Heugh Battery Museum
When venturing towards the Heugh Battery Museum, I was surprised just how well the museum blended into its surroundings. The cold air and salt breeze added a unique atmosphere to our visit. As we stepped through the entrance, we were greeted by a charming lady called Diane, who was the manager of the Heugh Battery Museum.
Diane was a very accessible staff member and quickly explained her role at the museum. She also provided a plotted history of the room in which we were standing.
The room in which we were standing featured many displays which were strewn around its small interior. From weaponry to paintings and information on Theophilus Jones, it was clear that this small room held a lot of history.
The Heugh Battery Museum was initially designed as a military base in 1856, and was originally built to defend Britain against Napoleon’s army (during the threat of invasion) and continued to be part of the ministry of defence until 1956, when the building was eventually decommissioned and left to rot. However, in 1999 a group of local residents came together to raise funds to save and protect the museum for future generations.
The first room we visited was an original barrack room which when required doubled up as a prison for soldiers. In the corner of the room display stands provided information about Theophilus Jones. According to records, the first bomb hit Theo’s post and instantly killed him, whilst at the same time injuring two other privates who were stationed in the same area. A second shell hit and killed all four soldiers that were stationed in the area.
We were shown a photograph of a boy who was the great grandfather of one of the current staff who still works in the museum. I found this very interesting and it emphases how many families residing in Hartlepool still have strong ties with their past, and are relatives of those people who were affected during the bombing.
The outside area was full of war vehicles and weaponry. Positioned directly outside the museum was a large lighthouse which overlooked the sea. Diane explained that the position of the lighthouse was problematic during the Hartlepool Bombardment because it restricted the sight lines of our soldiers making retaliation difficult. As a result, once the war was over the original lighthouse was demolished and rebuilt further back from the sea to allow our soldiers a clear and unrestricted view.
There were many photographs depicting Hartlepool before and after the bombardment. The photographs were all displayed in an underground building which had been designed to replicate the look and feel of a WW1 trench.
There were many different stories about the civilians who had been caught in the bombardment. One story that caught my eye detailed a gentleman called Lieutenant Colonel Lancelot Robson who despite his military position was in bed at the time of the attack. Another story provided information about two sisters who were killed in their home when a bomb destroyed the building. Another story described a mother and her family of four children running through the street, one of the children (only a few months old) cradled in the mother’s arms. Unfortunately when the bomb exploded it killed the three oldest children and blew off the mothers leg.
After the immediate attack the community came together and men and women from the medical profession attended to the wounded. Local butcher’s freezers were used to store the dead until it was possible to transport the bodies elsewhere. The community grew stronger due to the attack. People donated hundreds to the war efforts and the attack strengthen the publics resolve and belief in the British army and the need for the war.
In conclusion, I enjoyed the entire trip to Hartlepool. I found it a very informative. It was interesting to hear how the German invation directly impacted British soil and how close they actually got to our shores. Often you hear of the scale of the war overseas, but before this trip I wasn’t aware that the Germans had invaded Hartlepool.