The shell is one of the 1,150 that were fired by German battle cruisers during the bombardment of Hartlepool on 16 December 1914. It failed to explode and was sent to Exeter for display. This month the shell will return to Hartlepool to be the centerpiece of the displays during their centenary commemorations.
Rosie Denham, Exeter's Lead Councillor for Economy and Culture, explains “The German shell was brought to Exeter during the First World War out of respect for Taperell and Peters, the two brave Exeter men who risked their lives to diffuse it. It is now one of only two known surviving shells from the devastating attack that killed 86 civilians and wounded many more. We are confident that Taperell and Peters would be pleased that the shell is being returned to Hartlepool, where the attack is such an important part of the town’s First World War history.”
German ships involved in the Hartlepool raid included the battle cruisers Derfflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke and Von der Tann and the armoured cruiser Blücher. The Seydlitz, Moltke and Von der Tann, carried 11-inch guns and the shells from these guns weighed over 300kg (6cwt) including 50kg of explosives. The attack killed 86 civilians and injured 424. Seven soldiers were also killed and 14 injured. It caused public outrage towards the German navy for an attack against civilians and against the Royal Navy for its failure to prevent the raid. Whitby and Scarborough were attacked in the same raid.
Jenny Durrant, RAMM’s Assistant Curator of Antiquities, said “The bombardment of Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby was a significant event in British history as the enemy attack was directed against British civilians in their homes – nothing had been seen like it for hundreds of years. It is very timely to return this German shell to Hartlepool for the 100th anniversary of the attack, where it will serve as testament both to the horrors of war and the important role played by Devon soldiers during the First World War.”
The shell weighs 250kg and has been in RAMM’s stores for many years. Its link with Hartlepool was re-established during RAMM’s recent collections review. Between 2011and 2013 a comprehensive review of the museum’s collections was undertaken to ask: What do we know about the one million objects? Why are they important? Is RAMM using them effectively? What can be done to unlock their potential for learning, research and inspiration? How to sure that the collections are enjoyed by generations to come?
The review resulted in a greater understanding of the collections, identifying possible areas for research and object which might be more suited to other Accredited museum collections.
The shell will be dispatched from the museum store in Marsh Barton on the afternoon of Tuesday 9 December 2014.