Standing in the kitchen of her small, County Durham pit village home Barbara Mortenson had the luckiest of escapes.

With her children and Danish husband Carl in bed upstairs, at 10.30pm on a clear summer night, a 3in wide shell demolished part of the family’s back yard wall, drilled a hole clean through the kitchen wall, flew past her, across the room and landed near the front door – but failed to explode.

A short distance away Mary Slaughter was not so fortunate.

Walking through the New Seaham colliery yard with her cousin, the 35-year-old from Hebburn was hit by another of the 39 missiles launched from a German submarine that had surfaced 1.5 miles away. She would die from her injuries the next day.

Their contrasting stories are among the subjects of Durham County Record Office’s first talk of 2017, which takes a look at one of the less well known incidents of the First World War.

Education and outreach archivist Dawn Layland said: “If you are familiar with the history of County Durham you may know that Hartlepool was bombarded by the German fleet in 1914, but many may not know that Seaham also came under enemy fire in 1916.

“In the colliery village of New Seaham, 1.5 miles inland from Seaham Harbour, the quiet of a July evening was shattered by a German submarine attack.

“Staff at the Record Office have built up a huge wealth of knowledge about the archives we hold and the history of the county, and our Third Thursday talks are our chance to share that knowledge.

“The first talk – Coastal Seaham Investigation: Submarine Bombardment – is a great story.

“Come and find out about the luckiest woman in County Durham.”

The talk – which costs £2 per person – will be held on Thursday 19 January 2017, from 12.30pm to 1.15pm at Durham County Record Office at County Hall in Aykley Heads.

Further talks, titled “Relieving the Monotony”: DLI Regimental Journals, 1857-1968, and “From Idea to Act of Parliament”: Local Legislation in the Eighteenth Century , will follow on the third Thursday of March and May.

To book a place call 03000 267626 or for more information visit