
Speaking on behalf of the four military organisations invited to lay plaques at the memorial, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hart, Commanding Officer of the 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, said: “We are privileged to play our part in this important commemoration to remember the civilians and military personnel killed during the bombardment.
“The serving military and the veterans’ associations are hugely supportive of this event, which is a most fitting tribute.”