The Hartlepool Raid, 16 December 1914, was the only part of the German raid on the Yorkshire coast of 15-16 December to come up against a defended port. Hartlepool was used as a base by British destroyer flotillas. On 15-16 December two scout class cruisers (Patrol and Forward), four destroyers from the 9th Flotilla (Doon, Waveney, Test and May) and the submarine C 9. The town was also protected by two gun batteries on the headland that overlooks the harbour. In 1914 they contained three 6in rapid firing guns, one in the Lighthouse Battery and two in the more northerly Heugh Battery. In comparison the two British cruisers carried 4in guns while the attack was carried out by two German battlecruisers (Seydlitz and Moltke), armed with 11in guns, and the cruiser Blücher, armed with 8.2in guns.
The destroyers left port at 5.30 a.m., and reported that the swell was too heavy for the cruisers to safely get across the bar outside the harbour. The morning was misty, and at around 8.00 a.m., when the destroyers sighted three ships to their south east they were unable to identify them. When the destroyers closed in, the Germans opened fire, and almost immediately found their range. The destroyers were well outside torpedo range, and so had no choice but to turn north and attempt to escape. In the event skilful manuevering prevented the German heavy guns from scoring any direct hits, but three of the four ships were hit by shell fragments before they escaped back into the mist.
The Germans then turned their attentions to the two gun batteries. By 8.15 Blücher was firing on the Lighthouse battery, while Seydlitz and Moltke moved further north to attack the Heugh battery. All three battery guns survived the battle intact, although their crews lost nine dead and twelve wounded. The fire from the German ships also made it difficult for the British cruisers and the submarine to get out of the harbour. When the Patrol and C 9 did reach the harbour entrance they were faced with a German barrage.
Both responded in the same way, by attempted to burst past the German shell fire at full speed. Patrol was hit twice by heavy shells from Blücher, and ran aground. Four men were killed and seven wounded. C 9 was forced to submerge, before turning north east and heading towards the German ships. HMS Forward was only able to get out after the Germans had already departed.
The 6in guns on land caused more problems than the British ships. According to the Official History Blücher was eventually forced to move north by hits from the Lighthouse Battery, only to come under fire from the two guns in the Heugh Battery. The battlecruisers had already moved north, out of the arc of fire of the Heugh battery. By this point the Germans were already running short of time, and at 8.45 they broke off the bombardment and escaped into the mist.
The bombardment of Hartlepool was the most costly and the most effective during the raid. 86 civilians were killed, and 424 wounded (Official History). Seven churches, ten public buildings, five hotels and more than 300 private houses were damaged, as were the marine engine works in the harbour and three merchant ships in port.
|Official History of the War, Naval Operations Vol. II, Sir Julian Corbett. Volume two of five in the British Official History of the First World War at sea covers the naval attack on the Dardanelles and early months of the Gallipoli campaign. On the home front it includes the German raid on the Yorkshire coast of December 1914 and the battle of Dogger Bank [see more]|