Blitz Brits come under fire from German warships in remarkable footage from 1914

Previously unseen images of the first British civilians to come under fire in war has been found in a flea market.

The remarkable black and white film shows the aftermath of the only battle to be fought on home soil during WWI.

At 8am on Dec 16, 1914, German warships opened fire on Hartlepool, killing a total of 130 civilians and military personnel and wounding more than 500.

The Heugh Gun Battery on the Headland targeted the three German cruisers but could not prevent devastation in the town

The five-minute long newsreel about the attack was found in a box of broken cameras by Mark Simmons, Hartlepool Council's museum curator.

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Two German warships fired more than 1,000 shells on the town during the 40-minute dawn operation.

Mr Simmons bought the £20 box of broken cameras and lenses at the market in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, thinking they might be useful for art projects.

"On getting home, I just took out a few useful pieces and put the rest in storage," he said."It was only later that I got around to sorting through the entire contents.

"In the bottom of the box, wrapped in sheets of old greaseproof paper, was an old film reel and the title card – The Attack on the Hartlepools – was just visible."

The bombardment was carried out by the cruisers Blucher, Seydlitz and Motlke. Mr Simmons said the film, now restored, was "mostly previously unseen footage" by the Gaumont Company.It also records the German attacks on Scarborough and Whitby the same day.

Working with the British Film Institute (BFI) and National Lottery Heritage Fund, the North East Film Archive arranged for the fragile Edwardian nitrate film to be digitised before being properly preserved and stored.

Archive Manager Graham Relton said: “The World War One Hartlepool film is special, from its chance survival and discovery to its unique historical significance. We are delighted to have been able to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations and, importantly, make it accessible to audiences now.”

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