A Hundred Years Ago

BILL THE BIRO


As we approach the centenary of the end of the "War to end all wars", and we find ourselves in a world that's growing as unstable as the one which caused it, it's right to look back at how that war affected Hartlepool ...and Pools.

The Bombardment centenary
commemoration in  December 2014
There are two big events that stand out. The first is obviously the Bombardment, when German battleships shelled the then twin towns of Hartlepool and West Hartlepool, killing more than a hundred, mostly on the Headland. And the other, of especial interest to Pools fans, is the destruction of Pools' grandstand in the middle of the war by a bomb dropped from a German Zeppelin airship.

But highlighting those events tends to put into the shade the rest of the effects of the war on the area. With thousands of men gone off to fight, this meant that those who remained, the women and children, the shipbuilders and steelworkers, in fact everyone, had to work very hard for those four years while coping with the grief of losing husbands and sons at the front. Little pleasures like professional football were suspended "for the duration", and even pubs suffered the introduction of licensing hours to prevent alcohol affecting the war effort.

However, with war being declared at the very start of the 1914-15 season, and with the general view that it would be "Over by Christmas", it was decided that professional  football would continue, which it did, but with the pressures of war, football attendances were down generally and most clubs, including Pools, struggled financially. Thus it became obvious that there couldn't be another professional football season until after the war.
How Pools' first grandstand met its end
Demobilising at the end of a war takes time, and so football didn't resume in earnest until the 1919-20 season, but the Victoria Ground was still short of a grandstand and was still being used by the military anyway. So Pools had to make alternative arrangements and borrowed the ground of Expansion FC at Foggy Furze* in Caledonian Road.

For this they acquired a temporary, sectional wooden grandstand which subsequently returned with them to the Vic, where it stayed for 66 years until all wooden grandstands were ordered to be removed following the Bradford fire.
"Little pleasures like professional football were suspended "for the duration" "
Pools' first manager, Fred Priest, had obviously not been required during the war, so when football restarted they appointed a former player, Jack Manners in his place, and due to the pace of demobilisation, he, like every other manager, had to take who he could get from whomever was available, usually soldiers who had been footballers from all round the country before the war and who were billeted locally. In the first few months of the season the idea of a settled side was out of the question, but eventually things returned to normal, and within a couple of years Pools became a Football League Club, and the rest, as they say, is even more history.

*Foggy Furze was then a tram terminus but now seems to have disappeared as a place name since its library closed.

Some facts are taken from "Hartlepool United", Ed Law's 1989 history of the club.

The grandstand postcard is part of the National Football Collection of memorabilia, and has its own page on their website: http://www.thenationalfootballcollection.org.uk/ hartlepool-united-victoria-ground-1916-zeppelin-raid-postcard/

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