Gregory Ernest Wootton was born on 28th October 1898, the only child of Henry and Isabella Wootton. The family lived in East London, and the year of Gregory’s birth was a challenging one. His parents married that year, and Henry also passed away, leaving Isabella to raise her son on her own.
She was made of stern stuff, however, and moved back in with her father, Joseph, while finding employment as a florist, working with artificial flowers. By 1909, Isabella had remarried, wedding policeman Harry Mee, and moving to South London, where the couple had a child of their own, Gregory’s half-brother, Leonard.
War was edging close to Europe, although Gregory was underage when hostilities broke out. By late 1916, however, this was no longer the case, and he was drawn to the Royal Navy. On 6th November, he gave up his job as a case maker, and enlisted as an Ordinary Seaman. His sign-up papers show that he stood 5ft 4ins (1.62m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion.
Ordinary Seaman Wootton’s first posting was at HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment at the Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. After a couple of months, he was moved north, to HMS Ganges, which was a similar training base in Suffolk. While here, he was promoted to Able Seaman.
In June 1917, Gregory was on the move again, returning to Chatham. While here, at a particularly crowded time for the dockyard, he was billeted at the nearby Drill Hall. On the night of the 3rd September, while resting, the first German night raid dropped bombs on Chatham, directly hitting the Drill Hall. Able Seaman Wootton was killed instantly. He was just 18 years of age.
Gregory Ernest Wootton was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham. He was buried with the other 97 victims of the Chatham Air Raid.